It's true what the meme-makers say: Shrek really is life. And while the last trip into the enchanted swamp was over eight years ago, no franchise that successful can stay dormant for too long. In a career-spanning profile of Illumination Studios founder and head Chris Meladandri, Variety revealed that the the hit-making animators are bringing Shrek and Puss in Boots back to the big-screen.
Meledandri was given the opportunity after Illumination's parent company Universal Pictures acquired DreamWorks Animation in 2017. While Universal thought he would be a good fit to head DreamWorks Entertainment, the man who brought us Despicable Me and The Secret Life of Pets wanted to stick with his team and get involved with revitalizing some animated hits.
Meledandri, also behind Sing and the upcoming Grinch, knows what makes a hit and doesn't want to change too much of Shrek's original formula. While he plans to bring his own spin to it, he said that the success of the movies largely depends on the vocal work of stars Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and Antonio Banderas.
“When you look back on those vocal performances they’re awesome, and while you certainly could make a case for a complete reinvention, I find myself responding to my own nostalgic feelings of wanting to go back to those characterizations,” Meledandri said. “The challenge for us has been to find something that really does feel like it’s not simply yet another film in a series of sequels.”
The four main Shrek films ran from 2001-10; Puss in Boots has just the one 2011 film and a Netflix series that ran from 2015-18.
Meledandri isn't shying away from anyone's childhood favorites. He's taking on big lifts across generations by starting work on a Super Mario Bros. movie he hopes will hit theaters in 2022. “It’s an ambitious task,” he said. “The challenge is taking things that are so thin in their original form and finding depth that doesn’t compromise what generations of fans love about Mario, but also feels organic to the iconography and can support a three-act structure.”
Surprising people is what Illumination does at this point, managing to bring in insane amounts at the box office without the built-in prestige of a legacy company like Pixar. Add that mix to a known entity like Shrek and you're almost guaranteed a hit.