Culture Re-View: How 'Shrek 2' made Cannes history

Shrek 2
Shrek 2 Copyright DreamWorks Animation
By Jonny Walfisz
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15 May 2004: Shrek 2 makes its debut… at Cannes

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Welcome to Cannes season. As my colleague David Mouriquand journeys down to the south of France to be abreast with all the comings and goings of the year’s hottest event in cinema, it’s time to cast our eyes back 19 years to the festival’s finest moment.

This year’s official selection for the festival’s finest honour, the Palme D’Or, includes new films from esteemed directors like Wes Anderson, Aki Kaurismäki, Todd Haynes, Ken Loach and Jonathan Glazer.

But nothing in the selection compares to the greatest piece of cinema to ever grace Cannes’ cinemas. Shrek 2 made its theatrical debut on this day in 2004 in the Official Selection for the Cannes Palme D’Or.

Yes, you read that right.

After the phenomenally successful Shrek in 2001, global audiences were hungry for another slice of the Mike Myers voices grumpy ogre with his impetuous friend Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and love interest Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) in the DreamWorks Animation’s genre lampooning of fairy tales.

In 2004, the Jury President was Quentin Tarantino, and while the selection for top honours was a crowded field including classics like Oldboy and 2046, the award was cruelly snatched from Shrek 2’s hands by Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. It was robbed, clearly.

Shrek 2 of course brought audiences back into the fantasy setting of the original and introduced more hilarious takes on classic characters including the now-iconic Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) and the Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders).

DreamWorks Animation
Antonio Banderas as Puss in BootsDreamWorks Animation

It also featured not one, but two versions of the Bonnie Tyler song ‘Holding Out for a Hero’. After the adoration the first film’s contemporary soundtrack received, Shrek 2’s home release included a special DVD feature. Far Far Away Idol guest starred Simon Cowell as a play on his American Idol character, judging the musical talent of characters alongside Shrek and Fiona.

Other odd Cannes debuts

If you think Shrek 2 is the weirdest film to have its premiere at Cannes, you’d be mistaken. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of films you might not have expected to show at the esteemed festival.

Shrek itself set the stage for its sequel’s debut. After premiering in the US in 2001, it was also selected to compete for the Palme D’Or later that year, making it the first animated film in the selection since Peter Pan in 1953.

Then, in 2010, the latest film in one of cinema’s most terrifying creature feature series took to the Cannes Festival. It was, of course, the Moomins.

Based on Tove Jansson's Moomin series, the horrifying hippopotamus creatures featured in the 3D animated film Moomins and the Comet Chase. Chills inducing. For some reason, Björk composed a song for its soundtrack.

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