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Why Shrek 2 Remains Such an Animation Banger Two Decades Later

The sequel celebrates its 20th birthday this year, so we dig into why it still remains a favorite in the franchise.

By Tara Bennett
Shrek 2 (2004)

Once you get over the shock that Shrek 2 turns 20 this May, it's a great time to remember why the second chapter in the ogre's life still stands out as one of the best animated sequels ever, and solidified the Shrek-verse as a "thing" that continues to expand its mythology with new works like the Academy Award nominated Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022) and a promised Shrek-centric sequel sometime in the near(ish) future.

To mark the moment, DreamWorks Animation is bringing Shrek 2 back into theaters for a limited, one week engagement (get tickets from Fandango) starting today, so that a new generation can see the green guy and his pals in all their big screen glory. But just what is it about Shrek 2 that makes it so enduring? Let's take a look!

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Shrek 2 Turns 20: Let's Take a Look at It's Enduring Legacy

Shrek 2

For those who get a little foggy about their Shrek specifics, Shrek 2 is a bigger, weirder and more ambitious story that has Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) getting hitched and traveling to the kingdom of Far Far Away to visit her parents for the first time. The sequel was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It also earned just shy of a billion dollars in global box office, an insane achievement for an animated film, making it the worldwide global box office winner of 2004, beating Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Spider-Man 2.

Shrek 2 was directed by Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, and Conrad Vernon (who voices Gingy), who pushed for even more irreverent humor and hilarious fairy-tale-trope smashing. The team got started on the sequel before the original hit theaters, but that extra long runway for production allowed them to improve their CG animation abilities, allowing for smoother designs, better rendering, and more fine details which are really shown off in the Puss in Boots character's hair and fine whiskers.

Puss in Boots makes his memorable debut in the franchise

One of the best character introductions in modern animation is definitely Puss in Boots. Antonio Banderas brings all of his charm and powers of seduction to the table, and the animators have distilled all of into the suave yet manipulative gato. Who in the last decade hasn't meme'd that sad-eyed photo of Puss in Boots to beg a friend or family member for something? His introduction is also packaged inside a kinetic action sequence that displays Puss' skills and quirks to Shrek and Donkey (Eddie Murphy), in what's since become a scene-stealing classic. 

Shrek 2 has a supporting cast of British comedy legends

One of the hallmarks of the Shrek franchise is how it attracts incredible and sometimes unexpected voice talent. The road trip to Far Far Away is akin to Shrek and Fiona's great British holiday as they cast a who's who of incredible comedy legends for major roles, including John Cleese as King Harold, the disproving father-in-law. The Monty Python co-founder and a Fish Called Wanda writer brought his comedic chops and blustery best to the film. Meanwhile, the incredible Julie Andrews as Queen Lillian balanced her hubby out with more quiet countenance. Rupert Everett of My Best Friend's Wedding fame played the smarmy but not irredeemable Prince Charming. And last but never least, Absolutely Fabulous' Jennifer Saunders channeled her ire and machinations to perfection as the Fairy Godmother. All of them together elevate the film's unexpected comedic choices, and expand the comedy outside of the core trio.

Kaiju Gingerbread Man!

Taking their cues from the success of the first film, the creative team found ways to showcase the beloved supporting characters of Pinocchio and The Three Little Pigs (all voiced by Cody Cameron), Muffin Man, and Gingy. The escape from the prison sequence especially gives Pinocchio and the Gingerbread Man their moments, as they make Gingy into a Kaiju sized distraction for Shrek and Donkey. 

Jennifer Saunders belts out an all-timer version of "Holding Out for a Hero"

All of the Shrek soundtracks are great just on their own, but for Shrek 2, we get Jennifer Saunders belting out a torch-like version of Bonnie Tyler's '80s classic, "Holding Out for a Hero." It's an inspired performance sung by the actress and adds to the final act insanity in a really memorable way.

Shrek is still giving us merch gifts we did not expect in 2024

Shrek x Lush 'Shrek Pack' face mask

Two decades later, the cheek and wit of the franchise is still shining even with merchandise released to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Shrek 2. For example, who connects the green ogre to bath bombs? Lush did, because they've got an exclusive April collab with the film featuring green face masks, bath bombs and more self-care grooming essentials that the ogre abides by. 

DreamWorks Shrek Logo Varsity Jacket featuring characters on the back.

Box Lunch is also getting in on the fun offering everything from varsity jackets to the Kingdom of Duloc signage and Shrek Zen gardens. 

Watch the first two Shrek films on Peacock, or catch Shrek 2 in theaters again now! Get tickets now from Fandango!

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