Shrek: 20th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: May 19, 2021
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Shrek: 20th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Review)

Director

Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson

Release Date(s)

2001 (May 11, 2021)

Studio(s)

DreamWorks Animation/Pacific Data Images (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: B-
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: B-

Shrek: 20th Anniversary Edition (4K Ultra HD)

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Review

Shrek (Mike Myers) is just your typical grumpy ogre living a peaceful life of solitude... until that peace is disturbed when Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) banishes the fairy-tale creatures from his kingdom, forcing them to take refuge in Shrek’s swamp. Irritated by this, Shrek heads back to the kingdom to investigate, accompanied by a fast-talking Donkey (Eddie Murphy). Upon arrival, the pair learns that Farquaad is holding a tournament, the winner of which will have the honor of rescuing the fair Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from the dragon that’s holding her captive. Farquaad intends to marry Fiona, but Shrek just wants his peace and quiet back. So when he wins the tournament, Shrek makes Farquaad promise to take back the creatures he’s banished. Then he and Donkey set out to fetch the princess, completely unaware that Fiona has other plans entirely.

Based on a 1990 picture book by cartoonist William Steig, DreamWorks’ Shrek was a breakthrough of sorts for CG animation and for the studio, helping to establish its reputation as a legitimate competitor (at least for a time) to Pixar in the feature-length CG space. It’s a direct send-up of classic Disney animated fare—and the fantasy/fairy tale genre in general—featuring an unlikely cast of voice actors. Mike Myers was actually the third choice for the title role, after Nicolas Cage passed, and Chris Farley died before completing his recordings for the character. When Myers asked to perform the part in a Scottish accent, the studio reanimated select shots to accommodate him. For his own part, Eddie Murphy steals the show here, giving a performance that helped to reinvigorate his career (amid inglorious turns as The Nutty Processor and Dr. Doolittle). To be fair, Shrek does drag a bit in parts, its animation no longer dazzles as it once did (it looks a tad stiff and Gumby-like now), and the jokes have aged a bit too (younger viewers may not even have seen the Disney films it references). But the fractured fairy tale vibe and crass humor are still enough to keep things entertaining to the end.

Shrek’s CG animation was originally produced in sub-HD resolution. Research suggests that the animators actually worked in roughly 1828x1028 resolution on Linux-based systems, with final rendering at 2K (in the form of 4:1:1 JPEG files compressed at 98% quality in 8-bit color using a Rec.709 color space, per Jonathan Gibbs of Pacific Data Images). The intended theatrical aspect ratio was 1.85:1. For its release on Ultra HD, Shrek has been upsampled (presumably from the JPEG files, or a master DLT archival format) to create a new 4K Digital Intermediate that was then graded high dynamic range (both Dolby Vision and HDR10 options are available). Obviously, the resulting image is far from perfect by today’s standards. Fine detail is noticeably lacking and there’s light aliasing visible now and again on what detail there is (think hair, grass, etc). It should be noted however that whatever AI algorithm was used for the upsampling process, the image here is a little bit crisper looking than the previous HD image on Blu-ray. And while HDR can only do much with the limited color space, the simple fact that the contrast has been expanded (with darker blacks and slightly brighter highlights) means the the overall palette has been slightly expanded (or at least may be slightly more accurate to the source). The modest improvement is visible in little things here and there, like the gold leaf on the pages of the storybook that opens the film. The lack of banding—some is still visible, but not nearly as much as I would have expected—suggests that a bit of dithering may have been used too. All in all, while this is far from a great looking 4K image, it’s still a slight improvement over any previous Blu-ray release. So the 4K upgrade is a net positive.

Primary audio on the 4K disc is included in a new object-based DTS:X lossless mix that’s definitely the star of this show. The soundstage is notably more expansive and smoother that the previous Blu-ray’s Dolby TrueHD mix, with somewhat better dynamics as well. This film isn’t exactly a surround sound dazzler, but dialogue clarity and music fidelity have never been better than they are here. Whereas the TrueHD mix had a more tightly-focused directionality, yet still managed to sound strangely flat and front-biased, this new mix offers much greater immersion and more natural movement in the surrounds. The height channels also add pleasing vertical extension to moments like Donkey’s brief flight and the later confrontation with the dragon. On the whole, this is a very nice sonic upgrade. Additional audio options include Spanish and French 5.1 DTS, and subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.

Universal and DreamWorks’ 4K release is a 3-disc set. The actual UHD disc includes the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary with Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson, and Aaron Warner
  • Shrek’s Interactive Journey: I (HD interactive art gallery)
  • Spotlight on Donkey (SD – 11:37)
  • Secrets of Shrek (SD – 3:50)
  • Deleted Scenes (SD – 3 scenes – 8:01)
  • Shrek in the Swamp: Karaoke Dance Party (SD – 2:51)
  • Baha Men: Best Years of Our Lives Music Video (SD – 3:08)
  • Smash Mouth: I’m a Believer Music Video (SD – 3:15)
  • Shrek the Musical: What’s Up Duloc? (SD – 3:56)

All of this material is carried over from previous releases. The movie Blu-ray in the package (which includes the film in 1080p HD and appears to be the same disc released previously) offers these same features and adds:

  • The Animator’s Corner (a Picture in Picture viewing mode)
  • DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox

The latter features clips from other DreamWorks CG-animated films. There’s also a Blu-ray Bonus Disc in the packaging with the following additional special features:

  • Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Party (SD – 2:51)
  • Far Far Away Idol (HD – 9:00)
  • Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos (HD – 13:06)
  • The Ghost of Lord Farquaad (HD – 12:34)
  • Scared Shrekless (HD – 25:30)
  • Thriller Night (HD – 6:08)
  • The Pig Who Cried Wolf (HD – 6:49)
  • The Adventures of Puss in Boots: Hidden (HD – 23:04)
  • The Adventures of Puss in Boots: Sphinx (HD – 23:04)
  • The Adventures of Puss in Boots: Brothers (HD – 23:04)
  • The Adventures of Puss in Boots: Dutchess (HD – 23:04)
  • The Adventures of Puss in Boots: Adventure (HD – 23:02)

The Karaoke Party short is the same as the one on the 4K disc. And essentially, this Bonus Disc is identical to the one that was included in the Shrek: The Ultimate Collection Blu-ray release from 2019. As always, there’s also a Movies Anywhere Digital copy code on a paper insert in the packaging.

Is Shrek the kind of film that really needed a 4K Ultra HD upgrade? Not remotely. On the other hand, it’s a popular catalog title and Universal is about to release Howard the Duck on the format too. So who’s to say that it won’t sell like hotcakes? The good news for fans is that the 4K disc does offer a modest picture and sound upgrade over the previous Blu-ray editions. So caveat emptor and enjoy.

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

 

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