|Scene from Shrek|
Nowadays, Shrek is remembered as one of the most successful animated franchises in history. Its tale of an ogre who skewered fairy tale and pop culture became a cornerstone to the zeitgeist throughout the past 14 years with four films, one spin-off, and endless merchandise. It was also the first film to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. While Shrek has developed into its own metaphorical monster with Mike Myers turning in one of the most recognizable voice works of the decade, things would have looked a lot different with original choice Chris Farley. After 18 years, audio has been released for the version that could have been with Eddie Murphy reprising his role as Donkey. To say the least, it's an interesting look into alternative history.
By now, the story of Dreamworks Animation's first cultural phenomenon is well known. In the 90's, Shrek was set to star Chris Farley as the lovable ogre. With that actor at the height of his fame, it seemed like ingenious casting. Then on December 18, 1997, the comedian passed away from a drug overdose. The project would later replace Farley with fellow Saturday Night Live comedian Mike Myers. What is known is that he recreated the character from scratch, choosing to give him a Scottish brogue. The work paid off, as Shrek has now become one of the most iconic animated films of the 00's.
So what exactly would Farley's version sound like? Based on Myer's revision, it was likely that it would be more like Chris Farley's regular voice. The story was also to focus on Farley's Shrek as a teenager who didn't wish to take over the family business. It would give him more of a definition for why he was rough around the edges. With the recent video release, it is easy to know one thing: it definitely was very much Farley as Shrek.
Check out the video below:
While it is only a storyboard version, it gives a look into the basic differences between Farley and Myers. Where we now recognize Shrek to be more of a Scottish accented ogre with boisterous traits, Farley's version is more awkward and tampered. He has more of a modest personality that captures a certain disinterest charm that clearly matches the original conceit of the film. To compare the two would also be to realize that there was a four year difference and that the film evolved into something richer and more complicated. We can never know for sure what Farley's version would have looked like thanks to his death.
If forced to make an opinion, I would say that Farley's version is a little raw and needed more of a construction around the vocal nature. It needed more personality. I can perceive him doing good work for the version he was to play, but this scene that has him arguing with Donkey is lacking the excitement that Myers would bring to it. It is hard to judge based on one storyboard animatic, but it is an interesting glimpse into what could have been. Maybe Shrek wouldn't be as juvenile or pop culture obsessed (it always seemed more like a Myers thing). Maybe Fiona (Cameron Diaz) wouldn't have been as memorable of a character - if ever introduced. It is nice to have evidence to glimpse into what could have been.