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Shrek The Halls

07/12/2007. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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The BBC brings Shrek to the small screen in his first Christmas special for BBC One. BBC One will host the UK premiere of the Shrek The Halls on Christmas Eve 2007. What's it about? Just when Shrek thought he could finally sit back, relax and enjoy his happily ever after with his new family, the most joyous of all holidays arrives. It's Christmas Eve, and everyone is filled with holiday cheer, except for Shrek. He isn't exactly the picture of yuletide joy, but for the sake of Fiona and the kids, he tries to get into the spirit of things as only an ogre can.

Unfortunately, everyone seems to have their own ideas about what Christmas is all about, so when Donkey, Puss In Boots, the Gingerbread Man and the whole gang try to join in on the fun, Shrek's plans for a cosy family celebration end up spiralling into one truly unforgettable Christmas.

This half-hour of holiday entertainment with everyone's favourite ogre family airs on Monday 24 December on BBC One.

Directed by Gary Trousdale, Shrek The Halls stars the voice talents of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas, all returning to the characters they created and continue to bring to life in the worldwide hit trilogy of Shrek films.

With a screenplay by Gary Trousdale, Sean Bishop, Theresa Cullen and Bill Riling, Shrek The Halls is produced by Gina Shay and Teresa Cheng, with Aron Warner executive producing. Joining Myers, Murphy, Diaz and Banderas are Shrek series voice and creative alumni Conrad Vernon (voice of the Gingerbread Man) and Cody Cameron (voice of Pinocchio and The Three Little Pigs).

The first-rate team of veteran Shrek creatives also includes head of character animation Anthony Hodgson, production designers Peter Zaslav and Henrik Tamm, visual effects supervisor Philippe Denis, lead editor William J Caparella and associate editor Michael Rogers.

The star of one of the most beloved and successful film franchises to date, Shrek is one popular green guy. What started out as a children's book by renowned author/illustrator William Steig has developed into a worldwide love affair with a swamp ogre with a funny name.

For director Gary Trousdale, it was an honour to be entrusted with "the crown jewels of the company. When people find out you're at DreamWorks, that's the first thing they ask you - 'So, did you do Shrek?' And now, to have the opportunity to add to the Shrek legacy ... that's really quite a thrill. It's something else."

Shrek's evolution from motion picture to television screen is natural and seamless, according to producers Gina Shay and Teresa Cheng. Cheng, a longtime "DreamWorker" said: "With Shrek The Halls, we approached it as a 22-minute film. All of the artistic quality that has made the three Shrek films so popular is present in this holiday special."

Shay, a veteran of traditional and digital animation, with years of experience producing for Nickelodeon Movies and Paramount, continues: "The only difference, for us, is the size of the frame. We have a lot of the same animators and artists who worked on the three films working on this ... and how could you even think about doing a continuing chapter in the story of Shrek without Mike, Eddie, Cameron and Antonio? All of the hallmarks of the feature films - the irreverent humour, signature characters, strong story, heart, great animation and production value - are all here. We wanted to create a story that goes beyond the expected Christmas situations and themes. Our hope is that it speaks to anyone who has ever held or witnessed a crazy family gathering."

Much like the films, the centre of the story is a traditional one ... only Shrek-ed up. Trousdale remembers: "When we were developing the story, we were sitting around trying to figure out what would make this holiday special ... special. And the suggestion came up for us to tell Twas The Night Before Christmas - only in an ogre way. That was the kernel of our idea, which eventually grew.

"It's about Shrek trying to have his own, special family Christmas, and because ogres aren't usually big on celebrating, he tries to copy it from a textbook. Then, along the way, Donkey, Puss In Boots and the Gingerbread Man each tell their own versions of the story. They butt their way in, sort of saying, 'no, no, no, you're doing it all wrong - this is how you do Christmas'. Of course, each family does it differently, and each way is just as valid."

Within Shrek The Halls, the man behind the ogre, Mike Myers, also found the themes of family particularly resonant: "The special is really about family, on many levels. I mean, I love my own family, and I love the values and the relationships present in the Shrek films. It's ultimately about love: loving yourself, loving your family. It may sound a little trite, but families come in all shapes and sizes - sometimes your friends are your family, and your family are your friends."

Eddie Murphy brings his trademark sparkle and sass to Donkey, who serves as both Shrek's friend and advisor and sometimes biggest detractor. "Their friendship isn't always smooth sailing," notes Murphy. "But it isn't ever really intentional. Donkey only wants to help. He's an enthusiastic, eager guy, and he loves Christmas - for him, it's the best thing ever. And that means it's gotta be big, maybe even overdone. He wants Shrek to groove on Christmas just like he does, and he wants him to get it right ... all for Shrek's sake, of course. He's gonna save the day and make it a holiday to remember for his best friend and his new family. Course, he comes on a little strong, like a freight train, and ends up running straight through the holiday. But it's a train powered by love, you know?"

For Cameron Diaz, remembering the Christmas specials she grew up loving added to her joy in working on Shrek The Halls. She states: "I remember watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer every year when they came on. They were characters that you really loved ... just like Shrek has become. I'm not sure if kids in countries outside of the US loved Charlie Brown or Rudolph like we did, but Shrek is known and loved around the world. And I think it's wonderful to take that character and Princess Fiona and Donkey and Puss In Boots and everybody and put them in a holiday story. I think there are a lot of people who find themselves in the families we create as adults, who now have to forge their own traditions, and that's what Shrek is doing. He has to accept who he is and be accepted for who he is - and a Christmas special is a perfect way to tell that story."

In Shrek's panic to come up with the perfect family celebration for him, Fiona and the babies, he is lucky enough to purchase the last available copy of Christmas For Village Idiots In Duloc.

When Donkey sees the swamp house decked out in garlands of swampland creatures and other "individual" touches, his somewhat commercialised sensibilities are shocked, and in his (and his friends') efforts to "help" Shrek, they end up sabotaging all of the first-time father's efforts.

"It literally becomes a madhouse Christmas ... and it's about Shrek learning that however disastrous anything turns out to be, it's really about just being together - the good, the bad and the ugly - and him coming to terms with that," concludes Trousdale.

Trousdale, Shay and Cheng assembled an impressive creative team of Shrek alumni, including production designers Peter Zaslav (who served as art director on the recent hit, Shrek The Third) and Henrik Tamm (who was a key visual development artist on the features). Their mandate was to bring the same filmic quality and magic from the motion picture to the television screen.

"Peter and Henrik really brought the look of the film - the colour, the richness, the texture, the design - to Shrek The Halls. Everything from composing the characters to the patterns on the clothing, down to Fiona's hat-from the biggest to the smallest detail, they were all over it. The character of Shrek is so endearing. There's a heart underneath all of that gruff stuff. And Christmas is a stressful time for a lot of people, so I think they can totally identify with his trying to get it right. It's funny, it's sweet, it's a little crazy - it's Shrek. And that, for me, is just the way it should be."

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