The trailer for this film makes me sad. Puss in Boots swaggers towards the camera to the sound of crap music, and all I can think is ‘why? Why, Dreamworks? Wasn’t it enough to just kill Shrek. That barrage of sequels was horrible. It was brutal, like something out of American History X. It gave me nightmares for years.’ And you know what? On top of all that, Puss in Boots was always a crap character anyway.
The problem is that the original Shrek was so excellent. Too excellent. Dreamworks found itself a winning formula: concealing ice-dry wit and clever pop-culture references in a children’s film, meaning that parents wanted to see the film almost as much as their children. It was immensely entertaining to everyone. But Shrek started something it couldn’t control. It split the atom of kids’ entertainment.
Dreamworks started using the Shrek formula whenever it could. Churning out film after film with the same tired references and recycled scripts. Before long, the world of children’s animation had become a more artistically barren place than it was before. It’s sad, and the same thing that happens in the music world all the time; remember when The Arctic Monkeys first appeared, then ten seconds later the lead singer of every band sounded like they grew up in Sheffield.
Maybe it will save itself, this film. Maybe it’s the point at which the Shrek franchise gets back on track. But it looks, at the moment, as though it’s just another marker for Dreamworks’ gradual decline into creative homogeneity. I’m just glad we’ve got Aardman and Pixar. Because you know what, they might just help me avoid animation’s winter. Right now, I’ll just stick to Toy Story. And it’s sequels.