A Tiny Taste of Swampy Shorts
It does seem like whenever a computer animated film succeeds now we'll get treated to the inevitable series of shorts to keep the property in the minds of the kiddos throughout the years between films. That's how we got Toy Story and it's two little shorts, Frozen and it's (seeming) dozens, and more. And since the Shrek series is the most popular films from Dreamworks, we had to have shorts for them as well.
Here we're going to look at the two major shorts for the franchise, a couple of holiday specials that, well, leaving a lot to be desired.
Shrek the Halls
Taking place after Shrek the Third, it's Christmas time and Shrek, lovable ogre that he is, has never had a Christmas before. Hell, he could care less about the holiday altogether, and would just let it pass, except Fiona seems all kinds of amped for it. Suddenly, instead of just letting the day pass like any other day, Shrek had to get a whole holiday celebration together in just a few hours. He finds some random junk to put up around the outside as decor, he finds underwear to hang up as "stockings", and he grabs a dead, hollowed tree to use for the main event. For ogres, this is haute decor.
Donkey, though, is unimpressed. Assuming that when Shrek said, "I want a holiday with my family," that meant everyone Shrek knew, Donkey invites himself and the whole crew of characters over for the night, and they bring "better decoration" along for the ride. Suddenly the nice, happy holiday Shrek had planned for his him and his brood goes off the rails and, naturally, Shrek gets upset. Can this holiday be saved, or will the ogre do what ogres do best: act like an ogre towards everyone else.
frankly, Shrek is right to be pissed off. He didn't invite people over, they invited himself. While Fiona gets mad at him for kicking all their friends out (eventually, after they set him on fire), I think he's in the right. They were rude, they didn't ask, and they just expected to stay there all night in Shrek's tiny swamp cottage. The short plays it like Shrek is being mean for wanting the day to go the way he wants, but damn. His friends kind of suck.
Also, this whole short is a real drag. It's not nearly as funny as it thinks it should be, and it has the standard, on-the-nose songs shoved in because they're popular and the kids will dance to them. It's a mean-spirited holiday short that frankly teaches the wrong lesson, and is obnoxiously twee in and around all that toxicity. This short, in short, just sucks.
The second short is really a collection of littler shorts, arranged anthology style. Set after the events of Shrek Forever After, Shrek, Fiona, and the kids are having a fun night out on Halloween, doing what ogres do: scaring everyone else. However, Donkey and the gang barge in, wanting to be part of the festivities. Shrek, naturally just wants to spend time with his family, but the rest of the gang want to stay up all night telling scary stories. When Donkey challenges Shrek to a scary story contest, Shrek agrees, but only on the condition they do it at Lord Farquaad's castle, which has been abandoned since the Lord was eaten by a dragon.
Taking up shop in the creepy old castle, the gang tells three tales of Halloween horror. The first comes from the Gingerbread Man, "Bride of Gingy", and it's a cross between Bride of Frankenstein and a zombie tale. This scares off the Three Little Pigs, as well as the Big Bad Wolf (but only because the pigs were his ride). Donkey and Puss then go back and forth on a story set at the "Boots Motel", with their combative oneupmanship leading to a very random story. After this, Puss runs off. Shrek then tells a story about a demonic puppet, "The Shreksorcist", which sends Pinocchio screaming into the night. That leaves his Shrek and Donkey but, with a little help from Fiona, Donkey runs off with his tale between is legs and the Shrek clan can go back to having the perfect Halloween.
Of the two longer shorts in the Shrek collection, this Halloween special wins, hands down. While Shrek is an awkward character to fit into a story of caring and sharing, having him play the big scary ogre on a big scary day is a perfect use of the ogre. It also shows that Fiona does actually understand Shrek because here she joins in on getting rid of their friends so they can spend time together as a family instead of chastising Shrek for wanting that all on his own. Perfect.
As far as the tales go, Gingy's zombie story and Shrek's demonic puppet tales work well. Donkey and Puss, though, waste a lot of time for very little reward. The short is amusing in places, and the two decent tales are good horror fun for little kids. But, honestly, like "Shrek the Halls", this special is pretty light on entertainment for anyone over the age of, say, eight years old. It's not bad, but hardly good, and just amusing enough that parents could put it on Halloween night to entertain the kiddos before bed.
Neither short is spectacular, and if I'd bought either of these on DVD on their own I probably would have been mad. But since they came in the Shrek Ultimate Collection as bonus content, I didn't really hate the forty minutes I wasted. The Halloween special is better, but neither are worth the price of admission on their own.