How I became one of the animators of “Shrek Retold,” a crowdsourced remake of “Shrek”

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It all started with a tweet.

I’m an animator here at Quartz, and when a friend, knowing how much I love the 2001 movie Shrek (but not knowing that I work a full-time job), sent me 3GI’s tweet, I couldn’t resist this call to action. The following Friday night, I spent hours hunched over my tablet, crafting an animated remake of a 30-second scene: a flirty exchange between Donkey and Dragon.

And this is how I found my way into Shrek Retold, a crowdsourced, shot-for-shot remake of the beloved children’s animated film.

Shrek isn’t the first film to receive the amateur, shot-for-shot remake treatment. There was the famous, decades-spanning remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark by a group of kids in Mississippi. There was sweding, a mid-2000s trend popularized by Michel Gondry’s film Be Kind, Rewind. There have been crowdsourced remakes of Star Wars: A New HopeRobocopBartkiraSailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Super Mario World, and so many others.

Obsessive fan remakes have become so popular that they’ve formed a genre unto themselves. And genres always come with a set of rules. The rules for an internet-crowdsourced remake are the following: Each artist receives a portion of the film that they are to recreate, with the caveat that their recreation should follow the general plot and tone of the original scene.

For the Shrek remake, we were simply told to “keep it Shrek.” And boy, did everyone not keep it Shrek.

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From uncanny valley 3D animation, to epic anime battles, to non-Shrek characters like Sonic the Hedgehog, the elements of Shrek Retold visually stray far from the original movie, forming a rich tapestry of aesthetics and meta jokes. Its segments range from ridiculously high-quality to—put nicely—aggressively low-budget.

Among the most memorable images from the remake are the humanoid Shreks, played by unselfconscious green men—wild youths whose green-streaked skin and lopsided latex ears belie a self-assuredness I could only ever dream of emulating myself.

In short, the Shrek remake is a product of internet culture: it’s crowdsourced, lurid, and completely absurd.

Shrekfest, the festival about Shrek

I spoke to Grant Duffrin—that original tweeter, and the organizer of Shrek Retold, as well as the coordinator of Shrekfest, an internet-fueled viridescent lucid dream of a festival. The origin of Shrekfest is almost as absurd as its premise.

A man named Joe Copeland was bored at work and made an event on Facebook called Shrekfest, as a joke. Grant and his friends—who have a history of creating Shrek-related content—stumbled upon this Facebook event. “They had all these sponsors and ridiculous games listed,” Grant said. “We were going to make costumes and stuff, we were really pumped.”

But the Facebook event turned out to be fake, and Grant’s dreams of a giant party for Shrek fans were shattered.

“We were crushed,” he said. “But then we were like, ‘Wait a minute, this is a golden opportunity. Shrekfest isn’t real. That’s because we haven’t made it real.'”

And so Shrekfest was born.

Our video, above, explores Shrek fandom: how it came to be, who created it, and why it’s so weird. The crowdsourced remake, Shrek Retold, will be released on 3GI’s YouTube channel on Nov. 29.