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Gary Trousdale hopes that DreamWorks Animation's new TV special will scare you "Shrekless"

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Gary Trousdale hopes that DreamWorks Animation's new TV special will scare you "Shrekless"

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It's kind of ironic that - everywhere you look this week - there seem to be a story or some photo essay related to the "Back to the Future" 25th Anniversary trilogy Blu-ray.

Lea Thompson, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd at this week's
party for the release of the Blu-ray version of the "Back to the
Future" trilogy. Copyright 2010 Universal Studios Home
Entertainment, a Division of NBC Universal.
All rights reserved

How so? Well, at least when it comes to animation industry vet Gary Trousdale, he's been feeling a lot like Marty McFly lately. Given his past (i.e. the film that basically launched his career - Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" - became available for purchase on Blu-ray earlier this month. More to the point, "Waking Sleeping Beauty" - the acclaimed documentary that looks back at Disney's Second Golden Age of Animation and the huge role that Trousdale and his former directing partner, Kirk Wise, played in that entertainment revolution - makes its DVD debut on November 30th) and his present (i.e. the new Halloween special that Gary just directed, "Scared Shrekless," premieres on NBC tonight. And the new DreamWorks Animation production that Trousdale helped launch back in 2008, "MegaMind," arrives in theaters next Friday) have all come crashing together over these past few weeks.

"I'm genuinely glad to see that 'Waking Sleeping Beauty' is going to be available on DVD. I thought that Don (Hahn) did a wonderful job with that documentary," Gary said. "I actually took my son - who's looking to get into animation - to the theater to see that. He was very little when we were making 'Beast.' So I thought that it was important that he see how things used to be."

In a caricature that was made during the development of Disney's "Beauty and
the Beast," Gary Trousdale looks at Kirk Wise after he's just been blasted by
Howard Ashman. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

As opposed to the way the animation industry is today. Where - after spending an entire summer telling the world that "Shrek Forever After " is the final chapter of the Shrek saga - DreamWorks Animation then puts "Scared Shrekless" out there via NBC.

"Yeah, the joke around here is that Shrek is going the Barbra Streisand farewell tour route. Meaning that this character and that franchise will say 'good-bye' multiple times before Shrek finally does go away," Trousdale laughed. " Which is fine by me. I actually love working with Shrek. He's DreamWorks Animation's signature character. Sort of our equivalent to Mickey Mouse."

Copyright 2008 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All rights reserved

And given that Gary was the guy to first successfully translate this big green ogre to the small screen (i.e. Trousdale was the director on "Shrek the Halls," which initially aired on ABC back in November of 2007 and has since become a seasonal favorite) ... Well, it was kind of a no-brainer that - once a Shrek-themed Halloween special was proposed - that Trousdale would then land this assignment.

"And this gig came along at just the right time. I had just stepped away from 'Master Mind' (Editor's note: This was "MegaMind" 's original title. Back in the day when Ben Stiller and Robert Downey, Jr. were going to voice the lead characters in this DreamWorks Animation production. Rather than Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt) and was looking for something else to do. So when I heard that DreamWorks was looking to do another Shrek TV special, something that was Halloween-themed this time around, I jumped on that," Gary continued.

Copyright 2010 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All rights reserved

Which isn't to say that it was all that easy to come up with a new seasonal story that would then work in the Shrek universe.  One would service all of these great fairy-tale characters while - at the same time - be Halloween appropriate.

"What really helped here is that Claire Morrissey had already done a lot of work on 'Bride of Gingy.' Which was supposed to have been this Shrek-themed theatrical short that the studio eventually decided not to make," Trousdale said. "So before we even really got started, we already had one Halloween-themed story. So then it was just a matter of developing two more story ideas as well as coming up with the wraparound for 'Scared Shrekless.' "

Copyright 2010 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All rights reserved

That touches on one aspect of this DreamWorks Animation Halloween special that Gary and his team worked really hard on. Which is to make sure that "Scared Shrekless" didn't come off as a knock-off of The Simpsons' long-running Halloween tradition, its Treehouse of Horror episodes.

"We wanted to make sure that the story that framed 'Scared Shrekless' was just as strong as the standalone stories," Trousdale explained. "We also wanted to make sure that - when it came to the art direction and camera work - that this Halloween special paid tribute to many of Hollywood's very best horror films."

Copyright 2010 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All rights reserved

Which explain why - as "Scared Shrekless" gets underway - Old Mean & Green just can't wait to start celebrating his favorite holiday. Which is why Shrek challenges Donkey, Puss in Boots to join him at Lord Farquaad's haunted castle for a scary storytelling contest. Where they then share tales like the "Boots Motel" and "The Shrekorcist."

And the end result of all this effort airs tonight at 8 p.m. Which - given how quickly "Scared Shrekless" came together - Trousdale thinks that TV special turned out pretty good.

Copyright 2010 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All rights reserved

"You have to understand that we only began animating this back in April. And given that the 'Shrek Forever After' team was still trying to finish up that movie at that time, we were pretty much on our own," Gary said. "But even so, I think that we did a pretty great job here. That the Shrek who appears in this Halloween special is the very same character who appears in all the movies. That Shrek on the small screen is just as entertaining as he is on the big screen."

So now that "Scared Shrekless" is wrapped up and all ready to go, what's next for Trousdale? Is there another feature in his future?

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"I hope so," he admitted. "But as of right now, all that's on the horizon for me is that 3D version of 'Beauty and the Beast.' Which Disney was supposed to have released this past Spring but then postponed from some reason."

So - once again - we're back to the future with Gary Trousdale. With a brand-new TV special debuting tonight and two Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment reminding the world what a huge talent this guy is. So here's hoping that really is a new animated feature in Gary's not-so-distant future.

Gary Trousdale in his office at Dreamworks Animation. Copyright DreamWorks
Animation LLC. All rights reserved

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  • Gary is an awesome talent. I worked with him on Disney's "Hunchback" some years ago. I hope he gets to direct another feature real soon.

  • "B&tB" 3D has been playing in Australia for a couple of months now. (Admittedly, only in selected cinemas) I took my nieces to see it and we all agreed it was fantastic. As soon as you see that first shot sweep through the forest in 3D, you know this is going to be cool. :-)

  • I saw the "Shrekless" special. Now, I happen to like the original Shrek, just to make it clear. But this special was lackluster. Beautifully animated, but pointless, and not a laugh anywhere. And where was Dragon?

  • I have to agree with Gigglesock on this.  Though high standards for both animation and look, the stories fell flat.  I wouldn't watch this again, much like every Shrek sequel.

  • Shrek is like Dreamworks' Mickey, huh?  Except Mickey has styed vibrant and useful for, what, seventy years and Shrek is old, tired and boring after less than ten?

    Let it go, fellas. There's nothing left in that particular well...

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