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Co-Composed and Co-Produced by:
John Powell

Co-Composed, Co-Conducted, and Co-Produced by:
Harry Gregson-Williams

Co-Conducted by:
Gavin Greenaway

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
December 4th, 2001

Also See:
Shrek 2
Shrek the Third
Chicken Run

Audio Clips:
8. Welcome to Duloc (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

14. Escape from the Dragon (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

19. Singing Princess (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (235K)
Real Audio (146K)

27. Transformation/The End (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (249K)
Real Audio (155K)

Regular U.S. release. A song compilation album was released at the same time as the film's debut in the theatres.

  Nominated for a BAFTA Award.


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Sales Rank: 169681

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Buy it... if you don't mind frenetic and unoriginal parody scores that do little to hide their sources of inspiration.

Avoid it... if you're seeking just one of the scores in the franchise, in which case Shrek 2 is a far more cohesive listening experience.

Shrek: (John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams) Spawning multiple sequels of equally satirical animation, Dreamworks' smash 2001 hit Shrek shakes the bonds of the usual confines for the genre and balances outrageously stupid and juvenile humor with just enough emotional and socio-cultural sensitivity to function. An excess of toilet humor defines Shrek's ridiculously dumb script, but with its own endless parodies of the animated genre (and fairy tales in general), it ranks highly on the likeability meter. The production was assigned a music director to arrange the collection of numerous songs that were decided upon for the film early in the process, and while Shrek's music was largely defined by these placements, an increasing role for the underscores in the subsequent sequels helped shed more light on the work by John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams for the original entry. For collectors of film scores in the animated genre, Powell and Gregson-Williams were becoming a pairing as friendly as Shrek and Donkey. By far the most enormous mainstream success of their collaborations, Shrek represented the third partnership between the composers for Dreamworks' animated pictures. In between solo projects during this era that often relied more on synthesizers than large orchestral ensembles, the composers produced animation film scores that were quickly eclipsing the mass of the rest of their other work in popularity. With Antz and Chicken Run both strong and attractive scores in the context of their films, the duo of Powell and Gregson-Williams walked a fine line for Shrek. The storyboards of the film had already been synchronized with several songs by the time of their hiring, and the job of the composers was to integrate enough original underscore and thematic material to connect the spaces between those songs and, in a few scenes, carry the musical load by themselves.

Fan response to Shrek's music was even more aroused than the scores for the previous two projects, making it a hot holiday item when it was belatedly released on album. Why exactly that response was so wild, however, has always been something of a mystery. Powell and Gregson-Williams had secured their reputations as orchestral comedy professionals, and this music fits its film well enough to suffice. But divorced from the visuals, Shrek is a significantly weaker score than Antz and Chicken Run, mostly due to the obvious lack of originality in its constructs. All three of these popular scores by the duo are alluring because of their personalities of creativity and spunk, and in all three you can easily hear parody-style inspiration. But for Shrek the composers did little to extend those unoriginal concepts into the cohesive whole that the previous two had formed, leaving you with a score filled with chopped up cues of limited development because of the short length of each scene in the story. It's a score that serves its film well enough because you don't notice the haphazard methodology in an equally frenetic pace of on-screen action. On album, however, it becomes clear that the slapstick narrative deals a heavy blow to the flow of the music; in the time it takes the full ensemble to develop a theme or rhythm of worth, the cue ends and the next one sets a different pace. Even more problematic in regards to Shrek is the striking connection between it and half a dozen other film scores. Both Antz and Chicken Run owed much to existing stylistic mechanisms, poking fun at generalized sounds (partially in a historical sense) instead of making specific references. Powell and Gregson-Williams still do pull at the general inspiration throughout Shrek, but along that journey are several direct quotations from existing film scores from not only their own careers, but a variety of others' as well.

The most famous and controversial of these unoriginal moments in the score comes in "Escape from the Dragon," a wildly popular piece that explodes with rhythm, percussion, and synthetic sounds taken shamelessly and obviously from the pages of David Arnold's The World is Not Enough (down to even the corny echoing effect). The cue works brilliantly for its scene in the film, but the sheer contrast between that sound and the rest of the score cuts to the heart of the album's problems with cohesiveness, too. What casual fans may not realize, however, is that the theme for the dragon heard in "Escape from the Dragon," "Ride the Dragon," and "I Object" (reportedly the work of Powell) is extremely derivative of Trevor Rabin's theme for Deep Blue Sea (which itself wasn't an entirely original piece for that terrible 1999 film). Other parts of the score are suspect as well. The theme for Fiona, also representing the fairy tale as a whole, is an extremely blatant merging of Mark Knopfler's cult favorite The Princess Bride and these composers' own Chicken Run. Some fans even point to Golden and Silver Age cross references. From the soft tones of this theme (immediately heard in "Fairytale") to especially the performances on acoustic guitar in "Friends Journey to Duloc," the score for Shrek owes much of its appeal to The Princess Bride. In the final few tracks, this wondrous fantasy theme is allowed to hold the film's musical center stage, exaggerating the feeling that this music has been heard before in other places. For those of you who ponder why Kermit the Frog comes to mind when listening to the last cue in the film, it's because the dragon and fairy tale ideas combine to form a theme with a first few measures that are a close cousin to Kermit's "Rainbow Connection" Muppet song. These "liftings" may not be noticeable while the film is playing, but on album, they stick out like a sore thumb. For those without these musical references in your memory, then perhaps the Shrek score will play better on album, and then the music may simply turn out to be a less rambunctious version of Chicken Run for you.

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As to be expected in any comedy score with visions of turning puns with various established musical concepts, there are sudden cuts and manipulations of gain that accompany the haphazard nature of the film's script. Among other parody elements in the score exist the two most famous pseudo-songs in the Shrek film and on album. While both "Welcome to Duloc" and "Merry Men" (a nod in a sense to Mel Brooks) were hailed as major selling points of the album, it is exactly this kind of unlistenable wailing (in South Park-like voices, no less) that turns most veteran film music collectors away from scores like this. Cute parody scores such as Shrek raise generational questions as well, the early collaborations between Powell and Gregson-Williams continuing to appeal to a somewhat younger crowd. Another sticky point with the Shrek recording is its sound quality; it is no secret that Chicken Run exhibited incredibly dynamic range, both in resonance and clarity. But Shrek's fidelity is closer to that of Antz, lacking the tangy edge of crisp sound that made Chicken Run a specimen to enjoy simply for its sound. As for the contents of the music, Shrek contains no cue that comes even close to matching the length and robust construction of a track like "Building the Crate" from Chicken Run. So, in the end, beyond all the hype, the music doesn't translate particularly well from film to album anyway. A mish-mash of short rhythmic bursts, thematic rip-offs, and a few nearly unlistenable comedy tracks form a whole that is far less cohesive than the second score in the franchise. Gregson-Williams took the reigns for Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third, the former often considered the strongest of the three. Undoubtedly, for the casual film music collector with a limited budget, Shrek 2 is the place to start in the franchise, with better sustained structures for the full ensemble to perform. All of these scores, however, remain lightweights by necessity. Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Music as Written for the Film: ***
    Music as Heard on Album: **
    Overall: ***

Bias Check:For John Powell reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.1 (in 40 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.03 (in 45,173 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.06 Stars
Smart Average: 3 Stars*
***** 1340 
**** 1170 
*** 1892 
** 1438 
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  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Grieg's Morning Mood vs. Fiona in the tower
  Abigailian -- 11/11/07 (9:10 p.m.)
   Re: Welcome to Duloc song
  pascal -- 11/23/06 (7:19 a.m.)
   Highly enjoyable
  Sheridan -- 8/30/06 (12:43 p.m.)
  Dan -- 12/5/05 (11:52 p.m.)
   the reviewer Clemmensen looks nothing like ...
  Jenny -- 12/2/05 (6:41 a.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 44:28

• 1. Fairytale (1:27)
• 2. Ogre Hunters/Fairytale Deathcamp (1:36)
• 3. Donkey Meets Shrek (2:38)
• 4. Eating Alone (1:18)
• 5. Uninvited Guests (2:09)
• 6. March of Farquuad (0:39)
• 7. The Perfect King (1:18)
• 8. Welcome to Duloc (0:34)
• 9. Tournament Speech (0:51)
• 10. What Kind of Quest (2:23)
• 11. Dragon!/Fiona Awakens (2:06)
• 12. One of a Kind Knight (1:19)
• 13. Saving Donkey's Ass (0:43)
• 14. Escape from the Dragon (1:58)
• 15. Helmet Hair (2:08)
• 16. Delivery Boy Shrek/Making Camp (0:48)
• 17. Friends Journey to Duloc (2:42)
• 18. Starry Night (0:58)
• 19. Singing Princess (1:36)
• 20. Better Out Than In/Sunflower/I'll Tell Him (2:11)
• 21. Merry Men (0:43)
• 22. Fiona Kicks Ass (0:29)
• 23. Fiona's Secret (3:02)
• 24. Why Wait to Be Wed/You Thought Wrong (1:59)
• 25. Ride the Dragon (1:37)
• 26. I Object (1:51)
• 27. Transformation/The End (3:26)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes extensive artwork and notation about the film and score written by the co-directors, music supervisor, and Powell.

  All artwork and sound clips from Shrek are Copyright © 2001, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 12/3/01 and last updated 1/20/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2001-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.