Breaking news: According to Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado, the director and co-director of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Shrek is alive within the story’s timeline. Previously, I had theorized that the beloved green ogre actually passed away some time before the new movie, in order to better hammer home the movie’s message about mortality. But I am very pleased to report that the two DreamWorks Animation representatives refute the idea that Shrek is dead.
“We did not kill him,” Crawford tells me, stifling a laugh after I asked him about the fate of the ogre in the new movie.
Crawford and Mercado may not have killed Shrek (and also presumably did not kill Fiona, Donkey, and the rest of the characters from the franchise), but they do want to make it clear that time has passed in the Far, Far Away universe since Shrek Forever After. They estimate that it’s been about 10 years or so (approximately nine lifetimes for Puss), which they felt was important in order to keep the movie relevant.
“There’s a lot of nostalgia for Shrek, for Puss in Boots,” explains Crawford. “And audiences have grown up. We wanted the movie to grow up with them. You feel like you know that character, but there’s a history that happened when you’re meeting this character again. All of the characters feel like they’ve continued living. The world of Shrek has continued.”
In a way, it’s not too different from how the filmmakers behind the core Shrek series approached each sequel. Shrek 2 director Conrad Vernon once told Polygon that for every plot point that seemingly wrapped up in Shrek, the team considered the next step (so when it came to Donkey and Dragon, that naturally meant hybrid babies). In the case of The Last Wish, since the most recent movie in the Shrek series came out in 2010, Crawford and Mercado carefully considered what would have transpired in the 10 or so in-world years since then.
The result was a larger-than-life rockstar Puss in Boots — one with a fear of death. An older audience meant being able to tap into more mature storylines, which the filmmakers were excited to do, and expand the experience of what people expected from a Shrek movie. And as it turns out, you don’t actually need to kill Shrek in order to make a movie about death. After all, the big takeaway from Puss in Boots: The Last Wish isn’t that life eventually ends, but that life is a wonderful and beautiful thing, and you can’t have that beauty and wonder if Shrek is dead, according to the directors.
“There are these themes of mortality, but it should make you come away going, Man, life is to be lived, to be shared, it’s fun — so we’re not going to kill Shrek!” says Crawford. “Viva Shrek!”
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is currently available on demand and will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on Feb. 28.