I promise, no more Shrek articles. It's over, I'm finished. Shrek 2 just debuted and broke about 50,000 box office records, in part because it opened on eighty-five times the number of screens as every other movie in history combined, but also because the celebrity ogre's head has been stamped on every item in every grocery, toy, department and auto store in America.
The amount of advertising and the odd kinds of cross-promotions enjoyed by Shrek 2 are like nothing I've ever seen. Even the most hyped, "fun for everyone" flicks starring Marvel superheroes haven't come close to it. Use the menu bar in the logo above to check out the previous installments of "Shrek Crap," chronicling everything from the ogre's dyed-green Pop Secret popcorn to a sinister 7-11 Slurpee starring Sierra-Smistss. Dude has his own Baskin Robbins ice cream flavor, Go-Gurt brand, and even a bag of Cheetos that turn tongues green upon impact. It's hard to deny that the marketing tricks worked; I still haven't seen Shrek, have zero interest in the characters, and yet I feel like if I don't go see Shrek 2, God will put it on top of his "Things Matt Should've Done That I Can Make Him Feel Guilty About" list and throw it at me on Judgment Day. Hopefully not the wrestling PPV version, because then I've really got some fast work to do on my "Things To Make Peace With" list. I think my list is better than God's.
Today's final installment of "Shrek Crap" moves away from the supermarket's junk food aisles, straight into my local Toys "R" Us. Shrek was there. He brought more shit for us to buy. I can't possibly afford even half of the Shrek 2 junk littering toy stores, but the items shown below should give you a good impression of his massive stroke. I wish I knew more about how these promotions worked -- if it's not some kind of profit-sharing venture and DreamWorks actually has to pay for all this, my calculations show that everyone in the world will have to see Shrek 2 3.6 times just to recoup its budget. Eddie Murphy as Donkey isn't 3.6 times kinda funny.
Rub your eyes for added believe, I swear they've really done this. Milton Bradley's classic game of Operation gets a Shrekky makeover, as it's now the ogre himself sitting atop the cold metal to go under the knife. Thankfully, the premise of the game remains intact. They didn't come up with all these lame new rules to incorporate a little more Shrek into the mix. If you know how to play Operation, you know how to play this. You just have to get used to that giant green head blaring a buzzing red light at you whenever you fuck up. Not as easy as you think.
From the box: "SHREK NEEDS SURGERY AND YOU'RE THE DOCTOR!" Few kids expect to happen across such godsends as that line. Genie lamp or not, most of us wouldn't even think to wish for that. Yet, when the opportunity shows itself, it's the greatest thing in the entire universe. I cannot wait to slice up Shrek.
See? Told you. Bet you thought you were prepared to see Shrek on the operating table, but it still hit you like a couch to the face. The major difference lies in the doodads you're to prick from Shrek's soul -- the organs and sicknesses have been renamed and reshaped, running a more true-to-theme gamut. Lifting "Slugs & Grubs," "Onion Breath" and "Green Thumb" out were all victories I savored. After unscrewing an underside compartment and throwing one of those rectangular batteries that always tickled my tongue as a kid inside, Patient Shrek is ready to go all Rudolph on your ass.
Operation is one of the few games that I've become less skilled at with age and experience. I guess plucking out body parts with an alien tweezer is an environment more conducive to the gentle grasp of small-handed children. Also included are piles of paper money and game cards, but come on, nobody plays Operation with that stuff. We're just taking turns making the nose supernova. Our house rules for Operation were simple: each player keeps removing body parts and diseases until the nose lights up, at that point switching turns. The player who collected the most body shit by the time it's just an empty shell is declared the winner. Prizes ranged from bragging rights to gold speedboats with personalized vanity plates. My neighbor across the street still can't use his driveway when the dock closes during the winter months. He just got lucky.
If you're one of the few who's never played, removing all that crap isn't as easy as it sounds. The blocky nature of some of the artifacts and tweezers that seem magnetically attracted to the buzzer-trigged walls make flawless victories a rare occurrence. Sucks, because there's no worse feeling in the world than setting off that stupid Operation buzzer.
The light is really no bother, but you wouldn't believe how loud the buzzer is. The entire game literally shakes under its might, like one of those old electronic hockey game things where player pieces moved around through Frustrating Vibration. It's assaulting and intruding each and every time it goes off. Soon all traces of competitive spirit are wiped from the players' hearts -- the game becomes more of a simple fear of setting off the scary red buzzer. Don't care if I win...just please no more buzzer.
Though the changes are rudimentary, Operation: Shrek Edition is pretty inspired and well worth the retail price. They don't do this sorta stuff for many characters, so if you're tired of operating on the same naked male brunette every time you play, pick this baby up and slap an "If Lost, Send To Blah Blah Blahhh" sticker on it.
There's also a Shrekkysized version of Monopoly Junior and several other games adequate for the eight-and-under crowd, but easily the strangest Shrek toy of all came from an entirely different section. From Play-Doh, it's...well, just look.
Yep. Play-Doh's "Shrek 2: Root Canal" playset truly embraces the film's penchant for gross-out humor by letting kids give Shrek green or yellow cavities before ripping his teeth out with crude tweezers. Just to ensure the disgust factor, a toy spider mold is included, which quite literally shits Play-Doh out of its ass like a six-year-old who eats clay. Wonderfully absurd, it may just be the strangest Play-Doh item ever made. Even weirder than The Clash of the Titans "Grow Your Own Snake Hair" Medusa kit. That one didn't let you use a toy drill to crack open someone's rotting teeth. This one does.
It's the ultimate Shrek toy.
Jesus Christ, look at that thing. A disembodied Shrek head serves as the base of operations, and with this kit, teeth we shall create. The basic goal: use molds to create Shrek's teeth, then beat the fuck out of them with a hard plastic toothbrush and a spinning toy drill. Sidebar by filling the base of Shrek's neck with Play-Doh, pushing down to make him gurgle out a wild green tongue. Then call all your friends and tell them about the amazing things you've done.
As you can see in the left picture, Shrek starts off completely toothless. That is to say, without tooth. Using two molds that create different types of teeth, we're to give Shrek his chomping bits. The box suggests mixing up colors (you get white, green and yellow) to create rotting filth and cavities within the teeth. I complied. It sounded like fun.
Using the tweezers, contestants are challenged by not only removing the delicate teeth from their molds, but also placing them into shallow gum grooves that rarely fit like a glove. Shrek has spots for sixteen teeth, so it's a fairly tedious process. As a child, I was never one to fancy a life in dentistry. Maybe kids who do would get a bigger kick out of filling up teeth-shaped molds sixteen times in a row. Just seems like a strange demographic to cater towards.
They say that every picture is worth a thousand words, but I only need two for that one: CHRIST. CHRIST.
Shrek maintains a happy demeanor throughout this torturous process, and even keeps his smile as you're yanking the tricolor teeth off his head. Guilt has no home in the land of Play-Doh, so yank and drill away. Malice is your ally.
Using the included tools, kids can either use a toothbrush all friendly like, or use a drill all bastard like. Each tool fits into a spinning chamber, aiding to quickly eliminate all evidence that the lumps of Play-Doh were once shaped like teeth. Successfully sidebarring, the red bug indeed shits out more Play-Doh. Look close and you'll notice Shrek's tongue in the back -- you get to make that yourself. Man, this thing is almost like a fan club exclusive.
Another fucked up Shrek toy, another success. The admirable thing about all of these cross-promotions is how generally inspired they've all been; whereas most marketing blitzes merely scratch the surface with a few "Trip To HAW-WAH-E" contests and little stampers thrown into boxes of Corn Flakes, Shrek 2 sought to expand. When it hits a point where a movie is advertised by way of a Play-Doh playset where kids mangle up the star character's teeth, we gotta give 'em credit for being thorough. By the time Shrek 3 comes out, I bet it'll have its own series of talking fire alarms.
"ACK! DONKEY, IS IT SMOKY IN HERE??? ACK, DONKEY, IS IT SMOKEY IN HERE??? ACK, DONKEY, IS IT SMOKY IN HERE???"
But wait! There's more!
Hasbro's "Be An Ogre Kit" lets kids become Shrek. Including a wild mask and a pair of musical mittens, it's one of those items a person cannot pass in the store without going into a gazing, standing coma trying to process the idea that they're really looking at what they're looking at. Priced at around twenty bucks, it also alleviates the stress involved in having children who want to be Shrek for Halloween. Green face paint spells trouble, especially in the amounts we'd be talking about.
Sized only for children, the kit provides customers with a stunningly true likeness. For reasons unexplained, the inside of the mask is unnecessarily tough and filled with assorted poking clumps. If you want to be Shrek, you'll have to suffer a bit for your cause. The gloves are the true coup of the set. It's hard not to imagine that Hasbro sought to recapture the success of Toy Biz's legendary Hulk Hands, but the Shrek version falls short since they're too small for anyone but infants and kittens to wear with any degree of realism. Compensating for the size is the fact that one of the hands talks to you whenever mushed against the wall. I can't remember which famous Shrek phrases it uttered, but it was damn funny to hear my toy hand speak.
Not as cool as Operation: Shrek Edition or the nihilistic Play-Doh kit, but being an ogre has its merits. I bet people would let you cut 'em in line. Nervous four-year-olds may ask for your autograph. You could probably rent movies at Blockbuster for free, too.
I didn't actually buy this last one, but that's what Amazon's picture library is for...
It's the official Shrek 2 Etch-A-Sketch. New look, same shit. The addition of Shrek's ears makes the Etch-A-Sketch perfectly suitable for those clip-on "Book Lights" that were all the rage a few years ago. Maybe Shrek should get his own line of Book Lights.
Incredibly, what I've shown you in the four volumes of "Shrek Crap" barely scratches the surface. There's more out there...plenty more. The promotions will surely die off now that the movie's hit theaters, but the legend will live on. I've already stockpiled enough boxes of his green popcorn to take me into the next century, and once the "Be An Ogre" kits go on clearance, I'll buy enough to create my own island colony of Shrek enthusiasts. I envision many a wonderful beachfront poker night. Thanks, Shrek!