Theme Park Insider

Where will we see Shrek next in theme parks?

May 23, 2016, 10:21 AM · Fifteen years ago this month, Shrek hit movie theaters for the first time, establishing a sarcastic animation icon that challenged Disney and entertained parents in the audience as much as their kids.

Earning hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office, Shrek inspired multiple sequels and went on to become the top-grossing animation franchise of all time, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. With that level of popularity with families, perhaps it was inevitable that Shrek would become a theme park fixture, despite the many jabs thrown at parks in the original and its sequels.

Two years after its debut, in May 2003, Universal Studios opened Shrek 4-D at its parks in Florida and California. True to its source story, the show took plenty of shots at other theme park attractions, including Disney's Star Tours. I reviewed the show for the Los Angeles Times, writing:

It's not the only reference to Disney in Shrek 4-D, which opens with a frog trying to eat Tinkerbell and ends with the poor little Disney fairy smashed into the theater wall. The original "Shrek" ridiculed the shallowness of Disney's animated fairy tales and the sterility of its theme parks. Shrek 4-D doesn't directly attack Disney's parks, but it does land its punch by being far more entertaining than anything a Disney park has opened in years.

Seven years later, Universal expanded its use of Shrek at the new Universal Studios Singapore, placing Shrek 4-D into King Harold's Palace in a Far Far Away-themed land that also included an Enchanted Airways Vekoma family coaster, an indoor kiddie Ferris wheel, a live show, meet and greets, and, as of last year, a Zamperla inverted family coaster, Puss In Boots' Giant Journey.

Puss In Boots' Giant Journey

And this fall, Motiongate Dubai will create a full replica of Shrek's swamp in a theme park for the first time, as part of the indoor DreamWorks Zone at the new park, which opens in October.

Shrek's swamp will include Shrek's Merry Fairy Tale Journey, "a heartfelt interactive ride where Shrek meets Fiona for the first time, reincarnated as puppets and animated figures," according to the park. In addition, Shrek, Fiona, Puss in Boots, and the Fairy Godmother will appear in meet and greets and the area also will feature a table-service restaurant, The Candy Apple, serving "British-American" fare.

Shrek's Merry Fairy Tale Journey
Shrek's Merry Fairy Tale Journey. Concept art courtesy Dubai Parks & Resorts

Motiongate is part of Dubai Parks & Resorts, not Universal, so it won't include the Shrek 4-D show. But with Universal's parent company recently buying DreamWorks Animation, it's likely that Shrek — in some form or another — likely will continue to find a home in theme parks for many years to come.

Replies (27)

May 23, 2016 at 11:28 AM · Thelonious is my favorite Shrek character. I'm glad he made it into the 4-D show. Shrek is a franchise that has some untapped potential, and fits Universals more sarcastic overtone well.
May 23, 2016 at 11:35 AM · With 3 movies, one spinoff, a musical that reached about 20 countries around the world this ip is huge. About a year ago Merlin entertainment opened Shrek's Adventure as a stand alone mini theme park offering.
My hope is Universal Studios Orlando will designate a whole land to Dreamworks with highly themed area's and brand new rides and offerings.
May 23, 2016 at 2:17 PM · Rumors are the dueling dragons attraction will go away for more Harry Potter. I hope they decide to save the tracks and split them as separate installations. Save one track as the Shrek dragon ride.
May 23, 2016 at 5:48 PM · The first comment Anon Mouse has posted without any hint of negativity. This really is a great day!!
May 23, 2016 at 6:31 PM · Singapore have devoted a quarter of their park to Shrek !
May 23, 2016 at 8:23 PM · I hope they don't get rid of Dragon Challenge. I can understand why they might, but Rip Ride Rockit is the one I'd be chucking in the trash.

Anywho...Shrek has promise as a fully realized land at Universal. I think they could add to what theyve done at Singapore, but I don't know where they'd put the new area. Third gate?

May 23, 2016 at 11:43 PM · Given the age of the franchise, I somewhat question whether Shrek would be popular if there aren't more films in development. According to recent rumors, Shrek 4-D is closing at USH in the next couple years (not sure about the Florida installation) and there are no future Shrek attractions under development. Therefore, assuming it would be at least 5 years before a new Shrek attraction would open, I just don't see it being a lucrative option. Universal is probably better off focusing on Dreamworks attractions based on Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon at this time. All that said, if there are more Shrek feature films in development, a Shrek Land would be an excellent choice for inclusion in a 3rd Florida park or 2nd California park. It's just one of those properties that really doesn't connect well if you don't know the source material.
May 24, 2016 at 3:42 AM · Shrek is just on a break. Far too big not to return in some capacity in the future. They really rinsed the hell out of it for a few years, and the quality and box office numbers was getting lower with each quick new release.
May 24, 2016 at 4:42 AM · Why do we have different standards for non-Disney films? Disney doesn't rely on sequels to decide on basing an attraction. The original's popularity is sufficient. Shrek already has three films. They don't need another. This is where an attraction can support a film in reverse to get people interested in the film. Disney's classic attractions are all based on the original films. Peter Pan, Little Mermaid, Snow White, Dumbo, Lion King. Universal needs to develop classic Dreamworks attractions that can last decades and not go away for something new. That's how Disney builds nostalgia.
May 24, 2016 at 6:36 AM · Shrek actually has 4 feature films.
May 24, 2016 at 6:47 AM · I so badly want more Shrek stuff at the parks - my husband and I (who fell in love playing Shrek and Fiona in the stage version) are going to Orlando in January, and I'm so disappointed that we won't have a chance to be photographed with Shrek...
May 24, 2016 at 7:51 AM · Universal should focus on Princess Fiona before her transformation and the human Shrek. The full princess route might work better in the theme parks. The kids might not necessarily love the green ogre for the meet and greets.
May 24, 2016 at 7:52 AM · As noted by Brian, there are 4 feature length Shrek films plus Puss and Boots along with the ride film (chronologically between the original and Shrek 2), and Christmas and Halloween TV specials.

"Universal needs to develop classic Dreamworks attractions that can last decades and not go away for something new."

Well, Shrek 4-D has been around for over 13 years without any substantial changes. Disney's best "classic" attractions are not based on any films, and I'd argue that aside from Peter Pan, none of the film based attractions have been around for "decades". Snow White's Scary Adventures at Disneyland is probably the only exception, but line lengths would suggest its popularity waned long ago. Even with the Snow White films over the past few years - Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror Mirror, and Winter's War (none from Disney I'll note), there as now been any increase in interest in the aging attraction.

I think Universal is doing just fine running Shrek until it's lagging popularity reaches a critical mass. In fact, Universal is been one of the best at converting existing flexible ride systems to keep up with changing tastes and new popular franchises. I think that by using an existing IP, you're setting yourself up for having to refresh the attraction or change the IP 10-15 years down the road. Nostalgia can only drive attendance so much. At some point you have to give people something new.

May 24, 2016 at 8:06 AM · Mr Toad (a short), Alice in Wonderland (a full length film), and Pinnochio (a full length film) been around for decades at Disneyland. Their popularity has more to do with the attraction than the film. Peter Pan, Mr Toad, and Alice dark rides are significantly more popular than Snow White and Pinnochio. Shrek is rumored to go away. If it stays, it'll be a good decision. Disney has constant references to sorcerer Mickey from one film, Fantasia. No sequels needed. The sequels are essentially the attractions.
May 24, 2016 at 8:54 AM · So this is where I look at Harry Potter and wonder... As I had mentioned, I am not a HP fan and really don't know much about the IP...but am I correct that the books and films are done? I totally understand Harry has legions of fans but Universal has dedicated an entire land to an IP that isn't moving forward. And yes, Star Wars @ Disney has proven its worth all these years later and has resurged...but what about Harry? If Shrek has started to wane, wouldn't a larger presence help extend the life of the IP? I'd like to think that Shrek has a fanbase equal to HP though I doubt the numbers come close. So what happens if Harry's popularity drops in 10 years?
May 24, 2016 at 11:57 AM · @Sarah Books live longer, much longer then movies.The Brother Grimm stories (you know those stories Disney sweetened and made into movies) are around from 1812. The book Lord of the Rings was published 1954, How the Grinch stole Christmas is from 1984 and is still read and sold by kids.

As said above by many Disney has many ip's that don't have a sequel in the making (thank god for that have you seen Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time, or Little Mermaid 2 and 3). Their rides are mostly still there.

The Potter books sold between +50 and +100 million and still new editions arrive in bookstores. It's a classic coming of age story. Sure the movies will get old and probably remade in the future but books are read by millions over and over again and passed on to other generations to enjoy.
The Potermore website is very much alive and gets regular bits and pieces to read, written by Rowling and this year another movie from that universe will be in the cinema's and Harry Potter And The Cursed Child will be on stage in London starting this summer.

But if guests will stop being interested in the theme park offering Universal will knock it down to replace it with something new. Their investment was recuperated within 3 months so they won't have a problem doing that but I bet it'll be there longer than the Cars, action, motor stunt show at WDW...oh wait.

May 24, 2016 at 12:05 PM · All seven Harry Potter books have been made into movies (the last book was split into two movies). However, there is a related/prequel-ish book called "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" that is coming to theaters this November, and is initially planned as a trilogy.

"Peter Pan, Mr Toad, and Alice dark rides are significantly more popular than Snow White and Pinnochio." However, the lines for those are still nothing compared to Pirates or Haunted Mansion. I'd also add that Peter Pan's lines (and Mr. Toad to a lesser extent) are more attributable to the ride system than the franchise's popularity. Both dark rides have significantly lower capacity than most other Disney dark rides. Additionally at Disneyland, there's very little else that can be done with those spaces in Fantasyland without completely gutting the area. That's why those attractions have only gone through minor tweaks because each of those 4 dark rides just beyond Sleeping Beauty's Castle take up very small footprints by modern dark ride standards.

May 24, 2016 at 12:23 PM · Anything with Gingy is a must have for me. Keep it so Universal.
May 24, 2016 at 1:12 PM · I could not disagree more with your view of Disney parks. Universal Parks are, to my eyes, crass, loud and in your face everywhere outside of Harry Potter lands. Disney has childlike charm, subtlety, refinement. I think you are mistaking your own personal tastes (which are maybe more attuned to extreme experiences) for objective evaluation of any kind.
May 24, 2016 at 1:54 PM · I really loved the pack of Princesses (very un-Disneyfied) in the Shrek movies and wish they could be at the parks in some way.
May 24, 2016 at 5:29 PM · @O T - Thanks, that makes perfect sense to me! I had completely forgotten up and coming generations still reading the books. Granted new movie buffs can always see a Shrek film for the first time too but books do have a longer "shelf life!" OK...that was really bad but I'm quite proud of it! :)

The Grinch was 1984?? Really!? WOW! I would have thought the 70s at the latest. I feel old.

May 24, 2016 at 10:58 PM · @Russell: Aside from ignoring what I wrote that these Fantasyland rides last for decades and are based on original films and shorts and no sequels are needed to justify them as attractions, its nice to know they aren't Pirates and Haunted Mansion for they are not Pirates and Haunted Mansion, which are rides in another land. On the other hand, there's The Little Mermaid that uses the same doom buggies ride vehicles that somehow escaped your mind. It is also a ride that is based on a single very popular film. A very good people eater. With Winnie the Pooh, you can have both new tech or old tech. Old tech has lower attendance like at Disneyland that has lines usually 10 minutes even on busy days. New tech with the trackless ride vehicles can have three hours lines at Tokyo Disneyland. Oh well.
May 25, 2016 at 6:45 AM · Beto Carrero, a theme park in the south of Brazil also have rights to Dreamwork's IPs, including Shrek.
May 25, 2016 at 8:08 AM · Re-OT.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas was written long before the 80s. I don't know exactly what year the book came out, but the animated adaptation came out in 1966, so the book had to have been published sometime before that. But you know what? That just proves your point even further!

And Russel, if you think Snow White's popularity is fading, you clearly haven't been to MK over the past year. The lines for 7DMT are atrocious...

May 26, 2016 at 4:44 AM · Don't forget Merlin's Shrek Adventure in London. There's supposed to be another 5 or 20 on the way...
May 26, 2016 at 8:41 AM · Anon - Little Mermaid is a relatively new attraction. There's way of telling right now what the lifespan will be. I can tell you the last time we were at Disneyland 3 years ago, that the line for that ride never exceeded 10 minutes. I think the WDW version will have a longer shelf life because of the added ambiance created by the exterior themeing, but let's face it, it has not yet reached "classic" status.

I stand by my statement regarding the DL Fantasyland attractions. Those are shoe-horned into such small spaces that there's very little that can be done with them. If Disney could update those attractions, they probably would (there were rumors that Mr. Toad was on the chopping block, but was ultimately saved because Disney couldn't come up with anything that was discernibly better).

The DL version of Pooh suffers because of its location at a dead end. I wouldn't be surprised to see its popularity increase once Star Wars Land creates through traffic past Pooh.

@66.87.123.26 - I specifically called out Snow White's Scare Adventures at DL, not 7DMT. I would contest that 7DMT is not popular because of the IP, but instead because MK visitors are so desperate for a thrill ride (even though it's not terribly thrilling). That attraction probably would have similar popularity if it were themed to Beauty and the Beast or Mulan, simply because it's a new coaster. MK was doing just fine when they dumped Snow White to build Fairytale Hall in 2012.

May 26, 2016 at 7:10 PM · "Those are shoe-horned into such small spaces that there's very little that can be done with them."

Except to let them continue as classic attractions. They are being updated. You conveniently forget Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland both received recent updates. Whether they should be updated is besides the point. Your other arguments are pretty much nonsense. The Little Mermaid only recently was made into a ride using the Haunted Mansion omnimover ride vehicles. That the line is only ten minutes means it is quite a people mover. So it can't be a bad thing. Plus the ride is based on the ORIGINAL MOVIE, no SEQUELS.

Now you're saying Pooh might be more popular. It is already very popular at the Magic Kingdom using old tech and the concept was duplicated at Hong Kong and Shanghai. Old tech is good and not merely good enough.

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