ShoWest Animation Directors of the Year: Rama Hui & Chris Miller

Miller and Hui have been with the Shrek franchise since the series’ first installment. They remember a time when Chris Farley was set to play the green ogre in a motion-capture version of the story.

But things have a way of changing on the Shrek pics.

“I would say we’ve probably made it 20 times. I don’t think this is an exaggeration, just the amount of trial and error that went into it,” says Miller, who worked as a story artist on “Shrek,” then advanced to head of the story department on “Shrek 2.”

Hui, who joined PDI/ DreamWorks in 1989, served as a supervising animator on both pics, as well as the Universal Studios attraction “Shrek 4D.” Together, they are the ShoWest Animators of the Year because they have directed “Shrek the Third,” with Miller overseeing story duties and Hui spearheading the production side.

Third chapter began as a twist on the Arthurian legend, with Shrek facilitating the hapless king-to-be, helping to pull the sword from the stone and so on. “It actually took awhile to discover Shrek was barely in the film,” Miller explains. “It felt more like Arthur’s story.”

So the team reconceived Arthur as a supporting character while keeping Shrek at the center. But they also saved room for audience favorites such as Puss in Boots (who gets his own subplot) and the Gingerbread Man (whose life passes before his eyes in a flashback scene).

Hui says he knew early in production those characters would be popular. “We only have about 20 shots of Gingy in the first movie, and whenever we had to cast those shots, animators would come to us,” says Hui. “You can tell some characters are going to jump out when animators are fighting to work on them.”

This time around, he thinks Merlin and the fairy-tale princesses — Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel — could have a similar effect.

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