Putting Donkey in a Donkey Show: One Shrek of a PR Stunt!
Is that my worst amateur Photoshop ever, or what? Hah! I tricked you all, as that is not my own illustrative work but the questionable talent of someone hired by VMan magazine to do a strange photo spread featuring characters from Shrek Forever After. With the title "Shrek of a Guy." That's a pun worse than even I would use, and I love bad puns more than I love making bad Photoshops.
Apparently DreamWorks Animation is upset about the officially sanctioned spread -- or so the studio is claiming. I think it's all a clever marketing strategy planned in cahoots with the magazine. Why do I think this? Four reasons:
1.) The Shrek property has always been about spoofing Disney classics while never actually being as good as any of them. And this is merely an homage to the tacky duet between Snow White and Rob Lowe at the 1989 Oscars. Per tradition, the Disney scandal beats out this one on multiple levels. (some people liken it to the Miley Cyrus Vanity Fair photo shoot instead, but that also has a Disney connection, so either is fine.)
2.) Nobody would have seen this spread in VMan, which nobody had heard of before today. But thanks to DreamWorks' outrage, the magazine is now in the spotlight (as is whoever wants to take credit for that crappy Photoshop work), and DreamWorks also has its own publicity, both for the latest Shrek film and its affirmed morals in response to this messy situation.
3.) DreamWorks claims they expected something along the lines of a Simpsons spread in another magazine a few years back. But it's 2010, Marge Simpson has been in Playboy, we've all seen her side boob, as well as her nipples through a sheer teddy (and officially this time, not just in cartoon porn), and anyone in Hollywood should know not to relate your kiddie movie to something so depraved as that cartoon family.
4.) Nobody at DreamWorks could possibly be so stupid as to license images from its popular family film franchise to a magazine that also publishes topless photos of porn star/actress Sasha Grey. And it only took me a second to notice that, and my job wasn't even on the line.
Here are some other responses to the scandal, which has additionally helped in both increasing the visibility of VMan (can someone please tell me what the "V" stands for?) and fueling the obvious intent of this PR "nightmare":
- Vince Mancini at FilmDrunk:
Is it just me, or does this whole story seem very Zoolander? To call these pictures "provocative" is giving them waaay too much credit. They're just sort of nonsensical and lame, your basic cheesy models wearing cheesy model stuff and making cheesy model faces. Ooh, a bare-chested guy with a crucifix, and he's wearing a sweater?? My stars! Pardon me while I blot my forehead with this personalized hankie. Now some studio flack probably has to feign outrage because they took a picture of a girl in a bra eating a lollipop from the gingerbread guy. He's probably hating his life right now. And he should.
Adam Rosenberg at MTV Movies Blog:
I'm usually the first person to say that a studio is overreacting about one thing or another. Names won't be named, but I've seen a fair amount of preemptive damage control in my time as an entertainment journalist. Requests that I would almost always define as overreactive and pointless.
In this case, the studios are absolutely in the right to be... put off. While I have to wonder what would compel the powers-that-be to approve a photo spread in a men's magazine, these photos run counter to the carefree, kid-friendly spirit of the "Shrek" movies.
- Josh Tyler at Cinema Blend:
Maybe this would have made more sense when Shrek started out. Originally Shrek was billed as the more adult alternative to movies like Toy Story. The first Shrek seemed a little edgier, a little more willing to engage in scatological humor, and lot more sarcastic. Since then though, Shrek has morphed into one big, Happy Meal advertisement and thrown itself completely on the mercy of the daycare center crowd. So what was DreamWorks thinking when they allowed the characters of Shrek to pose with half-naked models? I have no idea.
- Kyle Buchanan at Movieline:
Apparently, Paramount and DreamWorks thought that by lending the Shrek characters to VMan, they'd get a classy fashion spread akin to what Harper's did for The Simpsons Movie in 2007. One key difference: Harper's is kind of an inoffensive women's magazine, whereas I just picked up a random issue of VMan on my coffee table, opened it, and saw vagina (OK, now I'm awake!).
- Gabe Delahaye at Videogum:
I think if there is one thing that we all agree on when it comes to the Shrek franchise it is that the characters have never been fuckable enough. "Come on, Dreamworks, make me cum! Using Shrek!" That is what everyone is always saying to Dreamworks about Shrek. Everyone. Always.
- Kevin Jagernauth at The Playlist:
Our guess? Someone prematurely gave the OK to Vman before it dawned on them just how bad an idea it was and the magazine had probably already gone to print before Paramount/DreamWorks could change their mind. [...] It's essentially like Lady Gaga video stills with cartoon characters stuck on top, but as far as branding goes, its one of the dumbest ideas to see the light of day in a long time.
- Amelie Gillette at AV Club:
How embarrassing and not-at-all calculated! Obviously there was no way Paramount could have known how the photos would turn out when they sent their innocent cartoon characters off to the photoshoot. [...] just a hollow publicity push for Shrek Forever After, a movie that for some reason desperately wants to seem edgy, but come on. These characters totally knew what they were doing
- Steve Pond at TheWrap:
So the studios are making it known that they're not happy about a shoot that, they say, "did not turn out the way originally envisioned." Then again, this way DreamWorks gets the photo spread that makes the movie look as if it's not just for kids ... and then they get to reassure parents by complaining about it. The best of both worlds, perhaps?
- John Gholson at Cinematical:
I can't imagine that Paramount or Dreamworks Animation didn't get some kind of final say in the spread, which gives the whole thing the particular stink of a publicity stunt gone wrong. Will it pay off? Ultimately, I don't think it will matter. The Shrek series has always carried the tiniest bit of an adult edge, and the franchise is too much of a box office juggernaut at this point. The pictures would have to actually be X-rated to affect its opening weekend (May 21).
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