EXCLUSIVE: ‘Shrek Forever After’ Director Mike Mitchell Compares The Story To ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’

Shrek Forever After,” the fourth movie in the Mike Myers-starring series, hits theaters on May 21. The Scottish-accented green ogre has had quite the ride since he first raised hell and married an ogress (Cameron Diaz) back in 2001. “Forever After” will be the fourth “Shrek” outing but the first one in 3-D.

Director Mike Mitchell took some time out of his busy pre-release schedule last week to chat with MTV’s Eric Ditzian about how the 3-D decision came about. “It was actually early in development that we decided we wanted to do it in 3-D. DreamWorks decided all the rest of the films at the studio would be 3-D,” he said. “[DreamWorks chief] Jeffrey [Katzenberg] put us in contact with James Cameron, and we got to see a lot of early footage from ’Avatar.’ There were also the two films before ’Shrek’ that were going on at the studio.” — “Monsters Vs Aliens” and the just-released “How To Train Your Dragon” — “I really got a handle on the 3-D.”

The next step was resolving to use the technology, but to put it second. The story comes first in “Shrek Forever After.” “Our story is like ’Shrek’ meets ’It’s a Wonderful Life,’ and so [the question is]: ’What’s a world like where Shrek was never born?’ There’s a scene when Donkey runs away from him, and he’s left all alone, and what we did was push him into the deep space of the 3-D, and it feels like Shrek is more lonely. You feel the loneliness.”

For Mitchell, the 3-D format should enhance the viewer experience without ever becoming the focus of it. “We never pop,” he said. “We don’t want to take you out of the picture, so nothing ever comes right into the middle of the lens. There’s a way to have stuff pop out where it’s not cheesy and you’re not giggling and you’re not brought out of the film.”

That’s not to say the movie is devoid of set pieces. “Shrek Forever After” features some big ones, what Mitchell describes as “roller-coaster moments,” which he think 3-D is “really good for.” He wouldn’t reveal too much, but he does have a favorite: “Shrek is being chased by a thousand witches on broomsticks and it’s like a roller-coaster ride. When we show it to an audience in 3-D, the whole audience just goes ’Woo!’ when Shrek dives down, and it leaves your heart in your throat.”

“All of these witches are coming out towards you, and you see their broomsticks poking out at you, but it’s action-oriented,” he continued. “We don’t want you to notice the broomstick is sticking in your face as a joke. We want it to be part of the action.”

Still, Mitchell’s favorite moment in the movie is one of the quieter ones, featuring a more artful execution of the 3-D elements. “There’s another scene when Shrek bursts into his house, and his house doesn’t have doors and windows; it’s just this empty husk. And he’s yelling for his wife and his kids, and he kind of breaks through the wall, and he falls into this dark space and there are shafts of light coming through and you can see the dust in the room. You can almost taste the dust in the room.”

“I’d have to say out of the whole movie, instead of the broom chases and the dragon flying and the dragon breathing fire into the camera, I would say that one shot of Shrek busting into his house and then lifting himself up off the ground and standing up and looking around his empty house is one of my favorite, favorite 3-D moments.”

It’s 3-D Week on MTV.com! All this week, we’re bringing you the latest news on your most-anticipated upcoming 3-D releases, along with plenty of exclusive content and the same great opinions and commentary you’ve come to expect from the talented MTV Movies team. For more from Eric’s interview with Mitchell, check out the full transcript on MTV.com.