A Shrek chronology

Photo by Helen Maybanks.

Photo by Helen Maybanks.

In 2001, a big, ugly, lovable green ogre called Shrek burst onto our screens and an instant classic was born.

We were intrigued to find out where this off-beat fairytale came from, and how it made its way to the West End, Broadway, and soon to be Canterbury in 2015!


14 November 1907
American cartoonist, sculptor and latterly children’s author William Steig is born in Brooklyn, New York, to Polish-Jewish immigrants from Austria. His father, Joseph, was a house painter and his mother, Laura, was a seamstress.

1923
Steig graduates from Townsend Harris High School at the age of 15, but doesn’t complete any of the three colleges that he attends, admitting that he had “a defective education”.

1930
Steig sells his first cartoon to The New Yorker, having started to draw when his family suffered from financial problems during the Great Depression. The cartoon has a prison inmate telling another, “My son’s incorrigible, I can’t do a thing with him!”

1944
A book of Steig’s cartoons, entitled Small Fry is published. The New York Times says: “What they prove to the parents and elders is that 8-year-olds do not change from one generation to another, that the world of childhood is compounded of miniature terrors and glorious daydreams, and that Mr. Steig – not to put too fine a point upon it – is wonderful.”

William Steig hard at work in 1973. Image via New York Social Diary.

William Steig hard at work in 1973. Image via New York Social Diary.

1968
William Steig publishes his first children’s book, entitled CDB!, which uses letters to represent words (hence, CDB! becomes “See the Bee”). This is followed by Roland The Minstrel Pig, beginning a career of books that are peopled with animals.

1990
Shrek!, about a young ogre who finds the ogre of his dreams when he leaves home, is published for the first time, written and illustrated by William Steig. The name of the central character is derived from the German/Yiddish word ‘schreck’, meaning ‘fear, terror’.

The beginnings of Shrek.

The beginnings of Shrek.

2001
The animated film of Shrek is released by DreamWorks Animation, starring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz. The film will go on to become an international success, closing in the cinema to a worldwide gross of nearly $500M.

2001 Shrek wins an Oscar®, in the new Academy Award category of ‘Best Animated Feature’.

Shrek film
2003
William Steig dies at the age of 95, in Boston, USA. His prolific output has generated more than 25 children’s books, even though he only started writing them in his sixties!

On one occasion he said: “I think I feel a little differently than other people do. For some reason I’ve never felt grown up”, which perhaps helps to explain his interest in this area of publishing. Steig’s passing is noted on the end credits of Shrek 2, with ‘In Memory of William Steig, 1907-2003’.

2004
Shrek 2, is released, followed by Shrek The Third (2007) and Shrek Forever After (2010). Several other shorter Shrek projects are completed, including Shrek 4-D (2004), a ride at Universal Studios and Shrek The Halls (2007), a Christmas special. Shrek is one of the highest grossing film series of all time.

14 December 2008
Shrek The Musical opens at the Broadway Theatre in New York City, starring Brian d’Arcy James as Shrek and Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona. The show is described as ‘true happiness’ by the New York Times and ‘enormous fun’ by the Wall Street Journal.

Shrek at the Broadway Theatre, New York.

Shrek, “Bringing Ugly Back” at the Broadway Theatre, New York.

2010
The North American tour of the musical launches in Chicago starting a 60 city, two-year tour of the US.

14 June 2011

Shrek The Musical has its UK premiere at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, starring Nigel Lindsay as Shrek, Richard Blackwood as Donkey, Nigel Harman as Lord Farquaad and Amanda Holden as Princess Fiona.

Shrek Tour Rehearsals 32, Gerard Carey (Lord Farquaad), Photo Credit - Helen Maybanks

Shrek tour rehearsals begin. Photo by Helen Maybanks.

July 2014
Shrek The Musical hits the road on its first ever tour of UK & Ireland, directed by Nigel Harman.

Feb 2015
The tour arrives with us in Canterbury!

Photo by Helen Maybanks.

Photo by Helen Maybanks.


Shrek The Musical is with us from Wednesday 11 February – Sunday 1 March.

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