I cannot, absolutely cannot wait to see it!

In Toon with Shrek 2
Call it twice upon a time. Shrek 2 once more indulges in fairy-tale foolery as its lime-hued newlywed ogre grapples with a truly Grimm situation: a visit with his royally chagrined in-laws.
The hip-and-flip cultural zingers still flit by in the follow-up to DreamWorks’ 2001 smash, which collected the first animated-movie Oscar plus $480 million in worldwide box office.
A sample taste of the second helping that arrives Wednesday: a poster of a certain “Sir Justin” hangs in the childhood bedroom of Shrek’s bride, Fiona, voiced by Cameron Diaz ó a reference to Diaz’s beau, pop idol Justin Timberlake.
But as the candy-colored computerized action shifts to Far Far Away, with its glitzy boutiques (Joust instead of Polo) and enchanted estates, the comedy also wickedly mocks the skin-deep values of Beverly Hills.
Which means the Fairy Godmother isn’t just some wing-flapping, wish-granting yenta. Like Mary Kay with a flight plan, the matronly meddler (voiced by Absolutely Fabulous funny lady Jennifer Saunders) delivers extreme makeovers with a whoosh of her wand and stocks enough potent beauty potions to put most Botox clinics to shame.
“With a flick of the wrist and just a flash, you’ll land a prince with a ton of cash,” she brags in a Bibbity-bobbity-boo-ish ditty.
Actually, the very studio that changed the face of animated features with Shrek, whose 3-D visual punch helped erase the popularity of traditionally drawn cartoons, is giving itself a makeover.
As far as landing a prince goes, tell the Fairy Godmother never mind. The 10-year-old DreamWorks already has a cartoon ruler ó co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, who previously oversaw Disney’s animation revival, from 1989’s The Little Mermaid to 1994’s The Lion King. As Shrek 2 director Kelly Asbury puts it, “What Tom Landry was to the Dallas Cowboys, Jeffrey is to DreamWorks.”
But the ton of cash? That would do nicely, especially since the studio hasn’t had an animated success since the original Shrek. Heck, it hasn’t even had a modest live-action hit since its aged frat-boy frolic Old School more than a year ago.
Also at issue: The company may offer shares in its animation unit to the public later this year.
A new day is about to dawn, and Shrek 2 signals a confident switch in style. Out is 2003’s old-fashioned horse opera Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and last year’s creaky shipwreck Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. In is Shrek-ian humor and a more contemporary sensibility.
“They are chapters in our past,” Katzenberg says of Spirit and Sinbad. Since animated features take about four years to complete, “Those films were well into production when Shrek came out. We knew it would take a couple of years to achieve a new direction.”
That time has arrived. “This is a defining moment for DreamWorks animation,” he says. “Shrek really did answer the question of how we could find that place to be unique and popular with moviegoers.”
The Shrek effect is very apparent in the studio’s upcoming slate, including the undersea Mob comedy Shark Tale (Oct. 1), the zooey romp Madagascar (May 2005), the stop-motion Wallace & Gromit Movie (September 2005) from the team that did Chicken Run, and the suburbia spoof Over the Hedge (2006). All feature animals. All save Wallace & Gromit have major stars doing voice work, from Shark Tale’s Will Smith to Hedge’s Jim Carrey. And, most important, all are funny.
“Some are parodies, but all of them are a bit subversive and sophisticated,” Katzenberg says. “They’re told from an adult point of view but made to work for kids, rather than the other way around.”
Cartoon lovers who have been sweating out Disney’s severe cutbacks, its probable split with partner Pixar as well as the DreamWorks slump can at least breathe a qualified sigh of relief.
“They’ve figured out a formula that works for them,” says animation expert Jerry Beck. “It’s not so much a change at DreamWorks but a change in audience tastes and attitudes. The Disney style that Katzenberg honed so well and revitalized is not in fashion.”
Many things went right for Shrek 2. That includes luring back its dream cast of voice actors ó Mike Myers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as sassy sidekick Donkey, as well as Diaz ó with a $10 million payday each.
“There was no question I wouldn’t come back,” Diaz says. “I feel oddly possessive about Fiona. I never thought of myself as a person who would do a voice of an animated character, and to be able to do it and see how it has impacted people is a gift.”
And it’s one that keeps on giving. The animators have topped the hilarious motormouth banter of Murphy’s Donkey with a rival for Shrek’s, as well as the audience’s, affections: Puss In Boots, a killer cat swashbuckler who speaks with the Spanish-accented bravado of Zorro himself, Antonio Banderas.
“I have cats, and his performance is so dead-on,” says Diaz, a rabid Puss fan. “I literally laughed so hard I fell on the floor.”
Never mind his sword. Puss disarms his foes when he puts on his sad little kitty act with dewy eyes the size of saucers.
Even Banderas was smitten with his feline alter ego. When he first visited the studio, “Jeffrey showed me walls filled with drawings of the cat,” he says. “I stopped when I saw his eyes all watery and his ears down. It was love at first sight.”
Shrek’s kingdom of tie-ins and planned sequels keeps expanding, including a possible theatrical production. Says Katzenberg, “Sam Mendes (director of American Beauty) approached me a year or so ago and was very passionate about trying to adapt it for Broadway. It’s really guided by his interest, and it’s his idea to turn it into an out-and-out musical. It will probably be the story of the first film with parts of the second.”
As for Shrek 3, “We started six months ago,” he says.
A bouncing baby ogre is a likely addition. It seems to be the natural progression to director Andrew Adamson, who worked on the original and the sequel. “In the first Shrek, he learned to love. In the second, he learns to love himself. So thematically, and having just had one myself, a child would require him to say, ‘I’m comfortable enough to be a mentor.’ ” And a Shrek 4 is in the offing, as well.
DreamWorks is not just focusing its identity on its storytelling. Shrek 2 marks the debut of a customized animation logo, which flashes onscreen before the film while strains of the big green guy’s theme song are heard. While that kid in the moon is the studio’s official symbol, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that the grouchy ogre is the studio’s real mascot, representing its future aspirations in animation.
As Asbury says, “Shrek is the Mickey Mouse of DreamWorks.”
Besides, in Hollywood, green goes with everything.