An Ogre's Quest for Oscar

June 3, 2002
Not many people build castles anymore, so getting paid to fashion one for a dragon could be considered an honor. Even so, Baylor alumnus Doug Rogers, an art director for the Oscar-winning
movie "Shrek," remembers when the painstaking task lost some
of its charm.
For several weeks during the five years it took to complete the computer-generated film, Rogers and another artist meticulously designed and drafted sketches for scenes of the dragon's castle. Day and night, they worked until their hands cramped. The closer they were to finishing it, the more they wondered if they even had drawn everything correctly.
"Once a film is really up and cooking, you have to 'feed the beast,'" says Rogers of the intense creative process. "Whatever it takes to get it out the door, you have to do. If that means work all weekend, you work all weekend."
There was a great deal of work to do. Rogers, who was jointly responsible for the visual look of the film, except for the characters' motions, also researched how the sets and characters were designed and built -- from the wagons and windmills to Shrek's medieval attire.
Although the film's executive producers, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, had final say on Shrek's looks, it was a process that involved input from a large team of artists and designers, Rogers says. In all, he counted 63 versions of the ogre, one in which he was tall and thin and another in which he didn't wear clothes at all.
"You can't have a family film with a naked Shrek, so that went out the door fairly quickly," he says.
"This is just entertainment," he says of his chosen profession. "I'm not fooling myself that this is brain surgery. It's fun, and the world needs to laugh as much as it needs to work."
Rogers, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son, earned a BFA in communications design at Baylor in 1982 and an MFA in scenic design from the Yale School of Drama in 1996. This year, he's been an associate designer for a new version of the Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine theatrical production of "Into the Woods" for Broadway. He's also working on another DreamWorks computer-generated movie called "Sharkslayer."
In true Hollywood style, Rogers doesn't give too many details about the new flick. He does say, however, that its story takes place underwater, with fish that are updated 1920s-style gangsters. Angelina Jolie, Will Smith, James Gandolfini and Martin Scorsese will lend their voices as main characters. "Sharkslayer" should be released in 2005.
Rogers is more forthcoming about a reunion with the cantankerous green guy in the 2004 release of the "Shrek" sequel: There won't be one.
"I've spent enough years on Shrek," he says with a laugh. "I've done everything I want to do with him."
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