After spending countless hours integrating elements from the popular 2001 animated fantasy film into role-playing game Kingdom Hearts III’s upcoming DLC, Japanese developer Square Enix reportedly spent Thursday thrown into a state of panic after realizing Shrek is not owned by Disney but rather by DreamWorks Animation, the studio also responsible for How To Train Your Dragon, Trolls, and Kung Fu Panda.
According to sources, the team of programmers, animators, and engineers made the discovery mere weeks before the scheduled release of the lengthy downloadable content, titled Shrek: Happily Ever After, sending the studio scrambling to salvage the extensive Shrek-based assets they had already developed, including detailed computer renderings of the titular green ogre, game mechanics implementing Donkey’s laugh as an attack, and hundreds of hours of voiceovers from Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, and other cast members of the original animated DreamWorks comedy.
“Goddammit, we spent $15 million on working out a storyline to fit Sora into the realm of Far, Far Away, and no one even thought to ask legal if we owned the rights to Shrek?” said Square Enix project leader Kanoko Watanabe, rapidly rushing through the digital assets of Lord Farquaad’s kingdom and a Three Little Pigs minigame on her computer as she attempted to discover a single facet of the DLC that could be salvaged. “Can we save any of this? Maybe the side-quest where the team joins up with Shrek to defeat the Big Bad Wolf? Or the dance sequence to ‘Accidentally In Love’? God, I spent a full weekend without sleep trying to get that cutscene just right.”
“That’s six months of my life right down the drain,” added a visibly exhausted Watanabe, as she brought up an immaculately rendered level in which the Gingerbread Man must flee from a hungry Evil Queen to find safety in Shrek’s Swamp.
Although Square Enix designers initially contemplated skirting DreamWorks’s copyright by making slight alterations—such as changing Shrek’s skin color to blue or renaming Puss in Boots as Mercenary Cat— sources confirmed that the studio’s legal department quickly shot down that possibility, leaving the downloadable content’s creators to consider the sobering likelihood that they had created nearly eight hours of unusable and possibly illegal gameplay sequences featuring Disney characters such as WALL-E, Buzz Lightyear, and Donald Duck palling around with Princess Fiona and the rest of the Shrek gang.
“Jesus, we already paid Eddie Murphy to do the voices, and John Lithgow just finished up two weeks of motion capture,” said Watanabe, dumbfounded that the stars would be either ignorant or callous enough to play along with the conceit that Square Enix could ever incorporate their characters into the game. “And I don’t even want to know how much we shelled out getting [original screenwriter] Ted Elliott to come in and punch up the script. They had to know that we could never release this game, right? Right?”
“I mean, maybe we could just release it to the public and just see if no one notices?” she added, before dashing her hopes by admitting that every piece of promotional content for the DLC featured Sora fighting alongside Shrek and the Boss Baby.
At press time, Disney had quickly solved any problems by purchasing DreamWorks Pictures and all of its associated properties for $3.8 billion.