Though the success of 2004’s Shrek 2 was global, the Shrek sequel was actually changed for its UK release. General audiences probably wouldn’t even know that the version they saw was different from the one seen by those overseas. The versions weren’t massively different, but they certainly included a few key changes.
Shrek 2 was an animated comedy sequel in which Shrek, voiced by Mike Myers (though Shrek almost had a different actor), attempted to win the approval of his new father-in-law, the hard-to-please King Harold. Part of the picture’s charm was its eclectic voice cast that included Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, John Cleese, Julie Andrews, and Antonio Banderas in hilarious performances alongside Myers. Larry King and Joan Rivers also had cameo roles as Doris the Ugly Stepsister and a Red Carpet Reporter, respectively, or at least they did in the US version of the film.
In the UK version, the Ugly Stepsister and a Red Carpet Reporter were voiced by Jonathan Ross and Kate Thornton. Both could finally say they had worked on a project involving Austin Powers chameleon Mike Myers. This change seemed arbitrary on the surface, but its reasoning was pretty simple. In localizing Shrek 2, its producers wanted to maximize the effect of its cameos. Viewers in the UK wouldn’t be as familiar with Larry King or Joan Rivers as those in the US, where the pair’s popularity was much more certain. Jonathan Ross and Kate Thornton were much more known in the UK, almost serving as the UK equivalents of King and Rivers. Regionalized voice cameos have been fairly frequent over the years. For example, Cars featured Jeremy Piven as Harv in the US version, but Jeremy Clarkson as Harv in the UK version (Pixar’s customary John Ratzenberger cameo role appeared in both versions). Interestingly, Larry King did actually record a cameo for Bee Movie that survived into the final UK version.
Voicework wasn’t the only thing that changed for the UK release of Shrek 2. In most versions of the film, Fiona headbutted Prince Charming once she realized that he wasn’t Shrek. In the UK version, she performed a karate chop to his neck. Many viewers have said they remember seeing the headbutt in the UK version, but perhaps this was an instance of the Mandela Effect. After all, the karate chop version definitely existed. Though the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) made no mention of the change on their official website (via BBFC), Shrek 2 did release around the time that their guidelines still strongly opposed so-called imitable techniques such as the headbutt (apparently, none of the moves Fiona used when she fought Robin Hood in the first Shrek were imitable). In fact, headbutts were some of the most commonly cut moments of violence (via Film Stories). Even Star Wars – Episode II: Attack Of The Clones required a headbutt removal before it was passed at PG.
Depending on the version, Shrek 2 provided a slightly different experience. The alternate voice cameos were less bothersome than the headbutt removal, as the latter was yet another instance of film censorship. Luckily, the changes didn’t affect the quality or initial intent of the overall movie. After all, a karate chop to the neck wasn’t too different from a headbutt; they both had the same end result, unceremoniously knocking Prince Charming unconscious. Since the initial release of Shrek 2, the BBFC has relaxed somewhat when it comes to headbutts. As such, they passed the headbutt cut at a “U” rating when they reclassified the film for one of its rereleases.