NEW YORK (Reuters) - The fourth and final movie of the animated "Shrek" series opened the Tribeca film festival on Wednesday night, but this time in 3D, marking the festival's shift from independent fare to more commercial movies.
Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz walked down a green carpet that matched the color of the giant ogre beloved by adults and children. The first three "Shrek" movies have raked in more than $2.2 billion at the worldwide box office.
"This Shrek experience...has been quality from start to finish," said Myers, who has voiced the title character in all four films. "I will miss the character."
The choice of "Shrek Forever After" to open Tribeca, which runs until May 2, came as a surprise to film observers. It is the first animated or 3D film to open the festival which first made a name for launching lower-budget films and world documentaries.
On Wednesday night, the film's other stars -- Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas -- were joined by actor James Gandolfini and hundreds in the audience who donned thick black-rimmed glasses to see 3D images.
"I think it's unique for Tribeca to embrace that (3D) aspect," director Mike Mitchell told Reuters. The movie opens in the United States on May 21.
"Shrek in 3D is not just bells and whistles. We have really concentrated on storytelling," he said.
"Shrek Forever After" shows the Scottish-accented ogre in domesticated middle age, lamenting his old life before he was married with children when he was feared and thought he had respect.
"It's kind of like a Shrek mid-life crisis," Mitchell said, noting that audiences had embraced the character's quirky side in the past. "He's the Tony Soprano of children's film," he said, referring to the tough, conflicted mob boss of TV series "The Sopranos."
Some of the film was written and recorded in New York, the filmmaker said, including the Tribeca neighborhood. The area was badly hit economically by September 11 2001 attacks on the nearby World Trade Center, propelling actor Robert De Niro to launch the first festival in 2002.
Tribeca's program director David Kwok said the addition of its first-ever 3D film marked how the festival is embracing changes in how films are being made and watched. This year it will also trial audiences watching some films online.
"As 3D gets more popular and more films are being made in 3D then hopefully we will be able to show them more prevalently," said Kwok.
It also highlights the recognition of animated films by bodies like the Academy Awards.
Others, like Cameron Diaz, who voiced Shrek's love Princess Fiona, thought it was simply sad to be saying goodbye to the creature who professed that beauty is on the inside.
"It is very hard, " she said. "It is the end. For Shrek, for Far Far Away and all the characters and for Shrek and Fiona. It's been a wonderful ride."
additional reporting by Dylan Howard, editing by Jill Serjeant