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The two men journeyed for many years without finding either the nut or the man, until finally they returned home to Nuremberg and found the nut with Drosselmeyer's cousin, a puppet-maker. His son turned out to be the young man needed to crack the nut Crackatook. The King promised Pirlipat's hand to whoever could crack the nut. Many men broke their teeth on it before Drosselmeyer's nephew cracked it easily and handed it to Pirlipat, who swallowed it and immediately became beautiful again. But Drosselmeyer's nephew, on his seventh backward step, stepped on the Mouse Queen and stumbled, and the curse fell on him, giving him a large head, wide mouth, and cottony beard; making him a nutcracker. The ungrateful and unsympathetic Pirlipat, seeing how ugly he had become, refused to marry him and banished him from the castle.
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The character is considered a parody of traditional princesses in both fairy tales and animated Disney films. Reception towards Fiona has been mostly positive, with critics commending her characterization, martial arts prowess and Diaz's performance. However, reviewers were divided over the character's human design, some of whom were impressed by her technological innovations, while others found her realism unsettling and too similar to Diaz. Several media publications consider Fiona a feminist icon, crediting her with subverting princess and gender stereotypes by embracing her flaws. Diaz also became one of Hollywood's highest-paid actresses due to her role in the Shrek franchise, earning $3 million for her performance in the first film and upwards of $10 million for each sequel.
Feeling that her curse remaining undiscovered until the end was unsuitable for a feature-length film, screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio introduced the concept of a shapeshifting princess, which was rejected by the other filmmakers for six months because they found it "too complex" for a fairy tale. Elliot and Rossio contested that similar ideas had been used successfully in Disney's The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991), ultimately convincing the studio by referring to Fiona as an enchanted princess instead. Some writers expressed concerns over whether turning Fiona into an ogre full-time once she professes her love for Shrek suggested "that ugly people belong with ugly people." Rossio explained that since Fiona shape-shifts, the best moral is "'Even princesses who change their shapes can find love too.' And Shrek would love her in all of her varied forms." Elliot elaborated that this prompts audiences to debate if Fiona's "true form" is beautiful or unattractive: "Her true form is beautiful by day, ugly by night.' ... and she was trying to rid herself of part of who she truly was, because society maintained that was wrong." The studio ultimately conceded that Fiona remain an ogre, which Elliot considers to be "a more conventional idea".
In early drafts of the script, Fiona is born an ogre to human parents, who lock her in a tower to conceal the true nature of their daughter's appearance, lying to the kingdom that she is a beautiful princess. One day, Fiona escapes and seeks assistance from a witch named Dama Fortuna, who offers her a choice between two potions: one will turn the princess beautiful, while the other guarantees Fiona's happily ever after. Fiona ignorantly drinks the "Beauty" potion for which she does not realize there is a catch, as the potion renders her human during the day only to revert her to an ogre every night. The writers originally intended for Fiona's backstory to be fully animated and used as the film's prologue, but discarded the idea after test audiences deemed it too depressing. Entitled "Fiona's Prologue", the sequence was storyboarded but never animated. A second abandoned scene entitled "Fiona Gets Them Lost" follows Fiona, Shrek and Donkey after she is and they become trapped in a cave; an action sequence inspired by the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) ensues. In the writers' original draft, Fiona's monstrous form was to have a physical altercation reminiscent of Hong Kong action films with Shrek once he discovers her, assuming that the monster has harmed Fiona. The idea was abandoned because, according to Elliot, few were familiar Hong Kong cinema's "emphasis on action and physicality" in comparison to more violent American films, explaining, "no matter how much we described it, [the studio] ... imagined this violent, knock-down, Steven Segal-type, bone-cracking fight", while some female crew members protested that the concept was misogynistic towards Fiona.
Elliott and Rossio had suggested revisiting the discussion about Fiona's true nature is beautiful or an ogre in a potential sequel, but the idea was rejected. The directors spent four months brainstorming several new ideas for the sequel, before ultimately determining that the only logical "jump off point" was one of the few areas not explored in the first film: Fiona's parents' reaction to their daughter both marrying and remaining an ogre. Shrek 2 director Kelly Asbury explained that introducing Fiona's parents presented an entirely "new story to go on, and a whole new place to go." Additionally, Shrek 2 reveals why Fiona was locked in a tower in the first place, with the filmmakers realizing they could use some of the first film's abandoned concepts to gradually uncover more details about Fiona's story throughout the remainder of the series. For Shrek 2, the filmmakers decided to resurrect the idea of Dama Fortuna, re-imagining her as Fiona's conniving fairy godmother and the sequel's main villain, who uses magic against Fiona and Shrek's marriage.
Fiona was Diaz's first animated role. DreamWorks invited Diaz to star in an animated film about an ogre and a princess who learn to accept both themselves and each other. In addition to the film's positive message, Diaz was drawn to the idea of co-starring alongside Myers, Eddie Murphy and John Lithgow. Approaching her role as though it were a dramatic performance, Diaz recorded most of her dialogue before a full script had been written, working closely with director Andrew Adamson to stage scenes before the film had been storyboarded. Prior to Shrek, Diaz starred in the action comedy film Charlie's Angels (2000), a role for which she had undergone martial arts training. While recording the scene in which her character fights Monsieur Hood and his Merry Men, Diaz became quite animated, gesturing and occasionally uttering Cantonese phrases; her martial arts background is credited with benefiting the sequence. Diaz once burped during a recording session, which was written into a scene for Fiona. Without a proper screenplay to aid her, Diaz found the improvisation required for some scenes one of the most challenging aspects of the recording process. The actress did not see the film's completed story until after she had finished working on the project on-and-off for two years, by which point she finally truly understood her "character and ... what she was going through". Myers was both impressed with and inspired by Diaz's commitment to her role, to the point that he felt he was acting opposite Fiona herself. Asbury recalled that Diaz immediately "nailed" her character, elaborating, "She had this certain thing about her voice where she could be headstrong and know exactly what she wants and be confident, but also have this touch of sweet naivete and all make it completely believable." Despite admiring the performances of her predominately male co-stars, Diaz seldom worked directly with them throughout the Shrek series.
According to Rossio, the first film's four main characters are written "around the concept of self-esteem, and appropriate and/or inappropriate reactions to appropriate or inappropriate self-assessment", explaining that Fiona seeks validation from others because she believes "there's something not correct about herself". Adamson elaborated that the character's main issue revolves around living up to stereotypes and ideas "represented in fairy tales that if ... you look a certain way and act a certain way and put the right dress and slippers on a handsome man is going to come", dismissing this as an unrealistic and unhealthy approach to finding romance. Diaz confirmed that Fiona only becomes her true self once she is freed from the tower and realizes her Prince Charming differs from who she had been taught to expect.
A scene during which Fiona duets with a bird who explodes once the princess sings a high note, subsequently frying its eggs for breakfast, is considered to be a parody of Disney fairy tales such as Cinderella (1950), about which Adamson explained "pok[es] fun at people's expectations" of princesses. Diaz believes her character's personality "shattered" children's perception of princess characters from the moment she was freed from the tower, explaining that Fiona had always been capable of freeing herself but chose to remain in the tower solely because she was "following the rules of a fairy tale book". In the sequel, Diaz explained that Fiona "has a lot of pressure from all the people who told her about Prince Charming to take everything materialistically and monetarily. And she literally is just kind of baffled by it and says, 'Sorry, but I don't need any of those things.' All she needs is this man who she loves and loves her and accepts her." Diaz considers her character to be an empowered, positive role model for young girls, explaining, "She's never depended on anyone to rescue her, which is a different message from Snow White and Rapunzel ... She was capable of getting out of the tower herself" and "took on Shrek as her partner rather than as her rescuer." She believes that the moment she accepts herself as an ogre is her most empowered moment, as well as "the biggest stride in her evolution as a person".