The Prince of Egypt

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This article is about the film. For the soundtrack, see The Prince of Egypt (soundtrack).
The Prince of Egypt
Prince of egypt ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Simon Wells
Brenda Chapman
Steve Hickner
Produced by Penney Finkelman Cox
Sandra Rabins
Jeffrey Katzenberg (executive producer)
Screenplay by Philip LaZebnik
Nicholas Meyer
Based on The Book of Exodus
Starring Val Kilmer
Ralph Fiennes
Michelle Pfeiffer
Sandra Bullock
Jeff Goldblum
Patrick Stewart
Danny Glover
Steve Martin
Martin Short
Music by Hans Zimmer (Score)
Stephen Schwartz (Songs)
Edited by Nick Fletcher
Production
company
Distributed by DreamWorks Pictures[1]
Release dates
  • December 16, 1998 (1998-12-16) (premiere)[2]
  • December 18, 1998 (1998-12-18) (United States)[3]
Running time 98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Hebrew
Budget $70 million[4]
Box office $218,613,188[4]

The Prince of Egypt is a 1998 American animated epic musical biblical film and the first traditionally animated film produced and released by DreamWorks Pictures. The film is an adaptation of the Book of Exodus and follows Moses' life from being a prince of Egypt to his ultimate destiny to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. The film was directed by Brenda Chapman, Simon Wells and Steve Hickner. The film featured songs written by Stephen Schwartz and a score composed by Hans Zimmer. The voice cast featured a number of major Hollywood actors in the speaking roles, while professional singers replaced them for the songs, except for Michelle Pfeiffer, Ralph Fiennes, Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Ofra Haza (who sang her song in over seventeen languages for the film's dubbing), who sang their own parts.

The film was nominated for best Original Musical or Comedy Score and won for Best Original Song at the 1999 Academy Awards for "When You Believe".[5] The song's pop version was performed at the ceremony by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. The song, co-written by Stephen Schwartz, Hans Zimmer and with additional production by Babyface, was nominated for Best Original Song (in a Motion Picture) at the 1999 Golden Globes,[6] and was also nominated for Outstanding Performance of a Song for a Feature Film at the ALMA Awards.

The film was released in theaters on December 18, 1998, and on home video on September 14, 1999. The film went on to gross $218,613,188 worldwide in theaters,[4] making it the second non-Disney animated feature to gross over $100 million in the U.S. after Paramount/Nickelodeon's The Rugrats Movie. The Prince of Egypt became the top grossing non-Disney animated film until 2000 when it was out-grossed by the stop motion film Chicken Run (another DreamWorks film). The film also remained the highest grossing traditionally animated non-Disney film until 2007, when it was out-grossed by 20th Century Fox's The Simpsons Movie.[7] This is DreamWorks Animation's only traditionally animated film to win an Oscar and one of the four DreamWorks Animation films to be nominated for more than one Oscar.

Plot[edit]

In Ancient Egypt, Yocheved, a Hebrew slave, and her two children, Miriam and Aaron, watch as Hebrew babies are taken and ruthlessly killed by Egyptian soldiers, as ordered by Seti I, who fears that an increase in Hebrew slaves could lead to rebellion. To save her own newborn son, Yocheved places him in a basket afloat on the Nile. Miriam follows the basket to the Pharaoh's palace and witnesses her baby brother adopted by Pharaoh's queen.

Twenty years later, Moses and his foster brother Rameses are scolded by their father for accidentally destroying a temple during on of their youthful misadventures, though Moses tries to take the blame and says that Rameses wants their father's approval. That evening at a palace banquet, Seti, deciding to give Rameses this opportunity, names him Prince regent and gives him authority over Egypt's temples. As a tribute, the high priests Hotep and Huy offer him the captive Tzipporah, and Rameses gives her to Moses. Moses debunks Tzipporah, and Rameses appoints him Royal Chief Architect.

Later that night, Moses helps Tzipporah escape from the palace and is reunited with his siblings Miriam and Aaron. Despite Aaron's attempts to protect her, Miriam tries to tell Moses about his past, but he refuses to listen to her and returns to the palace. The truth about his past is later confirmed by a nightmare, and finally by Seti himself. The next day, Moses accidentally pushes an Egyptian guard off the scaffolding of the temple, while trying to stop him from whipping a Hebrew slave, and the guard falls to his death.

Ashamed and confused Moses flees into the desert in exile, despite Rameses' pleas to stay. After Moses defends Tzipporah's younger sisters from bandits, he is welcomed into the tribe by their father Jethro. After assimilating this new culture, Moses becomes a shepherd and marries Tzipporah. While chasing a stray lamb, Moses discovers a burning bush through which God instructs him to guide the Hebrew slaves to their promised land, and bestows Moses' shepherding staff with his power. Moses and Tzipporah return to Egypt, where Moses is happily greeted by Rameses, who is now Pharaoh.

When Moses requests the Hebrews' release and changes his staff into an Egyptian cobra, to demonstrate his alliance with God, Hotep and Huy boastfully re-create this transformation, only to have their snakes eaten by Moses' snake. Rather than persuaded, Rameses is hardened and increases the Hebrews' workload. Moses and Tzipporah thereafter live with Miriam, who convinces Aaron and the other Hebrews to trust them. Later, Moses inflicts nine of the Plagues of Egypt; but Rameses refuses to relent, and Moses prepares the Hebrews for the tenth and final plague. That night, the final plague kills all the firstborn children of Egypt, including Rameses' son, while sparing those of the Hebrews. The next day, Rameses gives Moses permission to free the Hebrews.

The following morning, the Hebrews leave Egypt, led by Moses, Miriam, Aaron, and Tzipporah. At the Red Sea, they discover that Rameses is closely pursuing them with his army. Upon the arrival, Moses uses his staff to part the sea, while a fire blocks the army's way. The Hebrews cross the open sea bottom; and when the fire vanishes and the army gives chase, the water closes over the Egyptian soldiers, sparing Ramses alone. Thereafter Moses leads the Hebrews to Mount Sinai, where he receives the Ten Commandments.

Cast[edit]

Director Brenda Chapman briefly voiced Miriam when she sings the lullaby to Moses. The vocal had been recorded for a scratch audio track, which was intended to be replaced later by Sally Dworsky. The track turned out so well that it remained in the film.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Former Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg had always wanted to do an animated adaption of The Ten Commandments. While working for The Walt Disney Company, Katzenberg suggested this idea to Michael Eisner, but he refused. The idea for the film was brought back at the formation of DreamWorks, when Katzenberg's partners, Amblin Entertainment founder Steven Spielberg, and music producer David Geffen, were meeting in Spielberg's living room.[8] Katzenberg recalls that Spielberg looked at him during the meeting and said, "You ought to do The Ten Commandments."[8]

The Prince of Egypt was "written" throughout the story process. Beginning with a starting outline, Story Supervisors Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook led a team of fourteen storyboard artists and writers as they sketched out the entire film — sequence by sequence. Once the storyboards were approved, they were put into the Avid Media Composer digital editing system by editor Nick Fletcher to create a "story reel" or animatic. The story reel allowed the filmmakers to view and edit the entire film in continuity before production began, and also helped the layout and animation departments understand what is happening in each sequence of the film.[9] After casting of the voice talent concluded, dialogue recording sessions began. For the film, the actors record individually in a studio under guidance by one of the three directors. The voice tracks were to become the primary aspect as to which the animators built their performances.[9] Because DreamWorks was concerned about theological accuracy, Jeffrey Katzenberg decided to call in Biblical scholars, Christian, Jewish and Muslim theologians, and Arab American leaders to help his film be more accurate and faithful to the original story. After previewing the developing film, all these leaders noted that the studio executives listened and responded to their ideas, and praised the studio for reaching out for comment from outside sources.[8]

Design[edit]

Art directors Kathy Altieri and Richard Chavez and Production Designer Darek Gogol led a team of nine visual development artists in setting a visual style for the film that was representative of the time, the scale and the architectural style of Ancient Egypt.[9] Part of the process also included the research and collection of artwork from various artists, as well as taking part in trips such as a two-week travel across Egypt by the filmmakers before the film's production began.[9]

There are 1192 scenes in the film, and 1180 of them have special effects in them. These special effects were elements such as wind blowing or environmental features such as dust or rainwater. There were also effects design in lighting, as it casts its shadows and images into a given scene. In the end, these effects helped the animators graphically illustrate scenes such as the ten plagues of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea.[8]

Character Designers Carter Goodrich, Carlos Grangel and Nicolas Marlet worked on setting the design and overall look of the characters. Drawing on various inspirations for the widely known characters, the team of character designers worked on designs that had a more realistic feel than the usual animated characters up to that time.[9] Both character design and art direction worked to set a definite distinction between the symmetrical, more angular look of the Egyptians versus the more organic, natural look of the Hebrews and their related environments.[9] The Backgrounds department, headed by supervisors Paul Lasaine and Ron Lukas, oversaw a team of artists who were responsible for painting the sets/backdrops from the layouts. Within the film, approximately 934 hand-painted backgrounds were created.[9]

Audio[edit]

The task of creating God's voice was given to Lon Bender and the team working with the film's music composer, Hans Zimmer.[10] "The challenge with that voice was to try to evolve it into something that had not been heard before," says Bender. "We did a lot of research into the voices that had been used for past Hollywood movies as well as for radio shows, and we were trying to create something that had never been previously heard not only from a casting standpoint but from a voice manipulation standpoint as well. The solution was to use the voice of actor Val Kilmer to suggest the kind of voice we hear inside our own heads in our everyday lives, as opposed to the larger than life tones with which God has been endowed in prior cinematic incarnations."[10] As a result, in the final film, Kilmer gave voice to Moses and God, as well, yet the suggestion is that someone else would have heard God speak to him again in his own voice.

Composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz began working on writing songs for the film from the beginning of the film's production. As the story evolved, he continued to write songs that would serve to both entertain and help move the story along. Composer Hans Zimmer arranged and produced the songs and then eventually wrote the film's score. The film's score was recorded entirely in London, England.[9]

Three soundtracks were released simultaneously for The Prince of Egypt, each of them aimed towards a different target audience and one was promoted by faith guru Rick Hendrix. While the other two accompanying records, the country-themed "Nashville" soundtrack and the gospel-based "Inspirational" soundtrack, functioned as film tributes, the official The Prince of Egypt soundtrack contained the actual songs from the film.[11] This album combines elements from the score composed by Hans Zimmer, and film songs by Stephen Schwartz.[11] The songs were either voiced over by professional singers (such as Salisbury Cathedral Choir), or sung by the film's voice actors, such as Michelle Pfeiffer and Ofra Haza. Various tracks by contemporary artists such as K-Ci & JoJo and Boyz II Men were added, including the Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston duet "When You Believe", a Babyface rewrite of the original Schwartz composition, sung by Michelle Pfeiffer and Sally Dworsky in the film. Amy Grant also sings a version of "River Lullaby".

Reception[edit]

Box office performance[edit]

On its opening weekend, the film grossed $14,524,321 for a $4,658 average from 3,118 theaters, earning second place at the box office, behind You've Got Mail. Due to the holiday season, the film gained 4% in its second weekend, earning $15,119,107 and finishing in fourth place. It had a $4,698 average from 3,218 theaters. It would hold well in its third weekend, with only a 25% drop to $11,244,612 for a $3,511 average from 3,202 theaters and once again finishing in fourth place. The film closed on May 27, 1999 after earning $101,413,188 in the United States and Canada with an additional $117,200,000 overseas for a worldwide total of $218.6 million.

The Prince of Egypt box office revenue
Source Gross (USD)  % Total All Time Rank (Unadjusted)
United States & Canada $101,413,188[4] 46.4% 398[4]
Foreign $117,200,000[4] 53.6%
Worldwide $218,613,188[4] 100.0% 319[4]

Reviews[edit]

The Prince of Egypt received generally positive reviews from critics and at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 80 reviews collected, the film has an overall approval rating of 79%, with a weighted average score of 7/10.[12] Metacritic, which assigns a normalized 0–100 rating to reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 64 from the 26 reviews it collected.[13]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the film in his review saying, "The Prince of Egypt is one of the best-looking animated films ever made. It employs computer-generated animation as an aid to traditional techniques, rather than as a substitute for them, and we sense the touch of human artists in the vision behind the Egyptian monuments, the lonely desert vistas, the thrill of the chariot race, the personalities of the characters. This is a film that shows animation growing up and embracing more complex themes, instead of chaining itself in the category of children's entertainment."[14] Richard Corliss of Time magazine gave a negative review of the film saying, "The film lacks creative exuberance, any side pockets of joy."[15] Stephen Hunter from The Washington Post praised the film saying, "The movie's proudest accomplishment is that it revises our version of Moses toward something more immediate and believable, more humanly knowable."[16]

Lisa Alspector from the Chicago Reader praised the film and wrote, "The blend of animation techniques somehow demonstrates mastery modestly, while the special effects are nothing short of magnificent."[17] Houston Chronicle's Jeff Millar reviewed by saying, "The handsomely animated Prince of Egypt is an amalgam of Hollywood biblical epic, Broadway supermusical and nice Sunday school lesson."[18] James Berardinelli from Reelviews highly praised the film saying, "The animation in The Prince of Egypt is truly top-notch, and is easily a match for anything Disney has turned out in the last decade", and also wrote "this impressive achievement uncovers yet another chink in Disney's once-impregnable animation armor."[19] Liam Lacey of The Globe and Mail gave a somewhat negative review and wrote, "Prince of Egypt is spectacular but takes itself too seriously."[20] MovieGuide also reviewed the film favorably, giving it a rare 4 out of 4 stars, saying that, "The Prince of Egypt takes animated movies to a new level of entertainment. Magnificent art, music, story, and realization combine to make The Prince of Egypt one of the most entertaining masterpieces of all time."[21]

Home media[edit]

The Prince of Egypt was released on DVD and VHS on September 14, 1999.[22]

Awards[edit]

Award Category Recipient Result
Academy Awards[5] Best Original Musical or Comedy Score Nominated
Best Original Song "When You Believe" Won
Annie Awards[23] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Individual Achievement in Directing Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, and Simon Wells Nominated
Individual Achievement in Storyboarding Lorna Cook (Story supervisor) Nominated
Individual Achievement in Effects Animation Jamie Lloyd (Effects Lead — Burning Bush/Angel of Death) Nominated
Individual Achievement in Voice Acting Ralph Fiennes ("Rameses") Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[6] Best Original Score Nominated
Best Original Song "When You Believe" Nominated
Satellite Award[24] Best Animated or Mixed Media Feature Nominated

Banning[edit]

The Prince of Egypt was banned in two countries where the population is predominantly Muslim: the Maldives and Malaysia, on the grounds that the depiction in the media of Islamic prophets (among which Moses is counted) is forbidden in Islam. The Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in the Maldives stated: "All prophets and messengers of God are revered in Islam, and therefore cannot be portrayed".[25][26] Following this ruling, the censor board banned the film in January 1999. In the same month, the Film Censorship Board in Malaysia banned the film, but did not provide a specific explanation. The board's secretary said that the censor body ruled the film was "insensitive for religious and moral reasons".[27]

Prequel[edit]

In November 2000, DreamWorks Animation released Joseph: King of Dreams, a direct-to-video prequel based on the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lovell, Glenn (December 10, 1998). "Review: ‘The Prince of Egypt’". Retrieved September 1, 2014. A DreamWorks Pictures release and production. 
  2. ^ "DreamWorks' `The Prince of Egypt' Attends UCLA's Royce Hall." (Press release). The Free Library. December 16, 1998. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
  3. ^ "DreamWorks debuts "Prince of Egypt" albums". Animation World Network. October 30, 1998. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Prince of Egypt (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b "Academy Awards, USA: 1998". awardsdatabase.oscars.org. Retrieved February 27, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b "HFPA-Awards search". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved February 27, 2009. 
  7. ^ "Highest grossing animated films". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 28, 2009. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Dan Wooding's strategic times". Assistnews.net. Retrieved March 3, 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "Prince of Egypt-About the Production". Filmscouts.com. Retrieved March 4, 2009. 
  10. ^ a b "Sound design of Prince of Egypt". Filmsound.org. Retrieved March 13, 2009. 
  11. ^ a b "SoundtrackNet:The Prince of Egypt Soundtrack". SoundtrackNet.net. Retrieved March 4, 2009. 
  12. ^ "The Prince of Egypt movie reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 27, 2009. 
  13. ^ "The Prince of Egypt (1998): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks. Retrieved February 27, 2009. 
  14. ^ "The Prince of Egypt: Roger Ebert". Chicago Suntimes. Retrieved February 27, 2009. 
  15. ^ Corliss, Richard (December 14, 1998). "Can a Prince be a movie king? - TIME". Time Magazine. Retrieved March 12, 2009. 
  16. ^ "The Prince of Egypt: Review". The Washington Post. September 7, 1999. Retrieved February 27, 2009. 
  17. ^ "The Prince of Egypt: Review". Chicago Reader. Retrieved February 27, 2009. 
  18. ^ Millar, Jeff (December 18, 1998). "Prince of Egypt". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved April 4, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Review:The Prince of Egypt". Reelviews.net. Retrieved February 27, 2009. 
  20. ^ "The Globe and Mail Review:The Prince of Egypt". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on August 18, 2004. Retrieved March 12, 2009. 
  21. ^ Movie Review: The Prince of Egypt
  22. ^ Kilmer, David (September 13, 1999). "DreamWorks sponsors chariot race on Hollywood Boulevard". Animation World Network. Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Legacy: 22nd Annual Annie Award Nominees and Winners (1999)". Annie Awards. Retrieved February 27, 2009. 
  24. ^ "1999 Awards". International Press Academy. Archived from the original on July 12, 2000. Retrieved June 24, 2014. 
  25. ^ "There can be miracles", The Independent, January 24, 1999
  26. ^ "CNN Showbuzz — January 27, 1999". CNN. January 27, 1999. Retrieved March 12, 2009. 
  27. ^ "Malaysia bans Spielberg's Prince". BBC News. January 27, 1999. Retrieved July 17, 2007. 

External links[edit]