August 18, 2022

Over time, DreamWorks Animation has developed a popularity. In the event you hear this studio’s title, your thoughts instantly goes to the DreamWorks Face, dance social gathering endings, or movie star stunt casting. This isn’t indicative of each single DreamWorks mission, as Kung Fu Panda or Easy methods to Practice Your Dragon can attest, but it surely’s sadly related to an incredibly excessive variety of titles within the studio’s catalog. These perceptions have grow to be so frequent that it might probably’t be straightforward to neglect that solely the second DreamWorks film ever was the full reverse of all these cliches. The Prince of Egypt was the other of what anybody would come to think about a DreamWorks title was, but it surely was all the higher for it.


Launched in December 1998 and commissioned as the primary mission from DreamWorks (Antz would beat it to theaters), The Prince of Egypt is among the numerous cinematic retellings of the story of Moses (right here voiced by Val Kilmer) who finally channels the ability of God to free his folks from the clutches of his adopted brother, the pharaoh Ramses (Ralph Fiennes). It’s a well-recognized yarn that folks of a number of religions maintain pricey to their hearts. Administrators Simon Wells, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Hickner are working with materials that’s been well-trodden earlier than, however they handle to make it really feel contemporary inside the confines of The Prince of Egypt.

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For starters, this interpretation of the Moses story isn’t simply advised by way of animation, it’s being depicted in a few of the most beautiful, hand-drawn animation ever placed on the silver display screen. Meant to point out off how DreamWorks may ship spectacle on par with competitor Disney, the expansive scope of The Prince of Egypt really makes the majesty of the Lord felt on-screen. Not having to stick to the confines of live-action filmmaking, the largest set items right here seize photographs from daring angles and with putting lighting that may be close to unimaginable to drag off with flesh-and-blood folks. This unflinching method to grand imagery makes seemingly predictable occasions, just like the parting of the Crimson Sea, really feel so awe-inspiring.

Picture By way of Dreamworks

Even higher, the visuals are a microcosm of how thrilling it’s that The Prince of Egypt doesn’t really feel prefer it’s following the lead of different then-contemporary animated films. There aren’t backgrounds in, say, The Lion King or Aladdin that look precisely like those in The Prince of Egypt and the human designs are equally distinctive. Equally, using music all through the movie and even using a Biblical story for supply materials additionally come off as intentional maneuvers to subvert expectations. Within the Nineteen Nineties, it felt like each studio was attempting to observe the components of Disney fairy tales to make their reply to The Little Mermaid. How implausible, then, that The Prince of Egypt would buck that development and ship one thing so idiosyncratic.

This uniqueness is very obvious within the movie’s tone, presumably the largest distinction between The Prince of Egypt and later DreamWorks Animation titles. Beginning with Shrek, DreamWorks would embrace solely comedies, often ones with wry popular culture references and plenty of noisy supporting characters. These titles made gobs of cash, however the adherence to levity above all else resulted in films that usually felt like they have been straining to be wall-to-wall hilarious. It additionally damage different DreamWorks titles like Rise of the Guardians or the Dragon sequels, which frequently felt like they undercut their extra dramatic inventive impulses to stick to the comedic necessities of a typical characteristic from the studio.

Picture By way of Dreamworks

This shortcoming is absent from The Prince of Egypt, which embraced the darkness of the story it was telling and was all the higher for it. This isn’t a movie devoid of pleasure, but it surely’s additionally one thing that doesn’t shrink back from depicting cases of ache and sorrow. That is particularly obvious in a quietly devastating scene the place all of the first-born kids are killed as a part of God’s plagues on Egypt. It’s a devastating second, with the movie’s animators getting to essentially strut their stuff in depicting the physique language of each Ramses and Moses as they grapple with this horrifying bloodbath after it’s occurred. Even because the Hebrew persons are lastly let go, grief dominates the display screen after a lot adolescent bloodshed.

This harrowing part of the story, indicating simply how raptured the connection between Moses and Ramses has grow to be, doesn’t want comedy to work. It could not have been improved with references to then-popular musicians or Nineteen Nineties Greatest Image Oscar winners. Whereas later DreamWorks movies could be involved with cramming as many gags as potential into one movement image, The Prince of Egypt is content material to let these sorts of darkish moments simmer. Disappointment is allowed to clean over the viewers moderately than get undercut by abrupt jokes. This assured tone makes The Prince of Egypt really feel much more particular, significantly when in comparison with later, extra tonally erratic DreamWorks initiatives.

Picture By way of Dreamworks

The impactful tone of The Prince of Egypt is well-reaffirmed by way of a set of movie star voice expertise, the uncommon high quality the movie shares with later DreamWorks efforts. As a precursor to when Will Smith and Mike Myers would headline initiatives from this studio, The Prince of Egypt options the likes of Val Kilmer, Michelle Pfieffer, and Sandra Bullock, amongst many others, in distinguished roles. Fortunately, their presence right here fares higher than having Ryan Reynolds voice a super-speedy snail. The dramatic tone of The Prince of Egypt is an particularly nice match for the skills of oldsters like Ralph Fiennes, who does excellent work realizing the sophisticated inner feelings of Ramses.

DreamWorks has launched over 40 theatrical movies since 1998 to various levels of vital reception. Although its Twenty first-century output is just not devoid of high quality initiatives, the apex of the studio can nonetheless be present in solely its second movement image. Even when there weren’t later lackluster titles like Residence or Monster vs. Aliens to match it to, The Prince of Egypt would nonetheless register as a standout mission from the studio. The one dangerous half about its high quality, within the context of DreamWorks’ historical past, is the way it now stands as a tragic reminder of what this studio may’ve been. Think about if The Prince of Egypt had been the mildew for DreamWorks moderately than Shrek. It makes the center weep to think about a timeline the place this studio continued to embrace unorthodox tales and the great thing about hand-drawn animation moderately than simply create a barrage of snarky CGI Shrek-wannabes. Although it’s tempting to get misplaced in such potential eventualities, one can’t linger on such unknowns for too lengthy. It’s extra vital to stay within the here-and-now the place, although it wasn’t as influential because it ought to’ve been on the studio, The Prince of Egypt nonetheless stands as by far the best title within the historical past of DreamWorks Animation.

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