Directed by Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, and Simon Wells (Chapman and Hickner’s Feature Directorial Debuts)
December 16, 1998 (premiere) / December 18, 1998 (United States)
- Moses/ Voice of God (uncredited)-Val Kilmer
- Rameses (Moses’s adoptive brother and eventual successor to Seti)-Ralph Fiennes
- Tzipporah (Jethro’s oldest daughter and Moses’s eventual wife)-Michelle Pfeiffer
- Miriam (Aaron’s sister and Moses’s biological sister)-Sandra Bullock
- Aaron (Miriam’s brother and Moses’s biological brother)-Jeff Goldblum
- Jethro (Zipporah’s father and Midian’s high priest)-Danny Glover
- Pharaoh Seti (Rameses’s father and Moses’s adoptive father)-Patrick Stewart
- Queen Tuya (Seti’s wife, Rameses’s mother, and Moses’s adoptive mother)-Helen Mirren
- Hotep (a high priest who serves as an advisor to Seti, and later Rameses)-Steve Martin
- Huy (Hotep’s fellow high priest)-Martin Short
- Yocheved (Miriam and Aaron’s mother and Moses’s biological mother)-Ofra Haza
This is an animated telling the of the story of the Book of Exodus.
The Prince of Egypt came out in a time when hand drawn animation could still be easily found in movie theaters and was the first feature from Dreamworks containing traditional animation. This movie is a work of art that looks as good today as it did when it was first released in 1998.
They do take some artistic license in The Prince of Egypt with the story. This is something the creators even acknowledge in the opening of the film, but it is nothing that truly alters or undermines the story. If anything, they make it a little more digestible for kids though it still manages to be a very good watch for adults. I cannot say I am intimately familiar with the details of Exodus, but I know enough to understand when something is being reverential and when it is not. This film is being reverential and not trying to reimagine or put its own spin on the events.
The focus of the story is not only the relationship between Moses and Ramses but also of Moses embracing his destiny. Moses is not portrayed as perfect. This is good since if you have ever read and portion of the Bible you will see God does not choose perfect but rather chooses people that are perfect for the job.
To be honest, in this version Moses is a bit of a dick to Ramses. He repeatedly gets the future pharaoh into trouble and gets away relatively socially unscathed. Yet Ramses and he are still close even though there is a negative undercurrent to the relationship. When Moses learns the truth of his heritage and is forced to embrace it this negative undercurrent warps things and causes an uncrossable divide between the two.
Two of the darker aspects of the Exodus story get a bit brushed over here. The tenth plague, The Death of the Firstborn, is rushed through. Considering this is a family feature I can see why since it is all about punishing Pharoah by killing the eldest child in each home. Dark stuff for animation. It is the most significant plague since it sets the final events in motion. It happens rather quickly here but got much more attention in other iterations. They also skip over the events leading up to Moses receiving the stone tablets instead choosing to show Moses just descending down from the mountain. What happens while Moses is gone from his fellow Israelites is not kid friendly either and to drive home the point of those events would have forced the dramatization of things that Mom and Dad might not want the kids to see.
The main showcase visually for any Exodus story is the parting of the Red Sea. It needs to be impressive. You need to believe you are seeing the power of God on screen but not go “That looks cool.” Here you get that. They generate a sense of amazement in the viewer.
We have an all-star voice cast that brings the story to life. I went through the above list and there were more than a few names that surprised me. Not in a negative way but that their presence did not overshadow the film. There is a push to focus on marquee names in animated features rather than treat them as actors in films to be acted in. Patrick Stewart as Pharaoh Seti was particularly good. His voice was threatening, and his dismissal of his dark deeds made him so evil. Stewart really shines as the villain when he gets the chance to play one.
Much like a Disney feature they include a few songs but unlike Disney these are not bouncy and fun interludes in the story. These are musical numbers which help move the story along. I am indifferent to musicals in general but if you must have song, it should contribute to the story and not be a catchy ditty to keep the film in a child’s mind.
This is a beautiful and epic film. It is a work of art that you could watch with the sound off. It had a style and a look that was beautiful. The characters are well drawn and look unique to each other but do not look modeled upon those voicing them.
The Prince of Egypt is a wonderful family film. It is a great story that you should share with your children or with just yourself. Watch it!