*This is a user-submitted post by Jordan Hashemi-Briskin*
When I was growing up, I was raised with a strong Jewish identity, and, naturally, I was familiar with many of the stories from the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible). However, in hindsight, I think that I only first started paying serious attention to them after my first home-video viewing of The Prince of Egypt. Ever since then, though my views on the religious traditions of Judaism have been called into question, it has remained one of my personal favorite animated features and possibly one of the greatest non-Disney films I’ve ever seen.
Looking back on The Prince of Egypt as its 20th anniversary rapidly approaches, I am left awestruck by how all the right people came together at the right time to create this masterpiece of a film and by the sheer amount of devotion they displayed during production. Overall, it proved an auspicious start for DreamWorks Animation, and the sum of the parts proved to be much greater than anyone could have anticipated. It vexes me, therefore, to see that it has been seemingly forgotten by a vast section of the public. I strongly believe—and I’m not alone in this sentiment, I’m sure—that The Prince of Egypt deserves greater recognition as the groundbreaking film that it still is for the following reasons.
1. A reverent adaptation of a timeless, resonant, and culturally important story
I think it goes without saying that the tales from the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) are among the most cherished on Earth; whenever people try to retell these stories, they are obliged to make sure that they do not deviate too strongly from the source material. Having said this, one can’t deny that DreamWorks took a HUGE risk when they chose to adapt the story of the Exodus into an animated feature. And yet, they managed to stay true to the core essence of a film that holds great cultural significance to billions of people worldwide.
2. The most complex antagonist/protagonist relationship in feature animation history
While many adaptations of religious stories focus on the icons that their characters serve as, The Prince of Egypt goes out of its way to present them as human beings. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the relationship between Moses and Ramses. One blogger I follow hits the nail right on the head when he states:
The Prince of Egypt reminds us as an audience that Moses and Ramses were raised together as brothers. Instead of being rivals, it’s more likely that these two were once inseparable friends. And this film spends a vast amount of time setting up their friendship, and we have to witness this strong bond between hero and villain fall apart as they find themselves on opposite sides of a war neither truly wants to win. . . . At the end, therefore, you cheer for the Hebrew’s escape, but you question “what could have been” between Moses and Ramses.
Seriously, what other animated film can you name that boasts such a dynamic?
3. Pushing the artistic and technological envelopes
Just as the people at Disney made great advances in perfecting the art of animation during the 1990’s, DreamWorks was also keen to explore just how far it could go. The character animation is among the most nuanced I’ve ever seen, the backgrounds perfectly capture the breathtaking grandeur of Ancient Egypt, and the special effects manage to blend the hand-drawn and computer-generated styles in an effective manner; the chariot race sequence, in particular, almost foreshadows the Deep Canvas technology that Disney would later utilize in Tarzan, Atlantis, and Treasure Planet.
4. One of the most stirring soundtracks of all time
I contend that the greatest musicals are those whose songs (and, in the case of film musicals, underscores) burrow their way into your heart and instill in you the emotions that their composers intended. The Prince of Egypt‘s soundtrack delivers this in spades; songwriter Stephen Schwartz crafted perhaps the most heartfelt, affirming songs in his entire career (on a par with his work on Pippin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Wicked), and Hans Zimmer, as always, injects his score with equal amounts of grandeur, rawness, and sensitivity.
In summation, The Prince of Egypt continues to stand tall as one of the most powerful, emotionally satisfying, and downright ambitious animated movies ever created. As such, it deserves more acknowledgment from animation enthusiasts and film viewers in general than it has received in the two decades since its release.
Let us know what you think of The Prince of Egypt! Does it deserve more recognition or not? What were your favorite parts?
Edited by: Kelly Conley