The Prince Of Egypt

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Details At A Glance

Category Animation Main Menu Audio
Featurette - The Making Of The Prince Of Egypt (25:39)
Featurette - When You Believe: Multi-Language Presentation (5:50)
Featurette - Basics Of Animation: Chariot Race (9:26)
Audio Commentary - Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner and Simon Wells (Directors)
Featurette - Focus On Technical Effects (5:53)
Gallery - Art (8:10)
Theatrical Trailer - 1.66:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:05)
Theatrical Trailer - 1.85:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:55)
Year Released 1998
Running Time 94:42 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (65:25)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection, then Menu
Region 2,4 Director Brenda Chapman
Steve Hickner
Simon Wells
Dreamworks SKG 
Universal Home Video
Starring Val Kilmer
Ralph Fiennes
Michelle Pfeiffer
Sandra Bullock
Jeff Goldblum
Danny Glover
Patrick Stewart
Helen Mirren
Steve Martin
Martin Short
Case ?Amaray
RPI $39.95 Music Hans Zimmer

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan encoded English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
Dutch (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Over the years there have been several attempts by studios to displace Disney from its mantle as the best in the animation game. Warner Bros have tried but never quite got the product right to do it with, and neither have they quite got the animation right. Fox have had their attempt which has recently been brought to a rather public ending after a couple of decent technical films that bombed at the box office. The closest anyone has come to knocking Disney off their perch would have to be Dreamworks SKG. They did it by taking a lot of money and the creative impetus and support of some bloke called Steven Spielberg and his colleagues Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, building an entire animation studio from scratch and putting together The Prince Of Egypt. Why did this succeed where others have spectacularly failed? Well, they have learnt the Disney lesson very well. It starts with a great story, it takes some great songs and music and it takes some great animation, supported by some great vocal casting. It almost worked - this film almost knocked Disney off their perch, and had the follow-up been much stronger then Disney may have found itself in an unusual position. But we shall confine ourselves to The Prince Of Egypt.

    Any film starts with a story and great films usually have great stories. If you are going to break into animation you may as well go with one of the biggest stories you can envisage, so when Steven Spielberg suggested The Ten Commandments, the germ of an idea was sown. It may not be about The Ten Commandments but it sure is the story leading up to Moses' date with destiny on a mountain and a couple of blocks of stone. It is the story of the Exodus. Now if your memories of the scriptures are about as rusty as mine, you might not recall the circumstances of the Exodus, so a refresher in the form of this slightly amended version of the story might be in order.

    The setting is Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs. Seti (Patrick Stewart) is the incumbent as we start this story, and has just decreed that the youngest children of the Hebrews, the slaves who actually do all the work, should be slaughtered and thrown into the Nile in order to prevent the Hebrews becoming too powerful and rising up against their masters. One mother attempts to protect her youngest son by casting him adrift in the Nile in a basket.

    Young Moses (Ralph Fiennes) is thus spared death and awaiting him is a destiny. He is rescued from the river by none other than The Queen (Helen Mirren) who takes him in as her son, joining Rameses (Val Kilmer) in the household of the Pharaoh. Skip forward to their youth and Moses and Rameses are like any other irresponsible youths and create merriment on the streets of their city. However, after Rameses is made Prince Regent, things change a little and for Moses that is Tzipporah (Michelle Pfeiffer), a free Hebrew captured and brought to the palace as a gift for Moses. As she escapes, Moses follows and eventually bumps into Miriam (Sandra Bullock), his long lost sister. She manages to convince Moses that he is not a prince of Egypt and this leads him to eventually walk out of the palace and into the desert. He happens across the family of Jethro (Danny Glover) after saving his flock and young daughters from brigands. Jethro also happens to be the dear old dad of Tzipporah, and so Moses settles down into a new life as a shepherd, eventually takes Tzipporah as his wife and stumbles upon the burning bush one day whilst searching for a wandering ovine.

    Hence, Moses has his religious experience and returns to the palace with Tzipporah to seek the freedom of his people, the Hebrews. Naturally one shepherd and a wooden staff alone cannot do much, but when empowered by God, mighty deeds are forthcoming. And so unto the people of Egypt were wrought great plagues, such that eventually Rameses, who is now Pharaoh, grants the Hebrews their freedom. With Moses leading they head to the Promised Land, with the army of the Pharaoh in hot pursuit, until they reach the Red Sea. With the sea in front of them and the Pharaoh's army behind them, Moses takes his empowered staff and parts the seas so that the Hebrews can enter the Promised Land. About the first thing he does when he gets there is to go up the mountain and have a personal tete-a-tete with God and brings down The Ten Commandments. And so endeth the lesson for today.

    Certainly one of the most inspiring stories in the Holy Bible, it has to be said that it has been given a bit of an uplifting beat in the hands of the, what, sixteen writers who put together the story? However, the uplifting beat makes it a bit more palatable to the masses and as a result of the film's success has probably brought the story to a greater audience than would otherwise be the case. But the well-handled story is but the beginning here of a long process to bring the vision to the big screen. A solid cast was assembled to add their vocal talents to the characters of the story. Whilst lacking just a tad in distinction, the overall result is really very solid and the overall mix comes over pretty well. However, where the film really scores is in the animation and this really does contain a breathtaking mixture of traditional animation and computer animation. The result is something that was certainly ahead of the game at that time even though Disney have since pushed the envelope a little further with the likes of Tarzan, and its Pixar division having really expanded the envelope with Toy Story 2. Nonetheless, it is rare to see an animated film that pushes the boundaries of vision as much as this did and it is very clear how much they drew from the films of David Lean in putting together the film. The grand scope of the cinematic experience is very effectively balanced by some of the great subtlety in the animation and from a technical point of view there is plenty here to keep the seriously interested happy for ages.

    The result of all those years of work is a wonderful film and a wonderful piece of animation that should stand the test of time very well indeed. Disney may still be number one but there is plenty of indication in this epic feature that Dreamworks SKG is capable of providing some quality competition. A worthy film for inclusion in any collection, it is therefore a pity that I have some rather niggling feelings that we should have been better served in the transfer department...

Transfer Quality


    When I first threw the Region 1 version of this film into my player over a year ago, I was immediately impressed by the vibrancy and the detail of the transfer. It is quite a stunning transfer and that is certainly the feeling given by the various reviews around of the Region 1 release, which is just a bit of a pity for when this Region 4 version happened along, I most expectantly threw it into the player expecting to be suitably impressed. Basically, I simply am not particularly impressed by the transfer.

    The mundane details of the transfer are that it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, very close to the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    Some things do impress me about the transfer. This really is a very nicely sharp and detailed transfer that really tries to present the video in its best possible light. However, whilst the transfer is detailed, the shadow detail to me seems to be just a little lacking. Certainly in comparison to the Region 1 transfer, which seems to me to be significantly more vibrant and clear, there seems to be a better level of shadow detail. The suggestion is that this is just a slightly darker transfer overall. As sort of suggested, clarity here is not quite as good as I was expecting based upon the Region 1 transfer, and there did seem to be a couple of instances earlier on in the film where there was just a hint of some noise in the image. These were mainly during close ups of faces. There certainly does not appear to be any grain in the transfer.

    The colour palette has a distinctly pallid look to it, but this is to be expected of a desert type setting and is obviously intended. It certainly looks very natural throughout, but it does just lack a little in the vibrancy stakes. The result is just a slightly flat look to the colours overall whereas the Region 1 colours seemed to have a little more gloss and vibrancy to them. This is perhaps best evidenced during the opening scenes of the escape from the slaughter of the children and again during the exodus to the Red Sea, which just seem to sparkle a little more in the Region 1 version. There did not appear to be any problems with oversaturation in the transfer. Colour bleed was not a problem in the transfer.

    There did not appear to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. You might notice a couple of instances of motion blur especially during the chariot race, but as noted in the commentary, there was some intentional use of motion blur in the film and therefore this is exactly what the film was supposed to be like. There did not appear to be any film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. There were a few film artefacts floating around in the transfer but nothing really serious.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD, with the layer change coming at 65:25. Whilst not too bad, it is just a little noticeable as there is some music playing during the scene and it stops just briefly enough to be noticed.

    Whilst it might sound like I am very disappointed with the transfer, it should be understood that this is by no means a shoddy transfer. By all reasonable standards, this is a rather good transfer. It is simply a statement of fact that to me the Region 1 version is even better.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are four soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. I listened to both of the English soundtracks.

    The dialogue comes up very well in the soundtrack and is very easy to understand. There seems to have been a better than usual job in matching the dialogue to the animation (or rather vice versa) in this instance and there is not much of an issue with animation sync.

    The music score comes from Hans Zimmer and a rather nice effort it is too. This is another of those instances where I really wish we had gotten an isolated music score, as I think it would have been a nice listening experience. The music is complemented by some nice songs from Stephen Schwartz, one of which won an Oscar in 1998 for Best Original Song - When You Believe. Mind you, the song is probably more remembered for the allegedly prima donna strutting of Whitney Houston over Mariah Carey. Whilst it is a good song, I would join others in suggesting that it was not the best in the soundtrack.

    There is certainly nothing much amiss with this Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and you get some great directional effects through the surround channels during the chariot race. Plenty of presence in the soundtrack from some very good surround channel usage, with the bass channel kicking in great support when required. Not in the least bit congested, this is an almost impeccable soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Whilst we miss out on a few things from the Region 1 release, all the major stuff is here and overall is a very nice package that does enhance the enjoyment of the film. Just make certain that you watch the feature first, as the extras do give away a fair bit of the film in some respects.


    Sadly not in the same league as the Region 1 release by a long shot, they are nonetheless decently functional and are 16x9 enhanced. The main menu has some audio enhancement, which sounds like it is in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

Featurette - The Making Of The Prince Of Egypt (25:39)

    A decent enough effort that provides a reasonable balance between talent interviews and behind the scenes stuff. Presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced, it comes with decent Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. A typical enough example of the breed without being particularly distinguished.

Featurette - When You Believe: Multi-Language Presentation (5:50)

    This to me is the gem of this collection, as it demonstrates the enormous trouble Dreamworks went to in finding the right vocal talent to dub the film into the something like 25 languages necessary for the world wide release of the film. As you listen to the song as it switches between the various languages, you really are struck by how virtually seamless the language changes are. A quite amazing degree of consistency in sound. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Basics Of Animation: Chariot Race (9:26)

    Another interesting inclusion: this takes you from the Leica reel of the sequence (basically the filmed story board reel) through two work in progress animations side by side before providing the final animation of the sequence at the same time as the other three sequences, picture in picture style. This sort of thing is always a fascinating insight into the way animation is brought together, especially with such a large blend of computer and traditional animation. Presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced, it comes with a decent commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Some of the technical quality, especially with the Leica reel, is a bit average.

Audio Commentary - Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner and Simon Wells (Directors)

    A slightly different style of commentary as it mixes some screen specific stuff with some other trivia that makes for an interesting listen overall. They certainly seemed to enjoy themselves and manage to keep enough of the screen specific stuff detailed enough to have some value whether you want technical stuff or more trivia stuff.

Featurette - Focus On Technical Effects (5:53)

    This looks to be a sort of six minute electronic press kit item explaining the different type of effects work included in the film. Not so much technically orientated rather than demonstrating how the different techniques were used in the film. Reasonably interesting even if it could have benefited from being a lot more detailed. Presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced, it comes with decent narration in Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. A few more artefacts in the form of shimmer are evident here.

Gallery - Art (8:10)

    This is an automated gallery of unannotated design sketches and stills, so you can sit back and relax as you watch the roughly 70 separate items paraded across your display device.

Theatrical Trailer 1 (2:05)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Nothing much wrong with it and a fairly typical example of the genre.

Theatrical Trailer 2 (1:55)

    Very similar other than it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.


    As far as we have been able to ascertain, there are no censorship issues with this title.

R4 vs R1

    There are two available versions of the film in Region 1. The Region 4 release is most comparable with the Dolby Digital release and misses out on:     The Region 1 releases misses out on additional language and subtitle options.

    The other Region 1 release is a DTS soundtrack release which replaces the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack whilst apparently retaining the same extras package. On the basis of the direct comparison between the Region 1 and Region 4 Dolby Digital releases, I would have to say the Region 1 is the better version. The video transfer looks to be slightly better, whilst the menus are much better. Added to the slightly better extras package, the only thing against the Region 1 version is the appalling cost of acquiring it. However, for those with a DTS preference, there is apparently little difference between the two versions so there is no reason not to indulge the DTS experience for this film. Suffice it to say that if you have a Region 1 version, there is no need to replace it.


    The Prince Of Egypt is a wonderful family film blessed with a very good video transfer and an excellent audio transfer. The extras package adds to the enjoyment of the film, which is relatively rare in my recent experiences. If you have not got the Region 1 version of the DVD, then there is not an awful lot to recommend against adding this to your collection.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
17th March, 2001.

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL