Last year, I began writing a blog on Moviepilot, a sight which I haven't touched since August. The first article I wrote on the site was an analysis of why Dreamworks seems to ignore one of their earliest films, The Prince of Egypt, from a marketing standpoint. To date, it's my most read article at over 50,000 reads. Upon posting it, Moviepilot began to butcher my article by removing images I used, adding in new images, and even editing my own words. This is one of many reasons why I left Moviepilot, and am now writing independently on my site. I would encourage you to refrain from using Moviepilot as a means of expressing your film opinions, but if you enjoy it, I'm not going to stop you by any means.
Here is the original article with some slight grammar and language edits. Enjoy:
Why Does Dreamworks Want You To Forget 'The Prince Of Egypt'?
Long ago, back in the days when animated films weren't afraid to try something new, Dreamworks produced a little flick known as The Prince of Egypt, an animated musical about the Biblical story of Moses, and the Exodus. Simply stating that out loud only goes to show how a movie like this was destined to fail from the start. However. Prince turned out to be not only an achievement in animation, music, and film making, but became what I consider to be possibly the greatest animated movie of all time. The film is beautiful with breath-taking shots, angles and hand-drawn backgrounds. The music is spectacular and does what many musicals fail to do nowadays, which is move the story. However, as years go on, Dreamworks has leaned to no longer acknowledge The Prince of Egypt. I mean, it's not like it's been removed from their official cannon, and you can still buy it through film services. But just about everywhere I look, Dreamworks is putting all of their attention toward some of their more recent successes such as How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, and even some of their oldies which weren't even that great to begin with. This is very unorthodox to studios such as Disney, Pixar, and even illumination which continue to market some of their earliest movies.
I wanted analyze this issue, and ask the question of why there seems to be a marketing prejudice to this film by its own creators.
Reason 1- Religious Aspect
Having been raised in a religious environment myself, I’ve been exposed to 2 different types of Biblical film adaptations:
The first, are very cheaply made animation segments about Biblical stories designed for children which only serve the purpose of communicating a Bible story to pre-schoolers. These do their job well, but fail to do anything groundbreaking in terms of film making, let alone don’t hold up very well.
The second, are big budget epics based off Bible stories which attempt to put an "original spin" on such story. These films include recent productions such as Noah, Exodus: Gods and Kings and History Channel’s The Bible. Films such as these have definitely become a trend in the last half decade. However, most of them fail to straight out tell the story, and tend to insert random content which has nothing to do with the original story. Elements like these only serve the purpose of entertainment, or for the filmmakers to give their own original take on the Bible. The only live action film off the top of my head which does this well, would be Passion of the Christ .
Prince, though technically neither of these, would probably fall into the latter category, because Dreamworks is a big budget company. With that, it is odd that they were able to accomplish 1- A mostly faithful adaptation to the Exodus with almost no changes that would be considered too offensive; and 2- They were able to do it in an age where Biblical films (and even faith films for that matter) would crash and burn. Prince was able to rise to a level of quality that very few films manage to achieve.
So, Dreamworks ignoring this film because of religion (sort of) doesn't make much sense on its own. In an age where we tend to censor media so as to not offend varying groups, I have read dozens of comments from non-Christian, non-Jewish, and even non-religious individuals who say they love this film. Hell, you can ask just about any movie-buff nowadays about Prince, and many are familiar with it, and love it to death.
So despite so many people loving the movie, Dreamworks still cuts their acknowledgement from it, and I have evidence to hammer this home.
In 2014, Dreamworks celebrated their 20th anniversary by re-releasing all of their films on newly formatted DVDs and Blu-Rays. At Target, I was able to find every film they made except The Prince of Egypt. They even had a triple-feature DVD of the studios' 2D movies: The Road to El Dorado, Sinbad of the Seven Seas, and Joseph: King of Dreams. Prince was nowhere in sight. So, why the triple-feature contained the direct-to-DVD "prequel" to Prince ('Joseph' being a bland movie, and wildly inaccurate portrayal of the source material), but didn't actually contain Prince really leaves me scratching my head. Why would they not re-release this movie, given a trend in Christian-based filmmaking, and a mostly positive public opinion?
Reason 2- The recent Prejudice to 2-D animated films
Animation nowadays usually tends to be classified "kids stuff" through the minds of general audiences-- I say usually. Practically everyone is familiar with Pixar and their tendency to make more mature films that both adults and their kids can enjoy. Audiences in the modern age are almost entirely uninterested in seeing a traditionally animated (2-D) film on the big screen, let alone just watch one with their family. This is probably because most adults in the modern era associate traditional 2D animation as "kids stuff" because when they were kids, they had hand drawn cartoons and movies from Disney, Warner Bros., etc.; As those same people entered adulthood, the world saw the dawn of 3-D animation which seemed to be respecting the maturity of its audience. Pixar surprised the world with Toy Story which made use of a lot of humor adults could relate to, which was mostly unseen in 2-D films at the time. Dreamworks used the same humor with their first film, Antz, which was incredibly edgy for an animated film, and a lot of adult language, a huge no-no for animation at the time.
My childhood was when hand-drawn animation was dying and shifting over to 3-D animation, so the films I saw in theaters, or at least remember seeing in theaters, were both 3D films like Finding Nemo, and 2D films such as Brother Bear or Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. In addition, my family owned almost every traditionally animated Disney movie from the previous century on VHS. So growing up, I was well exposed to 2D animation and I liked it. I considered it normal, and could find value in it. This is something that most families show their kids nowadays, so future generations can be exposed to 2D animation, and appreciate it for years to come.
Then you have some kids (which there are a lot of them) who only take interest in 3D animation. 2D, is art; It's entirely hand drawn, so it requires a lot of work, but in the end, 2D comes out beautifully and is a spectacle to look at. This is where the problem for kids comes in. Most kids nowadays just don't enjoy looking at "art". They want detail, realism, something they can immerse themselves in, and not simply watch. Kids are growing up in an era where animation has reached near-realistic levels of detail, and is being used in every animated movie, and even most shows in the modern era. 2D is still used limitedly in TV, but because budgets are cheaper, those shows are mainly generated in computers. Even then, pretty much every show which uses 2D has to make use of some CG elements in order to express certain elements of the story.
My point is, 3D is something kids can more easily see and relate to because it looks more realistic to a child's mind. Children, until they can develop a conscience to understand what a full length film is saying from start to finish and retain it, are mainly into the film for something to look at or listen/sing to. For me, this conscience wasn't developed until I was about 8, 9 or 10, and by then, I was able to appreciate what I watched as a child all the more. So if kids are losing more and more interest in 2D because of a surplus of 3D detail, they want something they can see as realistic and can relate to, which also has the comical energy for them to watch at their very young maturity level. This is why 3D animation is the go-to for children of today, unless they are exposed to classic 2D films thanks to their parents.
Unfortunately, unless we continue to show future generations the beauties of 2D, future generations may only be exposed to 3D animation, given its rapid growth in the market. With multiple studios not willing to give 2D another shot, this outcome might be inevitable.
Now, back to Prince. Dreamworks only has a total of 4 (technically 5) 2D films on their roster. Prince definitely rises above the other 3 on terms of quality level; it's a powerful film. The other 3, on the whole, are just okay in my opinion. The animation on the other 3 are still great, but don't do achieve anything on the level that The Prince of Egypt did. So, given that Disney wasn't doing that great with their 2D films, and it was given that audiences were losing interest, Dreamworks ultimately decided to ditch their 2D projects altogether, despite some projects being very popular among audiences.
Another reason is that Disney had 70 more years worth of 2D films than Dreamworks did, so people are much more likely to go back to Disney's 2D roots than Dreamworks'. Most general audiences will even mistake Dreamwork's 2D films for Disney's because "the mouse" had dominated the industry for such a long time.
Reason 3: Dreamworks' Recent Successes
Through most of the 2000s, Dreamworks still acknowledged Prince of Egypt as "a thing". For a long time, Dreamworks had poor success with their films all-around, outside of the Shrek series. Then Kung Fu Panda came along in 2008, which sparked a new era of breakout success of Dreamworks. This was a time when Dreamworks was finally making movies that had a little more effort and heart put into them. This, combined with the massive success brought on by the Madagascar franchise and How to Train Your Dragon (which quickly became many people's favorite movie from the studio), Dreamworks was finally making quality films, which for the time, were outdoing the Disney juggernaut, outside of their Pixar studio.
Nowadays, Kung Fu Panda and HTTYD are big franchises. While Dreamworks recently went through another drop in quality within the last two years, they've made more money off these movies alone. Additionally, they've found even more success from their migration into TV, Netflix, and the Internet, and the numerous direct-to-DVD shorts they put out. So, logically, maybe Dreamworks has decided that they just don't need The Prince of Egypt, as they have multiple properties that have brought them breakout success, which makes re-releasing Prince on Blu-Ray, completely unecessary.
Reason 4: Regret
While this isn’t the strongest reason, there’s a good chance that Dreamworks simply treats the Prince era like a part of their past they wish to forget. Between 2000 and 2004, Dreamworks was releasing some awkward films (Sharktale anyone?), which is believable conclusion; Many studios have some trouble finding their footing in their earliest years. It still seems odd though, given that their head-honcho Jeff Katzenburg wanted Prince to be a mature story, and not a fairy tale like their rivals Disney put out for so many decades.
If you haven't seen The Prince of Egypt, please see it. It's on Netflix, and multiple other video services which just doesn't do the film enough justice, given the spectacle that is this movie. Dreamworks is still skeptical about marketing the film because of religious sensitivity in our modern society, a decline in use of 2D animation, and the company putting more effort into their latest successes. Will Prince continue to be an underrated classic? I don't know. Would I like to see it re-released on Blu-Ray? Absolutely. It’ll take a miracle for that to happen, but still, there can be miracles when you believe.