It was fifteen years ago today that The Prince of Egypt opened in theatres across North America. To mark the occasion, here are twelve things you may or may not know about the movie. (I would have come up with fifteen things, but didn’t have quite enough time.)
1. It came very close to being the first DreamWorks cartoon. It may seem hard to believe now, when the DreamWorks brand has become associated with adolescent wise-ass humour and lots of pop-culture references, but when Jeffrey Katzenberg left Disney and co-founded the DreamWorks studio with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in 1994, he aspired to epic greatness. After Katzenberg pitched the idea that animated films could take place on a grand scale like Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Spielberg suggested that they make an animated version of The Ten Commandments (1956) — and the resulting film was supposed to help establish the DreamWorks brand. At the last minute, however, Katzenberg decided to release Antz, a computer-animated film starring Woody Allen, in October 1998, two months before The Prince of Egypt came out — and so The Prince of Egypt did not quite become the first DreamWorks animated film to play in theatres. (Click here for an account of how the change to the Antz release date led to heightened tensions between Katzenberg and the guys at Disney-Pixar, whose A Bug’s Life was due to come out in November 1998.) Both Antz and The Prince of Egypt were, at the time, among the most successful non-Disney cartoons ever released, but in the years that followed, hand-drawn cartoons like The Road to El Dorado (2000) and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003) flopped, while computer-animated films like Shrek (2001) and Shark Tale (2004) turned out to be huge hits, so DreamWorks soon abandoned traditional animation altogether.