The Prince of Egypt is a 1998 American animated musical film and DreamWorks Pictures' first film to be hand-drawn animation. The film is an adaptation of the Book of Exodus and follows the life of Moses from being a prince of Egypt to his ultimate destiny to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. The voice cast features a number of major Hollywood actors in the speaking roles with professional singers in their singing roles. The exceptions were Michelle Pfeiffer, Ralph Fiennes, Ofra Haza, Steve Martin and Martin Short, who did both roles for Tzipporah, Rameses, Yocheved, Hotep and Huy, respectively.
In Ancient Egypt, Yocheved (Ofra Haza), a Hebrew slave, and her children, Miriam and Aaron, see baby sons being taken away from their mothers by Egyptian soldiers, as ordered by Pharaoh Seti I (Patrick Stewart). Yocheved thus places her own son in a basket and sets it afloat on the Nile to be preserved by fate. Miriam, follows the basket and witnesses her baby brother being taken in by The Queen (Queen Tuya voiced by Helen Mirren) and names him Moses. Decades later, Moses (Val Kilmer) and his foster-brother, Rameses (Ralph Fiennes), are lectured by their father after they destroy a temple. Rameses is blamed for their misdeeds though Moses tries to take the blame, but Moses later remarks that Rameses wants the approval of his father, but lacks the opportunity. Later, Rameses is named Prince Regent and is given authority over all of Egypt's Temples. In thanks, Rameses appoints Moses as Royal Chief Architect. As a tribute to Rameses, the high priests Hotep (Steve Martin) and Huy (Martin Short) offer him Zipporah (Michelle Pfeiffer), a Midian girl they kidnapped (along with her camel), as a concubine. Rameses is initially interested, but rejects the offer after Tzipporah nearly bites him. He gives the girl to Moses, who attempts to restrain her gently despite her insults and struggling but ultimately trips her into a fountain to diffuse the tense scene. She eventually escapes, with Moses' help, and while following her Moses is reunited with Miriam (Sandra Bullock) and Aaron (Jeff Goldblum). Miriam tells Moses the truth about his past and that both she and Aaron are his siblings. Moses at first is in denial, but a nightmare and conversations with his adoptive parents help him realize the truth. Upon asking Seti of the murder of the Hebrew babies, Seti tries to comfort him, but this fails.
The next day, Moses accidentally kills an Egyptian guard who was abusing an old slave by pushing him off the construction tower. Ashamed, Moses decides to run away in exile. Rameses, feeling sorry for Moses, attempts to convince him not to run off in exile, saying that he can make look like the crime never happened. Eventually, Moses refuses and runs off anyway, having been consumed of regret and confusion. After Moses saves Tzipporah's sisters from bandits, he is welcomed warmly by their father Jethro (Danny Glover), the High Priest of Midian. After months of blending into the Midianite culture, Moses becomes a shepherd and gradually earns Tzipporah's respect and love, culminating in their marriage. One day, Moses comes into contact with God through a burning bush while chasing a lamb. God (also voiced by Val Kilmer) instructs Moses to free the slaves from Egypt and empowers Moses' shepherding staff with the ability to do great wonders, the greatest being to shepherd his people to freedom. Moses returns to Egypt with Tzipporah, entering the palace in the midst of a large celebration. He is happily greeted by Rameses, now Pharaoh and the father of a young boy. Moses tells Rameses to let his people go, demonstrating the power by changing his staff into a serpent. Hotep and Huy boastfully repeat this transformation, conjuring many of Egypt's gods in the process. However, Moses' serpent swallows up the other serpents. Rather than being persuaded, Rameses' heart is hardened and orders the slaves' workload to be doubled. Later, Moses again confronts Rameses passing on his boat in the Nile. Rameses orders his guards to bring Moses to him, but they turn back when Moses turns the river into blood with his staff. The Priests turn some water to "blood" as well, and Rameses still refuses to let the Israelites go.
As the days pass, eight more of the Ten Plagues occur in the correct order: frogs, lice, flies, the death of livestock, boils on every Egyptian, hail and fire, locusts, and finally darkness. As the plagues go on, Moses feels tortured inside feeling as though he is betraying Rameses and leaving Egypt in ruins. Despite all the pain and devastation caused by the plagues, Rameses still refuses to let the Israelites go, and in anger, states that a great cry will fall over Egypt, unknowing that he is calling upon the final and most devastating plague on himself. Moses then instructs the Hebrews to paint lamb's blood above their doors for the coming night of Passover. That night, the final plague (the angel of death) spills over the city, killing all the firstborn children of Egypt, including Rameses' son, but spares the Hebrew children, as they marked their front doors with lamb's blood. Moses once more visits the grief-stricken Rameses, who is standing over the dead body of his son, despondent, and with a mixture of sadness at the horror that has happened and fury at Moses, who he once called brother, tells him to take the Hebrews and leave Egypt. Moses leaves and breaks down in tears outside, his spirit broken after causing his brother and all of Egypt so much pain. The following morning, the Hebrews happily leave their enslavement and eventually find their way to the Red Sea, but discover that Rameses has changed his mind and is pursuing them with his army to kill them all. Moses parts the sea, while behind him a pillar of fire descends before the Egyptian army, blocking their path. The Hebrews cross on the sea bottom; when the pillar of fire disappears and the army gives chase but the water closes over the Egyptian soldiers and they drown, and the Hebrews are freed. However, Rameses is spared, as he is hurled back to the shore by the collapsing waves, screaming in agony over the death of his soldiers and crying out to Moses in despair and heartbreak because of all that has been done. Feeling sorry over Rameses's loss, Moses makes one final farewell to him, and leads the Hebrew people to Mount Sinai, where he is given the Ten Commandments to deliver to them.
Val Kilmer as Moses, a Hebrew who was adopted by Pharaoh Seti.
- Val Kilmer also provides the voice of God, the Creator of the Universe.
- Amick Byram provides the singing voice for Moses.
Ralph Fiennes as Rameses II, Moses's foster brother and eventual successor to his father, Seti. He serves as the main antagonist, but is not evil. He is just stubborn.
Michelle Pfeiffer as Tzipporah, Jethro's oldest daughter and Moses' wife.
Sandra Bullock as Miriam, Moses and Aaron's biological sister.
- Sally Dworsky provides the singing voice of Miriam.
- Eden Riegel provides both the speaking and singing voice of a younger Miriam.
Jeff Goldblum as Aaron, Moses and Miriam's biological brother.
Patrick Stewart as Pharaoh Seti I, Rameses's father and the first Pharaoh. Despite his uncaring attitude towards the Hebrew slaves, he is shown to treat Moses and Rameses with good care and love.
Danny Glover as Jethro, Tzipporah's father and the high priest of Midian.
- Brian Stokes Mitchell provides the singing voice of Jethro.
Helen Mirren as Queen Tuya, Seti's consort and Rameses's mother.
- Linda Dee Shayne provides the singing voice of Queen Tuya.
Steve Martin as Hotep, the chubbiest of the High Priests.
Martin Short as Huy, the tallest of the High Priests.
Ofra Haza as Yocheved, the biological mother of Miriam, Aaron, and Moses.
- Director Brenda Chapman briefly voices Miriam when she sings the lullaby to Moses. The vocal had been recorded for a scratch audio track, which was intended to be replaced later by Sally Dworsky. The track turned out so well that it remained in the film.
- The Road to El Dorado/Chicken Run
- Dr. Seuss. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- The Land Before Time Journey to Big Water
The idea for the film came about at the formation of DreamWorks, when the three partners, Amblin Entertainment founder Steven Spielberg, former Disney Jeffrey Katzenberg and music producer David Geffen, were meeting in Spielberg's living room. Katzenberg recalls that Spielberg looked at him during the meeting and said, "You ought to do the Ten Commandments."
- This movie contains uncanny similarities to Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mulan.