The Prince of Egypt appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not an awful presentation, the transfer disappointed.
Sharpness varied. While much of the offered good delineation, the film rarely seemed quite as well-defined as one would expect from an animated tale, and more than a few soft spots emerged.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes. The film boasted a nice layer of grain, but it also came with occasional spots, specks and marks. Though these didn’t dominate, they seemed more prominent than I’d hope.
Colors went with a fairly earthy palette that emphasized sandy tones and reds. The hues felt mediocre, as they never brought much life to the film and could seem a bit flat.
Blacks tended to appear inky, and shadows were somewhat dense. For instance, the shot of Moses and Tzipporah in their bedroom became nearly impossible to discern.
In general, the movie seemed darker than one might anticipate. Again, this was never a terrible image, but it definitely failed to live up to expectations and deserved nothing better than a “C-“.
On the other hand, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack worked well, and the mix featured a consistent bias toward the front spectrum. During much of the film, the forward channels dominate the action, and they do so nicely.
Audio seemed precisely placed with the environment and all sounds blended together neatly. This meant everything meshed together nicely.
The surrounds provided a lot of positive ambiance throughout the film, and on many occasions they became much more active partners. Actually, even during quiet moments, the rear speakers contributed some solid effects.
For example, at the very start of the film, we heard the gentle sound of a tambourine deftly travel from speaker to speaker. This added to the way in which I was drawn into the story.
Yeah, it doesn't sound like much, but I thought it was a nice touch, and the track came filled with similar moments. When wind whipped around the screen, we hear convincing effects from all five channels.
For the most part, the soundtrack didn't overwhelm the viewer, though a few moments came close. The parting of the Red Sea provided audio of genuine power and depth, and that moment stood as the most stunning of the film. Other big moments worked well, too, such as the scene that covered most of the plagues.
Audio quality appeared solid. At times I felt the dialogue didn't blend particularly well with the action. Some of the speech didn't match up well with the rest of the track and these lines could appear somewhat artificial.
However, dialogue always came across as warm and distinct. I detected no problems related to intelligibility or edginess.
Music displayed good range and seemed nicely bright and clear. Actually, I thought the songs could have appeared a little more crisp and vivid, but they generally were smooth and dynamic.
Effects fared best in the mix. From the quiet moments I already mentioned to killer show-stoppers like sandstorms or the fire-tornado that stops Rameses from chasing the Hebrews, the track boasted excellent reproduction of these effects. Ultimately, this became a compelling track.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? The lossless audio boasted more vigor and range.
As for visuals, the Blu-ray brought superior colors and accuracy, but the lackluster nature of the presentation limited improvements. I strongly suspect the Blu-ray just reused the nearly 20-year-old DVD transfer, so it got a boost from the format’s superior capabilities and that was it. The movie needs work.
The Blu-ray includes most of the DVD’s extras, and we open with an audio commentary from directors Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner and Simon Wells. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, animation and design choices, music, cast and performances, and connected domains.
Though some commentaries for animated films feel dry, this one offers a lively look at the film. The directors cover both technical and creative issues in nearly equal measure and make this an engaging and informative track.
Next comes a program called The Making of The Prince of Egypt. It runs 25 minutes, 39 seconds and features Wells, Chapman, Hickner, executive producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, producer Penney Finkelman Cox and Sandra Rabins, composer Hans Zimmer, songwriter Stephen Schwartz, story supervisors Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook, DreamWorks co-founder Steven Spielberg, background supervisors Paul Lasaine and Ron Lukas, supervising animators Fabio Lignini, Kristof Serrand, David Brewster, Serguei Kouchnerov, Rodolphe Guenoden, and Patrick Mate, scene planning supervisor David Morehead, head of technology Rob Hummel, visual effects supervisors Dan Philips and Don Paul, sequence leads Doug Ikeler and Jamie Lloyd, CG crowd animator Wendy Elwell, supervising sequence lead Henry Labounta, and actors Sandra Bullock, Val Kilmer, Jeff Goldblum, Ralph Fiennes, and Helen Mirren.
“Making” looks at story and characters, cast and performances, music, research, art and animation. Along the way, we get some decent details, but an awful lot of the show commits to praise for the film and all involved. As such, it’s not nearly as informative as it could be.
A staple of many animated discs, we find a Multi-Language Presentation for “When You Believe”. It plays the song with snippets in English, German, Flemish, Euro Portuguese, Finnish, Icelandic, Thai, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Mandarin, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, French, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Castillian Spanish, Cantonese, Swedish, Polish, Dutch, Norwegian, and Latin Spanish.
This becomes a fun way to hear the song. In particular, it’s amazing how well the producers match all the different vocalists, as they blend nicely.
With The Basics of Animation, we get a nine-minute, 32-second featurette with Hickner and Wells. They add commentary to a procession of shots that lead us from story reel to “work in progress” animation to final animation.
This turns into an effective view of the different stages. Hickner and Wells offer good insights about the material as well.
Finally, Focus on Technical Aspects lasts five minutes, 58 seconds and concentrates on different aspects of animation techniques. It becomes a pretty efficient overview.
When I initially reviewed The Prince of Egypt, I gave it a lukewarm endorsement. However, I changed my view and think the movie tells a classic tale in an evocative and moving manner. The Blu-ray boasts very good audio and some useful supplements but picture quality seems dated and flawed. Though I like the movie, the visual presentation disappoints.