Though the DVD format is still in its infancy, there has been one genre of film that has been especially slow to make the digital transition–that of the animated feature. With DVD players now becoming more commonplace–and a sought-after holiday gift–suddenly animation is undergoing a boom on disc. Too bad that most entries into the market are mostly busts.
The current standard-bearer for an animated DVD is DreamWorks’ lavish treatment of their equally grandiose adaptation of the Book of Exodus, the tradition-smashing epic musical The Prince of Egypt. While the feature itself is the primary drawing card for the disc–and it is beautifully tranferred in its full widescreen splendor–what makes the DVD format so special is the capability of including extras, and the big SKG did not skimp at at all. Animated features have a much more complex behind-the-scenes creative process than most live action ones, and this disc takes an exhaustive look at it. Aside from the typical “making-of” featurette/fluff piece, there are more intriguing features: a step-by-step look at the progression of the film’s chariot race sequence; a fascinating multilingual presentation of the film’s centerpiece song, “When You Believe”; and a revealing running commentary by directors Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, and Simon Wells. The most interesting revelation is that while the film’s spectacular visuals were crafted with great care by the directors and artists, perhaps the most attention was paid to the acting performances of their drawn characters. It’s quite telling when the directors of a film that features the definitive parting of the Red Sea sequence and an unnerving hieroglyphic nightmare scene are most proud of a simple shot of a devastated Moses breaking down in tears. All the features, which include the usual inclusion of theatrical trailers, are tied together with imaginatively animated menus.