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Movies

"The Prince of Egypt" is the brainchild of former Disney exec Jeffrey Katzenberg

'Prince of Egypt' is new pitch by Katzenberg

Web posted on: Friday, December 18, 1998 2:19:04 PM EST

From Correspondent Mark Scheerer

(CNN) - It's a cartoon of biblical proportions, and the executive producer of "The Prince of Egypt" has something in common with the story's hero.

Just as Moses stood up to the Egyptians, Jeffrey Katzenberg now is standing up to his former employers, the Walt Disney Company, by launching DreamWorks' first full-length animated feature.

The animated story of Moses is Katzenberg's brainchild, who chose Val Kilmer to voice the lead role. In fact, Kilmer has two roles in the film.

In addition to lending his voice to Moses, Kilmer does double-duty as God. And if you know the story of Moses, then you'll quickly realize the implications of this duality. Since Moses talks to God, Kilmer talks to himself.

"Something actors do quite often in our business," he says.

"The Prince of Egypt" features the voices of several celebrities, like Jeff Goldblum

'Little kids and old people'

Kilmer is not the only big-name star to lend a voice to the production. With talent like Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Goldblum, "The Prince of Egypt" will try to attract a wide demographic.

"Children will respond to this on a different level than they normally respond to animated movies," Pfeiffer says. "They won't be entertained in the same way, but it will make them curious."

"It's meant to be told to people, little kids, and old people, because it kind of has different levels of meaning, depending on where you're at," Goldblum says.

But the Prince is not like the king -- "The Lion King," that is -- or "Aladdin," among Katzenberg's triumphs before his falling out at Disney.

"It's trying to change 70 years of perception that an animated movie isn't a fairy tale and doesn't have dancing tea cups and...funny camels," Katzenberg says. And his hands-on approach to the four-year prince project is understandable. His animation expertise is one reason he is in the DreamWorks SKG triumvirate.

Katzenberg

'Little k'

"Steven Spielberg and David Geffen put a partnership together four years ago, and I feel they made a bet on me," he says. "I sort of feel like it's big 'S' and big 'G' and small 'k' and this is what I promised in it."

And with a cost rumored to exceed $70 million, there's a lot hanging on that promise.

"We've never discussed the costs of the movie," Katzenberg says, "but if it went out and did $75-80 million, it would be a profitable movie for us."

But the lack of cute and cuddly characters means the film doesn't have quite the merchandising potential as, say, "A Bug's Life." Who wants a "Red Sea parting shower curtain"? Marketing efforts, instead, are being put behind books and three soundtrack albums.

According to Hans Zimmer, who scored the film, "It is a more honorable approach than the Red Sea parting shower curtain."

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