It started with a phone call from Jeffrey Katzenberg, a director in Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks film company. Katzenberg is the former Disney executive who produced Aladdin and The Lion King. Now he is busily at work on a new animated blockbuster called The Prince of Egypt.
Hollywood hasn’t made a Bible movie in many years, and DreamWorks is about to bring the Exodus story to the silver screen. Would I come out to Universal Studios to view the footage of the new film and offer my critique and feedback? This would be a new experience for me and, since I needed to be on the West Coast in a few weeks anyway, I agreed to be a theological film critic.
After a short tour of the Universal lot (complete with the town square from Back to the Future, Western streets that looked vaguely familiar, the Bates Hotel with a vacancy sign up, and dinosaur movie props), my co-worker Mark Farr and I were warmly received by the DreamWorks team. Two hundred theologians and religious workers were being brought to Hollywood to offer their opinions of Moses, we were told. So much for Tinseltown’s demand for my unique perspective.
In the next two hours, I learned a lot about animation. Did you know it takes one million individual drawings to make an 88-minute animated feature? The complexity and artistry of the project was impressive indeed, as was the emotional impact of the pieces of the film already completed. This is going to be a big box office success.