Jeffrey Katzenberg, the ex-Disney movie exec, was sipping wine at Steven Spielberg's house along with ex-Sony music czar David Geffen, where the three were discussing the next frontier for animation. Katzenberg had shepherded the genre's renaissance at Disney with such hits as The Little Mermaid and The Lion King. He felt animation was ready to burst its fairy-tale-for-toddlers trappings. This led to a discussion about what went into a cinematic epic. When they listed the different elements, Spielberg blurted out they all added up to The Ten Commandments. And with that, the three of them decided to start a new studio, DreamWorks, with its first project being an animated telling of the life of Moses, The Prince of Egypt (to be released Dec. 18).
But Geffen added a caution: They shouldn't Disneyfy it—that is, reconfigure the ancient story in order to tell an upbeat American tale. "Moses is not our story." And because of that injunction, I got to enjoy a special preview at DreamWorks' state-of-the-art animation studio. Katzenberg took Geffen's advice to heart and made an effort to transform Hollywood's relationship to the religious community from enmity to partnership. At every stage of production—from storyboards to previewing the close-to-final film—hundreds of religious leaders have been brought in to consult, including Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and Ralph Reed.
"Dozens and dozens of changes were made," said Katzenberg. Of the ones he is willing to comment on, he tells of the song lyric that was already recorded as "You can work miracles when you believe." "All three religious groups let us know that that line was a problem," says Katzenberg. It was rerecorded as "There can be miracles when you believe." ...1
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