So it Shall be Written, So it Shall be Done – Prince of Egypt Figures Part 1
In 1994, three of the biggest names in Hollywood joined to form an outstanding motion picture company: DreamWorks SKG. Steven Spielberg was and is one of the greatest film director’s to ever grace the star-studded sidewalks of Hollywood. Jeffrey Katzenberg had recently left his position with Disney studios as one of the key movers and shakers in that company. David Geffen is one of the top music moguls. These three top creatives formed an alliance that brought us such outstanding franchises as Shrek, How to Train your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda and many more.
In the story told to licensors, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg where having a conversation about what makes a good animated film. One said it needed a strong hero and a strong villain whereas the other noted that the story of the Israelite’s Exodus from Egypt, as commemorated each year at Passover, had those elements. DreamWorks moved forward to make the animated “Prince of Egypt” film by doing extensive research on the project. This included sending experts over to the Middle East just to collect the real colors for use in the film to be as authentic as possible. They even went to the extreme of dying local natural yarn fibers with the indigenous plants that weavers used in that location and time period. The vivid results astounded everyone. This led to the amazingly colorful visuals and music which enchanted the box offices in 1998.
Before this time, only a few strategic licensing partners signed onto this project. Since the subject can be emotional, the plan mandated keeping licensing small and very accurate. Before DreamWorks would allow any licensors to sign on, they had to prove quality and a reason that licensed product would enhance the film experience. In short, there would be no equivalent of the infamous Darth Vader Nutcracker licensed for this film (which is still the poster child for a company willing to license anything for any reason).
Hasbro was interested, but the studio was not overly excited about the idea of making dolls for “Prince of Egypt”. There were voices inside the company against it however; Jeffrey Katzenberg agreed to attend a product presentation by Hasbro to decide for himself. The high attention to detail and quality were very evident. What clinched the approval was positioning the figures from a setting from the film in deluxe packaging. This made you feel more like you were entering into a specific scene from the film instead of just seeing another doll in another box. It was my honor to be the presenter of the figures in that meeting. There were a few other items shown such a highly detailed small scenes of the Moses racing a chariot against Rameses but when the film premiered for Passover 1998, the only Hasbro items were the 1/6th figures that arrived on shelf.
As the film continued to be developed there was talk around Tinsel Town of Academy Award Status for a film. Since, somehow, licensing is poisonous to the Academy Award contenders, the studio management cut back the licensing even more. Fortunately, Hasbro was already in production, so the distribution was limited instead of stopped. If you are wondering why you have never seen these, they arrived in low numbers and only into Walmart. They shipped in a master carton of four with one of each character. The figures released are Prince Moses, Moses, the Queen with Baby Moses, and the wife of Moses Zipporah. The locus appeared and picked the shelves clean in a week or two. If you have some of these, in your collection, you are lucky.
For the Prince Moses figure, it was chosen to depict the scene where Moses was working as an architect to help his brother Rameses build Egypt greater. Prince Moses is wearing a fine white pleated kilt with gold metallic trim. His jewelry is all golden vacumetalized and consists of a hawk necklace, armbands and bracelets. The sandals have been carefully sculpted to look authentic. The head is a great match to the film art.
The body is Hasbro’s New Kids on the Block fashion dolls that also saw use for Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s boyfriend Harvey. So unfortunately, these have limited fashion doll articulation.
Every toy goes through stages of development to make it work better for play value, cost and quality. In this particular case, there was a push to see if the figure would still work with rooted hair instead of wearing a sculpted wig. After tests, it was determined it was too costly and there was too much room for errors in quality to root and hand clip his hair to achieve that look.
My favorite part of the figure was his pet Jackal. There were two in the film and although they had very little screen time, I thought their design was outstanding. From the moment I saw them in the early presentation art, I wanted to make them. The original presentation model showed two, one sitting and one standing. However, the cost of the jewelry Moses wore was adding up so one pup was cut. Since the sitting-up pup was more visible in the package, it survived. Please check out the outstanding sculpting on those two jackals – hopefully they will bring the smile to your face that they always bring to mine.
The packaging was a very expensive “5th panel” box that opens like a book. However, the figure is still visible on shelf through an opening in that panel. When opened, it reveals one of the background paintings from the film of Egypt in construction and contains the inscription “Moses is chosen Royal Chief Architect by his brother, Prince Regent Rameses.” It is a very elegant yet detailed packaging design. It is one of the best packages my product ever arrived in.
One of the intrinsic qualities woven into these figures is the fabric textures. That is often an aspect costed out of all but the highest-priced collector dolls. The adult Moses figure has nicely textured fabrics. The original model had construction with a fabric of a heavy striped weave to give look of hand-woven wool. The final version wears a much fuller robe with a feel closer to raw silk. The final production coat and tunic both even had custom embroidery on them.
If you look carefully at his staff in the package, you will see it has green on the top. On one side, the staff is sculpted to look just like wood and is all brown. If you turn the staff around, there is green on top and subtle sculpting of a snake head forming. This way you can turn it in your hand making it look like the staff is turning into a snake to follow the story line where the staff of Moses turns into a snake to eat the other staffs that were turned into snakes.
The adult Moses box package is in the same format with an opening door. This scene is his iconic parting of the waves with the quote, “God’s Wonders are revealed in the Parting of the Red Sea.”
I was fortunate to see very early art and footage of the film while designing these products. It was truly amazing to see the care that each of the studio professionals took, at all levels, to keep every part of the film and licensing reverent and exquisite.
The other figures that shipped and the others that were dropped will be reviewed in following articles – stay tuned!
What Bible character would you most like to see in 1/6th scale?