Joseph: King of Dreams
Release poster
Directed by
  • Robert Ramirez
  • Rob LaDuca
Screenplay by
  • Eugenia Bostwick-Singer
  • Raymond Singer
  • Joe Stillman
  • Marshall Goldberg
Based onBook of Genesis
Produced byKen Tsumura
Edited byMichael Andrews
Music byDaniel Pelfrey
Distributed byDreamWorks Home Entertainment
Release date
  • November 7, 2000 (2000-11-07)
Running time
74 minutes
CountryUnited States

Joseph: King of Dreams is a 2000 American direct-to-video animated biblical musical drama film. The second film adaptation of the Bible from DreamWorks Animation and the only direct-to-video production they released, the film is an adaptation of the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis in the Bible and serves as a prequel to the 1998 film The Prince of Egypt (as the biblical narrative of Joseph happens before that of Moses). Composer Daniel Pelfrey stated that the film was designed as a companion piece to The Prince of Egypt, noting that though "Joseph turned out to be very different than The Prince of Egypt, it was very challenging and rewarding".[2][3]

Co-director Robert Ramirez has said that whilst the reviews for the film had "generally been very good" there was a period "when the film was not working very well, when the storytelling was heavy-handed" and "klunky".[4]


Joseph, the youngest of Jacob's eleven sons, is considered to be a "miracle child" because his mother Rachel, was thought to have been infertile. Joseph grows conceited under his father's special treatment, and his brothers become jealous of him being favoured, although Joseph desires to be accepted amongst them. One night, Joseph dreams of a pack of wolves attacking the family's flock, and the next day, the dream comes true. Another dream follows, in which Joseph sees his brothers bowing before him, to which on telling them this, they hatch a plan to get rid of him, led by Judah, the oldest brother. They sell him to a slave trader and take his torn coat back to their parents, convincing them that Joseph was killed by wolves.

In Egypt, after the men of Egypt sing out his arrival in their land, Joseph is bought by Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's guards, and gradually becomes his most trusted attendant, as well as befriending his beautiful niece Asenath. However, Potiphar's wife, Zuleika, attempts to seduce Joseph, who refuses her advances. Infuriated, Zuleika falsely accuses Joseph of making advances on her. Potiphar nearly has him executed, but Zuleika, feeling guilty, stops him. Though Potiphar realizes that Joseph is innocent of the crimes, he reluctantly has him thrown in prison to preserve his reputation. Joseph finds himself imprisoned alongside the Pharaoh's cupbearer and his baker and interprets their dreams, which reveal that one will be beheaded and the other will return to his position at the palace. Sure enough, the baker is executed and the cupbearer is returned to his job. The cupbearer, however, forgets his promise to tell the Pharaoh about Joseph, leaving him to languish in jail.

Meanwhile, Asenath secretly supplies food to Joseph regularly through the prison's skylight. However, she is nearly spotted by a guard while doing so one evening when a thunderstorm strikes Egypt, and is forced to drop the basket of food, which is devoured by rats, much to Joseph's anger. At his lowest point, Joseph climbs the walls of the jail to the skylight, questioning God for his misfortunes and demanding to know why everything has happened to him, before slipping, falling back down, and being knocked unconscious. Upon waking the next day as the thunderstorm in Egypt is over, Joseph finds renewed purpose in caring for a small, dying tree, which is the only source of green in the prison, and slowly helps it grow bigger and healthier as he reflects on his past and begins to trust in God's plan again.

Soon, the Pharaoh becomes troubled by nightmares which none of his advisors can interpret. Remembering Joseph, the Pharaoh's cupbearer advises him to send Potiphar to retrieve him. The two share a happy reunion with Potiphar apologizing to Joseph for imprisoning him and Joseph forgiving Potiphar for it. Joseph interprets the dreams as warnings of seven years of abundance being followed by seven years of famine to come after that may wipe out Egypt, and suggests that a fifth of each year's harvest will be kept back for rationing. Impressed, the Pharaoh makes Joseph his minister and second-in-command, under the name "Zaphnath-Paaneah". In the following years, Joseph's guidance not only saves the Egyptians from starvation, but allows them to sell excess grain to their neighbors, who were also devastated by the famine. Joseph marries Asenath and has two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, with her.

Eventually, Joseph's brothers arrive in Egypt to buy grain due to a famine in their homeland, offering to buy the grain with the silver they sold Joseph, claiming that they will need it to feed their families. Joseph refuses to sell them grain, and imprisons Simeon until they can prove that they had another brother to support. They reappear with Benjamin, Jacob's twelfth son and Joseph's almost identical younger brother, born during his absence, and who is now doted upon by Jacob. Benjamin tells Joseph that Rachel has died and Jacob has been inconsolable ever since Joseph was supposedly killed. Simeon is released and Joseph invites the brothers to a feast.

After the feast, Joseph has his golden chalice concealed in Benjamin's bag while no one is looking, where upon its discovery, he orders that Benjamin shall be enslaved to see how the other brothers will react, and is astonished when they offer themselves in Benjamin's place. Grief-stricken and ashamed, Judah confesses to having sold Joseph into slavery, a crime which has haunted him and his brothers ever since for 20 years, and that they cannot return without Benjamin, as it would break their father's heart to lose another son. Shocked at and touched by their change of heart, Joseph reveals himself to them. They reconcile, and Joseph invites them to live with their wives and children in Egypt. Shortly thereafter, he is happily reunited with his father, and meets his brothers' wives and children. The Hebrews then enter Egypt, ending the film.

Voice cast

Additional voices


This section contains too many and overly lengthy quotations. Please help summarize the quotations. Consider transferring direct quotations to Wikiquote or excerpts to Wikisource. (March 2020)

Conception and development

Development for Joseph started while The Prince of Egypt was being made, so the same crew worked on both films, and the wide group of ministers served on both projects as consultants. Work on the film was based in Los Angeles and Canada, and nearly 500 artists contributed to the project.[5]

Executive producer Penney Finkelman Cox and DreamWorks employee Kelly Sooter noted the challenge in telling a Bible story faithfully yet still making it interesting and marketable. They also noted that though it was destined to be a direct-to-video project from the beginning, their approach to the film was to develop it with the same quality and storytelling as they did with The Prince of Egypt. Creatives involved also noted that one of the most challenging parts of the film was creating Joseph's dream sequences, which look like "a Van Gogh painting in motion".[5] Nassos Vakalis, who helped storyboard and animate the film, said that he had to travel a lot to Canada to see work done in a few studios that were subcontracting part of the film.[6] Composer Daniel Pelfrey said that the writers and directors did a "great" job on staying true to the story and bringing it into a presentation for a contemporary audience.[2]

Early work

Ramirez explained the early stages of the film's production:

December of 1997 was a great time on the production. While the script was being fleshed out, Paul Duncan (the head background painter) and Brian Andrews (story artist) were creating some phenomenal conceptual artwork. Francisco Avalos and Nasos Vakalis were doing storyboards based on a rough story outline. Weeks later we started assembling a very talented story crew that included artists that had both television and feature experience. We had a script that was well-structured and followed the Bible story fairly accurately. Once the First Act was storyboarded, we filmed the panels, recorded a temp vocal track with music, and edited it all together to create the storyreel. We were excited and ready for our First Act screening for Jeffrey Katzenberg, which was set for an early weekend morning in the New Year of 1998.[4]

Screening and production troubles

Ramirez explained how things turned awry at the film screening:

When the lights came on in the screening room, the silence was deafening. All the execs put down their yellow legal notepads and headed down the hall to the conference room (which for me felt miles away). When we all sat down, Jeffrey looked up and said three words: "Nothing made sense". He was right. Nothing made sense. We followed the Bible story tightly. The script had structure. We storyboarded it word for word, yet it fell flat on its face. It all suddenly felt like a horrible, horrible disaster, and the worst part of it all was that I didn't know how to fix it. I was deeply confused, and our aggressive production schedule didn't allow for the story re-working that usually takes place on a theatrical feature. Share Stallings, one of our creative executives on the project, was very supportive and offered encouragement to the crew. She assured me that at least two sequences could be saved by clarifying some visuals and re-writing some dialogue. I couldn't see it at the time, although she turned out to be right. The only thing I could think about was that "nothing made sense".

Cracking the story

Ramirez explained that they cracked the story by returning to the basics of storytelling:

When we started analyzing the characters in Joseph, we began to work from the inside out as opposed to just putting together a story. Once we delved into the minds of these characters and dissected their personalities, we started making some important breakthroughs. What does Joseph want? To be a part of his brothers' lives and reunite with his family. What does Judah, Joseph's older brother, want? He wants the love and positive attention that his father Jacob reserves only for Joseph. What does Jacob want? Jacob wants to show the world how much he loves his favorite son, Joseph. Why does Jacob love Joseph so much more than his other sons? Because Joseph is the spitting image of his favorite wife. He's the first-born son of the woman he waited for all his life to marry. Once we discovered the "wants" of the main characters, it was simple to figure out what actions they would take to satisfy them. Another important discovery was finding the voice of each individual. Once we had a deeper understanding of our characters and what made them tick, the scenes had a new spark of life that had been missing all along. The characters were now driving the scenes, instead of vice versa. In time, ideas that were born out of character helped blend sequences so that they flowed into each other instead of feeling disconnected.[4]

Casting and approach to characters

Mark Hamill, who was cast as Judah, Joseph's elder brother, explained the choices he made regarding his character:

Judah starts out at a high station in his family structure, and that's all disrupted by this little child who claims to have visions of the future, he says. Eventually, it causes Judah to lead all the brothers against Joseph. I don't think of him as a villain. In many ways, he's like all people, wondering, "How will this affect my own life?" He's self-centered and has to re-evaluate all his preconceived notions.[5]

Ramirez explained one of the main themes in the film by analyzing how Joseph reacts upon seeing his brothers for the first time after they sold him into slavery:

These 'strangers' turned out to be his brothers. Now it was Joseph's turn. Would he follow his initial gut instinct and enslave them? Abuse them? Kill them? Or would he rise above hatred and forgive them? In a nutshell, that's what the crux of the story is about: forgiveness.[4]

Jodi Benson was thrilled to be cast as Joseph's wife, Asenath, after seeing the work that had been done with Moses in The Prince of Egypt. Benson didn't audition for the part, and was instead offered it. Unlike some of the other characters, she provides both the speaking and singing voices in her role. It took twelve days to record her lines, and the only other voice actor she worked with was the singing voice for Joseph, David Campbell. Benson explained her character is the "voice of reason and the voice of trying to do the right thing to reconcile [Joseph] with his brothers". Her character was given a much larger role than what is presented in The Holy Bible.[5]



All songs were produced and arranged by Danny Pelfrey, and he also composed the score. Hans Zimmer, the composer for The Prince of Egypt, had approved of Pelfrey taking over his role after the latter, a relative unknown at the time, did a couple of interviews at DreamWorks. Pelfrey explained that through the process Zimmer gave him an input as to what they liked to hear, through the arranging and production of the songs. Pelfrey said that Zimmer gave him the foundation and communication skills he needed to successfully complete the project.[2] After receiving the job, Pelfrey read as many different translations of the original Bible text as he could, to find story nuances that he could incorporate. In regard to his collaboration with DreamWorks, he said that the input was initially "pretty" sketchy, but was an ongoing process with lots of dialog with writers, producers and directors along the way, also saying Jeffery Katzenberg was directly involved with the entire process.[2] He also explained that he never done a musical before, but Zimmer helped him to incorporate the sounds from The Prince of Egypt, serving as his guide in the song production.[3]

Pelfrey used choral choirs sparingly in his score, with notable examples being a small female group in the beginning for what he called God's theme, and in the scene at the end, which was the reunion of Joseph, his brothers and Jacob, his father. This was because the effect reminded him of angels, as he thought it was more appropriate to the sonic tapestry and he created a more uplifting feeling.[2] He described his musical style in the film as "World/Orchestral", noting that the instruments used were more regional than specifically Egyptian, incorporating Duduk, Ney, Rebaba, Ban-Di, Bansuri, Moroccan Flute, Zampona, and a great variety of percussion including Djembe, Darbuka, Dholak, Udu etc. In regard to using instrumentation from an inaccurate historical context, he said that he always thought that the exact historical and geographical use of the instruments is not as important as the evocative or dramatic effect.[2] A temp-track was made for the score, though Dreamworks "were not too attached to it"; some parts were tracked with "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis" by Vaughan Williams.

Pelfrey commented: "Since I had never done a musical before, it was interesting to note the difference between producing these songs as opposed to doing a record. In a musical, the songs advance the story and I had to help that process, as well as make the songs belong to the fabric of the film and the palette of the score. Although this was animation, it certainly did not call for a cartoon approach, due to the depth of the story. The film needed more of a live-action treatment to the score. Joseph: King of Dreams also allowed me to work with the best producers in the business and helped make this a very successful experience both personally and professionally".[3] He explained that Lucas Richman was the reason the Symphonic Suite from Joseph was created. Lucas contacted Pelfrey about wanting to present it in a concert he was doing in Knoxville where he was the conductor and music director, and Pelfrey created the suite especially for them. Pelfrey said that he created a vibrant and thriving orchestra there and they were all welcoming for him. It was performed in LA by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony in August 2010.[2][7]


All tracks are written by John Bucchino

1."Miracle Child"Maureen McGovern, Russell Buchanan & David Campbell 
2."Bloom"Maureen McGovern 
4."Whatever Road's at Your Feet"David Campbell 
5."You Know Better Than I"David Campbell 
6."More than You Take"David Campbell & Jodi Benson 
7."Bloom" (Reprise)"Jodi Benson 

Score and songs were released in 2000 in CD format only for promotional purposes without release to a mass audience.[8][9]


As the first and only DreamWorks Animation direct-to-video film, Joseph: King of Dreams was released by DreamWorks Home Entertainment on VHS and DVD on November 7, 2000.[10][11] Special features included "Sing-a-long songs, storybook read-a-long programming, an interactive trivia game, and printable activity and coloring sheets".[5] The film was released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on DVD on May 13, 2014, as part of a triple film set, along with DreamWorks Animation's The Road to El Dorado (2000) and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003).[12] The film was re-released by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment on DVD on June 5, 2018, and released on Blu-ray for the first time on January 22, 2019.

The direct-to-video film was "made available to Christian retailers, but mainly [would] be sold in traditional retailers such as Walmart and Target and video stores." The financial success of Joseph would to some degree influence whether more animated Bible stories would be released by DreamWorks.[5]

Book tie-ins

Nashville publisher Tommy Nelson, the kids division of the Christian publishing company Thomas Nelson Inc., partnered DreamWorks to publish four companion book titles based on the film, and has exclusive publishing rights to Joseph ("a read-along tape, a sticker storybook, a 48-page hardcover storybook with illustrations from the film, and a smaller hardcover storybook which retells the story of Joseph"[5]). One of them, My Sticker Storybook: Joseph and his Brothers (published on 1 Nov 2000) was a sticker storybook that followed the plot Joseph, and was written by Dandi Daley Mackall.[13] The 48-page storybook (published on 1 Nov 2000, and sometimes subtitled "Classic Edition") featured images from the film, a retelling by Mackall, and was a "stand-alone book, as well as a splendid companion to the video", also written by Mackall.[14] Joseph, King of Dreams: read-along (8 Mar 2001) was a full-color storybook and accompanying cassette which "capture[d] all the emotional and dramatic high points". Written by Catherine McCafferty, it included the song "Better Than I" and dialogue from the film.[15] A fourth book was published as well.

Critical response

You Know Better Than I, sung by Joseph (David Campbell) was critically acclaimed by many critics - one of the few universally praised elements of the direct-to-video film.

While praising the film's merits including animation, storytelling, and music, much of the criticism came with comparing it negatively to its theatrically released predecessor The Prince of Egypt. The song You Know Better Than I was singled out for praise by numerous critics, as were the van Gogh-inspired dream sequences. Many noted that the animated hieroglyph effects were similar to those from Prince, and suggested that the film stuck closer to the Bible source material than the previous film had.

DecentFilmsGuide gave the film a B for Overall Recommendability and 3/4 stars for Artistic/Entertainment Value. They commented that the dream sequences look like "living, flowing Van Goghs", but they also wrote that Joseph: King of Dreams is not in the same class as The Prince of Egypt and considered it more as children's film. It said that the songs "while cheerful and uplifting, are generally unmemorable", and described the animation as "fine but not wonderful". It noted that "once one stops making unfair comparisons to a theatrical film made on a much bigger budget, Joseph: King of Dreams is very much worthwhile on its own more modest terms". Nevertheless, the review complimented the "ominous tune' Marketplace, and said that "in one small way, Joseph: King of Dreams even outshines the earlier film: the spirituality of its signature song, You Know Better Than I, is much more profound than anything in the more mainstream "There Can Be Miracles".[16] DVD Verdict wrote that Joseph: King of Dreams will shatter anyone's expectations about direct-to-video animated features, also saying that this is not a "halfhearted" attempt to cash in on the success of The Prince of Egypt, but instead a fully realized and carefully crafted story of its own. Despite noting a short film's length, they praised its animation, music, and storytelling.[17] PluggedIn wrote "while not as eye-popping as Prince of Egypt, the film is impressive for a direct-to-video title". They praised "artfully executed" dream sequences, film songs as "uplifting" and noted that the film took fewer liberties than its predecessor.[18] Lakeland Ledger said: "At its best, the story communicated the sense of desperation and yearning that make up the tale and provides a sense of the emotions that underscore the story".[19] Jan Crain Rudeen of Star-News gave a positive review to the film.[20]

The Movie Report gave the film 3/4 stars, writing that "while clearly not on the level of that 1998 classic, it is a solid piece of work that is about on par with the SKG's spring theatrical release The Road to El Dorado". They were however critical to the songs and music, with the exception of You Know Better Than I.[21] gave the film 4/5 stars, commenting while visual effects are not as outstanding as in The Prince of Egypt, the storyline does stay closer to the biblical version. The site also praised the music and the song You Know Better Than I.[22] CommonSenseMedia rated the film 3/5 stars, praising the animation and its "compelling" dream sequences, but noted that it lacks The Prince of Egypt's poignant tunes and powerful storytelling.[23] The Los Angeles Times wrote that film "with its beautiful, big-screen quality, flowing animation and striking computer-generated imagery--and with its dignity and heart--is a fine telling of the biblical story".[24] Variety said that King of Dreams has much cross-generational appeal as its predecessor and called it an "entertainment" for whole family.[25]


Year Nominee / work Award Result
2000 "Better Than I" Video Premier Award for Best Song Won[26]
2001 Joseph: King of Dreams Silver Angel Award for Feature Film Nominated
2001 Joseph: King of Dreams Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Home Video Production Nominated
2001 Penney Finkelman Cox (executive producer)
Steve Hickner (executive producer)
Jeffrey Katzenberg (executive producer)
Ken Tsumura (producer)
DVD Exclusive Video Premiere Award for Best Animated Video Premiere Won
2001 Eugenia Bostwick-Singer
Marshall Goldberg
Raymond Singer
Joe Stillman
DVD Exclusive Video Premiere Award for Best Screenplay Won
2001 Ben Affleck (voice)
Luc Chamberland (animation director: Joseph)
DVD Exclusive Video Premiere Award for Best Animated Character Performance Nominated
2001 Rob LaDuca
Robert C. Ramirez
DVD Exclusive Video Premiere Award for Best Directing Nominated
2001 Daniel Pelfrey DVD Exclusive Video Premiere Award for Best Original Score Nominated

See also


  1. ^ Animation outsourced to Bardel Animation Limited with additional animation outsourced to Big Fish Animation, Blue Sunflower, Canuck Creations, Character Builders, DreamWorks Animation, Dynomight Cartoons, Fil Cartoons, Giant Productions, Golden Bell Animation, Heart of Texas, Hits for Less, New Vision Productions, Ray Pang Effects, Red Rover, Spaff Animation, Starburst Animation, Tama Productions, Wang Film Productions and Wild Horse Animation Group.[1]


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  3. ^ a b c "Original Music Composer and Film Scorer". Danny Pelfrey. Archived from the original on January 10, 2017. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
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  7. ^ Archived January 16, 2021, at the Wayback Machine [bare URL PDF]
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  9. ^ "Joseph: King of Dreams -". February 16, 2015. Retrieved April 2, 2024.
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  14. ^ MacKall, Dandi Daley (November 1, 2000). Joseph, king of dreams - Dandi Daley Mackall - Google Books. ISBN 9780849976933. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  15. ^ McCafferty, Catherine (March 8, 2001). Joseph, King of Dreams: read-along - Catherine McCafferty - Google Books. ISBN 9780849976957. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
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  21. ^ "The Movie Report Archive, Volume 77". Archived from the original on October 21, 2014. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
  22. ^ "Joseph: King of Dreams (2000) …review and/or viewer comments • Christian Spotlight on the Movies •". Archived from the original on July 12, 2014. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
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  24. ^ "'Joseph: King of Dreams' Wisely Avoids the Gimmicks - Los Angeles Times". November 16, 2000. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
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  26. ^ "The Hour - Google News Archive Search". Archived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved June 16, 2015.