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Western Animation / Joseph: King of Dreams

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"You know better than I...
You know the way...
I've let go the need to know why...
I'll take what answers you supply,
for you know better than I..."

Released in 2000, one of DreamWorks Animation's most obscure films, and DreamWorks' only Direct-to-Video release. Meant to be the follow-up/prequel to The Prince of Egypt, although it was made during that film's production. Basically, imagine Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but in animation, and with Ben Affleck.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Of the the tail end of Genesis. A number of characters are trimmed, Reuben (firstborn and previous leader of the brothers) has been Demoted to Extra, and the reason why Judah is also leading over Simeon and Levi, who were next in line after Reuben, is simply not mentioned; to put it mildly, this movie would have to have had a hard PG-13 rating at the very least if it had delved into the extremely family-unfriendly events that got them demoted.
    • Actually, it might just be glossed over as during a confrontation with his brothers, Joseph mentions something along the lines of "There's a lot Father doesn't know, I know about the drinking and the women".
  • Adapted Out: Rachel is the only one of Jacob's four wives to appear, though it's a plot point that the other ten aren't biologically hers. The existence of Leah is only vaguely alluded to at the very beginning, but her name is never spoken and it's heavily implied that she has already died by the time of the movie (even though Leah actually outlived Rachel in the Biblical narrative). Jacob's one daughter, Dinah, is also nowhere to be seen. Although, again, showing her backstory, i.e. the Rape of Dinah would definitely shove up the rating.
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  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Joseph's brothers when they sold him into slavery. In the original, they were originally going to kill Joesph before one of the brothers talked the other down into throwing him into a hole and selling him into slavery. Here, Joseph falling into the hole, seems to be an accident seeing how they tried to grab him and seem to be genuinely ashamed at what their jealousy has done when they sold him into slavery considering how they react to it.
  • Adult Fear: The movie is centered around the idea that your brothers can be jealous enough of you to sell you into slavery and lie about your fate to your parents. Joseph latter turns the tables on them by threatening to the same thing to Benjamin.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Zuleika. She isn't seen again after Joseph is sent to prison, and no one mentions her anymore (except Potiphar briefly, but he is cut short before he can finish his sentence). Did they divorce? Did she die? In a movie all about forgiveness (at least for the penitent, which she was in her last scene), was she ever forgiven by either Joseph or Potiphar? If not, it's somewhat disconcerting and inconsistent with the rest of the film, especially since she immediately acted to try and undo her wicked deeds once she felt remorse and pity for Joseph, unlike Joseph's brothers and Potiphar who were eventually forgiven nonetheless. This is possibly an example of Left Hanging.
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  • Ancient Egypt: Of course.
  • Art Shift: The Pharaoh's dream, which transitions from traditional animation to CGI.
    • Joseph's dreams too, which are in a living painting style (backgrounds at least) and the wall Joseph paints like his home of Caanan (which animates as he remembers it) as well as the interpretation of Pharaoh's dream.
  • Artistic Age: The passage of time really does not apply here. Joseph fluctuates in how old he looks throughout the movie. He spends years in prison, and grows a full beard to match his age. But then when he goes clean-shaven he looks like a teenager again.
  • Big Brother Bully: Taken to the logical extreme with Joseph's brothers selling him into slavery. It's no surprise that when he sees them again, Joseph goes Oh, Crap! and immediately lashes out at them as the vizier.
  • Big Brother Instinct: In contrast to how they treated Joseph, Judah and the others react this way when Joseph frames Benjamin for theft and threatens to imprison him into slavery. Joseph certainly notes the difference and subtly asks why they didn't protect him, by asking why they should care if Benjamin is locked up, beaten and treated like a slave.
  • Bishōnen: Joseph and Benjamin, who look more like Rachel than Jacob.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Remember, the ending of this movie leads directly into The Prince of Egypt, which means that the Hebrew descendants of Joseph and his brothers will be enslaved by the Egyptians for decades. Joseph also never gets to see his mother again, or watch his father grow old.
  • Blessed with Suck: Joseph's dreams, at first. They are a great honor from God...that do absolutely nothing beneficial other than distance him from his brothers and eventually get him sold into slavery. True to the original story, however, this trope is eventually averted.
  • Book-Ends: The eagle flying overhead at the very opening and ending of the film.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Jacob scolds Joseph's brothers for not only neglecting their shepherd duties to go swimming, but for abandoning "[his] son" to do it alone when he could've been eaten by wolves. Which he nearly was. But Joseph's brothers also have their point when they say "Aren't we (also) your sons?", calling out their dad on his favoritism.
  • Boy Meets Girl: Joseph and Asenath’s relationship—they first meet when Joseph is her uncle’s slave, and do some flirting. Their relationship (however unlikely, given the huge class gap) is smothered when Joseph is thrown in prison. They’re reunited when Joseph is made vizier, and soon marry.
  • Broken Pedestal: Joseph for his brothers.
  • Clark Kenting: Subverted. When the brothers and Joseph meet again, Joseph is older, tanner, more muscular, wearing a beard, and definitely not in a position where you'd expect a guy sold into slavery to be. To add onto this, Joseph uses a different voice and manner when talking to them, and his outfit hides a lot of his features.
  • Clear My Name: In keeping with the Bible story, Zuleika accuses Joseph of forcing himself on her, resulting in his time in prison.
  • Cruel Mercy: After Potiphar understands that Joseph was telling the truth about his innocence, he revokes his earlier sentence of death... and bestows the sentence of indefinite imprisonment instead. A unique example in that Potiphar did not consider himself just in doing this, but did it to protect his wife's honor (at least to others besides himself), and by extension his own.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Zigzagged with Joseph (who kept getting in trouble over his prophecies) and invoked by the baker as he's taken away: "It's not a gift, it's a curse!”
  • Death by Childbirth: Rachel's fate, though it's glossed over in the movie. Benjamin only says that Rachel is dead is by the time he and Joseph meet; in the Bible, she actually died giving birth to Benjamin.
  • Driven by Envy: Joseph’s half-brothers, who resent his “miracle child” status and accompanying ego enough to debate killing him and eventually sell him into slavery.
    • Arguably Joseph too, toward Benjamin—the obvious anger he shows when he first hears about him, and then sees him and Simeon embracing, could indicate envy at the idea that not only was he "replaced," but Benjamin managed to get Parental Favoritism and the love of their brothers as well.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Until becoming Pharaoh's right-hand, Joseph is perpetually barefoot, quite possibly by choice, as the rest of his family wear sandals.
    • Asenath and her aunt Zuleika go barefoot as well, most likely by choice rather than status or poverty since they're both part of the royal family.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Cain and Abel, Made a Slave, False Rape Accusation, Miscarriage of Justice and then, finally, a happy ending for Joseph and his family.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: When Joseph encounters his brothers again while he's the vizier, they mention having a brother at home while looking to buy grain. He calls them liars and accuses them of being thieves, while he flashes back to the silver they received for selling them, assuming that they are referring to Joseph as the brother at home. To save their brother Simeon from imprisonment, they have to produce the "brother at home". Joseph doesn't expect that his mother had conceived and gave birth to a child in the twenty years he was gone; he had no reason to think such a thing. He's very surprised on encountering Benjamin.
  • Establishing Character Moment: More of a Reestablishing Character Moment when the brothers show up in Egypt—the first thing that we see is one of them picking up a little girl's doll and returning it to her. This shows the audience that they Took a Level in Kindness and stands in contrast to the Scare Chord representing Joseph's shock at seeing them.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Zuleika slanders Joseph out of spite when he refuses to comply with her advances, but realizes she went too far when Joseph was to be executed.
  • False Rape Accusation: Zuleika invokes this trope when she doesn't get her way with Joseph. She regrets it when Joseph is set to be executed.
  • Fat and Skinny: In prison, the baker and royal butler, respectively. The fat one goes and the skinny one is left. This foreshadows the Pharaoh's dreams and eventual fate of Egypt.
  • Femme Fatale: Zuleika, to some degree.
  • Five Stages of Grief: When Joseph tells the baker that he will die in three days based on his dream, he shouts "You're lying!". He appears to have made it through the other stages in the three day fast-forward shouting "You knew!" as he's carried out.
  • Forgiveness: A particularly striking example, as Joseph forgives Potiphar (which visibly surprises him) for throwing him in jail. And then again when he forgives his brothers albeit after showing how much they care for the new youngest.
    Joseph: Can you forgive me for thinking I was some miracle from God?
    Judah: But you are a miracle. God sent you to save our family and all of Egypt. And you did.
  • Frame-Up: As part of a Secret Test of Character, Joseph sneaks his golden goblet into Benjamin's bag of grain and accuses him of theft. He doesn't go through with it, however, when hearing the other brothers confess that they had sold Joseph into slavery.
  • Happily Married:
    • Joseph and Asenath.
    • Jacob and Rachel, although Rachel is clearly frustrated at the unnecessary tension Jacob causes amongst his sons.
  • Happiness in Slavery:
    • Played with and kicked around a bit. Due to Zuleika's attraction to Joseph, he's given less physical labor while in slavery, and Joseph's intelligence and wit win over the Pharaoh, but some of the times in between these events aren't so happy.
    • The entire marketplace scene is dedicated to showing how being a slave sucks, complete with Joseph being terrified at the sight of whip marks on other slaves for sale and his being made over to look like a proper Egyptian slave as a violating and undignified act.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Two of them — one showing Joseph's work in Potiphar's house, and one showing Egypt preparing for the upcoming famine, both accompanied by singing.
  • A Hero Is Born: The very first scene takes place on the day Joseph was born.
  • "I Can't Look!" Gesture: A form of this happens whenever Joseph pleads for help and is unjustly ignored.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "Half-brother!”
    • “My brothers will come for me!"
    • When Joseph accuses Benjamin of theft he uses the same phrases that Potiphar used against him earlier.
    • “You’re a busy man…anyone could make a mistake."
  • Irony:
    • Mainly in the form of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. By selling Joseph into slavery so that (among other things) they would never bow to him like his dream said they would, his brothers set themselves on the path to fulfilling (willfully) that same dream.
    • In a small case of dramatic irony, when Joseph says no one cares he's in prison, we see Asenath going to sneak him some food immediately afterward.
    • One of the lines in the Marketplace song is "What we (the kingdom of Egypt) have made shall not be torn asunder." Then years later comes Moses and the Plagues...
    • In the beginning of the story, on the morning Joseph was born, his older brothers were set on being good big brothers to him. But as fate would have it, they end up becoming just the opposite and grow jealous of Joseph, to the point they eventually bully and sell him as a slave.
  • I've Come Too Far: Judah is clearly heartbroken as he sees Joseph being dragged away by slave traders, but Simeon dejectedly states that they've gone too far to renege on the deal.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • While Jacob is in the wrong for showing favoritism towards Joseph, he is right that the brothers shouldn't have left Joseph alone to defend their flock from wolves. What's more, the brothers never confessed about selling Joseph into slavery, because the earful they would have received would have been entirely justified in how it hurt more people than Jacob.
    • When Joseph as vizier encounters his brothers again, he calls them liars and thieves while they are buying grain. No one else knows, but he is right: they stole him from his father, and stole his freedom from him, and lied about his death to Jacob. He's also right to tell a worried Asenath that it doesn't look like they suffered or were sorry for selling him into slavery.
  • Karma Houdini: Subverted; at first it seems to Joseph that his brothers were this when he sees them in Egypt looking to buy grain. He even mentions to Asenath that if they're sorry then they haven't shown it, and to an extent he is correct in that Jacob for all those twenty years never found out what they did and punished them. Judah finally confesses, however, that they've been living with the guilt that they lost Joseph forever, hence why they treat Benjamin more kindly.
  • Kneel Before Frodo: When Pharaoh gives Joseph his new name and puts him in charge of Egypt, his former master, Potiphar, kneels to him.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Joseph invokes this as his Secret Test of Character when his brothers come to Egypt begging for grain. They fail the first bit by lying about what happened to him, and so he demands to see Benjamin, his Replacement Goldfish for his parents. He then threatens to make them relive his being sold into slavery, by impressing Benjamin into his service after framing him for theft. It's only when they beg for Benjamin's lives and confess does he reveal his identity.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the Prince of Egypt, King of Dreams is much more lighthearted as a whole, from the animation to the characters. Even the Pharaoh in this movie has none of the cruelty and indifference as his successors Seti and Ramses.
  • Little "No": Joseph says this when Zuleika tries to seduce him.
  • Love Father, Love Son: Played With; depending on how the Bible is interpreted, Asenath might be Zuleika's daughter, playing this trope straight. In this movie, however, they're a niece and aunt.
  • Made a Slave: Joseph, sold by his brothers to get him out of their hair. He threatens to do the same thing to Benjamin.
  • The Makeover: Joseph is washed, powdered, trimmed and painted to look more Egyptian.
  • Meaningful Rename: Pharaoh dubs Joseph 'Zaphnath-Paaneah', meaning 'The god speaks and he (He?) lives'.
  • Misplaced Vegetation: Sunflowers in Canaan. They're actually rather popular in Israel these days, mind you, but they're native to the Americas.
  • Mood Whiplash: 2 years as a slave, 2 years in prison, to being made second only to the Pharaoh, then seeing your brothers, who sold you into slavery at the first place?
  • Morality Pet: Benjamin for Joseph's brothers. He has no idea what they did to Joseph, and when his life is threatened they beg on his behalf.
  • Mr. Fanservice: It's possible the animators were trying to get as wide an audience as possible. Joseph spends half his time bare-chested, almost his entire time barefoot and at least some time spent tied up. It may have been entirely unintentional of course, but it's certainly a recommended film for anyone into that...
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • In a somewhat plausible interpolation of events from the original story, Zuleika starts to show some regret for framing Joseph and pleads to her husband to spare his life. It's also hinted that she may have pined away to an early grave from grief and guilt for what she did.
    • The husband also greatly regrets imprisoning Joseph, and apologizes profusely when he's released. It's implied that the main reason he had him imprisoned was because he didn't want to acknowledge that his wife tried to seduce a slave, and regrets not doing the right thing.
    • Joseph's brothers only admit this many years later, when Joseph as the vizier threatens to make Benjamin a slave on charges of theft. By the time they realized how much they had broken Jacob and Rachel's hearts, with Rachel dying after having Benjamin, Joseph was lost to them forever, and they didn't dare confess what they had done.
  • Never Say "Die": Or "rape," for that matter.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: While Joseph's brothers weren't down right villains, them being pushed over the edge by his dream of them bowing to him while he was on a pedestal is what eventually lead to their selling him into slavery. If it hadn't been for that action which several years down the road ended with Joseph being one of Egypt's rulers, they wouldn't have ended up indeed bowing to him when meeting him again as second only to Pharaoh.
  • Non-Verbal Miscommunication: A subtle example during Zuleika's first scene. Between her Sexy Walk and her facial expression, she's clearly interested in Joseph. However, he either innocently mistakes her favorable words and visual cues as kindness/admiration for his hard work, or simply does not notice the flirting going on—and he smiles back in return. It's possible (this part isn't as clear) that she, in turn, mistook his smile as him returning her advances knowingly/favorably, especially since the way he smiled mirrored her own.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Played with when Joseph is questioning Benjamin about the events surrounding his own disappearance. He knows full well what happened and that the truth behind the questions he's asking are but because his brothers don't recognize him his questions to Benjamin come across as this trope.
  • Older Than They Look: Joseph looks to be about 14 (even though he was actually 17) until he starts getting stubble, and Judah and the other older brothers look the same 20-something when they sell Joseph as they do when he's born. Heck, Jacob, who looked to be in old age even when Joseph was born, seemed perfectly healthy by the end of the movie. Note that Joseph is in his thirties by that point.
  • Outnumbered Sibling: Joseph is an interesting case, as the only one of Jacob’s sons born of Rachel. The other ten brothers are actually sons of three of Jacob’s wives, but all get lumped into one big category of “not-Rachel’s” as far as Jacob is concerned. Then, when Joseph disappears and Rachel has another son, Benjamin inherits this trope.
  • Overprotective Dad: Jacob becomes this after Joseph "dies" and Benjamin is born.
  • Parental Favoritism: Not at all, not at all...
    • What makes it all the worse is that much of it could have been avoided if Rachel and Jacob had taught Joseph just a little humility. At the end of Miracle Child, he's been convinced by his parents that he's perfect and destined to lead a charmed life free of any suffering whatsoever. It doesn't excuse what his brothers did, but still.
      • And even worse: his brothers seem entirely happy to accept him into the family despite that attention given to him as the "miracle child". Just listen to what they sing at the start of the film in comparison to their father: "Our baby brother/ He is one of us, we'll keep him from harm/ And we will teach him all he needs to know/ We'll stand beside him and together/ We will show him what it means to be a family". Which is sweet and brotherly and exactly what you would expect. Then there's Jacob's lines: "He is special/ I will teach him all he needs to know/ He'll stand apart from other men". Granted, he's right, but note that the eldest brother even goes to hold his newborn brother and gets completely blanked by his father- and for the rest of the growing-up sequence Jacob keeps him away from his other brothers, which means that they never really get to know him and just builds up this resentment between them. Kind of an unintentional jerk, Jacob.
      • Rachel at least seems to be aware of this, as evidenced by her taking Joseph aside to sing Bloom (using the sunflowers as a metaphor for how every living thing is precious). Unfortunately, it comes too late for him and his brothers to make amends before they sell him into slavery.
    • There’s the favoritism Jacob shows towards Benjamin too, being normally unwilling to risk even potential harm coming to Benjamin (though this was more out of fear because of what he thought happened to Joseph—as well as from being the apparent last surviving child of Rachel, his late wife and love of his life).
  • Rage Against the Heavens: In Joseph's Darkest Hour, when it's raining inside his cell and any food he'd hoped to have that night was eaten by rats, he climbs as close to the roof of his cell as he can just to ask God what he did to deserve this.
    Joseph: "Oh, God, why are you doing this to me? Do you hear me?! Any kindness you take away. You're the one who gave me the dreams. You brought me the gift! Some gift! My dreams are lies. WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS?!
  • Rags to Royalty: More of a nice coat to rags, to better rags, to worse rags than before, to riches.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Benjamin is one for Rachel and Jacob, to replace Joseph. Joseph's brothers notably treat Benjamin as a second chance, though for much of the movie they initially deny what they did to Joseph.
  • Savage Wolves:
    • Joseph dreams about a pack of wolves that attack his father’s flocks and kill the ram; the next day he encounters the wolves in reality.
    • Later invoked by the other brothers as a cover story for Joseph’s disappearance.
  • Secret Test of Character: Joseph gives his brothers one at the end, framing Benjamin for a crime and seeing if his brothers will allow him to be taken as a slave. They will not, and pass the test.
  • Sexy Walk: Zuleika, especially during her introductory scene with Joseph.
  • She Will Come for Me: Joseph tells the Ishmaelite slavers who pull him out of the well, “My brothers will come for me!” Subverted, in that when his brothers do show up, it’s not to rescue him, but to collect their earnings from the slavers.
    • Recurs later in the film as an Ironic Echo: a disguised Joseph, now the vizier of Egypt, imprisons Simeon, who defiantly calls out “my brothers will come for me!” when he spots the vizier and his wife outside his cell. It doesn't help endear Joseph to him.
  • Shoot the Messenger: Applies figuratively to Joseph. First, he takes the brunt of his half-brothers resentment, though Jacob is the one who caused the resentment in the first place. Second, he gets sold to slavers for a dream/prophecy he unwillingly received from God.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Joseph versus all his older brothers, especially Judah. Becomes an example of Cain and Abel once they sell Joseph to slavers (though unlike the Trope Namer, this story ends well).
  • Slave Market: There's a sequence where Joseph is sold to Potiphar that gets its own song. He's mercifully passed over for hard labor by another prospective buyer as he's considered too scrawny, instead becoming a household slave.
  • The Smart Guy: Joseph. He shows a lot of ingenuity throughout the movie, compared to other characters.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The "dies later than in the source material" variation applies to Rachel. In The Bible, she dies giving birth to Benjamin before Joseph is sold into slavery. Here, it happens during Joseph's years in Egypt; he doesn't learn of her death or meet Benjamin until his brothers come to Egypt during the famine.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Prince of Egypt, although it's actually a prequel.
  • Take Me Instead: The ten brothers make this plea when Joseph is going to have Benjamin Made a Slave. It’s a critical moment because it shows how they have changed since the time when they sold Joseph.
  • Teen Genius: Genius compared to those around him; Joseph irrigates his family's field (a bit of a Chekhov's Skill as he does the same to the lands of Egypt) and makes a scarecrow for Potiphar's vineyard (single-handedly restoring it to fruitfulness).
  • Time-Passage Beard: Joseph grows one during the time that he spent in prison in Egypt.
  • Time Skip: Sneaks in there a lot; the main part of the film takes place over 20 years with only an off-hand comment from Asenath and one from Simeon to tell of it.
  • Undying Loyalty: Joseph exhibits this when Zuleika tries to seduce him.
    • Also, he probably knew that sleeping with his master's wife would get him into big trouble.
  • Villain Song: "The Market" serves as one for Egypt's slave trade overall, rather than a specific individual.
  • Waif Prophet: Book-learned and unused to the same work as his brothers, Joseph is a fairly squishy prophet until he is put to slave work.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Joseph wears his coat over a bare chest for the first part of the film and an Egyptian skirt thingy for much of the rest.
    • For that matter his brothers only bother wearing shirts for the Egyptian scenes.
  • We Are Not Going Through That Again: Played for Drama. When Joseph as the Vizier threatens to make Benjamin a slave after framing him for theft, the brothers plead for their brother's life and explain that Jacob and Rachel were heartbroken after they faked Joseph's death, and that they couldn't make their father relive that.
  • Wham Line: Benjamin delivers a rather jarring one when Joseph asks how his (and unbeknownst to him Joseph's) mother and father are doing.
    Joseph: So, Benjamin. Tell me about your mother and father.
    Benjamin: My mother's no longer alive.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Many years later, Joseph as the Vizier through a Secret Test of Character calls out his brothers for what they did, selling him into slavery all because of his arrogance and leaving him to rot. He only forgives them on seeing how protective they are of Benjamin, and they admit what they did wrong to him.
    • Asenath in turn calls out Joseph for being so cruel to his brothers, though she does this before he reveals who they were and what they did to him. He ignores her and continues the test.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Potiphar could've turned a blind eye and taken the crooked horse merchant's offer that he take a free horse if he spared him. Even Zuleika lampshades this. But in response, Potiphar says "What would that say about my honor?"
    • Later, Joseph invokes this to test and see if his brothers have changed after all these years.
  • Woman Scorned: Zuleika.
  • Wonder Child: Joseph, born to the previously barren Rachel. He’s commonly referred to as a “miracle child” and there’s even a whole musical number oriented around it.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Zuleika claiming that Joseph tried to rape her.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Asenath tries to sneak in food to the imprisoned Joseph. Just as she's lowering it through the barred window, a guard sees her and she drops the package. It splatters on the floor... and then rats come to devour it.
  • You Owe Me: Zuleika says this to Joseph in anger after her attempts to seduce/force her way with him fail.
    "Everything you are, you owe to me!"
  • Your Cheating Heart: Zuleika tries to seduce Joseph.

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