Entry #21 in the 'Watch all the Classic Disney (Animated) Movies' Challenge
Hercules is the son of Zeus, King of the Olympic gods, and beloved of all the gods except Hades, evil god of the Underworld. His minions kidnap the baby and strip him of his godhood, so Hercules cannot return to Mt. Olympus. The baby is adopted by a peasant and his wife, and raised as their son, but his super-sized strength reveals his divine origin. Feared by the adults in his hometown and taunted by the children, Hercules doesn't fit in anywhere. But Zeus tells him that if he proves himself to be a true hero, he can become a god again and return to Mt. Olympus. Hades, meanwhile, has spent the past sixteen years plotting to takeover Mt. Olympus himself, and the last thing he wants running around is another hero...
So. Disney's Hercules. Where to start?
There's not much I like about this movie, to be honest.
The mythology's a mess. Before you get into the story, there's the simple fact that Hercules is the Roman name for Heracles. Everyone else retained their Greek name; why doesn't the title character?? Grrrr. Moving on. From the first five minutes, when Pegasus shows up at Baby Herc's side with parents Zeus and Hera beaming down at them, you know Disney's playing super fast-and-loose with Greek mythology. Heracles' mother was not Hera; in fact, she tried to kill him and later set a madness on him that led to Heracles killing his children. Bellerophon rode Perseus, who was sired by Poseidon, not Zeus. But never mind. It's pretty clear that accuracy to the mythology was not high on Disney's priority list.
The cast for this movie is huge. You've got a dozen or so gods - although only about five of them have lines, let alone personalities - and five Muses, Hercules, his mentor Phil, Pegasus, tons of background Greeks running around, a love interest named Megara , three Fates, two little demon henchmen...am I missing anybody? Oh yes, all the MONSTERS that Hercules has to fight! With all these faces crowding the screen, there's really not much time for character development. It's actually a little surprising how well they manage with Hercules, but I felt like Megara and Phil really could have been fleshed out more.
Of course, I could have lived without the gospel-singing muses. That was just weird. I get that they were supposed to be a Greek chorus, part of traditional Greek entertainment, yada yada yada. But it just seemed jarring to me. But the music for most of the movie was pretty forgettable. Power ballad "Go the Distance" made me think of Aladdin's little reprise of "One Jump Ahead," expanded into a full-blown song.
Didn't like James Woods' fast-talking Hades, although I have to admit that animators' ability to keep the lips in sync with his words is really freakin' impressive. It's just that when I think "Lord of the Underworld" I don't think 'used car salesman'. Just like when I think of "hero-trainer" I don't think Danny DeVito. *shrug* Oh well. Both characters annoyed me, but I guess they fit the tone of the movie well enough.
What the heck is up with Hercules' face? That chin! That nose! They bug me. Megara's shuffling walk (she doesn't have feet!) was animated strangely, too. I mean, it's well-animated, but the design is unusual.
I guess after the success of many of their films in the early 1990s, Disney felt they could afford to be a little more experimental. I don't think the Hercules attempt was one of their better movies, but in it I can see a definite link between the bombastic musicals The Lion King and The Little Mermaid and later films, like The Emperor's New Groove and Atlantis.