1 The Mickey Mindset: Disney Animation Reviews #35: Hercules

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Disney Animation Reviews #35: Hercules

Disney Movie Review: 35/52 - Hercules

Ryan Dosier - Following The Hunchback of Notre Dame is Hercules (1997), yet another woefully under-appreciated gem from Disney animation. The film is the most fun Disney feature since Aladdin and is bouncy, lively, colorful, and hilarious. An eclectic cast of characters rounds out Hercules and the film possesses a fantastic sense of humor.

Hercules opens with some music heavily influenced by gospel and it is outstanding. Alan Menken went from an operatic style in Hunchback to this outstanding gospel soundtrack. The songs performed by the Muses are all magnificent, starting with “The Gospel Truth” and culminating in the fantastic “A Star is Born,” not to mention the rocking “Zero to Hero” in the middle. The performances here are insanely good and the animation matches.

All of the songs in the film are fantastic and they are distributed well between the hero, the heroine, and the sidekick. Phil’s song “One Last Hope” showcases Danny DeVito’s singing ability (I know, right?), while Hercules’ song “Go the Distance” is another master Menken ballad. Megara’s song “I Won’t Say I’m In Love” is also spectacular and a real anti-princess song that works extremely well.

The strongest aspect of Hercules is its outstanding sense of humor. The dialogue is rapid-fire and whip-smart. Characters like Phil, Pain, Panic, and Hades steal the show with their modern dialogue, references, and humor. The whole thing is very “90s” in its sensibility. The snappy comedy keeps the movie from being dull at any time.

The film’s voice cast is stellar. James Woods is a total knockout as Hades, who steals every scene he blazes through. The animation on Hades is also dynamic and outstanding. He is one of the most enjoyable and funny Disney villains yet. Danny DeVito is also spectacular as Phil, my favorite animated role that he has had. He’s snarky and smart and terrific. The rest of the cast is great as well, but these are the standouts.

The character of Megara is a revelation. Disney female characters have never been this strong willed. She stands on her own and doesn’t need anyone. She is the complete opposite of Snow White and shows how well Disney moved their female characters into a new era. 

The designs of the characters and the settings have a very modern, artsy feel to them. The colors abound and truly break the traditional mold. The collection of the Greek gods and goddesses at the beginning of the film is one of the most strikingly colored scenes in recent Disney history. But all of the film is packed with delightful colors and designs. It’s truly distinct in the Disney pantheon.

Hercules is such an exciting, action-packed movie that its quiet and reserved moments are the only ones that don’t really click. Scenes of bonding with Hercules and Phil or Hercules and Zeus just don’t match the emotional resonance of other Disney stories. Yet the nonstop action and comedy completely lift Hercules from this minor fault.

It’s truly hard to say why Hercules is such a forgotten entry in the Disney animation family. It is a wild, fun ride with enough snappy dialogue and terrific music to demand its status as a classic. While not as intense as The Hunchback of Notre Dame or as unendingly funny as Aladdin, Hercules is a spectacular animated film and deserves more attention than it receives.

4/5 Muses

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