Another Disney film that many surprisingly do not know about. Often listed as one of the most underrated Disney films of all time, Hercules, released in 1997, is an amazing animated feature with great songs, relatable characters and a fantastic story. I remember watching this many times as a kid and it is actually one of my brother’s favorite Disney films. Just a heads up if you know your Greek mythology this does not follow Hercules’ exact story so be prepared. If for some reason you have not watched it a spoiler alert is ahead. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.
The story is told by the Muses although they are never addressed by name (Lillias White, Cheryl Freeman, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Vaneese Y, Thomas). The Greek god Zeus (Rip Torn) and his wife Hera (Samantha Eggar) are celebrating the birth of their child Hercules (Tate Donovan as an adult, Josh Keaton as a teen and Roger Bart provided singing) with all of the gods including their gift to Hercules the horse bird Pegasus (Frank Welker) and the messenger God Hermes (Paul Shaffer), however not everyone is happy. Hades (James Woods) wants to take over Olympus and according to the fates: Clotho Lachesis and Atropos (Amanda Plummer, Carole Shelley and Paddi Edwards) when the planets all align in 18 years Hades must unleash the Titans that Zeus imprisoned, however if Hercules gets involved he will fail. Hades sends his lackeys Pain and Panic (Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt Frewer) to kidnap Hercules, make him mortal and kill him. However Pain and Panic goof up and Hercules is raised by farmers Amphitryon and Alcmene (Hal Holbrook and Barbara Barrie). While Hercules is a mortal he still has his God like strength, which has sadly made him an outcast in his town. Upon discovering the truth Zeus tells Hercules the only way to get back to Olympus is for him to become a true hero on Earth. With the aid of Pegasus and his trainer the satyr Philoctetes “Phil” (Danny DeVito) Hercules becomes a hero, and well Hades is not too happy about it. Hercules also meets and falls in love with a woman named Megara “Meg”(Susan Egan) who is a lot more than she appears to be. About as far as I can go without spoiling the rest of the film.
What makes this film very unique to me are the characters. They are relatable to many who watch the film: Hercules is a guy who wants to fit in but obviously can’t, Meg is a woman who made mistakes because of love and has to pay for them, Phil is a guy who wants his dream to come true but after many disappointments has let go until Hercules came, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I like Hercules because of how much he grows in the film. Meg is one of my favorite Disney non-princesses for a number of reasons: she is sassy, funny, women can relate to her and she has one of the best songs in the history of Disney females. Hades is one of my favorite villains not just because of how evil he is but he is very funny. Woods did a lot of improvising which made the film funnier. Phil also is hilarious with Danny DeVito as the voice. The other characters are fantastic, but I want to give a fact about the Muses. Originally the roles were written for the Spice Girls in mind, however due to scheduling conflicts they were unavailable, I am confident on who I would think take the roles though. I also loved the story of the film, but given it’s Disney I shouldn’t be too surprised.
I have to stop and talk about the soundtrack. There are many fantastic songs in here, but two stand out. “Go The Distance” is sung by the teen Hercules as he talks about finding the place where he feels he belongs and going the distance to find it. A single version of this song was released sung by Michael Bolton, and it is wonderful. “I Won’t Say I’m In Love” is sung by Meg as she reveals she doesn’t want to be in love with Hercules but can’t help it, along with the Muses who help her admit it. I think many women who have been in love and don’t want to be again can relate to what she is going through Many critics have said this is the best song in the film, which would be an easy argument, and has been listed multiple times as one of the best female and Disney songs in the entire Disney film franchise.
If you have not watched Disney’s Hercules then I would put this high on the animated film recommendation list. It is such a joy, it is relatable, funny and is is so much fun. I promise you will not be disappointed.