Posted January 7, 2011 by editor in Retrospectives

Disney: Hercules

Disney sometimes make the ingenious decision to take on a famous legend or folk tale and transport it either through time, or by its musical themes.  Here we find Hercules very much placed in his own time, but injected with a score of gospel choir music that really works wonders on the story as well as combined with the pottery animation sidebars. It shows that someone actually took care in their design.


Hercules continued the 90’s onslaught of the winning formula – and sits nicely into the same sort of bracket as the adventure seeking Aladdin, as opposed to the grand Lion king or the swuishy Beauty and the Beast. It is safe to say that Hercules adheres to Disney formula. This is perhaps where the film faulters – or at least finds barrier from which it cannot escape. And it is a shame too as just looking at the broad spectrum of the story to tell – they confine it a little too much and turn it into more of a wacky adventure.

It is in its design that Hercules gains most of its points. The animation has been given its own design and style and the shapes on the screen roll and tumble effortlessly making it something quite unique as some of these animated epics manage to do. It isn’t just yet another animated yarn. Look at the way certain characters are shaped in their figures, their faces and chins, and even fingers are all a unique look.


The story itself is one that has been tried and tested before. That isn’t to say that they fail, because they do succeed, but it is in the supporting characters where we have most of the fun. James Woods is an inspired choice of vocal talent for the role of the villain Hades. With his hair literally represented by blue fire (which is forever firing off every time he gets enraged). He gets to chew scenery all around him as his threats become a reality and his short temper proving one of the comedic highlights. Danny DeVito makes for an inspired choice as the trainer of all heroes and gets to do his best Jimmy Durante impression with his solo singing number.


Hercules himself simply gets to go through the motions of being a clumsy nerd, to a buffed up hero who can pack a punch, but needs to learn to let his ego down a bit in the process in order to be a true hero. It is the weakest point of the film, but it is probably duly expected of such a tale. Thankfully with the action tempo picking up as the story moves on, you don’t have too much time for it to become bothersome. There are even cute comments on the hero status through the use of comparison to modern day devices like soft drinks and toy merchandise.


This is still at a time when Disney had started to incorporate CGI animation into the mix and you can obviously see the scenes where it has been used. And to be honest is does still look quite good. Thankfully again down to the designers – Hercules won’t date too badly because of the overall design it has been given. It isn’t classically animated, but it is animated in a memorable way. It just needs that courage and conviction in its plotting to be a truly great Disney animated classic – which sadly it is not.  But somehow all the bits that work so well keep me coming back to it more regularly that the rest. The bits inbetween I can fast forward!

Steven Hurst