Flashback Review: Hercules (1997)

In 1992, the year Aladdin came out during “The Disney Renaissance,” Disney pitched an idea based on “The Odyssey,” a Greek epic poem. The company discarded an adaptation of the poem due to running time constraints & lack of compelling characters that would confuse kids. An animator named, Jon Haidar suggested about making a film based on “Hercules,” partaking in The Trojan War. The outline was originally gonna be about Hercules not doing the right thing as he’s torn between being a hero & villain. Disney turned down the Jon’s outline. Perhaps it was to complex for kids whether or not if using your gifts to side with both teams will no solve anything to win a war.

One Year Later, animation directors, Ron Clements & John Musker constructed an outline inspired by “Superman,” “Rocky” & “The Karate Kid” as primary influences combined with epic films like “Spartacus” & “Ben-Hur” from “The Golden Age Or Hollywood.” They also included contemporary references to basically described Hercules as “the Michael Jordan of Greek Mythology.”

Two Years Later, The Animation Team begin to work several hours designing characters, the world, environmental detail to reflect The Tone for the movie. After a two year gap of animated every juicy detail & hiring actors including Danny DeVito to voice Hercules’s mentor, Philoctetes or Phil for short. Disney officially distributed the film.

Hercules was released in 1997. (same year Titanic came out) It earned positive reviews from critics and movie goers alike. Plus, it made a bunch of money at the box office. I’m not gonna lie folks, Disney’s interpretation of Hercules is the first time I’ve ever heard of him besides Eddie Murphy’s line “Hercules Hercules Hercules” from “The Nutty Professor.” Both Disney & Eddie Murphy’s infamous line will forever be cemented in my brain.

Hercules went on to spawn a direct-to-video prequel, “Hercules: Zero The Hero” & “Hercules: The Animated Series.” Like most Disney movies, Hercules was used for Disney’s merchandise. The character also appeared in the Kingdom Hearts video game series” featured as one of the playable worlds Sora, Donald & Goofy visited.

Now that Kingdom Hearts III is out right now in Japan & will be available on January 29th, I want to share my real thoughts on my favorite version of Hercules before I play Square Enix & Disney Interactive’s long awaited video game.

Today’s review doesn’t feature any crucial SPOILERS. Feel free to read my non-spoiler article if you have not seen this movie. Does the movie still holds up? Well let’s find out shall we?

Strong & Weak Aspects

Strong: Tate Donovan, Danny DeVito, Susan Egan, James Woods & Rip Torn all did a fantastic job for their respective voiceover performances. James deserves Bonus Points for his role as Hades. He’s my favorite Disney villain other than Pete. James stated, Hades is his personal favorite role. He signed on because his kids are fans of Disney films.

Fun Fact: Before James Woods signed on as Hades, Danny DeVito suggested Disney to pick his pal, Jack Nicholson for the role as the main antagonist. Jack demanded a big fat paycheck worth $10-15 million, plus 50% of the profits from merchandise related to Hades. Disney declined his wish refusing to share profits from an expensive A-List star. In retaliation, Jack dropped out to work with James L. Brooks in “As Good As It Gets,” which finally earned him a third Academy Award.

Other Cast Members such as Bobcat Goldthwait, Matt Frewer & Paul Shaffer all did a great job for their respective voiceover performances.

Animation looked pretty darn gorgeous. Especially character designs, environment in the background/foreground, attention to detail among many other things. To this day, animation still holds up.

Animation directors, Ron Clements & John Musker both did a decent job for directing, co-producing & co-writing the film.

Humor is filled with funny moments that made me laugh.

Musical Numbers are very memorable. Each song is distinctive with Gospel music, (as I call it, Church dance music from The Blues Brothers) & traditional ballad titled, “Go To Distance,” sung by Michael Bolton. I would’ve given Disney an Extra Point for hiring Michael McDonald (my favorite singer) singing the theme song, rather than Bolton. In my opinion, McDonald has the voice of an angel. By the way, Bolton went on to work with “The Lonely Island,” on a song about Captain Jack Sparrow from “Pirates Of The Caribbean.”

Veteran Disney composer, Alan Menken, orchestrated music for the movie.

Phil reminded me of Danny Devito’s character, Frank Reynolds from FX’s “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.” Unlike Danny’s future role, Phil is basically a G rated version of Frank.

Hercules fighting monsters, Titans & Hades predates Kratos encountering gods from the video game series “God Of War.”

The film mocked Hercules & Meg’s romantic chemistry. I would assume it’s a reflection of Disney’s early romance cliche since Snow White, might’ve irritated longtime fans of the company’s filmography. Thank god (no pun intended) the writers of the movie finally get the point on what not to do when you’re gonna make an animated Disney movie.

We learn about Meg’s troubled backstory. If you haven’t seen Hercules, I can’t tell you.

The late Charlton Heston has a voiceover cameo as The Narrator before The Muses, or as I call them, The Gospel Singers, took over his duty.

Wayne Knight (Newman from Seinfeld) & Jim Cummings (Winnie The Pooh & Pete) have voiceover cameos.

Speaking of narrating, The Gospel Singers told the original narrator to lighten up the mood. They want to tell the story of Hercules in a lighter tone. I think Disney must’ve given us a wink that they won’t do anything to make us cry after The Lion King broke many people’s hearts. You know that one scene that started a sobfest?

Weak: A “we are through” trope occurred. If you’re familiar with this cliche, we all know two people or more will make amends & get back together just like most buddy cop films. I find it predictable.

An illogical moment happened when one of the main characters gets brutally beaten, but never dies instantly. I know this is supposed to be an animated film, but it felt unrealistic as it somewhat broke my Suspension Of Disbelief.


Hercules is one of Disney’s good entries. Despite two boo boos, it still holds up as a legit animated film. If you are interested in Disney’s version of The Greek God, I highly recommend it.

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