The seventh in a line of animated hits begun in 1989 with The Little Mermaid, Disney Studio's Hercules adds a few zingy twists to what is rapidly becoming a formulaic approach. Much brighter in tone than its immediate predecessors The… More The seventh in a line of animated hits begun in 1989 with The Little Mermaid, Disney Studio's Hercules adds a few zingy twists to what is rapidly becoming a formulaic approach. Much brighter in tone than its immediate predecessors The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas, possessing a satirical edge close to Aladdin, and a pop music score reminiscent of composer Alan Menkin's Broadway hit Little Shop of Horrors, the story continues the grand Disney tradition of liberally removing the darker elements from classic tales to create a frothy delight suitable for children and adults and sanitized for their protection. This time, the story is drawn from Greek mythology and follows the adventures of Hercules, the son of Olympian gods Zeus (Rip Torn) and Hera (Samantha Eggar) who is reduced to a mere mortal by the treachery of the jealous Hades. In order to return to Mount Olympus, Hercules must prove his courage and worthiness, something that is not easy as he is more klutzy than heroic in nature. Young Hercules (Josh Keaton) is cast out of Olympia after drinking a botched potion concocted by Pain (Bobcat Goldthwait) and Panic (Matt Frewer) the henchmen of Hades (James Woods, who portrays the Lord of the Underworld as a nasty, backbiting Hollywood producer). Though the drink failed to kill him, it did render Hercules mortal; he is therefore sent to Earth with no memory of his true calling. As a teen, Hercules is awkward and unpopular; wanting to know more about himself, the young hero (portrayed by Tate Donovan) visits a temple of Zeus and there learns the truth from his father, who also tells him what he must do to reclaim his immortality. Hercules will be trained in heroism by the pudgy, decadent satyr Phil (Danny DeVito), short for Philoctetes. Obstacles come in the form of mythical monsters and the slinky Megara (Susan Egan), an unwilling minion of Hades who must seduce and decieve Hercules to earn her freedom. Matters are complicated when she falls in love with her handsome quarry. As in other Disney animated features, the supporting characters are more interesting and fun than the hero. Innovations include the use of a gospel/soul quartet as the divine Muses rather than the traditional Greek chorus and some sharp satire aimed at the Disney empire's marketing strategies. The Muses begin the tale and periodically appear throughout the tale. Eschewing the subdued but rich colors favored by previous features, Hercules artwork is much brighter and based on the clean-lined drawings of British caricaturist George Scarfe who functioned as production designer.
Consensus: Fast-paced and packed with dozens of pop culture references, Hercules might not measure up with the true classics of the Disney pantheon, but it's still plenty of fun.