#35 Hercules

#35 Hercules

The Legend of The Five Muses…And Hercules, too, I guess…

The story of this film began in the early 90’s when the studio was trying to make a movie based upon Greek mythology. After an attempt to adapt The Odyssey failed, one of the animators, Joe Haidar, pitched his idea to make a movie about Hercules. From there, development began and several drafts of a script were written. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker were trying to create another film at the time (what would wind up being Treasure Planet), but Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was still studio chairman at the time, disapproved it. He told the duo that he would approve Treasure Planet if they made one more film and offered them several projects that were in development. They, of course, chose the Hercules project. After reading through some of the original Greek myths, they decided to go in a different direction as they figured Zeus’ adulterous affairs and Hercules murdering his wife wouldn’t be great to include in a kids movie. And since the last movie included lustful singing and attempting to burn people alive, I think they made the right choice.

The production team drew inspiration from a myriad of sources when crafting the story and characters, from old films and actors, like Jimmy Stewart, to more contemporary pop culture trends, like the hype around Michael Jordan. They even journeyed to Greece and Turkey for inspiration of the landscape animation. And, as comic book fans, Musker and Clements wanted Hercules to feel like a superhero tale.

Tate Donovan was cast as Hercules and I literally just learned that right now and I’m not quite sure how I missed that but wow, even I learn things in this blog! Absolute legend Danny Devito played Phil, which apparently took some cajoling. Danny was the inspiration for the character and the team’s top choice, but did not want to audition. They looked at several other actors, but eventually got Danny on board. Susan Egan, who had played Belle in the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast, was cast as Meg. She had been trying to get cast in a Disney movie for years, and Alan Menken actually tried to keep her from going after the role. His reason was that Meg was a very different character than Belle, who Susan was used to playing, but, hello, Alan, that’s the point of acting, is it not? I for one am glad that Susan pushed back and pursued the part because I think she’s perfect as Meg! Alas, even casting Hades was troublesome. Initially, Disney asked Jack Nicholson if he wanted the role, but Nicholson “demanded roughly…$10-15 million, plus a 50% cut of all the proceeds from Hades merchandise.” They moved onto John Lithgow, but found he wasn’t right for the character. They auditioned many more actors and even a producer, eventually landing on James Woods.

Hercules had a rough beginning at the box office, and Disney was disappointed in its performance. The low numbers were attributed to tough competition as well as the movie not seeming appealing to older audience members. The critical response was fairly mixed. Critics enjoyed the voice acting, but very much disliked the animation style. Gene Siskel, for example, called it “soft and cheap.” There was also a bit of controversy surrounding the film. Disney had originally wanted to hold the premiere in Greece, but the Greek government declared the film offensive for messing with the legends. Apparently, critics also had mixed feelings on the music which makes me want to physically fight them. Like “Zero to Hero”…”Go the Distance”…”I Won’t Say I’m in Love”…Lack of taste, if you ask me…

There was a TV series on Disney channel based on the film that followed Hercules on more adventures. There is also a live-action remake planned (because of course there is) with the Russo brothers producing. Honestly, if Danny Devito doesn’t play Phil again, I don’t want it. In the Disney parks, there isn’t too much having to do with the film. Hercules, Meg, Hades and Phil have been reported as making character appearances years ago, though it seems like it is now rare for them to be seen. Personally, I’ve never seen any of them.

I am very excited for this watch and am ready to jam. So now, let’s take a journey over to ancient Greece to watch Hercules!

My thoughts on Hercules:

  • Greek mythology is super interesting, I was really into it in middle school (Percy Jackson stans where you at?)
  • The muses!!! Absolute queens! Bringing the best songs! I love them so much!! 
  • They truly make this movie great and are some of my favorite Disney characters. They can party and eat spaghetti with Tony on the god-tier character level
  • Honestly, I’m only excited for a Hercules remake because of the muses, like they better cast some fierce ladies 
  • “You go girls” yas narrator
  • It is funny to me though that they’re like ‘psh Hercules isn’t a tragedy, it’s a fun story!’ and like the real legend of hercules is…..well, tragic
  • “It was a nasty place, there was a mess wherever you stepped” 2020??
  • I love the transition out of “Gospel Truth” and then into the score, with that little “Go the Distance” in the background
  • I love how colorful all the gods/goddesses are!
  • “I haven’t seen this much love in a room since narcissus discovered himself” HA
  • Being immortal and having an immortal kid must make parenting easier
  • Baby pegasus!!! 
  • Pegasus is my favorite animal sidekick

Disney villains said we’re all in this together

  • Ooh the underworld is so creepy
  • Cereberus! 
  • Those teeth, oh so scary! I’m a little frightened as an adult
  • I don’t get why Hades puts up with pain and panic…like there are a lot of Disney villains with stupid sidekicks but I usually just think “well they probably can’t get anyone else” but Hades is a literal god, people sell them his soul, the only two he can work with are those idiots?
  • “I know you know” so ….why were you telling them?
  • If the fates know everything, why do they act like there’s a chance Hercules won’t fight? “IF Hercules fights” but they know he will? Are they trying to trip up Hades? Are they just having fun? I guess we need a prophecy, but it would have been just as effective if they said “you’ll almost succeed but Herc’s gonna stop you” and Hades said “f that I’ll just kill him” because of his own Hubris
  • Also, as a PJ stan, I have to wonder, where is Poseidon in all this?? Chilling at the beach?
  • Zeus: Poseidon! Brother! Hades is attempting to take over the world and took my son Hercules! Please help me! Poseidon: For sure, dude, just after I catch these sick waves 🤙
  • Hercules and pegasus sleeping omg so cute!!
  • Zeus and Hera, like the king and queen of Olympus, don’t have any security for their baby???
  • Aww im happy this couple that wasn’t able to have kids found Hercules and he was raised in a good home, too many Disney children suffer
  • Why would P+P (actually scratch that P+P was what I called Pongo and Perdita and Pain and Panic are nowhere near their level of competency) Pain and Panic think that Hades, the second most powerful god, wouldn’t find out that Hercules was alive??? They know Herc is supposed to ruin Hades’ plan?? I know they’re dumb but this is just ridiculous. I would have preferred they used the Sleeping Beauty excuse and said to Hades “we were looking for a baby this whole time”
  • Hahaha I love the one muse who says “tell it girl”
  • Zeus and Hera, two mega powerful beings couldn’t do anything to at least visit their son?
  • I think Herc got the better deal with Amphitrion and Alcmene
  • Hades didn’t check that Herc was dead? Why??
  • I know his clumsiness is kind of a big deal and effects Hercules’ character, but you would think that by 20 he would have gotten used to his strength
  • Poor Hercules!! They won’t let him play their reindeer Greek teenager games
  • It’s okay Herc, you don’t wanna be a guy who plays frisbee anyway, those dweebs probably call it “ultimate” as if it’s a real sport or something
  • Ahh! The columns! The chaos
  • I feel really bad for Hercules because he didn’t mean to do anything but also…the villagers are kinda right? I mean, the whole shopping center/businesses are destroyed…
  • Now there’s no need to call him a freak! 
  • I love that his dad has his side though
  • Go The Distance is such a great song
  • I like that Hercules reassures his parents and they support him going out to find himself
  • This family deserves more attention and screentime
  • Hahaha I love that it goes from this majestic, magical moment of Zeus’ statue coming to life to Hercules running away because that is an accurate reaction
  • Hercules takes it all very well a second later
  • Philotitties??
  • Pegasus!!!
  • Aww who was he hanging out with all this time? Was he lonely?
  • Hercules calls Zeus “father” quick
  • Wow that was a long end note
  • Herc just become a singer and get that paper
  • Danny DeVito!!
  • I mean Phil!
  • But let’s be real this is the most Danny DeVito character of all of Danny DeVito’s roles
  • I know this movie can’t fit in ALL of Greek mythology, but I like the little nods like the Narcissus comment earlier or the nymphs here
  • The “two words” joke is a play on how “i am retired” translates to just two Greek words!
  • “Haven’t you ever had a dream?” Herc your Rapunzel is showing
  • The Argo! See, love these nuggets
  • “Lotta eus’” hahaha
  • Phil just saw Herc lift a statue and heave it is it really so crazy that his dad is Zeus?
  • Hahaha I love how Zeus zaps Phil in the middle of the song to change his mind
  • Workout/Training montage!! Classic
  • Now he’s all muscley!!
  • I like that he’s still goofy though
  • Meg!
  • “I’m a damsel. I’m in distress. I can handle this” you go Meg
  • “A hero’s only as good as his weapon” doesn’t seem like a good rule…shouldn’t it be a good hero can make a weapon out of anything?
  • Stay focused Herc!!!!
  • The bros be mad
  • “My friends call me Meg, at least they would if I had any friends” I love her lines!
  • How does her hair do that?
  • So, Meg didn’t know the bunny and gopher were pain and panic at first? She was just being mean to woodland creatures for fun?
  • Also, this is such a fun twist! Like, having the love interest work for the villain, completely different than the Disney formula! Or any kids movie formula. I wish it was revealed a bit later though, maybe after the monster fight? Idk I just think it would have been more impactful if we had seen Herc and Meg interact/flirt more and then surprise! She’s working with Hades
  • “Peloponnesian minute” hahaha there are so many good lines that kids probably won’t get 
  • I think it’s really funny that pain and panic try to compare Hercules to the names Jason and Brittany
  • Ayy NYC city!!
  • “Just stare at the sidewalk” honestly, best NYC advice if you wanna get through quickly and without issue
  • I’ve heard some crazy/scary things from people next to me while walking to work, you just keep looking down/forward and go
  • “Plague of locusts” how about murder hornets?
  • “Nice job on those heels” ooh fighting words
  • And now they are fighting!
  • “How am i supposed to prove myself…if no one will give me a chance” honestly, sums up the classic young-person’s experience job hunting
  • Why didn’t he take Phil?!!
  • And why didn’t he ask Meg before flying her up on Pegasus? OR at least warn her
  • “Call Ix II” HA
  • All the Thebians got there like two minutes after he did how slow is Pegasus? Or how fast are they?
  • What if Hercules had replaced the boulder instead of throwing it and the hydra couldn’t get out???
  • I always thought the hydra animation was just…unsettling
  • Yep, the movie is over…forty-five minutes in….
  • The Hydra twist is good, though like if you don’t know Greek mythology, which most young kids probably don’t, especially a monster
  • Pegasus, where ya been?
  • You would think it would only take like…twice for Herc to realize that cutting off heads makes more grow
  • Okay Herc was out in the open, he definitely would have been hit by some rocks
  • He made it!!
  • And the sun comes out!!
  • Love when nature supports the heroes
  • OH HERE WE GO!!!
  • “Grecian express” haha I love all the visual gags in this movie there are a lot of good ones
  • Air Hercs, Herculade lmaooo
  • “And the nicest guy!” stay humble herc
  • It’s such a great sequence – quickly gives the exposition of Herc’s accomplishments and fame, with a fantastic song and fun jokes and visuals
  • Hades literally originated “What are those” 
  • Pain and Panic partaking in Herc merch is hysterical
  • I can’t believe Meg sold her actual soul to save a boyfriend and then he LEFT her
  • I like the point of the movie is that doing brave and heroic things doesn’t necessarily translate to being a great hero
  • But also, why did Zeus tell Herc to train with Phil and get strong and become a great hero, if it wasn’t about being strong and performing heroic deeds??
  • “Daughter’s of the Greek Revolution” hahaha 
  •  One of my favorite tropes is when a show/movie takes place in the past but has references/is set up like the present, and this movie is so much of that
  • They don’t even try to hide the fact that that dead lion shawl is Scar lmao did that scare any kids?
  • He has stans!
  • Who let these girls in?? 
  • Do they make Hercules fan cams??
  • How did Meg get in?
  • The biggest, most famous hero has no security?? AGAIN?!
  • Aww Phil has merch, too! And Pegasus! Love that!
  • I wish they showed Herc and Meg hanging out and actually bonding and not just cutting to the end, at least throw in a montage like in The Little Mermaid
  • Can we leave Oedipus out of this kids movie
  • What a rough read that was senior year
  • Ew she’s putting her foot/dirty sandal on his face…
  • How did his one stone knock off two of the statue’s arms??
  • Everyone in the world may not be dishonest, but we all have our petty tendencies 
  • “How do you know what I’m like” Meg finally brings up a good counterpoint to the Disney-One-Day-Romance trope
  • It’s cute how into Meg Herc is but again, WE haven’t seen them have more than a two second conversation before this scene so his comment about how she’s the most amazing person he’s met doesn’t come off as strongly, and while he’s known her a while, we know he hasn’t seen much of her before their date today, which is all the more reason they should have made a scene for it 
  • Ugh her bumping into the cupid statue is a little TOO on the nose
  • I will admit though, the trope where one person doesn’t want to develop feelings but they begrudgingly do is a fave
  • Lmaooo pegasus and phil with the block

Phil to Meg at all times:

  • Why does Herc need to watch where he’s going? He’s flying on Pegasus, who can see?? 
  • Why did Pegasus not go back for Phil?
  • Another absolute banger of a song 
  • “That’s ancient history” ha
  • Lol WHY does Meg cozy up to the Herc statue I was grooving but that’s so weird
  • “GET OFF MY CASE” I love that part
  • I love how the Muses move all around the garden
  • WHY would Meg actually think she could leave Hades? She knows she still has a debt? Why not act like you’re still working for him and tell Herc the truth and trick Hades
  • Look if I was a heroine in a Disney movie the villain would be defeated so quickly
  • (careful, Emerald, your main-character-syndrome is showing)
  • I have to say a trope that I dislike is when someone is knocked out but wakes up at a point to overhear/see something that’s convenient to the plot
  • “This one is different…” “he’s a guy” Hades know how it be
  • Meg going on about how Hercules has no physical weaknesses all confident and oblivious and then turning around to find Hades smirking is *chefs kiss* Like you’re the weakness dumbass lol
  • “Phil what happened to you” he fell and no one went after him ya jerks
  • This whole time Pegasus has been giving Herc the stink eye for liking Meg but he gets so easily distracted by lady horse? Hypocrite
  • I get Phil’s upset, but….he should have delivered that news more delicately
  • *Gasp* he hit Phil
  • Herc that’s not cool
  • “I thought you were gonna be the all time champ, not the all time chump” is such a simultaneously cheesy/cringey/iconic line
  • Wait, I just thought of something – how come Hades can roam around Earth like nothing but none of the other gods can/do? Like they are all powerful gods is no one suspicious of Hades?
  • And where’s Persephone at??
  • I feel like I should have been making more Hadestown jokes this whole time but idk if that’s too niche
  • Herc really gave up the entire world for a girl smh
  • Ugh the Meg reveal does hurt my heart
  • LMAO Herc just kneels down and Pain and Panic pour soda on them like he’s just not strong anymore?? He’s not just gonna curl up and die
  • Gosh how many people die in this Titans introduction sequence? All those lives lost….because Hercules had a crush…..
  • Percy Jackson would never 
  • “Olympus is that way” hahaha
  • And now ALL the gods together (minus Hades) can’t take on the Titans?
  • Where’s Athena? She was always my favorite cuz she was the Smart One
  • Did Hercules just imply that heartbreak/betrayal is worse than death? BOI
  • Stop being emo!!! You barely spent that much time with her
  • “You are correct sir” that was such a dated reference even in 1997, kids love their Ed McMahon?
  • Okay, is Hercules mortal or not?? Like he shouldn’t survive this
  • And yes it’s a Disney movie and characters defy deadly situations all the time but in this one specifically, the stakes are he is mortal and the one thing that was his saving grace (his strength) is gone, so him being bounced around by this Titan, even though everyone knows he’s gonna survive and win anyway, it just takes away all the stakes so what was the point of them being there? 
  • Hercules taking down this Titan with absolutely no strength is great though! Shows how he is smart and capable 
  • Mad respect for Meg’s selfless sacrifice
  • So if Meg had idk scratched herself at some point or hurt her joints jumping off pegasus, would that have counted? Or did it have to be a life-effecting injury?
  • I wish there was some reason given why the rest of the gods couldn’t fight off the Titans
  • Nice of the Titans to allow Herc and Zeus to have a father-son moment
  • The Titans are just running? Just like that?
  • Where’s the cyclops from before? He can’t die so where’d he go?
  • This movie straight up kills the love interest. Not even a fake out like Beauty and the Beast or Pocahontas or Hunchback
  • (I mean, sure, she does come back alive but she WAS legitimately dead and I’ll count that)
  • Pour one out for Meg
  • How does Hercules know 1) how to get to the underworld 2) that he can lift her spirit out of the river of the dead 3) how to tame cerberus?
  • How did he get way down to Hadestown?
  • The drama of the fates going for the snip
  • Why did Hercules age in the river? Is it just easier to show his life draining that way?
  • His hand just climbing out, very cool
  • He’s a god now!! Yay!
  • I never got this ending because if Hades is a god, one of the most powerful gods, why is he trapped in his own river?? Tf
  • What if Hercules wasn’t able to put her spirit back in? Would he have kicked it with a ghost Demi Moore/Patrick Swayze style?
  • Lol they could do the pottery making scene with a grecian urn
  • THERE’S ATHENA! I know cuz she has an owl
  • Wait I thought Hercules couldn’t go to Olympus to see his parents bc he wasn’t a god how is Meg there?
  • Wait wait I’m dumb he was there before to save the day so why couldn’t he have like visited as a kid??
  • Zeus: you’re a true hero because you sacrificed for this woman
  • Also Zeus: now forget her and come live with us!
  • I love that Hercules chooses Meg over Olympus
  • (plus he’s immortal so technically he could just go there after she dies right…)
  • You didn’t want to chill with them on olympus anyway Herc, they were all pretty useless…
  • “Hit it ladies” yaasss
  • A star is born!
  • Lady Gaga?!
  • Herc’s parents! Where’s THEIR prequel?!
  • “That’s Phil’s boy” good for Danny DeVito!
  • Once again thank you Menken
  • A new Thank you to Zippel? Idk who you are but you gave us Zero to Hero so you’re a hero in my eyes
  • Michael Bolton does the credits 90’s slow jam?!!! I never knew this! 
  • Ugh I’m going to miss these 90 slow jam credits so much, can we bring this back?
  • Panic’s Into the Unknown credits is the only credit song that matches up…but we still have some time for that
  • anyway, Muses spin-off movie WHEN

At this point, I’ve seen a lot of Disney movies, and I feel confident in saying that Hercules is still one of my favorites. It has such fun bops (no matter what those critics say), it has a lot of humor, and it has a great message. I also like that the love story isn’t as saccharine as most Disney romances. Yes, like Hunchback, it takes material that is a bit dark and lightens it up for the kiddos, but at least the Greek myths and legends already have adventurous elements and things that appeal to children that I can understand why the would want to adapt it into a family film. I’ll be interested to see what the Russo’s do in the live-action update. For now, catch me jamming to “Zero to Hero” on the regular (what did you think I DIDN’T have a Disney playlist?)

Speaking of jams, next time we continue with another warrior and another great soundtrack with Mulan!

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