Many Disney animation studios movies are awesome, but the Disney Renaissance, from the 1980s to the late 1990s, was full of some of the best. Beauty and the Beast came out during this time. So did The Lion King. Aladdin, Mulan - many of these titles received their own live-action remake from Disney years later because they were so popular. But, today, I’m talking about a movie that deserves way more hype.
And that is the 1997 animated musical, Hercules.
While it did release during the time period of the classic Disney Renaissance, and received positive reviews, Hercules didn’t do as well at the box office as its predecessors. In honor of a live-action version being in the works, I’m going to talk about why Hercules is an underrated Disney movie and deserves more praise.
First Off: The Animation Is Stunning, From The Gods To The Mortals
3D animation has taken over Disney since 2010, when Tangled first came out. While I do love some of the effects these great movies have used in the last eleven years, a part of my heart will always be devoted to the wonderful world of 2D animation. Hercules was one of those 2D animated movies, but felt different from the other Disney animated films, in a good way.
Many of the standard princess movies at the time had the same animation, with not much of a difference. Same heroine with big eyes and a beautiful smile. Same shapes and colors; same everything. But, Hercules took a step out of the box. Their characters were shaped differently than many of the other classic animated Disney characters, sort of leaning more into triangles, squares, and other shapes to create otherworldly figures like the Gods.
Not only that, but the colors felt so much more vivid. Just looking up at the Gods on Mount Olympus was mesmerizing, because they truly looked eternal with that glow and with bright colors that emphasized just how godly they were.
The Casting Is Fantastic - Especially Danny DeVito As Philoctetes/Phil
I could go on for ages about the casting in this movie, but I’ll sum it up easily and say I really believe they nailed the voices for Hercules. Tate Donovan is great as Hercules, Susan Egan is awesome as Meg, James Woods rocks it as the sarcastic Hades, but no one else takes the cake like Danny DeVito as Phil.
There’s something about Danny DeVito’s voice that fits Phil so perfectly, and I feel like the character was truly animated around DeVito’s personal interactions and movements, creating a character that not only fits his voice but his personality as well. He’s funny, grouchy, and heartfelt all as the same person. Truly, there is not a better fit for this character.
It’s A Classic Rags To Riches Story With A Mythical Twist
I mean, who doesn’t love a good underdog story? Hercules is all about one man trying to understand who he is in life; to, dare I say, “go the distance” and figure out his purpose.
Once he finds that purpose, he almost lets it get away, getting lost in the glory of being a hero, but soon, he realizes that it’s not about the fame or the glory or the need to succeed. It’s about the journey, the growth, finding the people that you care for the most, who will always stand by your side.
It’s such a great example of someone wanting to become a better version of themselves and actually putting in the effort to get there. It takes him a long time, but he’s willing to do anything to prove that he’s not just some weirdo - he’s a hero. And, I think that’s a beautiful thing.
Speaking Of Characters - Hades Is Actually One Of The Best Disney Villains, Hands-Down
Sometimes, Disney villains are completely iconic, like Scar or even the evil Frodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. And, Hades is one of my favorite villains, for a couple of reasons.
First of all, he’s the literal God of the underworld. He controls everything after death. While the Fates call the shots on who dies, Hades gets to dictate where you go. Also, because he is the God of the underworld, he is freaking scary. The moments he gets mad, he gets mad, his blue flames changing to those of orange, and it creates some scarily cool animation moments.
At the same time, Hades is someone I’d love to get a drink with. Hades stole the show.
He is hilarious. I mean, him basically talking to Meg about all men being trash because she has a crush on Hercules, him treating his fight with Hercules like a game, using vases as target practice - he has this sardonic humor that I can get behind.
While he’s terrifying, he’s hysterical at the same time, and it makes me smile every time I rewatch the film.
Meg Is One Of The Strongest Disney Leading Ladies
Before there was Elsa from Frozen, Moana from Moana - heck, even before Mulan from Mulan, there was Megara from Hercules. She walked so that all these independent, strong Disney women could run.
Megara was a young woman who sold her soul to Hades in order to save her boyfriend’s life, but when said boyfriend left her for some other woman, she became a prisoner of Hades. Does that stop Megara’s charm and personality? No way.
She’s distrusting of most men - for a good reason - but when she finally starts to see the good in Hercules, she stands up to Hades. Let me tell you how important this scene is.
Hades literally owns her. He owns her very soul. She knows that if she goes against him, he could take her soul and her life just like that. But, she still stands up to him, knowing that Hades is wrong for what he is planning by ruling the Cosmos, and for killing Hercules. And, she will be taking no part in that.
That is one of the strongest, bravest moments I think any Disney character has ever had. Meg is staring the God of the underworld in the face and telling him to basically “buzz off.” That takes some serious guts, and Megara has them.
She may be a damsel, and she may be in distress, but she can handle anything. Have a nice day.
The Soundtrack Is One Of My Favorites
Move over “Let It Go,” the Hercules soundtrack is by far the best Disney soundtrack, as far as I'm concerned.
We start off with a banger in “The Gospel Truth,” we get the beautiful ballad, “Go the Distance,” we hear the mighty story of a “Zero to Hero,” we feel the heartbreak in Megara’s “I Won’t Say I’m In Love” - song after song, Hercules doesn't miss. Every single song is perfect and deserves so much praise.
All I’m going to say is that this upcoming live-action remake better have these iconic songs, because if it doesn't, I am going to sue someone. I mean, even Danny DeVito’s “One Last Hope,” which is arguably one of the lesser known songs from the movie, is catchy and played over an awesome Hercules-training montage.
This soundtrack deserved all the awards, and it’s a shame it didn’t get the treatment it deserved. If Jennifer Hudson gets her wish and sings in the live-action version, I’d simply die.
If you haven’t seen Hercules let, watch it now. Watch it by yourself, with your kids, your friends, your significant other - just watch it.
While we are waiting for plenty of great upcoming Disney movies, Disney+ is right there to watch many of these previous hits. And, hopefully, if you’ve never seen Hercules before now, you’ll come back and thank me for your new favorite Disney movie.
Stream Hercules on Disney+. (opens in new tab)
Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!
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