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Disney's live action remakes of its animated library are as big a part of the Walt Disney Studios' ongoing business as anything from Marvel or Lucasfilm. While they're not all massive hits, those that are make $1 billion and more at the global box office. However, those that have been made thus far tend to have one thing in common: they're based on movies that were already massive hits the first time around.
The Lion King nearly made $1 billion when the animated version came out in 1994, so the fact that the remake broke that barrier is far from shocking. The remake found that success largely by following the original movie beat for beat, doing very little that was significantly different from the animated classic. That's why word that a Hercules remake is on deck is so welcome. It's about as far from The Lion King as you can get, and here are some reasons why it's a good idea the Mouse House has added this to its remake slate.
The Original Hercules Isn't Sacred
When you think of Disney Animation, you probably think of the classic films that have stood the test of time, like Cinderella or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Or perhaps you think of great movies of the Disney Renaissance, like The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast. Chances are you probably don't think of Hercules. It's not that the movie is terrible; it's probably somebody's favorite film, but it's simply not held in the same high regard of many other Disney movies.
This is a good thing, because it gives the filmmakers behind the remake more freedom. There are some good songs in the original (I'm personally quite a big fan of "Go the Distance"), but they're not iconic like the songs from Beauty and the Beast. So if the remake isn't a musical, it's not going to destroy people. There are no memorable scenes in Hercules on par with the death of Mufasa that people are going to feel they need to see in live-action. A remake needs to bring something new to the table, not simply translate the animation, and Hercules will be able to do that.
Hercules Is Dated
Today, we look back at a lot of older animated Disney movies and we attach the word "classic" to them without even thinking. Films like Pinocchio and Fantasia are beloved, but they were failures the first time around. Sometimes it takes time for a movie to find an audience and be embraced, but that's harder for Hercules to do, because, somehow, even though it's based on some of the oldest stories ever told, it's also the most "'90s movie" the studio ever made.
Even when Robin Williams filled his Genie with modern jokes, he tended to use iconic impressions that were timeless (Arsenio Hall references notwithstanding). Hercules goes hard on the '90s references. Hercules himself is basically Michael Jordan complete with sneaker and fast food endorsement deals. Those things aren't strictly elements of the 1990s, of course, but the movie is full of similar pop culture references that are. A remake can make it a more timeless tale that doesn't feel stuck in a bygone era.
Hercules Has Real Problems That Need Fixing
When previous Disney remakes have been put together, they have seemed to be overly concerned with fixing perceived "plot holes" that don't really matter. We're given plenty of additional backstory in Beauty and the Beast that explains the village's relationship to the castle, and don't worry, we justified why the prince didn't age properly and why it was okay to turn the servants into household objects. It's pedantic nonsense that answers questions that never really needed to be asked.
Hercules, however, has some real problems that a remake can fix. The movie's central conflict is supposed to be between Hercules and Hades, two characters who don't lay eyes on each other until over an hour into a movie that's less than 90 minutes long without the credits. It makes the conflict between them less than exciting or tense because there's no build up to it. Hercules spends most of the film invested in a personal journey that has nothing to do with Hades and isn't positively impacted by the change. A new script can take these elements and put them together in a way that makes better sense.
Megara Needs More Love
If there's one part of the animated Hercules that I hope we can all get behind as a culture, it's that Megara was awesome. She has a quick wit and she's clearly smarter than the movie's hero. She's also unique among Disney love interests because she actually starts out the film in league with the bad guy, and she has a character arc all her own. Most Disney movie love interest characters, regardless of gender, are two-dimensional at best and, if we're being honest, don't contribute much to the story in most cases.
Megara even gets her own song in the animated film, which is another thing that makes her unique among Disney love interests. She has so much going for her, but because she was in one of the Disney movies that we've all mostly agreed to forget about, we've forgotten about her too. Megara deserves better, and a remake will hopefully give her the respect she deserves.
Hercules' Success Could Mean A Future For Other Remakes That Need It
We've basically seen two kinds of live-action remakes from Disney over the years. There are the near carbon copies, like Beauty and the Beast and the The Lion King, and the drastic departure/re-imaginings, like Maleficent, which focused on a different character, or Dumbo, which was really more sequel than remake since the majority of the story dealt with events that took place after the animated original was over. Hercules could be something different; a movie that is ultimately a true remake, but one that takes liberties and has some significant differences.
And because our starting point is a movie which we can all agree isn't perfect, that means other, not perfect Disney movies could get remakes if Hercules becomes a success. Who would like to see a new Treasure Planet, or Atlantis: The Lost Empire. I know I can't be the only one.
Disney's animated Hercules isn't a perfect movie. It's not an adored movie. By some measures, it's not even good, but that's exactly why it's worthy of a remake. Even if somehow damaging the original was possible, (it's not) few are going to lose any sleep over that fear with Hercules. A remake has a lot of upside because it can, quite easily, make a better version of the movie that was made the first time around.