If I’m going to say only one thing about Disney’s Hercules, it’s that it is nowhere near as dirty, bizarre, or epic as the original Greek myths it draws from… BUT…. it was still my very favorite Disney movie right up until 2016. That’s right, folks. I said it. Hercules is the best Disney movie of all time until Zootopia.
Deal with it.
I grew up obsessed with Greek mythology (a skill which may have been useless to a child but as a teenager would serve me well and help me not only pass but ACE my one semester astronomy class). I knew the myths, I knew the variations, I knew the different stories that were later written and inspired by them. I even knew something about the Trojan War thanks to Wishbone and a glimpse of early Greek theatre through various picture books and tons of Renaissance paintings. Complex, weird, disgusting, insane stories about people who were not always good or bad but sometimes were both… and lots of bizarre magical combination animals (pegasus! chimera! hippogriff! hippocampus! sphinx! basilisk! cockatrice! THE LISTS GO ON PEOPLE). I loved all of it. Especially puzzling out how to say their names out loud (Eurydice eluded me until high school, but I was especially proud of figuring out Bellerophon and Halcyone and Persephone myself). I love that the stories are found echoed throughout history, across different civilizations – as most good stories are. I didn’t discover Norse, Egyptian, or Hindu mythology until much later, and although my excitement for old stories continued on those paths too… the Greeks were my pantheon. My favorites.
Never mind the Romans who literally couldn’t even be bothered to do their own thing but they just renamed everyone… I mean really: Athena becoming Minerva?! Go home, Caesar.
So Disney’s Hercules hit theatres in 1997 and I exploded with joy. Somehow, even in spite of my brain pulling a total BBC Sherlock while I watched it the first time…
…somehow, SOMEHOW, I enjoyed it immensely anyway. The animation is gorgeous. The color palettes are all perfect. The witty one-liners are the punchiest. This is arguably one of the most quotable Disney movies in my opinion – a feat which combines both the excellence of the screenplay and of the voice actors. Danny DeVito. James Woods. Rip Torn. Charlton Heston is the NARRATOR for a hot second. Not to mention the Muses – Roz Ryan, LaChanze, Cheryl Freeman, Lillias White, and Vaneese Y. Thomas.
They almost had the Spice Girls but scheduling was a beast.
The bottom line here is that somehow this movie clings to the deepest joyful parts of my imagination and I love it with a passion. I fully admit that I may overlook some faults because I like it so much. My apologies for any biases that may sneak into this post…
The Film: Hercules (1997)