In Greek mythology, one of the best known stories is about Hercules. He is the son of Zeus and Hera. From the day he was born, Zeus’ brother Hades hated the baby god because he was the next in line to rule when he comes of age. So Hades devises a plan to make Hercules a human by having him drink a potion that drains his immortality. With such an important job, Hades employs his minions named Pain and Panic to administer the serum and turn into snakes to kill young Herc. Fortunately, Pain and Panic are a pair are idiots and one single drop doesn’t make it inside Hercules so he still has a foothold of his immortality.
The pair lie to Hades that the job is done and Hercules is dead. The little baby is adopted by a human couple that were never able to have children. Fast forward a few years and Hercules gets hooked up with Phil, a trainer of heroes. After Hercules begs him to train him, Phil agrees because he still wants to create a hero of the ages. After a few years of training, Phil feels that he is ready and wants to take him to Thebes. On the way, he finds who he thinks is a damsel in distress named Meg. She has an altercation with a huge centaur that Hades wants to recruit for the uprising against Olympus. After hearing that Hercules beats up the river guardian, Hades is incredibly angry that his plans may be unraveling. Now, Hades needs to find a way to stop the “would be” hero before he finds his confidence.
Hercules was theatrically released in 1997 and is the 35th animated feature to join the prestigious Walt Disney Animated Classic Series. It’s one of the last films to ride the coattails of The Little Mermaid / Aladdin / The Lion King frenzy in the 90’s. It’s a musical but I think this movie tried to do what Frozen made a success almost 17 years later: have many different musical genres to make up the soundtrack. It goes from soul to the blues to the “standard” Disney or stage singing.
Personally, I like the movie for a few reasons: I saw it in the theaters in ’97 and I enjoy that it teaches while entertaining. I do like Tate Donavan playing the young and naive hero that strives to be better. He voices him in a way that makes the character immature and is new to that way the world works. Also, James Woods gives Hades that flare and anger that only Woods could bring. He can also do the fast talking, deal making, lord of the underworld that will trick you into servitude. The only character that didn’t really fit is Susan Egan voicing Megara or Meg. She does this sarcastic way of delivering her lines that makes her not fit well with the other characters, creating a domino effect. This creates a small issue with the character that then effects and so on.
-Tate Donovan as Hercules
-Danny DeVito as Philoctetes/Phil
-James Woods as Hades
-Susan Egan as Megara
-Rip Torn as Zeus
-Samantha Eggar as Hera
-Bobcat Goldthwait as Pain
-Matt Frewer as Panic
Hercules has been transferred in a relatively clean 1080p AVC. The lines are sharp and there are a lot of details that might be missed if the movie isn’t being viewed on Blu-ray. The movie is overall fairly dark but, like you might get with some other releases, there is not contrasting issues in the darker hues. In fact, the contrasting is beautiful. The coloring is separated and bold when it needs to be. The image backgrounds are clear, allowing there to be a good amount of depth in each scenes. The only minor issues that I saw is some crushing in the darkest parts of the images. The movie looks fresh and well worth the upgrade.
The audio mix is where the release really shines in the HD format. It’s a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 that has a lot of power behind it. The powerful bass from the LFEs conveys the strength that this character has and some of the characters in the movie. There are monsters, gods, crashing of boulders, and the classic Greek titans. The clarity of the dialogue is welcome with the music and sound effects not fighting for speaker time. Also, the rear channels get a good amount of use and it allows the sound to sweep to different areas in the home theater.
There really isn’t much in the way of extras on the release. Sometimes when Disney releases a remaster of a feature, they create some new content but this had the same as the DVD.
-The Making of Hercules: The very short featurette just briefly explains the story and shows a little bit of the crew making the movie. It reminds me of something that Disney used to show on ABC on Sunday nights before a Disney movie would be aired.
Music Video: “No Importa la Distancia” translates as “Go the Distance” with Ricky Martin.
“Zero to Hero” Sing-Along
Two-disc set w/1 Blu-ray and 1 DVD
iTunes Digital Copy
1080p AVC MPEG-4
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Hercules is definitely a well done Disney release. It has an animation style that looks excellent on the Blu-ray format. It almost feels like this is what the movie has been waiting for with mixing the lush backgrounds, the early CGI, and beautiful hand-drawn images. The music from the movie is a little lack-luster but not enough to ruin the movie in the slightest. The audio has also made quite the statement by delivering a worthy mix for the release. Like I said, the extras are light but maybe the way to look at it is the movie file on the disc doesn’t require as much compression. Overall, pick this one up because both kids and adults will enjoy it.