The 1997 Disney film Hercules is one with a mixed legacy right from the time of its release. For many who grew up with it, the film invokes a certain level of nostalgia, and for some who are older, it is easily dismissed. While I have nostalgia for Hercules, I also think it’s a legitimately fun film with an amazing soundtrack, and I think Megara (Meg) is one of Disney’s more interesting leading ladies.
That being said, it’s a strange film for Disney to choose to adapt in its line of live-action remakes, as rumors have begun to swirl around.
A little more Superman than Greek Mythology, the 1997 film is the story of Hercules (and not Heracles, because apparently that’s harder to say), the son of Zeus—and, in this incarnation, Hera, too—who is kidnapped from his home in Olympus and turned mortal by his evil uncle, Hades. Hades has a plan to usurp his brother’s throne, but if Hercules lives, then his plans are destined to fail.
However, because baby Hercules does not drink the last drop of the potion to turn him mortal, he retains his god-like strength. Much like Clark Kent, he is adopted by some farmers, but is isolated because he is different. He ends up figuring out the truth and goes to train with Danny Devito so that he can become a hero and be worthy to return to Olympus.
The film plays fast and loose with nearly every aspect of the Greek Heracles myth, which I have made peace with (mostly), because as I said before, it’s still fun, and the femme-fatale-with-a-heart-of-gold character that is Meg remains iconic. “I Won’t Say I’m In Love” is a karaoke banger.
Hercules is a very different looking and sound film than a lot of what came out of the Disney Renaissance. It followed the equally different Hunchback of Notre Dame and preceded Mulan, which would be more of a return to form for the studio. Design-wise, it was inspired by Greek vase painting style and the works of English cartoonist Gerald Scarfe.
Musically, the choice to bring a gospel-inspired sound via the Greek Muses is something that brings a level of soul to the music. Lillias White, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Cheryl Freeman, and Vanéese Y. Thomas were the voices of the muses, and all Black musicians with vocals that made each song stand out. The casting of the Muses will make or break any adaptation for me.
Unlike a lot of other Disney films, where the story is relatively stuck in one place, Hercules changes scenes and goes through big action sequences. The Hydra fight itself is such an incredible moment. I remember the first time I watched that scene as a kid, and it’s even a little scary at parts.
My fear of a live-action version comes from the fact that Hercules is just such a different kind of film that I’m not sure how it would translate to live-action. The animation and voice acting really makes the movie, and while Disney sometimes gets talented people for these remakes, that talent doesn’t always naturally lend itself to playing Disney characters.
If they cast a single Hemsworth as Hercules or people who can’t sing for the Muses/Meg, I’m going to lose it. Please, just put some good singers in good singer roles, Disney. Please.
(via DisInsider, image: Disney)
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