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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.66:1
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Karaoke
  • Documentaries

Hercules

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 89 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

The third feature from the directorial team of John Musker and Ron Clements again showcases Disney’s pushing of boundaries in the animation field. The 35th full-length feature film from the stalwart of animation sees our young hero, Hercules, doing his darnedest to show his father, the mighty Zeus, that he’s worthy of his seat on Mount Olympus. He goes about besting all sorts of nasty-arse critters from Greek mythology and earns himself a newfound celebrity in the process. Along comes Hades, Lord of the Underworld, with his plans for setting free the imprisoned Titans and wreaking havoc upon Olympus. Employing the wily Meg to weaken Hercules’ reserves of strength, it seems the door is now open for Hades to take over! Gasp!

Told in true Disney fashion, the story of ‘finding your destiny by believing in yourself’ is not a new one, but it’s been given an interesting tweaking with the employment of some diverse story-telling vehicles. The muses who dictate the story are impressive with their R+B and gspel singing fusion, as is Danny De Vito playing Phil, the Pan who works as Hercules’ personal trainer. The under-rated Rip Torn stars as Zeus and Tate Donovan plays Hercules, but the real scene-stealer is James Woods as Hades. If they were gods themselves, Disney couldn’t have chosen a better actor to fill the role than this amazing actor. His scenes are made all the more dramatic by some awesome ‘visions of Hell’ created by none other than Gerald Scarfe, famous for his design on Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Scarfe helped design the entire look of this film, and it is evident in some of the more sharply angled characters and scenes, but with the Underworld it seems they kinda let him off the chain and his visions are just spectacular. The sad thing is that this part of the film just doesn’t go on long enough. Sigh. Back to the bright colours and sunshiny smiles.

  Video
Contract

Masterfully transferred to DVD this film is clean and well coloured. If I must find fault there is some pixellation and aliasing evident against some characters and their backgrounds. This isn’t a major flaw, but it doesn’t always appear as clean as some later films have (Treasure Island, by the same directorial team – two men who obviously can’t get enough of each other). I also attribute this to the ‘new-age’ of computer-aided animation in which this film was a large part, and perhaps they were still ironing out the kinks. If we look past this tiny fault, we're granted a wonderfully clean and colourful picture. Even in the depths of Hell, the shadows aren’t too dark, the detail is still evident and the lighting is top-notch. Green is a popular colour for the malignance of evil and it is employed well here; never overshadowing the characters, but lending a horrible backlighting to the awesome set design.

With a 4:3 transfer and a 1.66.1 widescreen ratio we see it the way it like it was made, and it was made very well. Disney lead the animation world for a reason, and where it isn’t always in story-telling originality, the animation is always ground-breaking and excellent and Hercules is no different. (As a small side-note for me to name-drop: Several years ago, just before Hercules was released, It was my pleasure to have as a guest at an exhibition of my works Nancy Beiman, principle animator for The Fates in Hercules. She told me it was suspected Fox had hired James Woods to be the voice of Apu's replacement on The Simpsons for an episode because they heard of his upcoming role in this film. That episode aired about a year before the film was released, possibly as a 'take that' to Disney. That's all. Thanks for indulging me.)

  Audio
Contract

I can’t figure out why the 'set up' screen is even there on this DVD. All it has is English language and that’s it. There’s a whole screen with Greek beauty Meg on it and everything, but no choices. Weird. The sound, however, is pretty good. Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sure packs a punch and does so on this disc. There are some heavy duty fighting sounds in this pic and the quality is excellent, thank Olympus. Lots of cool moaning and groaning in the Underworld too, and none of it is lost in static or noise or nuthin’. Nice work!

  Extras
Contract

A couple of extras look like they’re going to be worth the trouble it takes to look them up, but in the end they fall a little flat and are a little unbalanced. For example, the Video Art Gallery is awesome. Tons of cool renderings and concept art, but it only goes for six and a half minutes. Then there’s the DisneyPedia on Greek Mythology which, while pretty interesting and narrated by Danny De Vito, goes for 41 minutes. Maybe it’s just being an artist, I dunno, but the concept stuff is always amazing to look at and they should show bags of it. Oh well.

We then have our mandatory Sing-Along Song which, thankfully, is one of the cooler gospel tracks and not the awful Michael Bolton special they wheel out for the closing credits in the film.

The Making of Hercules is a nice featurette running for nine and a half minutes, but its shortness is quite a disappointment. Those sort of things should fill at least 22 minutes, the television show requirement, and it’s not like they’d be all that hard to put together. Alas.

Finally, the Disney Channel have created a special four minute Hercules episode of Art Attack!in which we get to make a Greek urn. Probably good if you're a kid.

All up, not a lot in the bonus features category, and the gems among it are too few and too short.

  Overall  
Contract

At first I thought this might be a typical Disney film aimed at a youthful market, but there’s enough stuff behind all that for parents and adults to enjoy as well. You may not want to make a Greek urn, but there is sufficient behind-the-scenes stuff and fantastic animation to keep everyone busy for a while. The kids will enjoy watching this one again and again, and parents shouldn’t have too much trouble being subjected to it over and over and (no doubt) over.


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      And I quote...
    "Greek mythology goes modern in an R+B gospel fuelled trip through Hell and back!"
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Nintaus DVD-N9901
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Receiver:
          Diamond
    • Speakers:
          Diamond
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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