I have clear, distinct memories of my first viewing of almost all the films in this era, but Hercules is not one of them. While sometimes it seems like it’s one I haven’t seen as much, but at other times it feels like I’ve been watching it forever. (Ask William; I was quoting pretty much the whole thing.) Put simply: Hercules is just pure fun.
The story takes its inspiration loosely from classical mythology — a first for Disney, outside of some shorts in Fantasia. The birth of Hercules to Zeus and Hera throws a wrench into Hades’ plan to take over the cosmos. In an attempt to take baby Herc out of the picture, Hades enlists his henchmen to turn the babe mortal and kill him. Of course, they fail and leave our hero alive as a mortal, but a misfit with superhuman strength. He then spends the majority of the film figuring out who he is, where he belongs and how to be a true hero — all while Hades continues his plot to overthrow the gods.
While the story itself is pretty straightforward, where this film truly succeeds is in its screen and song writing. The nuances of mythology and the backdrop of ancient Greece provide ample comedic opportunity, and the writers are not shy to cash in. The one-liners are amazing: Thebes is described as the “Big Olive;” after a night out with Meg, Hercules proclaims, “And then that, that play, that, that, that Oedipus thing. Man, I thought I had problems;” and, my personal favourite, when Hermes declares, “I haven’t seen this much love in a room since Narcissus discovered himself.” Disney even pokes fun at itself with the line “It’s a small underworld, after all, huh?”