Here's one from the Renaissance era that I've actually never seen until this viewing. It's a fine example of a movie I would tell people I've never seen, only to have their jaws hit the floor in shock and awe. This one in particular has several reasons as to why it's a shock that I ever missed it. For one, it's Disney Renaissance animation, which may or may not be my overall favourite era. But more to the point, I enjoy Greek mythology, and it was less in the realm of something like 'Beauty and the Beast' and more in the realm of 'Aladdin'.
The thing is, this was out in '97, and by then, I was sadly well into "high school thinking", and kind of over Disney animation, considering it to be "for kids". By then, I was a little more into action movies and various raunchy comedies both on TV and the big screen (not the least of which ended up being 'South Park', which aired the same year). But why I never went back to it after I grew up and realized there's more to animation than just being kid's movies is anyone's guess. It ended up on a long list of movies to see, but for whatever reason, it was never near the top. I think some of that had to do with knowing that things would just end up inaccurate as far as the mythology of Hercules went.
However, I did go into this with an open mind. After all, this has been recommended to me for years now, and plenty of internet memes featuring various characters have had me curious. So, I went into this much like one would have gone into a 'Harry Potter' movie - separate the movie from the story, and treat it as its own thing. It's probably a good thing I did, but in the end, it seemed sort of 50/50 with how accurate it was. And I also give it leeway, as it needs to be a little more family friendly. I mean, it's Disney animation, and it's not like the story is inaccurate in a real sense, like it was with 'Pocahontas'.
We open in Ancient Greece where we meet proud, new parents, Zeus (Rip Torn) and Hera (Samantha Eggar), along with their newborn son, Hercules. While Hercules' birth is celebrated among the Gods, Hades (James Woods) has plans to overthrow Zeus and take over Mount Olympus. Hades addresses the three fates; Lachesis (Carole Shelley), Clotho (Amanda Plummer) and Atropos (Paddi Edwards), and they tell him that he'll ultimately be successful, as in eighteen years, the planets will align, and he will be able to free the Titans who will want revenge on Zeus for trapping them in Tartarus. The catch is, if Hercules interferes, he won't be successful.
A plan to kill Hercules is nearly carried out when Hades' minions, Pain and Panic (Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt Frewer, respectively) are sent to feed baby Herc a potion that will strip him of his immortality. However, the potion isn't fully drank, so Herc becomes mortal, but maintains his God-like powers of strength. He gets rid of Pain and Panic in their attempt to kill him, and he is taken in and raised by human farmers, Amphitryon (Hal Holbrook) and his wife Alcmene (Barbara Barrie). Growing up, he becomes an outcast due to his super strength (which makes no sense to me, but there it is), and can't help but wonder where it is he came from. Soon, he turns to a statue of Zeus for answers, and all is revealed.
Zeus informs Hercules that in order to regain his place among the Gods, he must become a "true hero". He is then sent to train with a Satyr named Philoctetes (Danny DeVito), who sooner goes by the name "Phil", and has trained the best known heroes like Odysseus, Perseus, and Theseus. Along for his journey, Herc is also given Pegasus; his long lost childhood pet. Eventually, the pair run into Megara (Susan Egan); a woman unfortunately indebted to Hades, and whom Hades uses for his advantage against Herc, who happens to be smitten with her. If Hades plays his cards right, he may just be successful in overtaking Olympus. The question is, what does it really take for Hercules to become a "true hero" and stop hades in his tracks?
In the end, I have to admit that those who recommended this to me were mostly right when it came to my enjoyment of it. There were a few things here and there I called out, but it was never enough to ruin things for me. Regardless of mythical inaccuracies, it's still a lot of fun, and I really liked Hades as a villain, although I'm not sure he quite has Jafar dethroned for yours truly. This was one where the songs didn't fully stand out to me, either. There was nothing bad about them, but they didn't stick with me for whatever reason. So, in the end, I enjoyed it, but it didn't quite have the wow factor I thought it might have.