Making the Grades
Hercules represents the classic recipe of 1990s' Disney animations: A hero, a sexy girl, a seemingly unbeatable wicked enemy, and the world's fate hanging in the balance.
The story begins when baby Hercules (voice of Tate Donovan) is kidnapped by the evil Hades (voice of James Woods), the god of death. A poisonous potion is fed to the little lad, but alas, he misses the last drop, thereby becoming mortal but maintaining his super strength. All Herc can do now is be a big help on the farm of his foster parents. But one day he discovers that his real father is the super god Zeus (voice of Rip Torn), and that he can become a god again if he does something truly heroic. With Philoctetes (voice of Danny DeVito) as a coach, Herc learns how to fight an assortment of evil beasts. But his greatest challenge is Meg (voice of Susan Egan), a bombshell of a babe, who is a secret agent of Hades.
Starring a hero who must resolve every conflict through aggression, the film is a fight to the finish. Hercules is continually confronted with computer-animated beasts, like a huge lizard that grows three heads for every one he cuts off, and some giant mutant Transformer-style monsters. These villains are in keeping with b-grade Saturday morning cartoons and present plenty of scenes that will be frightening to young children.
Sex plays a prominent role in this movie, too. Meg tries to seduce Herc and keep him from doing anything heroic, while Hades completes his plan of world domination. She's a curvy vixen who seems to be the next link in Disney's evolving depictions of increasingly scantily clad women. See Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Pocahontas (1995) and Jasmine from Aladdin (1992).
Although Zeus tries to teach Herc what a true hero is, all young viewers are likely to learn is that (quoting Herc's own words):"A hero is only as good as his weapon." But as a parent, I expect more from Disney. With the studio's preoccupation with needless violence and sultry females, and with other companies producing animated features (such as Toy Story from Pixar, An American Tail from Universal, and Sinbad from Dreamworks), Hercules's fall from godhood may be ironic foreshadowing of Disney's fate as the god of animation.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Hercules.
Learn more about the Greek and Roman demi-god Hercules.