Category Archives: G-L Movies

Lady and the Tramp

“Butch-a he say he wants-a two spaghetti speciale, heavy on the meats-a ball” -Tony

One month before the opening of Disneyland in July 1955, Walt Disney’s 15th animated feature was released: Lady and the Tramp.  The story first came into being when Disney artist and writer Joe Grant approached Walt with an idea inspired by the frolics of his pet Spaniel named Lady.  Walt liked the sketches that Grant had shown him, and gave him the go-ahead to start developing the idea further.  Through the 1930’s and into the 1940’s, Grant and some other artists at the studio worked on a number of ideas for the story, however, Walt was displeased by all of them, as there wasn’t enough action to be drawn from the stories he had been shown.  Also in the 1940’s, Walt read a story called ‘Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog’, which encouraged him to continue developing the original story by having the main character, Lady, fall in love with another dog.  By 1943, a treatment had been completed for the film, but unfortunately production had to stop, as at that time the studio was working on their WWII propaganda cartoons.

At the beginning of the film, the camera passes over a small turn-of-the-century town in America at Christmas.  We are then introduced to ‘Jim Dear’ and ‘Darling’, who are exchanging presents.  ‘Darling’ is given a pink hat box wrapped in a ribbon by ‘Jim Dear’, and inside she finds a Spaniel puppy; our heroine, Lady (voiced by Barbara Luddy, who has also played many other Disney characters).  Apparently, this scene was inspired by a present that Walt gave to his wife Lily, a Chow puppy in a hat box.  We are shown some of the challenges that Lady faces as a puppy, such as climbing the stairs and getting through doors.  When she is allowed to sleep on her owners’ bed for one night, there is a dissolve to adult Lady, sleeping on the same spot on the bed years later, because now she is fully grown.

We are then introduced to Lady’s neighbours, Jock and TrustyJock is a Scottish terrier who is chipper and quick-witted.  His friend Trusty is a Bloodhound, a slow thinking old-timer; the complete opposite of Jock.  We are also introduced to Tramp, a stray dog who is very street-wise and likes to live life in the now.

After Lady notices a negative change in the way her owners are treating her, she discusses the problem with Jock and Trusty.  They put two and two together, and realise that Darling is expecting a baby.  Tramp overhears the conversation and begins to tell Lady how life will change once the baby arrives:

“When the baby moves in, the dog moves out”

When the baby arrives, Lady does not get kicked out, however when Jim Dear and Darling take a trip together and leave Aunt Sarah in charge, things take a turn for the worse for Lady.  She clashes with Aunt Sarah’s two Siamese cats, Si and AmAunt Sarah decides that Lady is not safe to be around the baby, and takes her to the pet shop to be fitted with a muzzle.  Lady manages to run away, but is chased by some stray dogs, which Tramp manages to save her from.  He takes her to the zoo and tricks a beaver into removing her muzzle, so that she is now free, just like him.

Cue famous meatball scene…

Tramp takes Lady for an Italian candlelit dinner at Tony’s Restaurant.  The comedic characters of Tony and Joe, two Italian chefs, lighten the tone of the film, even though they aren’t on screen for too long.  It is Tony who sings the song ‘Bella Notte’ as the two dogs eat their spaghetti and meatballs.  The next day, Tramp stirs up a coop of chickens, but unfortunately, Lady is caught for his crime, and taken to the dog pound.  Here, she meets a handful of weird and wonderful characters, including Peg (voiced by singer Peggy Lee), who tells Lady through the song ‘He’s a Tramp’ about Tramp’s reputation with the ladies.  When Lady is finally taken home from the pound, Aunt Sarah ties her up to the dog house in the garden, where she is visited by Tramp.  She confronts him about his exploits and gets angry at him for leaving her to be taken to the pound, at which point Tramp leaves.

 Lady then sees a rat entering the house and fears for the baby, she barks hysterically, and Tramp comes back to help.  Tramp enters the house and goes into the nursery to confront the rat, beginning a battle which ends badly for the rat.  Aunt Sarah hears all the noise, and sees Tramp standing next to the crib which had fallen over as a result of the fight; she then calls the dog pound to come and pick Tramp up from the house.  Jim Dear and Darling are returning from their trip as Tramp is being taken away by the dog catcher, and they rush into the house.  Jock and Trusty realize what has happened after overhearing everything, and run after the dog catcher’s wagon to try and help Tramp.  Although they manage to stop the wagon, it tips over, falling on Trusty; it is at this point that Jock and the audience believe him to be dead.

Writing this review was quite difficult.  If it was a bad film there would be plenty to talk about, but it isn’t a bad film.  In fact, since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it was the highest grossing Disney cartoon of that time.  The story was actually the first since Dumbo to be penned by the studio, and was the first feature-length cartoon to be produced in Cinemascope.  As, at the time, many cinemas were not equipped to show Cinemascope films, Walt had to film two versions of the movie, one regular version, and one widescreen version.  The regular version would often cut characters out of a scene, and provide a limited view of the environments, whereas the widescreen version shows the film in all its beauty.  The fact that it was shown in Cinemascope had to be a major draw for audiences in the 1950’s.  The backgrounds were particularly enhanced by this feature, as you could become more drawn in to the environments and the time period in which the film takes place.  The backgrounds are very intricate, particularly the houses, which ooze 1900’s charm and elegance.  This could have something to do with the fact that the artist, Claude Coats, was trained in architecture.  Originally, Mary Blair had done many concept paintings for this movie; however she left the studio whilst the film was still in production, which is when Coats was put in charge.  It is hard to imagine how different the film may have looked if she had continued with the project, as her style was very unique and distinctive.

The town where the story takes place is very much inspired by Walt Disney’s boyhood home of Marceline, Missouri, and in turn, also bears resemblance to Main Street U.S.A in the Disney parks.  It took 150 artists to draw 2 million drawings, resulting in 110,000 Technicolor frames of film, to complete this movie.  That’s a lot of drawings!  This would explain why the movement of the dogs is so fluid.  Anyone who has ever owned a dog or spent time with a dog can see, when watching Lady and the Tramp, how much observation and research of the canine-kind has gone in to making the film.  Stretches, scratches, licks and jumps all seem to be perfectly drawn by the artists to give the genuine feeling that these dogs are real.  So as to give the audience a feel for what life is like for a dog, it was decided that you would see humans as minimally as possible.  Sort of like the ‘feet’ in Tom and Jerry, you never see the face, you only hear the voice.  Although you do see a few humans throughout the film, it only happens when needed to, to move the story along.  The rest of the time it is solely feet, hands and legs.

Jazz singer Peggy Lee co-wrote most of the songs in the film, as well as voicing 4 characters, Darling, Peg, Si and Am.  The character of Peg was named after her, and also had the same walk as her.  Possibly the most famous scene in the entire movie, the spaghetti and meatballs scene, was almost not included in the story at all.  Walt didn’t like it, but was eventually swayed after seeing a full animation test of it.  You made a good choice, Walt!

I am reviewing this movie from the Diamond Edition Blu-Ray.  It has to be said, that this is another Disney classic which seems to have been given a new lease of life thanks to the wonder of HD.  The backgrounds especially are crystal clear, and the characters seem more lifelike than ever.  As has come to be expected from Diamond Editions of this kind, there are a ton of special features.  All of the features from the original DVD release are present, including of a ‘Making Of’ featurette, a puppypedia, a music video, deleted scenes, and storyboard versions of the film.  The Blu-Ray features consist of more deleted scenes, and a very nice interview with Diane Disney Miller called ‘Remembering Dad’.  She talks about Walt’s apartment in Disneyland, and also about the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.  This is a really nice feature, probably the best on the Blu-Ray, particularly for any Walt fans!

If you have never seen Lady and the Tramp, there is no better time to do so.  It looks beautiful; it has a simple, romantic storyline, with plenty of laughs along the way, as well as many memorable songs and characters.

I give this movie 5 Tinks.


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The Haunted Mansion

It has a Living Room, and a Dying Room…

Ok, so at the time of writing, Halloween is only a few days away, so I thought I would get cracking with a review of one of Disney’s supposedly more spooky efforts, The Haunted Mansion.

The film starts off nicely, with a promising title sequence which gives a nod to the floating candelabra in the Haunted Mansion attraction.  We are also given a glimpse of a back story, which doesn’t seem to give much away to the viewer.  We are then introduced to workaholic Jim Evers, (Eddie Murphy) who is a realtor, and his slightly neglected wife Sara (Marsha Thomason), who are due to celebrate their anniversary.  It appears that Jim had not been too attentive to his family recently, so to try to get back in his family’s good books; Jim decides to take them all on a trip to the lake for the weekend.  Before they leave, Sara receives a phone call from Edward Gracey (Nathaniel Parker), who is looking to sell his property, a large mansion near an isolated bayou.  On their way to the lake, Jim and his family stop off at the mansion to do some business.  When they arrive, they are solemnly greeted by Master Gracey’s butler, Ramsley (Terence Stamp) who then introduces them to Mr. Gracey himself.  It is made painfully clear to the audience that Master Gracey has a questionable interest in Sara, Jim’s wife; however Jim seems pretty oblivious to that at this point.

Ramsley has a chat with Jim, and then leaves him alone in the library, where Jim accidentally stumbles upon a secret passage into a long corridor.  It is at this point in the film where a lot of influences from the attraction can be seen.  The schizophrenic pictures on the wall will be familiar to Disney theme park fans, as well as the ‘inside out’ busts and the ride’s signature purple wallpaper with glaring eyes.  At the end of the long corridor Jim finds a door that appears to be bulging, with what he suspects to be termites.  He passes through the door and continues deeper into the mysterious darkness.  Meanwhile his two children are following a floating ‘glow’ up into the attic, (time to whip out your imagination a bit at this point) where we can see a bridal gown (another Haunted Mansion reference) as well as countless other cobweb-clad objects.  In the attic they see a portrait of what appears to be their mother, but are sharply told not to ask any questions by a strange little man, who is actually a ghost called Ezra, and a jumpy maid called Emma.

In the meantime, Jim encounters Madame Leota (Jennifer Tilly) in the séance room.  Fans of the ride will be familiar with this scene, where Madame Leota’s head smoothly recites incantations from inside a glass ball.  There are musical instruments floating within the room that periodically make noises in response to her readings.  Jim has a very strange encounter with Leota and is seen running down a corridor trying to escape a cacophony of instruments from the séance room; this is one of the film’s many pathetic attempts at comedy.  We then learn that Master Gracey is in fact dead, and needs Sara (who he believes is a reincarnation of his lover) to be reunited with him to free all of the residents of the mansion, who are also all ghosts.  We are then treated to what is possibly the best part of the movie (at a stretch), as Jim and his children are carried through the grounds of the house in a horse and carriage.  Haunted Mansion fans will recognise the horseless carriage from outside of the attraction in Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  It is also here that we see a lot of the ghosts which occupy the famous attraction, the see-saw ghosts, the groundskeeper and his dog, and the particularly famous ‘Hitchhiking Ghosts’, also known as Phineas, Ezra and Gus.

Things become a little more tedious after this scene, and the rest of the story limps along lifelessly, however I won’t spoil the ending for anyone who wants to give this movie a fair chance!

The Verdict

The Haunted Mansion was released after The Country Bears and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and all three are based upon Disney theme park attractions.  Of course, there is no need for me to tell you which one of these films did insanely well at the box office, unless you have been living under a rock since 2003.  Unfortunately, The Haunted Mansion followed in the footsteps of The Country Bears, and did a belly flop into that ‘at capacity’ pool of Disney duds of years past.  What could have been something very creepy, very dark and very entertaining turned into a snooze-fest, dragged lifelessly through its 99 minutes by Eddie Murphy at a (pardon the pun) deadly slow speed.  Although watchable, it does beg the question of why this popular and well-loved attraction had to be degraded in a film which is in a tug-of-war over whether it wants to be scary or comedic.  In the end, neither wins out, leaving us with a confusing and shabby storyline with flat characters and drab dialogue to match.  Eddie Murphy should have been as strong of a character as Captain Jack Sparrow, carrying the story and making for very many laughs along the way, however he relies on his signature smile to steal a giggle from the audience, which hasn’t worked since the 90s.  Marsha Thomason who plays Sara Evers delivers some truly wooden acting, making the ghosts look vivacious.  Master Gracey who is played by Nathaniel Parker does not seem to have that ‘aura of foreboding’ about him that you would expect from a dead man, and therefore does not make for a very remarkable character, where he should have been exactly that.  The two most outstanding performances are by Jennifer Tilly and Terence Stamp, although they cannot carry the film along on their roles alone.

Ok so having angered all the fans of this movie, all 3 of them, I will move onto some good points, of which there are few.  As I mentioned earlier, there are many references to the attraction which the movie is based upon.  The main story of the film follows, albeit loosely, the story which runs through the Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris, as it involves a bride and a bunch of dead folks.  I mentioned above the scene with Madame Leota, the Hitchhiking Ghosts and the decor throughout the mansion.  Haunted Mansion buffs will also welcome the sight of the singing busts, which are actually voiced by the Dapper Dans Barbershop Quartet who perform in Disneyland.  The famous ballroom scene from the ride is also shown to the audience briefly, however it is not as grand as it is in the ride.

The sets are rather beautiful, large, spacious, luxurious, yet old and musty at the same time.  I remember visiting some of the sets at Walt Disney World at one point, and they were interesting to see, however I did wonder how many visitors had actually seen the film first.

In contrast to Pirates of the Caribbean (I make this comparison since the films were made around the same time and have the same basic idea behind them), there seems to be a lot of scenes and/or characters which have been taken directly from the attraction and used in the same form, rather than using them simply as a framework to build upon.   Sadly, since the film relies upon the audience’s sense of nostalgia regarding the attraction, it severely chops down the number of viewers who will ‘get it’, and therefore again cuts down the re-watch ability of the movie.  In fact, the ride which lasts only a few minutes, holds much more charm than this film ever could.

I am reviewing this film from the DVD version, (not the Blu-ray, I wouldn’t waste my money on that) which has a few underwhelming features.  The one I headed to first was ‘Disney’s DVD Virtual Ride: The Haunted Mansion’, thinking, as you would, that it was something to do with the attraction rather than the film.  Ok so they got me to click on it, but as soon as I realised that it was a very poor tour of the mansion in the film, it was swiftly turned off.  The rest of the features include commentaries, a deleted scene, an outtakes reel, and one of those God awful music videos.  If you’re looking for information on the ride, there is a feature that allows you to see photos and learn about the history of the attraction when you put the DVD into your computer.

I think children may enjoy this film, however for anyone else; it is certainly one to miss.

I give this movie 2 Tinks.

A Side Note:  Director Guillermo Del Toro is a massive fan of the Haunted Mansion attraction, and has, at the time of writing, almost finished the screenplay for a remake of The Haunted Mansion.  Of course, from a director such as Toro, great things are expected.  Great, dark, things.  Apparently the illusive Hatbox Ghost who was a part of the Disneyland attraction for not very long after it opened will be the villain in this film, and in honesty, I cannot wait to see it!

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame

‘It’s not my fault, if in God’s plan, he made the Devil so much stronger than a man’ – Frollo


If you have read my review of The Black Cauldron, you may have noticed that I did not give the film a warm reception.  The one thing it did have on its side was that it strayed from the traditional Disney movies by taking on a much darker subject matter.  Another film which is considered to be one of Disney’s ‘darker’ efforts is The Hunchback of Notre Dame which was released in 1996.

The film is based, albeit loosely, on the novel by Victor Hugo which was published in 1831, and is centred on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  It took Hugo six months to write the 200,000 word epic, and he apparently did it with only one bottle of ink!  The Disney team who were working on the film spent a lot of time in and around Notre Dame, exploring it and taking notes to get a feel of what it was like to be there.

At the start of the film we are introduced to Clopin, a jester who is telling the story of Quasimodo to a group of children.  He actually sings the story, as the folks at Disney thought that it would be a nicer introduction to the film rather than having him dryly tell the story.  He tells of how Judge Claude Frollo mistakenly snatched Quasimodo as a baby from his mother’s arms, causing her to fall down dead after hitting her head on the steps of Notre Dame.  The Archdeacon tells Frollo to look after the baby as his own, since he had killed its mother.  After glancing at the baby and seeing it is deformed, Frollo decides to name him ‘Quasimodo’ which means half-formed, and takes him to live in the bell tower, causing the people of the city to know him only as ‘the bell ringer of Notre Dame’.  The story then skips ahead 20 years, where we are introduced to adult Quasimodo.  The audience begins to see what the relationship between Quasi and Frollo is like, with Quasi referring to Frollo as ‘master’, and obeying his every word.   Frollo is determined for Quasimodo to stay up in the bell tower, as he is embarrassed by his hideous form.  In the bell tower we are also introduced to Quasimodo’s ‘friends’, three gargoyles name Victor, Hugo and Laverne.  It is debatable whether these gargoyles really do come to life and speak with Quasi, or if they are simply brought to life by his lonely imagination.  The latter is most likely, as he is the only one in the film who interacts with them properly.We soon find out about Frollo’s strong loathing of the gypsy people who live in the city when he summons Captain Phoebus from the wars to help him drive them out.  As Phoebus arrives, we are also introduced to the leading lady of the story, Esmeralda, who happens to be a gypsy, and her goat (who plays a small part in the film) called Djali.  Esmeralda is a strong-minded woman, with a kind heart, and speaks up for her people as well as Quasimodo.  Phoebus is also a strong character, who does not particularly agree with Frollo’s hatred towards the gypsies, especially after meeting Esmeralda.

Quasimodo longs for freedom, to be allowed out of the bell tower for just one day, and with a little encouragement from the gargoyles he escapes Notre Dame and attends the Feast of Fools for the first time.  The festival calls for the ‘ugliest face in Paris’, and Quasi ends up accidentally taking part and winning.  Realising that, unlike the other contenders, his face is not a mask; the crowd quickly turns on him, ties him down and start torturing him by throwing fruit at him and spinning him around.  Judge Frollo lets the cruelty continue, as a punishment for Quasi leaving the tower against his wishes.  Esmeralda intervenes and frees Quasi, only fuelling Frollo’s hatred of the gypsy people.

I won’t give the rest of the story away for those who have not yet seen it, however, be assured that it does not end the same way that the book does!

While many Victor Hugo fans are quick to mention that the story is simplified and edited a lot compared to the original novel, it has to be noted that in the original story most of the main characters die, and it is understandable that Disney avoided this dismal conclusion to the film in favour of a happy ending.  While it still remains a dark film compared to the likes of Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas for instance, it is still a family film and children love it just as much.

Quasimodo is not as misshapen as in previous adaptations of the story, with his features more rounded and less grotesque.  His hunger for freedom is told through the song ‘Out There’, and his vulnerability shown at the Feast of Fools.  He has strong feelings for Esmeralda, which are not returned in the same form, causing him to despair particularly when he sees her falling for Phoebus.  This same despair is also felt by Frollo when Esmeralda goes missing and cannot be found.  He becomes fixated with her, and Quasi becomes depressed by his lost love; the song ‘Heaven’s Light/Hellfire’ echoes the feelings of these two characters, and the contrast between innocent love and disturbing obsession.  The scene with Frollo singing ‘Hellfire’ is dark, as he stands in front of the fireplace seeing Esmeralda’s form in the flames, surrounded by gigantic faceless figures in hooded red cloaks.

‘Destroy Esmeralda/and let her taste the fires of hell/Or else let her be mine and mine alone’

 This part of the film was met with criticism from many concerned parents as well as religious bodies, (you know it caused a stir when it has its own Wikipedia page!) however, the scene is totally in-keeping with the story and does not, in my opinion, overstep the mark at all.  Frollo believes that what he is doing is right, when it is actually wrong, and his madness swiftly gets out of hand when he orders his men to burn the city to the ground in order to find Esmeralda.

The design of Frollo (Tony Jay) consists of many vertical lines, making him spindly and gothic, yet powerful, much like the architecture of Notre Dame.  This is in huge contrast to the styling of Quasimodo (Tom Hulce), obviously with a hunched back and much smaller than Frollo and consisting of horizontal lines, therefore being overpowered by his cruel master.  Esmeralda (Demi Moore) is sassy and tough due to her life on the streets, no Disney princess!  Her body language is similar to Megara from Hercules, with her no-nonsense hand-on-hip attitude, though she does not show as much vulnerability as Meg, and is very courageous.  Phoebus (Kevin Kline) is the good guy in a bad town, and as well as being an experienced soldier, he is smart and funny, and soon sees through Frollo.  Though his design may make him look gallant and suave, it can soon be seen that by standing up for what he believes in like Esmeralda, he becomes an outcast too.

The backgrounds are stunning, particularly of course, the ones depicting Notre Dame, which is essentially another character in the film.  For the CGI spotters amongst you, you will notice that the bells of Notre Dame are CG, as well as the gypsy caravan which runs into the river, the confetti at the Feast of Fools, and many other elements throughout the story.  For the people out there who like to spot other Disney references in Disney films, you can catch Belle from Beauty and the Beast walking through the street, as well as the Carpet from Aladdin and Pumbaa from The Lion King, all in the same scene!

The music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz are superb, and the songs seem very complex in relation to other Disney films, and of course a lot darker.  As well as deep songs like ‘Heaven’s Light/Hellfire’ and ‘God Help the Outcasts’, there is light relief with the songs ‘Topsy Turvy’ and ‘The Court of Miracles’ sung by Clopin.  The latter are bouncy and energetic, whereas the former are Disney’s darkest and more depressing.  Saying this, I believe it to be one of the best Disney soundtracks ever.

As for the DVD release which I am reviewing from, it could be better.  If you have read my Hercules review, you will remember me hoping for a 2-disc edition of the film.  The same goes here.  Where Pocahontas gets a jam-packed double disc edition DVD and a Musical Masterpiece edition, these two films are left with single disc editions, not containing many special features.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame DVD contains a History of Production, Early Presentation Reel, History of Notre Dame de Paris, Deleted Song ‘Someday’, CGI Demo, Multi-Language Reel and the traditional Disney game.  There are a fair few features there, with the best and most comedic being the CGI Demo, which is a demo of the CGI crowds which were generated for the film.  Highly entertaining!

What is notably missing from the DVD is some of the artwork from the film in a gallery form as seen on other Disney DVDs.  It would be nice to see some of the character and background designs, as they are beautiful.  These can also be seen in The Art of the Hunchback of Notre Dame by Stephen Rebello; if you get a chance to take a look at this book please do, there are some amazing drawings and paintings in it, particularly of Notre Dame.

To conclude, I believe that this film, like many others of its time, is overlooked too much.  However, if you watch it with a deeper knowledge of the story and as less of a cartoon, I believe that you will appreciate it a whole lot more.

I give this movie 4 Tinks.

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‘Who put the ‘glad’ in gladiator?’


Straight off the back of the ‘second golden age’ of Disney films, Hercules followed Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1997.  Although Hercules didn’t enjoy the same success as Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King, it actually received a lot of praise, including winning four awards, amongst them, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, both for Best Original Song for Go the Distance.  The story is a lot less heavy than that of Hunchback, and even Pocahontas, which in comparison is quite a slow moving storyline.  I particularly noticed in Hercules that the story has a very steady pace, and never seems to drag, or move too fast.  This is partly thanks to the five Muses, gospel singers singing soulful songs which help certain parts of the story to progress quickly, in order for the rest of the film to carry on.

Poor Hercules is snatched from his parents as a baby so that Hades’ henchmen Pain and Panic can feed him a potion which will obliterate his God-like strength.  Of course, this is so that Hades can take over the cosmos without anyone trying to stop him.  When they are disturbed by who will become Herc’s adoptive parents, they drop the bottle containing the potion, and a single drop falls to the ground, meaning that our hero still has a trace of his God-like powers within him.

After going throughout his young life and into adulthood feeling a lot different to the rest of his town, he decides that he needs to leave his adoptive parents and find out where he came from.  With a medal displaying the symbol of the Gods which was around his neck when he was found, he makes his way to Mount Olympus, where he encounters his father, Zeus.  Zeus informs Hercules that he must become a true hero before he can retain his place as a God, and tells him to find Philoctetes (Phil), who will train him.  After being trained, Hercules encounters Megara, a damsel in distress.  Little does he know that she is working for Hades, the lord of the Underworld.  Hades sends Megara to con Hercules into thinking that there are two children trapped under a huge rock in a gorge, and when he rushes to rescue them, he is confronted by a 3 headed Hydra.  After numerous attempts, the Hydra is defeated, to Hades’ surprise and dismay.

A furious Hades then sends Megara to find out Hercules’ weakness.  Megara falls in love with Herc, unfortunately displaying to Hades that she is his weakness.  At this point, Phil overhears Hades and Megara talking, and realises that they are working as a team.  He then tells Hercules of the scheme, but his words fall on deaf ears, as Hercules is in turn, in love with Megara.  After Herc delivering a fairly brutal slap around Phil’s face, Phil leaves, understandably.  Hercules is then greeted by Hades, who does not have much time left to complete his takeover.  Hades reveals that he has Megara held hostage, and cons Hercules into giving up his powers to save her.  Our vile villain then delivers another blow to Hercules, informing him that Megara had been working for him the whole time…

     The style of Hercules differs very much from the traditional Disney animated features; however, it is a refreshing change.  The use of colour in Hercules is noticeably different in comparison to its predecessors.  At the start of the film we are presented with a never-ending sky at Mount Olympus, which includes eye-popping shades of pink, and many swirling patterns in the clouds and the sky.  This is in total contrast to the Underworld, which houses very intricate details and conveys a wonderfully morbid atmosphere.  It seems that Hercules is a lot more experimental in styling compared to the traditional Disney formula which created classics such as The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.  Much of this is due to the work of British artist Gerald Scarfe, as it was his graphic style that influenced the whole film, with the animators working closely with him to maintain his unique style.  It is clear when looking at Scarfe’s concept art that the animators based their final designs heavily on his original drawings, especially the character of Hades.

Hercules, played by Tate Donovan, is very much a ‘gentle giant’.  He comes across as slightly naive and vulnerable, a distinct difference to the rest of the characters, however he still retains his own subtle comedy.  Megara’s slim ‘where does she put her internal organs?’ design works well in contrast with her sharp facial features and sassy attitude (played perfectly by Susan Egan).  Her styling is very much like that of a Greek column, tall and thin.  Her colouring is a questionable choice, with purpleish brown hair to match her dress, however, it never seems out of place or unusual.  Hades, played by James Woods, is possibly the most entertaining villain to come out of the Disney studios, ever.  His laid back mannerisms and blue flaming hair make him ultra cool, and he becomes even funnier when he gets exasperated and his hair turns fiery oranges and reds.  Hades’ henchmen, Pain and Panic, are two small, strange looking creatures, one fat and purple, the other thin and turquoise.  Their humour is very childlike compared to that of Hades, who delivers a lot of one -liners which would only be understood by adults.

It is plain to see that Phil’s design was inspired by Danny DeVito’s form, short and rounded; though it fits the character well, especially when the bulk of the characters are all rather tall.  His sceptical manner is quite hilarious, opening up to a lot of one liners and physical comedy.  Both Danny DeVito and James Woods provide comedic performances which are almost on par with Robin William’s Genie in Aladdin.  The Muses are all styled similarly to Megara, tall and thin, with the exception of one, and they all wear long flowing dresses which also give the impression of a Greek column.  Pegasus is the only character that does not seem to have been given the Scarfe treatment, although as a horse he is already naturally tall and thin, therefore fits in completely with the other characters.

The choice to use CGI for the Hydra which Hercules battles is quite impressive considering that the rest of the film is hand-drawn; it never distracts the viewer from the action, it just works.  It also allowed the animators to duplicate the heads many times without having to drawn them repeatedly.  CGI is also used for parts of the clouds, when they are seen breaking apart and reforming effortlessly.

The songs in this film are superb, even though they, like the styling, are rather removed from what we expect from Disney.  The Muses are soulful gospel singers, telling the story through song, and the songs belonging to the characters such as Megara’s ‘I Won’t Say I’m in Love’ and Hercules’ ‘Go the Distance’ are just as strong as the songs in many Disney films before, also written by Alan Menken.

There is much more I could write about this film, but the best thing I can suggest is for you to watch it yourself!  It is definitely far too underrated, losing out to previous Disney films possibly because of its decidedly un-Disney styling, making it less familiar to die-hard fans.

I reviewed this film from the DVD release, which has sadly only ever been released as one disc.  It does have a ‘Making Of’ short film, some Greek history feature, an Art Attack feature on how to make a Greek Urn, (I skipped this one), and the unavoidable sing-along section which includes a whopping one song.  Hopefully an eventual Blu-ray release will see this film get some well deserved special features.

I give this movie 4 Tinks.


Filed under G-L Movies