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Details At A Glance

Category Family Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1996 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 89:02 minutes Other Extras Film Recommendations
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (55:10)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director John Musker
Ron Clements
Walt Disney Pictures
Warner Home Video
Starring Tate Donovan
Danny DeVito
Rip Torn
Susan Egan
James Woods
Samantha Eggar
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $39.95 Music Alan Menken

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Greek (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Hebrew (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Dutch (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Czech (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Polish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    So, moving right along with this, our second review from the recent batch of Disney animation, we look at Hercules, the 35th animated feature from the House of Disney. Whilst the previously reviewed Mulan may actually have some passing resemblance to the legend, this particular effort is certainly much further removed from the myth that spawned it. Not that that is such a bad thing really, because there is much to enjoy here - most notably the incredibly sexy voice of Susan Egan as Megara, the most overtly sensual character ever in a Disney animated feature - and it really is a fun over-the-top romp that pokes fun at quite a few icons, including Bambi of all things.

    Hercules (voiced by Tate Donovan) was born the son of Zeus (Rip Torn) and Hera (Samantha Eggar), destined for great things - at last until Hades (James Woods) gets involved in matters. Now Hades has been banished from Mount Olympus, the home of the Gods, to the underworld by Zeus. Hades does not especially like this gig and still harbours visions of taking Zeus' place as the Top God. However, Hercules could be a bit of a spanner in the works as far as those plans go, so Hades consults The Fates to see whether they foresee any problems in his little take-over scheme. Good news: when the planets align in 18 years, Hades will rule Mount Olympus. Bad news: if Hercules fights, Hades will lose. So Hades decides to do the honourable thing and kill Hercules. But precisely how do you kill a God? You make him a mortal first. So Hades dispatches his trusty sidekicks in Pain and Panic to capture Hercules and feed him a potion that will make him mortal - after which he is to be dispatched to wherever dead gods go to. Naturally the trusty sidekicks stuff up this relatively simple task and fail to feed him all of the potion - but what the heck, near enough is good enough right? So Hercules is left for dead, only to be found by a kindly farmer and his wife, who look after him and raise him as their own. Fast forward and Hercules is a gangly youth of immense strength (he retains his god-like strength you see) but incredible stupidity. After destroying the local marketplace, he finds out his parents are not his real parents, and so determines to find out who his parents are by consulting the Gods at the temple. Naturally he discovers that his dear old dad is Zeus, but the only way he can be restored to God-like status is by proving himself to be a true hero. Simple enough requirement? So, he sets off in search of the person who can make him a hero, namely one lecherous little satyr by the name of Philoctetes - call me Phil (Danny DeVito). Since this is Disney, naturally Phil succeeds in turning Hercules into a strapping God of a man, and makes him into a hero - whereupon they head to Thebes to try their luck. Along the way Hercules does the old rescue the damsel in distress trick, thereby meeting the lovely Megara - call me Meg - whilst dispatching the River Guardian. Unbeknownst to Hercules, Meg has sold her soul to Hades to save her former boyfriend's life, and is now in the employ of Hades. So boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy has to save girl, boy gets girl, boy becomes a true hero and boy gives up everything for the girl he loves. Have I missed any clichés here? Don't think so.

    Okay, the story is so clichéd it is not funny, and we get the usual Disneyised version of the myth, but there are some things that lift this out of the mire somewhat. Danny DeVito's stunning vocalizations for Phil and James Woods' vocalizations for Hades are real tours de force in my opinion and are worth the price of admission alone. Add to that the sexiest character ever in a Disney animated feature, vocalized by Susan Egan, and you really have some standout stuff here to enjoy. The story itself is so over-the-top that it is a real blast and I never tire of watching this film. Forget the story, just go along for the ride and have a bit of fun.

Transfer Quality


    Another very good video transfer is on offer here, but lacking 16x9 enhancement weighs heavily against it. After the delight of Mulan, the lack of 16x9 enhancement is a real bummer.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is pretty sharp throughout and has a nice definition to it. The transfer is very clear and detail stands out nicely as a result. The outlines of the characters are, however, not quite so solid, evidencing the lack of enhancement I suppose, and the black is really more a dark, dark grey. There is no problem at all in the way the animation is presented and there are certainly no problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    The colours come up nicely vibrant, although the odd sequence was just a little flatter than I would have expected (such as the decidedly ethereal look to Mount Olympus at times) and we again have a rather nice looking piece of animation. There was no real hint of any serious oversaturation at all, although there were a couple of sequences where it looked like it was about to get out of hand (most notably those involving the aura-enhanced Gods) . Colour definition was again pretty much spot on and there did not appear to be any colour bleed in the transfer.

   There were no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were comprised of some minor shimmer that unfortunately was somewhat consistent throughout the transfer and was at times just a little distracting. Film artefacts were again pretty much absent from the transfer, and what artefacts there were present were not at all distracting.

   This is an RSDL format disc, with the layer change coming at 55:10. This is just a little too noticeable and could perhaps have been handled just a little better, but overall is not disruptive to the film.


   Added to the video transfer is a wonderful audio transfer.

   There are eight audio tracks on the DVD: the English, French and Italian audio tracks are Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks whilst the Hebrew, Czech, Polish, Dutch and Greek audio tracks are Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded tracks. I listened to the English default.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times.

    The usual animation sync "problems" exist but who really cares about it?

    The musical score comes from Alan Menken, who has put together a number of wonderful efforts for Disney in recent times. This is perhaps not the best of those efforts, but it is still a lot better than many others can do and certainly upholds the Disney tradition of fine musical accompaniment to their animated features.

    This is another quite appealing 5.1 soundtrack. Although not quite the best effort around, especially through the slightly limited use of the rear surround channels, it is nonetheless a very open and clear soundtrack that conveys the sense of the occasion very well. The sound in the underworld sequences has a nicely cavernous touch to it, whilst the "mushy" sequences have a nicely ambient feel that exudes a little romanticism. There could perhaps have been a little more subtlety out of the rear channels, but that is quibbling over a minor issue really. The bass channel again gives some nicely complementary support, thankfully without too much bass resonance. The overall sound picture is realistic enough and draws you into it very nicely. Overall, a wonderful effort, without forcing the dynamics too much at all.

    There is one other matter that needs to be raised with respect to the soundtrack, especially if you are a purist: the closing credits on the DVD are accompanied by some pop-style songs that are somewhat out of character to the soundtrack and the original songs from Alan Menken, as well as being significantly different to the music accompanying the closing credits on the VHS tape and the Region 1 DVD. On the presumption that the VHS tape and Region 1 DVD represent the original theatrical release, it is difficult to understand why the closing credits music has been changed, and distinctly for the worse I may add, on the Region 4 release. This is quite a disturbing development and I for one would like to know why Disney have decided to pursue such a change. Thanks to James G for alerting us to the change.


    Enough of the film recommendations already.


    See Mulan.

Film Recommendations

    See Mulan.

R4 vs R1

    Okay, this has already had one release in Region 1, a "Limited Issue" release that was supposed to be on sale for 60 days, then placed on moratorium for years. However, there is another release on the way in the form of a "Gold Collection" release that is due for issue in August. It would appear that the two releases will be little different in content. The details quoted below are in relation to the "Limited Issue" release.

    The Region 4 release misses out on:

    Sorry, but with neither release being 16x9 enhanced, the decision has to be in favour of the more heavily extras endowed Region 1 release. Whilst I could live without the music video, the featurette is quite an interesting one and would have made a very nice addition to the Region 4 release indeed. Having made a brief comparison between the Region 1 and Region 4 versions, I have to say that there is not an awful lot of difference between the quality of the two video transfers for those of you concerned by the NTSC/PAL resolution question. Sure the PAL Region 4 disc has the slightly better resolution, and certainly shimmers somewhat less, but not enough to outweigh the lack of extras in my view. The bastardization of the closing credits of the Region 4 version also weighs heavily against the Region 4 release.


    Another Disney animated feature that I enjoy, and the quality of the animation is not to be denied. However, as a package, at an asking price of $39.95, it does not compete too well and the Region 1 version is a marginally better choice - even if your player is Region 4 only. Yes folks, that Region 1 disc is actually coded Region 1 and Region 4 so all you have to worry about is whether your display device can handle the NTSC signal (and that statement is based on actual testing on a friend's Pioneer Region 4 player straight out of the box).

    A pretty good video transfer.

    A very good audio transfer.

    A not too brilliant an effort in the extras department.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
21st May 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL