Hercules (1997) (Re-issue)

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Released 7-Apr-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Hercules Video Art Gallery (6:30)
Notes-Disney Pedia: Greek Mythology
Featurette-Making Of-(9:29)
Karaoke-Sing-Along Song: Zero To Hero (2:40)
Featurette-Art Attack: How To Make A Greek Urn (4:38)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 89:01
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (62:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Musker
Ron Clements
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Tate Donovan
Danny DeVito
Rip Torn
Susan Egan
James Woods
Samantha Eggar
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Alan Menken


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, at end of credits (vocal)

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    So another of the re-issues of Buena Vista titles hits my player and this time it is Hercules, the 35th animated feature from the House of Disney. This particular animated feature is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it is one of the rare forays away from the fairy tale idiom for the basis of the story. Second, it features the incredibly sexy voice of Susan Egan as Megara, the most overtly sensual character ever in a Disney animated feature. Whilst most consider the film to be one of the second tier of animated features, I still believe this to be not far short of the very top tier - it is a fun over-the-top romp that pokes fun at quite a few icons, including Bambi of all things, as well as some terrific vocal castings.

    Hercules (Tate Donovan) was born the son of Zeus (Rip Torn) and Hera (Samantha Eggar), and was destined for great things - at least 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 the 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 takeover 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. 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. He 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 a 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 De Vito). 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 Disney-ised version of the myth, but there are some things that lift this out of the mire somewhat. Danny De Vito's stunning vocalisations for Phil and James Woods' vocalisations 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, vocalised by Susan Egan, and you really have some standout stuff here to enjoy. The story itself it 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.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    It would appear that we have in this case gotten the same transfer as from the earlier Region 4 release. Whilst it is a very good video transfer, it is somewhat let down by the lack of 16x9 enhancement.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1.

    The transfer is pretty sharp throughout and has a lovely definition to it. The downside of that sharpness though is that the outlines to the characters are not really solid, which highlights the aliasing problem in the transfer. The transfer is very clear and the detail stands out nicely as a result. There is no issue with grain in the transfer and of course shadow detail is also a non-issue. There are no problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    The colours come up nicely vibrant, although the odd sequence continues to look a little flatter than I would have liked - such as the decidedly ethereal look to Mount Olympus at times. What we get though is nothing to complain about and the overall presentation is really nice looking. There was no real hint of any serious over-saturation 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. If I were being a real pedant I suppose that I would have preferred a little more depth to the blacks, but this is a genuinely minor quibble.

   There were no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts comprised some minor aliasing, that unfortunately was consistent throughout the transfer. As a result, it is a little hard to ignore and just on occasions it gets to be a little distracting. Film artefacts were pretty much absent from the transfer, and what there were was not at all distracting.

   This is an RSDL format disc, with the layer change coming at 62:28. This is not really noticeable and only drew attention to itself as it was perhaps not the absolute best place to stick it. That said though, there would not be too many places where it could have been placed to be less obtrusive.

    There are two subtitle options on the DVD, being English and French. I sampled the English efforts and they both seem to be very decent. There are however some obvious changes to the dialogue which are a little perplexing at times.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    After the absolute plethora of soundtrack choices on the original Region 4 release, the selection of only two choices here is a tad disappointing - well at least if you prefer to watch your films in anything other than English Dolby Digital 5.1 or French Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. I would suspect that what we have here are the same soundtracks as were on that original release, albeit with a change relating to the end credits. I listened to the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times. Since this is animation, there is obviously the usual issues with "sync"!

    The musical score comes from Alan Menken, who has put together a number of wonderful efforts for Disney over the years. This is perhaps not the best of those efforts, but it is still a lot better than many others can do and upholds the Disney tradition of fine musical accompaniment to their animated features. The songs, with lyrics by David Zippel, are perhaps not the best that we have heard from Disney over the last decade or so.

    This is really a quite appealing Dolby Digital 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 feel of the film 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 generally nice complementary support, thankfully without too much bass resonance, albeit with perhaps too much dynamic on the odd occasion. The overall sound picture is realistic enough and reasonably enveloping. Overall, a good effort, without forcing the dynamics too much at all.

    One of the big issues with the original Region 4 release was the fact that the music over the closing credits had been replaced with some generally inappropriate pop-style songs that were out of character to the soundtrack and the original songs from Alan Menken. This new re-issue returns the original closing credits musical accompaniment, as well as the goofy vocal ending right at the end of the credits featuring Hades.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A somewhat better effort than the earlier release in the extras department too - although still not a full package including everything available from Region 1.

Menu

    After a nice animated introduction, the main menu features some minor audio and animation enhancement.

Featurette - Hercules Video Art Gallery (6:30)

    Rather than the usual collection of art stills, this effort has brought together the same sort of material and turned it into a really interesting (and quite different) presentation. The video has narration too that adds quite significantly to something nicely different. Presented in a full frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Notes - Disney Pedia: Greek Mythology

    An attempt I guess to educate regarding Greek mythology, an indication of how different the source material is from the usual Disney fare. Broken down into sections - Greek Mythology, The Olympians, Mount Olympus, The Titans, The Fates & The Muses, Hades and The Underworld, Hercules and Mythical Creatures - there is nothing too heavy here. The narration is provided by Philoctetes. Presented in a full frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The only issue is that the transfer suffers from aliasing and a loss of resolution on movement.

Featurette - The Making of Hercules (9:29)

    Not too bad in content but the presentation is pretty poor. Looking like it has been mastered from a worn VHS video tape, the transfer is grainy, diffuse, lacking in focus and poor in definition. The colours are distinctly under-saturated and also suffers from colour bleed. Presented in a full frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Sing-Along Song - Zero To Hero (2:40)

    I am surprised that they still do these. Nothing too wrong with it, but of course it is aimed at the younger market. Presented in a full frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The presentation suffers somewhat from minor aliasing.

Featurette - Art Attack: How To Make A Greek Urn (4:38)

    Taken from a program from the Disney Channel called (obviously) Art Attack. One of those craft shows aimed for the younger set that shows the kids how to make a Greek Urn from papier mache and cardboard. Presented in a full frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There have been ostensibly two releases of the DVD in Region 1, but in reality they are the same release rebadged: a "Limited Issue" release that was supposed to be on sale for 60 days, then placed on moratorium for years and the same DVD released under the "Gold Collection" banner.

    The Region 4 release misses out on:

    The Region 1 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 4 release -even if the presentation thereof is not the best at times - especially now that the b******isation of the closing credits has been fixed.

Summary

    Hercules is by no means the best animated film ever to come out of the Walt Disney Studios, but it is an enjoyable romp that has the right amount of over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek humour to keep you coming back to the film every so often. Whilst the overall presentation of the film could perhaps have been improved a little, the extras package certainly drags the quality down a tad. Still, worthwhile checking out.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, April 25, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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