“The Black Cauldron” (1985)

In 1985, Disney would release an animated film based on Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydian. It would get the first PG rating to ever be given to a Walt Disney film and it would fail at the box office. The film was entitled The Black Cauldron and is generally regarded as the darkest and most frightening of Disney’s films.

In hindsight, The Black Cauldron seems like it might be Disney’s underrated film. Yes, it’s a dark children’s movie, but in terms of themes it somehow manages to feel less dark than The Hunchback of Notre Dame and manages to feel very cohesive with the tone and world due to be based off of a fantasy series.

The Black Cauldron follows Taran (Grant Bardsley), an assistant pig keeper, who learns from a vision from the pig Hen Wen that The Horned King (John Hurt) is searching for the Black Cauldron to raise an army of undead soldiers, the Cauldron-born. Taran is trusted with taking care of Hen Wen, but due to Taran’s day dreams of being a warrior, he loses track of the pig. While searching for Hen Wen, he meets a creature named Gurgi (John Byner). Taran’s searching leads him to the Horned King’s castle, where the pig is being held captive. The pig escapes and Taran is captured. While in the dungeon, he meets Princess Eilonwy (Susan Sheridan), who has also been captured, grabs an awesome magic sword and helps a bard named Fflewddur Fflam (Nigel Hawthorne) escape. The trio then decides to find Hen Wen and the Black Cauldron, the latter of which they intend to destroy.

This film, directed by Ted Berman and Richard Rich–Rich went on to direct The Swan Princess and its sequels as well as The King and I–looks very much like a classic Disney film in terms of the character design. If someone isn’t looking closely, they could mistake Princess Eilonwy for Princess Aurora when she’s living in the forest. There’s also great coloring in this filming, such as shades of green that highlight areas of the Horned King’s castle as Taran approaches the building for the first time.

Although I can’t criticize the film in relation to its source material as I’ve never read that series, I can say that pretty much everything in the film works because it is set in a mystical fantasy world. From the presence of the adorable Fair Folk that are very fairy-like to vision-granting pigs to witches to the very presence of Gurgi, a talking creature that looks like a dog, but also like a small human, this all works because of the world of the film, which is easy to buy into and believe in this film.

Gurgi, meanwhile, serves as this film’s Cute Little Animal Sidekick. At first, Gurgi comes across as an annoying character thrown in to make the film cuter for kids, but as the film goes on, it becomes more clear that Gurgi is as important in this film as the Horned King or Taran. More importantly, Gurgi sacrifices himself to save the world, which is something that most Cute Little Animal Sidekicks would not do. And unlike most Cute Little Animal Sidekicks, Gurgi is not obnoxious or wisecracking, he’s simply a cute creature that talks in a muffled tone.

As for the violence, the violence in The Black Cauldron is no worse than what I’ve seen in some episodes of Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, which is rated TV-PG. That being said, if you’re a parent who won’t let your children watch Adventure Time, then it might be best to not let them watch The Black Cauldron for a while. On another note, while I’m all for allowing children to watch potentially scary movies, I remember being a bit bored by The Black Cauldron as a child. Perhaps as an adult the movie is easier to appreciate because it’s easier to follow the plot. It still remains that The Black Cauldron is an underrated Disney film that will probably never get its deserved recognition.

The Great ’90s Animated Film Project: “Mulan” Revisited

Previously:
Mulan,
The Swan Princess,
Pocahontas,
The Hunchback of Notre Dame,
Hercules,
The Prince of Egypt,
Anastasia,
Quest for Camelot,
Tarzan,
The Iron Giant,
The King and I,
The Lion King

When I began The Great ’90s Animated Film Project, I started with Mulan and then watched most of the films in chronological order. After rewatching Mulan, it seems that I underestimated this film, previously simply feeling that it was a good movie. But I feel that I should revise my prior assessment and say that Mulan is in fact the best film made by Disney post-Beauty and the Beast.

I won’t go over the plot again, as I did so in my previous post on Mulan. Watching this film, it seems that this is Disney’s most complete film that I watched for The Great ’90s Animated Film Project. There’s nothing in this film that seems to bring down the film. Although some might argue that Mushu brings down the film because of Eddie Murphy’s sometimes anachronistic hijinks, Mushu actually brings an interesting contrast and comparison to Mulan’s efforts, which I will get to later.

Mulan is one of the few films that that shows a complete transformation for the protagonist. At the start of the film, Mulan is a girl who isn’t really amazing. She’s a loyal and thoughtful daughter, but is seen being late to appointments and slacking off on her chores. She goes through the motions of training exercises, but doesn’t seem to really put forth any effort until she’s given the threat of being sent home, which would be a huge disgrace to her family. By the end of the film, we see Mulan transformed into a clever soldier and a hero who uses both the weapons of war as well as the roles of women in China to save the empire.

Furthermore, although Mulan becomes a leader, she still works together with her fellow troops, or even Mushu. Mulan is not a natural born warrior; the only reasons as to why she goes off to war are to save her father and to bring honor to her family. She evolves into this role, which is one of the satisfying parts of watching the film.

This brings me to addressing Mushu. In my previous post I said Mushu is a dramatic foil, but instead he is a comparison point for Mulan’s efforts. Mushu deceives the ancestors and Mulan because he, in a way, wants to bring honor to the Fa family as well as restore his own position as a guardian. They both want to restore dignity and do it in two different ways. Mulan does it by risking her life, while Mushu does it by trying to make Mulan a convincing man. In the end they both achieve their goals, primarily by working harder than they ever did before in the film.

The idea of gender roles is also played with in this film. Early in the film, Mulan is just as awkward in the male role of an Imperial Soldier as she is as a woman, perhaps even more awkward because she tries to be macho. At the end of the film, Mulan convinces three of her fellow soldiers to dress in drag as a way to save the emperor. On the journey to becoming a hero, Mulan does not have to give up female gender roles, other than to fit in as a man. In fact, while defeating Shan-Yu, both her and her fellow soldiers use both techniques Mulan is taught to do to be an appealing bride as well as defense moves they learn during training. If there is a message that could be derived from this film in regards to gender, it would be that it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man or how you live your life, you can find ways to uphold honor.

As for other aspects of Mulan, the film has the most unique visual style of any Disney film that I wrote about during this project. Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook’s film often evokes the look of Chinese artwork from that era and has the most unique character designs that match with the temperament of the characters. Additionally Matthew Wilder’s songs are memorable and Jerry Goldsmith’s score works perfectly for evoking the right moods at certain moments. Be it when Mulan is running away or anytime Shan-Yu is on screen. The film also has some of the best plot pacing in any of the films I’ve watched.

Overall, Mulan is the best Disney movie included in this project because it feels like it’s the most thought-out and best executed. This is also easily the last terrific movie Disney made until The Princess and the Frog and is a film that continually is good on multiple viewings, even as an adult.
———————
Now that the project is officially over, here are my rankings of the films:
1). The Iron Giant
2). The Prince of Egypt
3). Mulan
4). The Hunchback of Notre Dame
5). Anastasia
6). Hercules
7). The Lion King
8). Tarzan
9). Quest for Camelot
10). The Swan Princess
11). Pocahontas
12). The King and I

The Great ’90s Animated Film Project: “The Lion King” (1994)

Previously:
Mulan,
The Swan Princess,
Pocahontas,
The Hunchback of Notre Dame,
Hercules,
The Prince of Egypt,
Anastasia,
Quest for Camelot,
Tarzan,
The Iron Giant
The King and I

The final post of The Great ’90s Animated Film Project happened accidentally as “The Lion King” aired on Saturday night on ABC Family. Having not seen it in a while, I curled up on the loveseat of my mother’s house and my cat, Polo, joined me shortly afterward.

For the few of you that might not know of “The Lion King”‘s plot, the film follows a tribe of lions headed by Mufasa (JAMES EARL JONES) and he and his wife Sarabi have just had a male cub named Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas as young Simba, Matthew Broderick as adult Simba). This means that Mufasa’s brother Scar (a terrific performance by Jeremy Irons) is angry because he isn’t next in line. He then kills Mufasa, convince Simba that he’s the reason the king is dead. Simba is then presumed dead, but then raised by a warthog named Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) and a meercat named Timon (Nathan Lane) before he can take his place in the world again.

Oddly enough “The Lion King” seems to be the one animated film from this period that Disney made that doesn’t hold up well with time. One of the main problems is the structure because if “The Lion King” is treated as a work in three acts, it has a huge problem with having a third act that only serves the purpose of introducing us to the characters of Timon and Pumbaa, whose only real purposes are to be annoying sidekicks and save Simba from death after exile. If you skip over that act, there really doesn’t seem to much lost in the film.

The reason why “The Lion King” is included in this project is because it is apparently based off of “Hamlet,” but very loosely. Additionally, there are some influences of Greek tragedy as we see Scar in many ways seem to be a tragic hero who ultimately ends up falling after usurping Mufasa.

Which brings me to another problem with the movie: Simba is the least interesting protagonist to ever appear in a Disney movie. After being kicked out of the Pride Lands, he pretty much behaves like an apathetic teenager. This means that the antagonist, Scar, is a much more interesting character, although this is probably helped by Irons’ terrific vocal performance. What is more interesting is that the film shows that Scar’s decision to disrupt the balance in the Pride Lands by killing Mufasa results in a disruption of the ecosystem by the hyenas having free range over hunting. Although this really wasn’t a concept I understood until watching “The Wild Thornberrys,” the filmmakers decided to show the environmental impact of this change in leadership.

Scar suffers from massive hubris as his belief that he would be a better king than Mufasa simply because he isn’t Mufasa. Perhaps its sibling rivalry or another psychological motivation, but the film really doesn’t seem to delve deep into why Scar wants the job other than that he feels he’s more fit to be king than either Mufasa or Simba and it would reward his hyena minions. Additionally, the fact that Scar possesses minions so that much of the blood doesn’t end up on his minions makes him one of the more terrifying villans in films during this time period, not to mention that he manipulates Simba psychologically to force his nephew to leave the Pride Lands.

This brings us to the Cute Little Animal Character Sidekick: Timon and Pumbaa. Shortly after they showed up on the screen, Polo left his spot on my stomach to sleep on a pillow. The duo is obnoxious and clearly serve the purpose to make the film less terrifying for children, as well as raise Simba while he’s out of the Pride Lands. (It seems as though they’re on the outskirts of the Pride Lands.) The film could work quite well without the characters and could be replaced by, say, a lion that raises Simba. Timon and Pumbaa might seem enjoyable while a child, but adulthood makes them seem annoying.

The film does feature a terrific score by Hans Zimmer, Tim Rice and Elton John, which actually does stand up to this day, which might be why the Broadway musical has lasted so long, other than spectacle.

But unfortunately, “The Lion King” is one of the few films that does not seem to improve with time, particularly as an adult. If anything can be learned from this project, the inclusion of a cute sidekick can often severely drag down an animated film, particularly one that strives for greatness.

The Great ’90s Animated Film Project: “The King and I” (1999)

Previously:
Mulan,
The Swan Princess,
Pocahontas,
The Hunchback of Notre Dame,
Hercules,
The Prince of Egypt,
Anastasia,
Quest for Camelot,
Tarzan,
The Iron Giant

Shall I tell you what I think of you, The King and I?

The animated film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical might be one of the most pandering, offensive and boring animated films ever made in the past two decades. The film’s director, Richard Rich, took a story about the clash of cultures and made it cute, lowering the stakes for the characters and adding a bumbling sidekick and some animal characters.

The King and I, a Warner Brothers release, came at the end of the ’90s when motion picture companies were starting to be bolder with the stories told and how they were being told. In 1999, Tarzan, The Iron Giant and Toy Story 2 were released, moving away from the traditional musical format of animated films in that decade. The King and I feels like a very poor attempt to clutch to the old format.

The King and I focuses on Anna Leonowens (Miranda Richardson speaking, Christiane Noll singing), a widowed schoolteacher who has arrived in Bangkok with her son Louis (Adam Wylie) to tutor King Mongkut’s (Martin Vidnovic) children. The King hopes that Anna’s schooling of his children will help with progress for Thailand, but the king’s evil prime minister, the Kralahome (Ian Richardson), who is assisted with his Asian Stereotype sidekick, Master Little (Darrell Hammond). Meanwhile, servant Tuptim (Armi Arabe speaking, Tracy Venner Warren singing) falls in love with the crown prince, Chulalongkorn (Allen D. Hong speaking, David Burnham singing), which is forbidden because of tradition.

That is the plot of the animated film. In the musical, the Kralahome isn’t an evil Rasputin-esque sorcerer and Master Little is absent. In the musical, Tuptim is one of King Mongkut’s many concubines and falls in love with Lun Tha, the man who presents her as a gift to the king. This of course means Tuptim’s faces higher stakes in the musical because she is in love with someone other than the king. Additionally, Lady Thiang, the king’s chief wife, is absent from this film. And all of the animals in the film are absent in the musical.

Even when Disney takes a story and makes it a feel good film at the end, there are still risks for the characters. Take The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is a far departure from the source material but still is a fascinating and dark film that manages to be kid friendly. The King and I seems like Richard Rich looked at Anastasia and decided to have the writing team copy the element of evil advisor, cute animals and slapstick comedy for the sidekick. The problem is that Anastasia handled this perfectly by having a terrifying antagonist that went to extremes to get what he wanted, Bartok wasn’t an offensive stereotypes of Russians or albino bats and the cute animal was just there, not being obnoxious or confusing as to why they are placed there.

This brings me to the worst aspect of The King and I: Master Little. The character is a short stout man with almond shaped eyes—I don’t think he had pupils—and perpetually falling teeth. The character speaks with an exaggerated East Asian accent while none of the other characters do so, although Tuptim sounds a bit like she’s Burmese Barbie. It is absolutely astounding that an animated film made in my lifetime features such an offensive stereotype.

But with the focus on the plotting of the Kralahome there isn’t much time for the audience to care about the other characters, which in a way is fine since the only real danger arrives at the end when King Mongkut becomes Action Hero Mongkut. Oh, and if you were curious, Mongkut lives in this version. In fact, everyone lives, including the Kralahome, which is a strange occurrence for a children’s film because usually even the antagonist dies or someone gets separated from the protagonist at the end.

There is only one good aspect of this film and that is the film has very nice bright colors used, but it isn’t important since the film is dull and has the weakest dramatic conflict committed to film. In some ways, it feels like the film is like an unsuccessful parody of animated films with the multitude of unnecessary animals and sidekicks. But if the film hadn’t used a classic musical as its source material, it might have felt less painful to watch.

The problem is that there are ultimately no virtues to be found in this film. It would still be awful if there wasn’t the classic Yul Brynner film or the non-singing live-action film Anna and the King that was released later in 1999. While it is no shock that the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization decided against ever having another animated film made using the musicals as a source material, it is truly astounding that someone decided this would be a good idea to make.

The Great 90′s Animated Film Project: “The Iron Giant” (1999)

Previously:
Mulan,
The Swan Princess,
Pocahontas,
The Hunchback of Notre Dame,
Hercules,
The Prince of Egypt,
Anastasia,
Quest for Camelot,
Tarzan

And now, the final part of The Great 90′s Animated Film Project, a post on the Brad Bird’s 1999 film The Iron Giant. The film is based off of Ted Hughes 1968 novel, The Iron Man and uses various points in that to serve as the basis. Although, if I remember the novel correctly, most of what happens in the film does not occur in the book. (It’s been a while since I read the book.)

In 1957, a large object is falling from the sky and the Iron Giant (Vin Diesel) crash lands off the coast of Maine, destroying a boat on accident and scaring a fisherman. The next day, we meet Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal), as he heads to the diner that his mother, Annie (Jennifer Aniston), works at to show her the new pet he’s found. Annie doesn’t want a pet and the prospective pet, a squirrel, ends up getting loose in the diner, reeking havoc. Annie later has to work late and when the TV signal goes out, Hogarth goes out into the woods and finds the Iron Giant eating metal at the electrical substation. The Iron Giant later gets tangled up in power lines and Hogarth saves him by turning off the electricity.

The next day, Kirk Mansley, a U.S. Government agent arrives in the quaint town of Rockwell after hearing stories of large creatures and pieces of metal being eaten. Mansley dismisses these stories until half of his car is eaten, and then taken by the giant while Mansley isn’t watching. Hogarth then goes and finds the giant and teaches him English. After a train derailment that occurs when the giant tries to fix a track he screws up, the giant becomes dismembered, but hides in the Hughes’ barn while his various body parts go and return to him. Mansley shows up at the Hughes’ house to use the phone and becomes a bit suspicious of Hogarth and his stories. That evening Hogarth tells the giant of Superman and how the giant is like Superman: an alien that becomes a hero.

The next morning, Mansley rents a room with the Hughes and goes off with Hogarth for a trip intended to be spent with the giant. Hogarth manages to beat off Mansley and go to the giant, whom he takes to Dean (Harry Connick, Jr.), a beatnik scrap metal yard owner and artist, whom he convinces to take in the giant. After Mansley has photographic evidence of the giant’s existence, he informs Lieutenant General Rogard (John Mahoney) and the military arrives. They are then tricked into thinking that the giant is one of Dean’s pieces of art, but then the military discovers that the giant does exist.

The fascinating thing about Bird’s film is that both he screenplay writer Tim McCaniles have eschewed the formula for animated films. There are no musical numbers, there is no Cute Little Animated Character and the film works just fine without them. In fact, the film manages to be more effective without them because of the focus on the internal struggle the giant has between his two natures. He can either be a weapon or he can be Superman. His instinct to be a weapon is defensive and when the military starts attacking him and Rockwell, his response to become a weapon is terrifying. But the ending of the film is when he decides to be the hero, to be Superman. As he says to Hogarth, “I am not a gun,” and his realization as to what his destiny is causes this film to be so emotionally effective.

But the Iron Giant is not the only hero in the film; there’s also Hogarth, a kid who loves scary films and comics. Because of his desire to have a pet, one might assume that Hogarth’s decision to teach the giant English and play with him is because he wants a pet. But Hogarth ultimately sees the giant as a person and an individual that has a soul. “You’re made of metal, but you have feelings, and you think about things, and that means you have a soul,” he says to the giant at one point. He sees the giant as a person and to the credit of Bird and McCaniles, the Iron Giant is a more emotionally complex and nuanced character than most characters in the films I’ve watched for this series of blog posts.

Kirk Mansley serves as the villain in this film; he is a scummy, government agent. He isn’t downright evil, but he is aware of the power he has as a government agent. During an interrogation of Hogarth, he explains that he could get someone in the government to take him away from his mother. Mansley is, if anything, mad with power and manipulative. He rents the room that the Hughes have so he can get to know Hogarth better and find out as much as he can about the giant. Mansley is an incredibly motivated antagonist that manages to destroy three vehicles in the film. But Mansley is also a coward, as seen at the end of the film where, when being told he will die for his country because of a stupid mistake he made, Mansley yells, “Screw our country! I want to live!” Mansley is a weasel; he is a scumbag. He is not so much a villain as an antagonist because he is a person, not some caricature. Although there can be very good villains that are completely evil, but those villains are motivated and manage to be human.

Although, you could argue that one of the human characters is a Cute Little Animal Character. But then who would it be? Hogarth? Dean? The problem is that none of the characters are exactly wise-cracking sidekicks. Although Dean makes comments about how espresso is “like Coffeezilla,” it’s part of his character and comes off as being more of a way of explaining espresso’s potency to a kid. All of the characters, even the Iron Giant, are characters that feel human. They have developed emotions and feelings, they are motived to do what they do in the film.

As for the animation, The Iron Giant does not have the magnificent animation of The Prince of Egypt or Tarzan, but the simplicity of the animation feels like a reflection of the film itself, which is a simple science-fiction film that has one purpose: to tell a story. And the animators managed to have incredibly expressive characters. Even the Iron Giant, who does not have the face of a human, manages to show emotions just by how the eyes change.

The Iron Giant is not a epic musical like many of its predecessors. It is a film that tells a story of friendship and evokes the mood and attitude of the 1950′s with videos about ducking and covering during nuclear holocaust. The film tells us that we are who we choose to be and what this film chose to be was a film that told a story, not a film that sold merchandise. And the simplicity of this film is what makes it great.

The Great 90′s Animated Film Project: “Tarzan” (1999)

Previously:
Mulan,
The Swan Princess,
Pocahontas,
The Hunchback of Notre Dame,
Hercules,
The Prince of Egypt,
Anastasia,
Quest for Camelot

And now we come to the last Disney film of The Great 90′s Animated Film Project: Tarzan. The 1999 film is based off of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel Tarzan of the Apes and falls under the category of “Films With So Many Deviations from The Source I Don’t Know Where To Begin.”

But I would like to start off by saying that this is an astoundingly beautiful film.

For this film, the animators used a 3D painting and rendering technique they called “Deep Canvas.” The Deep Canvas in this film causes it to have realistic yet picturesque backgrounds of the jungle that Tarzan is set in. What is interesting about doing this project is that I’ve been able to see how the quality of animation has evolved over over the course of five years. The quality of animation seen in Pocahontas is nowhere near as incredible as the animation in Tarzan. In fact, the only film with animation like Tarzan‘s is The Prince of Egypt.

But to the story of the film.

At the start of the film, Tarzan’s family is marooned in Africa after their ship goes up in flames. They build a treehouse and start a life in Africa. At the same time, a gorilla tribe, led by Kerchak (Lance Henriksen), is living somewhat peacefully in the jungle. Kerchak and Kala (Glenn Close) are raising their own ape child, who wanders off one day and is killed by Sabor, who in this film is a single leopard rather than various lionesses. As the tribe is on the move one day and Kala hears a baby crying and deviates from the tribe, to find Tarzan and the dead bodies of his parents, killed by Sabor. (We don’t see this, but it is heavily implied.) Kala brings Tarzan back and decides to raise him as her own, although Kerchak approves in a “Oh, how cute, my wife has an annoying possibly vicious pet” sort of way, not in a “Let’s adopt him as our son” way. As Tarzan (Alex D. Linz) is a child, he becomes ever aware of his differences, perpetually pointed out to him by Kerchak and Terk (Rosie O’Donnell), but Kala informs him that they are essentially the same.

Tarzan (now Tony Goldwyn) grows up, he becomes a quick, agile, warrior and “ape man,” although he would technically be a “gorilla man” since he was brought up by gorillas in this film. In fact, he defends Kerchak from Sabor. He’s now friends with not only Terk, but also a neurotic elephant named Tantor (Wayne Knight). Everything seems fine, until he hears gunshots and the tribe moves. Tarzan goes and investigates, to find Professor Potter (Nigel Hawthorne), Clayton (BRIAN BLESSED), and Professor Potter’s pretty daughter, Jane (Minnie Driver). Jane becomes separated from the group and is chased by baboons, but saved by Tarzan, whom she is immediately terrified of. Then we have the necessary, “Me, Tarzan. You, Jane” sequence. Tarzan then decides to take Jane back to the camp, to discover that the gorillas are trashing the camp because of foreign objects that intrigue them. Jane explains to her father and Clayton about Tarzan and they decide to teach him English and observe him for two different reasons: science and greed. Tarzan then shows them the gorillas and this pisses of Kerchak. Kala then shows Tarzan the treehouse, which is miraculously still standing after several years, and explains to him that he is human, not gorilla. He decides to leave for England, but behold, Clayton is double-crossing jerk that wants to hunt the gorillas.

Tarzan is far from true to its source material. For starters, Tarzan is now raised by gorillas and Kerchak isn’t a murderous ape that kills Tarzan’s parents. Those are two big things. There’s also Jane now being from England rather than America. It’s been a while since I read the book and I can’t list all of the deviations. Still, Disney cleaned up Tarzan and it still is amazing that it got a G rating.

The biggest problem that this film has is that it takes a long time to set up the story. While Hercules and The Hunchback of Notre Dame set up the main story in incredible musical numbers, the set-up to the main story in Tarzan takes almost 30 minutes. The film is also overstuffed with antagonists, having three of them (Sabor, Kerchak, Clayton) and the songs that Phil Collins wrote and sang in the film mostly sound similar. (More on that later) Tarzan doesn’t really gain any momentum, pacing or emotion related, until a third of the way into the movie. But at the same time, when the film is done, it’s a heartwarming and touching story of the importance of family, be they gorilla or human. (See also, Anastasia, which is ultimately about the search for a family and an identity.)

It just really takes a while to get there.

But the film also feels more endurable once the humans show up because it adds some variety. Jane is quite possibly one of the more interesting female Disney leads because even though she’s seen walking around the jungle in a huge Victorian dress, she still is written as an interesting, independent, curious woman. She’s an artist and has at least a slight interest in nature. She seems to genuinely care for Tarzan as a person, not as a specimen.

What is notable about the film is that it isn’t a musical like so many other Disney films that came before. There are five songs in the film, all but one were sung primarily by Phil Collins. The one that isn’t sung by Phil Collins is “Trashin’ The Camp,” which was performed by Rosie O’Donnell and is one of the least necessary feeling sequences in the film. Even Mulan, which didn’t have the amount of numbers its predecessors had, is ultimately a musical. The lack of numbers used to propel the plot seems to be a phasing out of the Disney Animated Film formula since the next animated feature that wasn’t Fantasia 2000 didn’t have any musical numbers. (That film was Atlantis: The Lost Empire.) Unfortunately, the songs that Phil Collins sings are not that catchy except for “Two Worlds” at the beginning of the film because they start to sound the same. Mark Mancina’s score is much more interesting and memorable because of its use of percussion instruments to invoke a jungle tribal sound.

As for villains, while the film serves up three antagonists, the “villain” in this film is Clayton. Clayton just looks creepy and there’s a sense that he’s up to no good, but he doesn’t start to get menacing until the very end. And when he does get menacing, its not pretty. But while most villains are well-established in the film as being a bad guy, Clayton just seems to be a pretty shady guy for most of the film.

Tarzan also features two Cute Little Animal Characters: Terk and Tantor. Terk is the most annoying, unnecessary Cute Little Animal Character in any of the films I’ve watched. Tantor, on the other hand, even with his neurosis, is an interesting and useful character. He helps rescue the characters and becomes an aid to the gorilla tribe. Had the film had just one sidekick, Tantor, it might have been more interesting. But then Tarzan would have never met Tantor had it not been for a stupid dare Terk gave Tarzan as a kid.

Tarzan is far from being one of Disney’s best films of the decade, but it’s a beautiful film that shows off Disney’s ability to create visually stunning films. It has its flaws but it is the last great animated film that Disney made for a while.

The Great 90′s Animated Film Project: “Quest for Camelot” (1998)

Previously:
Mulan,
The Swan Princess,
Pocahontas,
The Hunchback of Notre Dame,
Hercules,
The Prince of Egypt,
Anastasia

When the film Quest for Camelot starts out, you think that it will be a great, exciting film with knights, lots of Celtic music, and a girl whose father dies early in the film. Quest for Camelot is a film with knights, lots of Celtic music, and a girl whose father dies early in the film, but it is rather dull.

Quest for Camelot is a Warner Brothers’ film directed by Frederick Du Chau that was released after their success with Space Jam, which is a really fun, clever film. This film is very loosely based off of the novel The King’s Damosel and features such changes as the protagonist being named Kayley instead of Lynette, the protagonist having a seemingly perfect childhood (although the thing that would make it imperfect would have definitely resulted in it not getting a G rating), two characters being combined into one, and the addition of the characters of Ruber, Bladebeak, and Devon and Cornwall.

Kayley (Sarah Freeman) has a perfect life with her mother, Juliana (Jane Seymour), and father, Sir Lionel (Gabriel Byrne), a Knight of the Round Table. But one day, while Lionel is at Camelot, he is killed by Ruber (Gary Oldman), another knight, who is trying to attack King Arthur. Kayley is saddened and ten years later has grown up, taking care of the farm with her mother.

It’s a lovely day in Camelot until a griffin (Bronson Pinchot) steals Excalibur. Back at the ranch, Ruber comes and he’s hot for Juliana and wants Camelot, nay, he wants it all. He has an entire song about how he wants it all. But wanting it all starts with getting Camelot, so he kidnaps Juliana while Kayley (Jessalyn Gilsig) escapes. Ruber then causes his minions to fuse with their weapons and one of Juliana and Kayely’s chickens to fuse with an axe, creating Bladebeak (Jaleel White). Kayley decides that while fleeing Ruber she will retrieve Excalibur and go to Camelot. While in the Forbidden Forest, she meets the blind hermit Garrett (Cary Elwes), who does an excellent job fighting bad guys. (Like Toph Bei Fong, but without the awesome earthbending) Her and Garrett then end up in Dragon Country, where they meet the two-headed/conjoined dragons Devon (Eric Idle) and Cornwall (Don Rickles), who bicker and cannot fly or breathe fire. The three/four then leave the Dragon Country and go towards a rock ogre that had Excalibur. They retrieve it and head towards Camelot, but Garrett leaves because he feels as though he doesn’t belong there. But then Ruber catches up with them and he wants it all.

This really does feel like a well intentioned film that was meant to steal Disney’s thunder. (A film released later that year by Dreamworks, actually succeeded.) But the characters lack dimension and the fight scenes aren’t thrilling to watch. Kayley is a spunky heroine and that’s it. And the dialogue in the screenplay by Du Chau, Kirk De Micco, William Schifrin, Jacqueline Feather, and David Seidler? Terrible. The film features such lines as “What is a damsel?” and “I stand alone too!”, which is said after the one memorable song in the film “I Stand Alone.” Although, Eric Idle gets the best line in the film when, while explaining why Devon and Cornwall are conjoined, says “Frankly, we’re the reason cousins shouldn’t marry.” But by the end of the film, it starts to rely on anachronisms in the form of pop culture references, such as Bladebeak referencing Dirty Harry, airline references, and Devon and Cornwall saying, “Houston, we have a problem.” It feels like the writers got lazy.

And with the characters not having much depth, that’s a huge problem with Ruber being a menacing or even mildly terrifying villain. Sure, he looks scary and has chipped fingernails, but he just wants it all. That character even has a song just about how he wants it all. He’s not a corrupt human or a villainous sorcerer; he’s a caricature that Oldman tries hard to make him seem terrifying. Except I kept thinking “It’s Joe Orton!” and that helps nothing.

This might also be the only film that has a completely interesting score and uninteresting music. Even Tarzan has one memorable song. Patrick Doyle’s score utilizes traditional Celtic music to set the tone and setting for the film, except that the anachronisms at the end that make it feel more like a lot of animated films churned out now. Carole Bayer Sager and David Foster’s songs are rather unmemorable, just because they’re furthering the plot, but its nothing I will be humming later. I also have to note that the film used bands and celebrities for the singing voices of the characters, such as Celine Dion being the singing voice of Juliana and Bryan White doing the singing voice of Garrett. However, when Garrett has a song, it is painfully obvious that Bryan White sounds nothing like (Cary Elwes). Bryan White has one of the better songs in the film, but he starts singing and all I could think of was, “It’s country musician Bryan White!”

And the main Cute Little Animal Character(s) are Devon and Cornwall, whom the film could function quite well without. In fact, it feels like a waste of Eric Idle and in a film where every character speaks with a British accent, Don Rickles speaking with an American Accent doesn’t make much sense. It feels very much that Devon and Cornwall are put in to satisfy the “formula” of adapting some novel or legend, adding in musical numbers, and having a Cute Little Animal Character that cracks jokes.

But Quest for Camelot does have good animation. It’s not breathtaking animation, but it’s good quality animation, even if the characters aren’t that expressive.

Quest for Camelot is definitely a film that could have possibly been good. But it’s not interesting and lacks action, considering its about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It’s clear that there were a lot of resources put into this film, it just doesn’t show until you get to the credits.

The Great 90′s Animated Film Project: “Anastasia” (1997)

Previously:
Mulan,
The Swan Princess,
Pocahontas,
The Hunchback of Notre Dame,
Hercules,
The Prince of Egypt

Before starting this series of posts, I had watched Anastasia and classified it as a film that paying attention in school ruined for me, which is what I also classify Pocahontas as. I had disliked it so much after that previous viewing that I considered not rewatching it for this post. I decided that would be unfair and after rewatching the film, it would have been.

Before I start with this analysis of sorts, I’d like to discuss the idea of the world of the film.

The world of the film is essentially the setting for the film and the “world of the film” helps justify the actions of the characters, no matter how bizarre they are. This is why Hercules is an enjoyable film; the film is silly and the world of the film enables the silliness to be accepted. This is what makes the thoroughly flawed Anastasia work, for the most part.

This film comes from the 1956 live-action film with Ingrid Bergman and Yul Brynner that uses the urban legend that the Grand Dutchess Anastasia lived while the other Romanovs died as its basis. The film opens in 1916, where Tsar Nicholas II is hosting a ball where his mother, the Dowager Empress Marie (Angela Lansbury), is in attendance. She arrives with gifts for her favorite granddaughter, Anastasia (Kirsten Dunst as a child, Meg Ryan as an adult), one of which is a necklace that has on the back, “Together in Paris.” Enter Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd) who is mad at the Romanovs and vows to have his revenge. As it turns out, Rasputin has sold his soul to start the Russian Revolution. The Revolution begins and the palace is overrun with angry citizens. Marie and Anastasia escape the palace thanks to a kitchen boy named Dimitri, but the two are separated when Anastasia falls from a train, hitting her head. Meanwhile, Rasputin has fallen into a frozen lake.

Ten years later, there are rumors that Anastasia lived and Dimitri (John Cusack), all grown up and now a con man working with Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer), wants to make money off of this. Meanwhile, Anastasia is leaving the orphanage where she has grown up as Anya. She decides to go to St. Petersburg instead of the fish factory because of the necklace that says “Together in Paris.” She then goes to Dimitri, who is living in the palace, to try to get some fake papers. Dimitri notices how much Anastasia/Anya looks like Anastasia and decides she’ll masquerade as the Grand Duchess. Meanwhile, Rasputin has been awoken from Limbo by his albino bat sidekick, Bartok (Hank Azaria), and spends a good portion of the film trying to kill Anastasia. The trio, on the other hand, gets to Paris, where they’re informed by Sophie (Bernadette Peters) that the Dowager Empress does not want to see anymore pretend Anastasias, but that they should go to the Russian Ballet. And then the plot thickens as Anastasia begins to remember things.

Anastasia works for the most part in terms of its logicalness. Take for example Rasputin selling his soul to start the Russian revolution; this is something that is simultaneously awesome and ridiculous. But if Rasputin can sell his soul to initiate a key event in history, then a lot of things in this film make sense. This doesn’t help clear up all of the problems in the film, such as why are Dimitri and Anastasia the two people in the film that speak with American accents? Or how it is that in the climactic battle scene Dimitri knows where Anastasia is?

But like the film that it derives from, Anastasia is based on a legend that anyone can find out is false by opening up a history book. The film is entertaining, amusing, and Dimitri has a lot more depth than the average Prince Charming or rogue in any Disney film. The film does suffer from Let’s-Have-Drawn-Out-Sequences-Of-Rasputin-Trying-To-Kill-Anastasia fatigue, but it’s mostly enjoyable. What other film has a villain that sells his soul to start the Russian Revolution?

The songs, by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (of Ragtime fame), are mostly memorable and tuneful. The one song in the film that stood out to me was “In the Dark of the Night,” which feels like pulling a page from The Lion King with a great, upbeat dark song where the villain sings about their triumphant return and how people should be prepared. Rasputin (singing voice of Jim Cummings) sings it backed up by a bug chorus, makes a triumphant return to the film and makes one actually hopeful that Rasputin will pull out the stops and make his plot very interesting. Unfortunately, it feels just like, “I will throw all of the magic I have at Anastasia.”

And in regards to the music, may we please take a moment to agree that “At the Beginning” was a very annoying earworm from the 1990′s?

In regards to the character of Rasputin, he’s a bit terrifying. Look at him. He just looks terrifying. And the guy sold his soul to start the Russian Revolution. There are things more nefarious than that—going on a mad hunt to find a woman you’re lusting for that involves setting a house on fire with the inhabitants locked in, setting a village on fire—that is a bit wicked. But at the same time, his attempts to kill Anastasia and permanently end the Romanov line ends up causing the film to lose momentum when really it shouldn’t lose momentum as the characters are on a runaway train.

As for the Cute Little Animal Character in this film, Bartok actually helps make the film enjoyable. Frequently, he serves as the little-heeded voice of reason to Rasputin. Yes, he is a wise-cracking sidekick/minion (In regards to Anastasia: “I’d give her a HA! And a HI-YA! And then a WA! And I’d kick her, sir.”), but he seems to add to the film rather than detract to it. Although his origins are never mentioned in the film, he seems to have been roped into the job of Rasputin’s minion. Although it’s nice to see Anastasia reunited with her grandmother, I found that Bartok was the one character I was rooting for in the film because he’s the most interesting character.

Although Don Bluth and Gary Goldman’s film isn’t as well animated as a Disney movie, it still has some terrific animation. The film is horribly flawed, but it’s still enjoyable and a good children’s movie, although not a great introduction to Russian and world history. And if anything, the film shows us that Kelsey Grammer does a pretty good Russian accent.

The Great 90′s Animated Film Project: “The Prince of Egypt” (1998)

Previously:
Mulan,
The Swan Princess,
Pocahontas,
The Hunchback of Notre Dame,
Hercules

The Prince of Egypt, the first traditionally-animated film that Dreamworks released, really feels like competition for Disney. While The Swan Princess and Anastasia feel like studios trying to replicate a Disney formula, The Prince of Egypt feels fresh and original. The Prince of Egypt is what The Hunchback of Notre Dame could have been.

This is a film that does not feel confined to being a children’s film; it is an animated film. While The Prince of Egypt makes the story of Moses and the Exodus of the Israelites more accessible to children than The Ten Commandments, it is a large, epic film.

The story of Moses and the plot of the film starts off with the massacre of the babies of the Hebrew slaves as ordered by Pharaoh Seti (Patrick Stewart). Yocheved (Ofra Haza) sees this and decides to save her newborn baby by placing him in a basket in the river. The basket, which is followed by the baby’s sister, Miriam (Eden Riegel as a child, Sandra Bullock as an adult), flows to the Pharaoh’s palace and is found by the Queen (Helen Mirren). She takes the baby, named Moses now, and adopts him as the Hebrew slaves continue to suffer.

Several years later, Moses (Val Kilmer) and his adoptive brother Ramses (Ralph Fiennes) have bonded and spend the days having fun, racing chariots, which destroys a temple, much to Seti’s disdain. Ramses gets blamed, even though Moses takes responsibility. When Ramses is named the Prince Regent and Moses the Royal Chief Architect, a Midian girl, Tzipporah (Michelle Pfeiffer), is given to Moses as a concubine/possible wife by the high priests Hotep (Steve Martin) and Huy (Martin Short). Tzipporah runs away and Moses ensures of this, but he chases after her, only to run into Miriam and his brother, Aaron (Jeff Goldblum). When Miriam informs him that he is really a Hebrew and not the son of the Pharaoh, he panics and runs to the palace, only to discover the truth about the slaughter of the newborn Hebrew children years before. Feeling a bit of conflicted feelings and guilt, he goes to the recently destroyed temple, which Ramses wants to restore and make better than ever. While there, an Egyptian slave driver is whipping an old man. Moses commands him to stop and pushes him to his death. Ashamed, Moses runs away, to the desert and ends up in Midian, where he is reunited with Tzipporah, who realizes that he really isn’t a “spoiled palace brat.”

Jethro (Danny Glover) is delighted by the presence of Moses and marries him and Tzipporah, who is his daughter. While Moses is out tending the sheep one day, he encounters a burning bush, wherein the spirit of God tells him to go to Egypt and convince Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go. Although this comes with the warning that Pharaoh will not listen to Moses, which must make Moses feel great. Moses and Tzipporah travel to Egypt, which is now ruled by Ramses. Moses turns his staff into a snake, but Hotep and Huy can do the same by invoking the Egyptian gods. Ramses refuses to let Moses’ people go and doubles the workload. Moses then goes and turns the water into blood, but Hotep and Huy can still do the same by invoking the Egyptian gods. Moses then sends The Plagues and warns Ramses that if he does not give up, he will lose what he holds dear.

Enter the death of the firstborn, which kills Ramses’ son. Distraught, Ramses lets the Hebrew slaves go, but not before chasing after them and catching up at the Red Sea. The Pillar of Fire holds them off, and the Red Sea is parted. The Hebrews cross and after the pillar goes away, the Egyptians start to catch up and the Red Sea goes back to its usual state, killing several Egyptians as Ramses yells for his adoptive brother. The film ends with Moses bringing down the Ten Commandments.

At the start of the film, there is a disclaimer about there being artistic liberties being taken with the story. These include the Queen rescuing Moses from the river as opposed to Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses not burying the body of the man he kills, and throughout the film, Moses being significantly younger when he returns to Egypt than he was in the Bible. But the disclaimer also states that they feel as though they stayed true to the spirit of the story. The film portrays the struggles of the Hebrews and the joy of them being set free after their prayers to God.

After watching the film, I wondered if Dreamworks would be as big of a movie studio if their second film and their first traditionally animated film wasn’t as good as The Prince of Egypt happens to be. There is really nothing better to say about The Prince of Egypt than that it is a good, no, great, film. It does not fill the film with anything to make it a “Children’s movie.” The film is an animated film that is family-friendly and can be watched by children, although it is dark. (But not as dark as The Hunchback of Notre Dame.)

The character designs are great, and every scene is richly detailed. And scenes that use special effects that are computer-generated end up looking awesome, rather than obviously computer-generated. From Moses being overtaken by a sandstorm to the Red Sea, the computer-generated images are simply breathtaking and amazing to see. You have to sit there and wonder if there were any details that the animators didn’t come up with since you can even see water being blown off of the Red Sea.

But the film isn’t just strong because of the amazing animation; the story also helps a lot. Philip LaZebnik and Nicholas Meyer’s screenplay for the film gives depth to the characters. In the film, it is well established how close Moses and Ramses are as brothers, which makes the struggle the two have later in the film—one having to do God’s bidding, the other having to deny the request of his brother—much more interesting. And while Ramses isn’t a terrifying villain, or even a villain, he’s one of the more interesting antagonists because of the internal struggle the audience is allowed to see. He’s not inherently evil like most of the other antagonists seen. He is simply causing the dramatic conflict to occur.

And where most animated films would maybe let Steve Martin and Martin Short be as goofy as possible with the voices of Hotep and Huy, they are really acting. It’s not until the credits, or if you look it up on IMDB during the film, do you realize that it’s them voicing sly, slightly creepy high priests. Sure, there are film and music stars voicing the characters, but they are acting when they are voicing the characters that is what helps elevate this film to be a film and not a “children’s movie.”

While the film is lacking a Cute Little Animal Character, a common element of the films examined in this series, the film has a magnificent score and music. With a score by Hans Zimmer that is very hummable and uses reedy sounds at various moments in the film and songs by Stephen Schwartz, the film is brought together. The songs, of which there is not a single weak one, help move the story along and make it even stronger. The opening number, “Deliver Us,” serves as exposition while setting up the story for us by showing the struggle of the Hebrew slaves as they sing:

Elohim, God on high, can you hear your people cry?
Help us now, this dark hour…
Deliver us, hear our call, deliver us, Lord of all!
Remember us, here in the burning sand!
Deliver us, there’s a land you promised us!
Deliver us to the promised land!

The Prince of Egypt has a “I Want” song with “All I Ever Wanted,” which Moses sings after being told that he’s really the son of a Hebrew slave. There’s the uplifting “Through Heaven’s Eyes,” which Jethro sings to inform Moses that he does fit into the grand scheme of things, the grandiose choral “The Plagues,” and the simple “Playing With the Big Boys.”

But the best known song from the film, the Academy Award-winning “When You Believe,” is uplifting, inspirational, and tear-inducing. It’s a beautifully written song that celebrates what has happened because the people that have been enslaved for so long believed in their god.

If anything, it’s hard to find a criticism of The Prince of Egypt, other than that it deviates from the source material and someone that is familiar with the Bible would be able to point it out. But the film proves that if you put a lot of effort into a film and don’t compromise it to appeal to a certain audience you can create an amazing work of art.

The Great 90′s Animated Film Project: “Hercules” (1997)

Previously:
Mulan,
The Swan Princess,
Pocahontas,
The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hercules is about the famed mythological hero Ἡρακλῆς, or Heracles, as his name was in the Greek myth. Hercules was his name in the Roman myth, but the film is set in Ancient Greece, as evidenced by his father being Zeus and Hera and them living on Mount Olympus. Although in the myth, Heracles is the son of Zeus and Alcmene, but I don’t think that Disney would imply that Zeus slept around. So, instead we have Zeus and Hera, the happy monogamous couple.

The film starts off with a narrator (Charlton Heston) who doesn’t invoke the Muses, but is mostly interrupted by them. They tell us about how the world was in chaos because of titans and Zeus came along and locked the titans up. We then go to Mount Olympus, where Zeus (Rip Torn) and Hera (Samantha Eggar) are celebrating the birth of Hercules. Hades (James Woods) shows up and shows how unhappy he is that Zeus has another son. Hades was given the underworld in Disney’s film, while in mythology, Hades chose the underworld when him, Zeus, and Posidon drew for their realms. Hades returns to the underworld to learn from the Fates (Amanda Plummer, Carole Shelley, Paddi Edwards) that in 18 years, the cosmos will align to show him where the titans are hidden. If the titans are released, he’ll be able to overthrow Zeus. But if Hercules fights, he won’t be able to succeed. Hades then sends Pain (Bobcat Goldthwait) and Panic (Matt Frewer) to kill Hercules. They kidnap him and take him to Earth where they fail to kill him and only turn him mortal. He is then discovered by Amphitryon (Hal Holbrook) and Alcmene (Barbara Barrie), who raise him as their own.

Fast forward several years and Hercules is now a teenager (Josh Keaton, singing voice by Roger Bart) that is viewed as a freak because of his god-like strength. Tired of being an outcast, he sets out for the Oracle at Delphi local temple of Zeus, where he prays and finds out that he is the son of Zeus and Hera. He is then reunited with Pegasus and told to find Philoctetes (Danny DeVito), who is not son of King Poeas and is a satyr living by himself on an island. Phil reluctantly agrees to train Hercules in order for him to become a hero and hopefully gain his place amongst the gods. After the training completes, Phil, Pegasus, and Hercules (now voiced by Tate Donovan) head towards Thebes, which Phil says has “a million troubles”*, but they first make a detour when they hear a woman shrieking. They go to land where they find Megara (Susan Egan) in the clutches of Nessus (Jim Cummings).

In the myth, Megara was Heracles’ first wife, the daughter of King Creon of Thebes, but not the King Creon of Thebes whose sister married her son. In Euripedes’ Heracles, the titular character later goes and kills his children and Megara after Hera strikes him with madness. The film having Megara in the clutches of Nessus is closer to Heracles killing Nessus, who attempted to rape his third rife, Deianira, after offering to help her across a river. (This incident later sets up Heracles death, but we won’t get into that.) Hercules defeats Nessus, is smitten with Megara, nicknamed “Meg,” and then leaves for Thebes. The viewer then sees that Megara is working with Hades and was trying to get Nessus on his side for the “uprising.” This is also when Hades finds out that Pain and Panic were not successful in killing Hercules as a child.

Upon entering Thebes, a city in need of a hero, he is dismissed for not having done anything heroic before. Then some children are trapped and he saves them, only to bring about the Hydra, which was the second of his labours, done to repay for his crime of killing his children. He defeats the Hydra and the crowd goes crazy. Hercules is a celebrity. Women are fawning over him while there’s a suspicious lack of men going gaga and wanting to tear his clothes in this film. One day, he decides to take a break and hang out with Megara, which is part of Hades plot to bring Hercules down. After the two are separated by Phil and Pegasus, Megara admits that she loves him and Hades decides to use this continue his evil plot. He uses her as a bartering chip to get Hercules to give up his strength for a day in order for him to not get in the way. The stars/planets are aligned and the titans are released†. While Hercules is being tossed around by a cyclops, Megara and Phil come, only she is injured when a column falls on her. His strength returns and he goes to Mount Olympus to save the gods. After defeating the titans, he goes to return to Meg, who is dead. He goes to the Underworld to save her and becomes a god while in what is either Lethe or Styx. He sends Hades down to Lethe/Styx and returns Meg’s soul to her body, and goes up to Olympus where he is welcomed, but decides to not be a god so he can stay with Megara.

Hercules is a very silly and unabashedly anachronistic film. While Hunchback of Notre Dame had anachronisms provided by the gargoyles and Pocahontas didn’t have that many anachronisms, Hercules is filled with them. (AirHercs, anyone?) In addition to these anachronisms, the characters make comments that would fit if the film was set in Ancient Rome rather than Ancient Greece, such as the children trapped under the large rock yelling, “Someone call IXII,” which is still clever, although not appropriate for Ancient Greece since those are Roman numerals. Rather than tell this sad, sweeping story like Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas set out to do, Hercules feels like the guy that just wants to have fun.

Like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules is heavily cleaned up to make the film family-friendly. We don’t have characters cheating on their wives, killing their children, or marrying more than once. We don’t even see any men fawning over Hercules and in Plutarch’s Eroticos it’s implied that Heracles male lovers were so abundant that it’s impossible to list them all. But if Hercules had the elements that make it a bit more authentic, it would never be family-friendly.

And as it is, Hercules is a lot of fun. While it has inaccuracies that a person familiar with Ancient Greece and its mythology would recognize, it doesn’t bring down the film. The benefit that Hercules has is that it is filled with so many anachronisms for the sake of pop culture references and gags that it feels like a lighter film than Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It manages to have a wise-cracking villain that still manages to have a menacing aspect to himself. Hades manages to provide comic relief and have a lot of the funnier lines in the film, but he can still be taken seriously as a villain. The character comments about throwing everything he has at Hercules because his minions goofed up and we witness this. He is not below using other characters in an attempt to finally get his evil plan to work. Hades isn’t as menacing as some other Disney villains because of his wise-cracking, somewhat laid-back attitude, but his constant pursuit of his goal does help make him a bit terrifying.

But one of the benefits of Hercules‘ fun, silly tone is that the Cute Little Animal Characters don’t detract from the film. In fact, Pegasus and possibly Phil serve as the Cute Little Animal Characters in the film and the film as it is written would simply not work without them. They’re characters that I don’t roll my eyes at because of their essential nature to the film.

Alan Menken and David Zippel haven’t created an amazing score and songs for this film, but they’re memorable. I even find them popping into my head at odd moments. And the parts of the score that riff off of the film’s theme, “Go the Distance,” work perfectly as Hercules either is triumphant or is making an important decision.

So while Hercules is a very flawed film, it’s a fun, enjoyable film that only seems to be just that. And even the errors in the film are able to be overlooked because everything in the world of the film makes sense. If anything Hercules is a flawed film that embraces its flaws to make it work.

*Oh, those Thebans and their curses, incest, self-mutilation, suicide, murder…
Note: No Kraken were seen.