Disney’s 1997’s Hercules, is an underrated classic, and despite resonating with fans, it didn’t hit the mark it was striving for, often being excluded by Disney in terms of representation in the parks and with merchandise. This is partially because, despite the nostalgia felt by fans, the film didn’t fare that well at the box office. Despite this, however, the movie is an important part of the Disney renaissance and is now being remade for live-action, and Hercules is the perfect Disney movie for this treatment.
Outside of animation, Disney’s Hercules has already flourished in other mediums, like theatre. The Public Works’ musical adaptation of Hercules, directed by Lear deBessonet and book by Kristoffer Diaz, was a sell-out success with lyrics by David Zippel and music by Alan Menken, the mind behind the music of Disney’s Aladdin and The Little Mermaid. While the play is based on the Disney film, there are some points of difference, including new songs that can be incorporated into the live-action film.
The humor in Hercules is also fast-paced and sharp with witty banter as well as a few slapstick jokes; however, the physical humor does not rely on ‘squash and stretch’ animation too often, which is when the animation over exaggerates a character physically in a way that’s impossible for live-action to recreate. With most of the jokes in the film coming from the script, character dynamics, and the delivery of the lines, the humor can translate well to live-action.
On top of the humor, Hercules has incredible music, which can be captivating to see performed with live-action actors. Aladdin’s remake proves that huge musical numbers can be translated from animation to live-action well, capturing a similar sense of wonder with the catchy songs and dynamic choreography. Aladdin also shows, as seen with the Genie in “Prince Ali” and “Arabian Nights,” that having moments narrated through song with magical characters who frame the story benefits the film, and Hercules can achieve the same with the Muses.
Another thing that the live-action Aladdin does that Hercules can benefit from is expanding on the roles of the women in their films. Princess Jasmine has a larger role in the remake, allowing her to develop beyond her relationship to Aladdin. This treatment could work well with the character Megara. Despite her having a key role, developed personality, and amazing musical number, Meg is overlooked in comparison to the Disney princesses and often is excluded from Disney’s marketing. This remake can give her a chance to finally shine.
Hercules, while a fantasy, also has the benefit of having a predominantly human and humanoid cast. This means that any CGI used the movie will be there to enhance the story, not create it, as was the case for The Lion King and The Jungle Book, which were criticized for being called ‘live’ action when they were predominately animated. Hercules, on the other hand, would be almost entirely live-action, with the non-humanoid characters being secondary.
Even for Philoctetes, a satyr, he can still be played by a person with either practical effects, like in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or a mix of live-action and CGI, as seen in Marvel and Star Wars films. This also means that the remake can avoid the pitfalls of attempting to animate the human face realistically, which can either go off without a hitch or look like something from the uncanny valley.
With its compelling characters and well-known story, it was only a matter of time before Hercules made its debut on the live-action stage. Disney’s trend of live-action remakes is the perfect tool to help bring this fan-favorite film to the newest generation. Given how underrated the original film became, a remake of Hercules will be able to build upon the best elements from the movie, taking the first film’s charming dialogue, humor, action, and characters and enhancing them.
As Disney expands its live-action catalog, the decision to adapt Hercules looks to be a perfect one.