Link to Previous Part: The Disneyathon Part 13: Some Unique Films
We had a good thing going for a while, but all good things have to die out eventually. Disney’s Hercules is an interesting movie to say the least.
It has all the ingredients you would want from a Disney Renaissance movie, but it doesn’t know how it wants to show them off. Hercules tries to spice things up by pushing aside the elements you normally expect them to nail in order for more “comedy” and a different take on the mythology.
We get a good idea of what to expect when the great Charlton Heston is booted out as narrator and replaced by a Spice Girls Gospel Group. Every bit of mythology you have heard of is thrown around as general conversation points. All of the characters are very goofy and clumsy except for Meg and Hades who is in a league of his own. The times when the movie gets dark are genuinely shocking. There is also plenty of modern humour in this prehistoric movie for children. Hercules has his own pair of Air-Jordans, which is pretty dumb but also somewhat humorous.
What makes Hercules different from other Disney movies is the focus on comedy. They say it’s a fun kids movie for the whole family but unlike the other Disney movies there is no backbone appeal. There’s always been a greater theme, like it’s asking you to study what the movie represents. There is none of that here, it’s just another family movie, but with its own Air-Jordans knock-off.
The characters aren’t much to gush about except Hades of course, played amazingly by James Woods. He’s witty and when he loses it, it’s hilarious! I felt bad for him as he’s treated terribly by the other gods and to be honest I was rooting for him. He was great along with Pegasus who I never had an issue with. Everyone else is really just okay.
Hercules is pretty much like Superman. No one takes advantage of his super strength so he’s an outcast. His relationships with all the characters are rushed and underdeveloped especially with horse shoe beard dad and his wife who are completely forgotten about once Herc goes looking for his real daddy. Hercules himself isn’t bad. He’s like a big kid from the get-go and he’s quite cute. But he deserves a better girl than Meg as she is just the worst!
Meg is shown working for Hades and it makes sense as she appears very sly and gives off a temptress vibe with her sexy voice and over sexualised body. It turns out that’s not the case though as she is a slave to Hades and after one day with Herc she falls in love with him. It feels contrived and you never buy Meg having any romantic feelings stronger than “he’s kind of cute”. Meg should have been a villain while there should have been another character that needed Herc’s attention more than her.
To give Meg some credit she does deliver the best song in the movie though it’s better out of context. The worst song is You’re My Last Hope which is so obviously just Danny DeVito saying the lyrics while trying and failing to give it a melody. All the other songs are okay and not overly memorable. Especially the Oscar nominated Go the Distance and not even Michael Bolton’s cover version could save this one.
Along with the very forgettable score the animation is lacklustre. Mount Olympus and the Underworld make for some interesting locations, but we’re mainly in a forest or the rip-off ancient New York City place. It just looks really boring and there isn’t much flare to it. Hercules fighting the Hydra is probably the most visually impressive sequence in the movie and the final showdown with Hades, but it’s not enough to save what we have seen before. Though I did watch it on DVD instead of Blu-Ray, I also watched The Lion King on DVD and that still looked awesome!
I’m mixed on Hercules as it is pretty enjoyable, but from what I have seen before I expect more from this juggernaut. I’m giving it a 5/10. Mr Disney I’ll see you after class!
Up next is another interesting one except this one isn’t stupid.
Mulan is Disney’s answer to the 80’s teen classic One of the Guys. A young girl is pushed around in a man’s world, so she decides to cut her hair and dress like a guy. She has to awkwardly avoid been caught without her amour around nudie rudie men and she also proves that she is just as capable as the men. They’re pretty similar except for the reveal that she’s a chick and swapping the familiar high school background for a raging battle field.
I’m glad they got back on track with this as they find a nice middle ground from the goofiness of Hercules and the serious dark undertones of Hunchback to make a pretty enjoyable movie. It’s nothing amazing, but I found more things to like than dislike about Mulan.
Mulan is Pocahontas done right, plus more. I like that she isn’t a rebel right off the bat as she does want to uphold tradition and honour her family. Circumstances force her to do something illegal and she realises she actually likes this soldier gig. She isn’t overly sexualised like the last couple of ladies and she’s a good sport. Someone worth looking up to. I’m also glad she isn’t ruined by the forced romance with our other handsome lead, Captain Shang. Unfortunately they do sneak it in near the end and it just isn’t needed. So please, STOP IT!
That’s my real problem with Mulan, it is quite fresh for Disney, but they can’t abandon all of their old tropes. Take Mushu, I like him, he’s fun and Eddie Murphy gave a lot of energy to the character, but he seriously didn’t need to be here. Like the Gargoyles he overstayed his welcome and because of that some great scenes are kind of ruined by his presence. This also counts for the Cricket too! If they still wanted some fun sidekicks just keep the dashing horse and Mulan’s warmates as they blended into the narrative perfectly.
There are genuinely great moments throughout the movie. The opening was a good introduction to our villain Shan Yu, a man who is the complete tonal opposite of Hades. Mulan watching her father trying and failing to swing a sword was also really good. The sudden and haunting end of A Girl Worth Fighting For was quite a shock, which is a rare thing from a Disney movie. Lastly the hopeless battle in the mountains against The Huns. There are some nice swooping shots of The Huns charging full force at our heroes and it’s tense watching Mulan setting up her trap before Shan Yu catches up to her. It’s awesome except for the Mushu parts.
The animation is an improvement over Hercules as there is a lot more thought as to how everything should look and how the colours are used. The score was pretty good and the Chinese rhythm gave it a bit more personality. Not as many songs as the previous movies, but they get the job done. My favourite out of this bunch has always been I’ll Make a Man Out of You. It’s extremely catchy, filled with lots of energy, every character gets a moment to shine and it’s definitely up there in my top 10 favourite Disney songs.
Mulan is a good movie. That’s all there is to it. I think it did have the opportunity to be an outstanding movie, but still I’m not disappointed with what we got so that’s a plus. I’m giving it a 7 to 8 out of 10.
Here we are at 1999, the end of The Disney Renaissance. This era has given some of the most best movies of our generation and also some really average duds. We have seen two sides of the same coin in this very part, but where does Disney’s Tarzan place on our two sided coin?
Well Tarzan is a mixed bag for me. It’s got some really ground breaking and impressive aspects which unfortunately share the spotlight with some really bad parts. Which order shall we go in? I’ll probably just place them somewhere and it’s up to you which order you read them in.
This is just mainly down to characters and some elements in the story. I think the Disney Renaissance has killed my love for side characters because each instalment has made them slightly more irritating. We have seen many great comedians put their own spin on a Disney character and now it’s Rosie O’Donnell and Wayne Knight’s turn and God did I not like them! Well, mainly Terk, but still! They serve zero purpose to the story, they’re not funny and I’m never in a good mood when they show up.
The devolution of the love interest continues with Tarzan. Jane is not bad to look at but her voice sounds like dragging furniture across concrete! She is also pretty weak compared to some of the heroines we have seen and I am disappointed that Jane is part of the same era as Esmerelda and Ariel. This last devolution has only really popped up now and that’s the villain. Disney villains used to stand out over most other bad guys but not Clayton who is just a hunter and a big jerk. He’s not bad by any means, but it’s a shame the old highlight is just about diminished.
My last point is that the story is all over the place. We learn right off the bat that Tarzan is from England. The same leopard killed Tarzan’s parents and Kerchak and Kala’s son. This leopard is set-up as the main villain, but Tarzan kills him 28 minutes into the movie. Kerchak and Tarzan are about to resolve their feud when the human characters enter the movie. That’s when the leopard is completely forgotten about and all the apes are sidelined. It’s messy and it could have been resolved by ditching the evil leopard. I also think it would have been more dramatic to make Tarzan’s origin a complete mystery.
First off, Tarzan is good. This is probably the first Disney movie where the main character completely stole the show. His interactions with the different humans were the most entertaining parts of the movie. Couldn’t care less about the apes! That also how I felt about the story, when humans got involved it was just more interesting. The only real exception is the action.
Tarzan is action packed and it’s awesome! I’m glad I watched these movies in order to see the evolution of how the animation improved and it all built up to the glorious masterpiece that is the animation in Tarzan. I’m lost for words, you just have to see it for yourself. How the camera moves giving us jaw dropping perspectives of the action, how Tarzan navigates this 3D environment, it is just mind boggling how they managed to pull it off. The lighting, the colours… AHHHH! I could gush about this for ages, it’s perfection!
Back to the action, there is never a dull moment. Tarzan can swing across the jungle vines like he’s Spider-Man and he can also surf on the tree branches, which, I promise you, looks really cool in the movie. Despite my problems with it’s place in the story, Tarzan’s fight with the leopard is nail bitingly tense. Same with Kala escaping from the leopard at the start of the movie or Tarzan saving Jane from the baboons or Tarzan and Clayton’s final showdown. They’re all so brutally good, why can’t all action movies be animated?
Finally, the music. Disney has pretty much given up on getting Broadway stars and talented singers for an all-star cast. Now all of the songs are sung by famous musicians like Phil Collins. He’s not bad, but it isn’t really the same. My least favourite song just happens to be the one that won the Oscar! If you were wondering what my favourite is, it’s Son of Man.
Tarzan, a technical achievement that is trapped in a pretty average story. It’s still worth a watch if you haven’t seen it and the final score is a two thumbs up approval which can be translated to a 7 out of 10.
That’s the end of the best era in Disney Animated history. It’s a shame its over, but it was fun while it lasted. I’m looking forward to the new millennium because I can finally share some cinema experiences at long last! Before we wrap this up here are some alternate titles I thought of for this era.
Link to Next Part: The Disneyathon Part 15: Post Disney Renaissance