1 February 2013 | BrianDanaCamp
Animated rendition of highlights of the Hercules legend
I recently picked up two Mill Creek DVD sets containing eight animated literary works for children and HERCULES (1995) was the only one in the bunch that wasn't made in the 1980s. It turned out to be the best in terms of animation, design and storytelling. The others, which included ROBIN HOOD, TOM SAWYER, THE THREE MUSKETEERS, and BLACK BEAUTY were all from Burbank Films Australia, while HERCULES is from a different company, Jetlag. HERCULES also boasts a Japanese director and a number of Japanese animation personnel employed for a production that originated in the west. The other films in these sets all tend to lean heavily on cartoonish designs and voices, while HERCULES is more serious and straightforward. The character design here may be a tad simple for my tastes, but the backgrounds depicting the mythical era of Mount Olympus and ancient Greek legends are quite meticulously drafted and rendered. I thought the action animation, particularly the battle with the Nemean lion and the encounter with the shape-shifting sea god Nereus, was quite well done. While the level of imagination is not as high as we'd get in a Japanese-originated production, I thought this one offered a concise 50-minute telling of the Hercules story, from childhood to adulthood, with the famous Twelve Labors condensed considerably. There's a reassuring child-friendly ending that doesn't quite jibe with my memories of the tale's conclusion from childhood readings.