Music has always been a
centerpiece of Disney's master storytelling throughout its feature animation
history. This fall, "Disney's Hercules" will break new ground for music
in animated television.
Music weaves an amusing and often narrative thread through most of the
series' 65 episodes, which chronicle the Greek demigod's heroic feats
during his formative, hero-in-training "high school" years. The action
and comedy of "Disney's Hercules" is uniquely complemented in both full-blown
songs and short ditties by an array of musical styles, ranging from gospel
and pop to country-western, disco and rock.
"The all-star talent and the topnotch writing involved in this series
have raised the bar on animated television for kids," says Bambi Moe,
vice president, Music, Walt Disney Television Animation. "It's presented
a wonderful challenge in the creation of music that is equally witty,
surprising and memorable. Meeting that challenge has made this, by far,
the most ambitious and most fun of any series I've ever worked on."
"In terms of both the volume of songs and their musical range," said Tad
Stones, the series' executive producer, "'Disney's Hercules' is a groundbreaking
series for us and, in many ways, for animated television history. The
songs are funny, clever and provide story background or transitions in
a light, easily understood, entertaining way."
Robert Stack is just one of several prominent stars - not known for singing
- that have taken their crack at carrying a tune. As the show's staid
narrator, Stack is in constant banter with the Muses - even breaking into
song with the quintet on occasion. In the role of Bacchus, Dom DeLuise
takes partying to a new level - to help Hercules throw a mentor's-away-so-let's-play
bash - by hammering home "The Bacchanal" song. French Stewart, Hercules'
daft pal Icarus, gets hit with Cupid's arrow and promptly plays pop to
it's comic edge with "Love Is in the Air."
Even James Woods,
re-creating his Hades role from last summer's hit feature film, belts
out the show-stopping "My Town" during the "Hercules and the River Styx"
episode when celebrating his takeover of Athens.
"Singing 'My Town' was, I'm sure, the Challenger shuttle moment of Disney
animated history," Woods says. "I kind of Rex Harrison-ed my way through
it. Don't get me wrong - the song came out great. But let's just say they
haven't written any more songs for my character since then."
Randy Peterson and Kevin Quinn are the primary songwriting team responsible
for the music of "Disney's Hercules." "Randy and Kevin have met every
challenge we've thrown them," says Moe. "This series has such a high caliber
of both scriptwriting and talent that Randy and Kevin had to hit a home
run every time. I think they've been right on the mark - every song is
clever, fun, well integrated into the story, and adds an extra entertainment
component to the overall series."
A few actors took an active part in the creation of their musical roles.
Playing Hercules' guidance counselor Parenthesis, Monty Python star Eric
Idle penned his own comical "A Promethean Ditty," which tells the tale
of the founder of the Prometheus Academy. For the series' opening episode,
Kathie Lee Gifford went deeper into character - as Echidna, the "mother
of all monsters" - by co-writing with Peterson and Quinn the hilarious
"What's a Mother to Do." The song is a vivid reflection of basic maternal
sentiments, with a brutish twist ("You try to teach them right from wrong,
the proper way to drool; You give the best years of your life, and hope
they turn out cruel ... it makes my black heart blue, what's a mother
Music gets it's serious treatment, as well. As in the feature film, the
Muses (Lachanze Sapp, Roz Ryan, Lillias White and Cheryl Freeman) play
an integral role in many of the musical numbers. Their versatility has
been essential to expanding the variety of song types within the series
- ranging from the film's use of gospel to new influences such as pop,
rock, country-western, funk, techno-pop and disco.
Noted songstress Melissa Manchester and musician Paul Schaffer also have
songs included in the series, the latter putting a "Rawhide"-like twist
on his narrative "That's How the Story Goes" to open the episode "Hercules
and the Return of Typhon" (Typhon is played by Regis Philbin). Hollywood
Records recording artist Idena Menzel, a member of the original Broadway
cast of "Rent," gracefully slipped into the role of enchantress Circe
to sing the sassy "One Good Man."
Two of Walt Disney Feature Animation's leading ladies - Susan Egan (Meg
from "Hercules") and Jodi Benson (Ariel from "The Little Mermaid") - have
also recorded songs for their characters. Egan reprises her Meg role in
two flashback episodes, while Benson has a recurring role in the "Disney's
Hercules" television series as "Helen of Troy."
Series regulars Tate Donovan, Bobcat Goldthwait, Matt Frewer, Sandra Bernhard
and Corey Burton also have recorded musical segments for the 65-episode
series, which premieres Monday, Aug. 31 in syndication from Buena Vista
Television five days a week, Monday-Friday (check local listings).