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D23 2017: Zero to Hero: The Making of Hercules

It’s been 20 years since the arguably underrated Disney classic, “Hercules” made its way to the big screen. Ever since, audiences all over the world have embraced the film for its soulful, gospel take on Greek mythology. Disney commemorated the film’s 20th Anniversary with its very own panel at D23 Expo moderated by the film’s two legendary directors, John Musker and Ron Clements (“The Little Mermaid”, “Aladdin”, “Treasure Planet”).

Musker and Clements recanted their joys and process of working on the film, showing various never-before-seen clips and animatics of early sequences. Musker also displayed several photos of himself, Clements, and the animation team on various location scouts throughout Greece so that the animators could get a feel for what they would be drawing. The Directors also explained that they had shot several live-action scenes intercut with the early animatics so that the visual artists could see the human portrayal. One rather comical scene shown was a snippet of the famous Hydra battle sequence, in which an actor in a very cheaply made Hercules costume tussles with a cardboard Hydra head while Clements stood in for the role of Phil. Next, a video of the entire “Zero to Hero” number was played, with live actresses portraying the Muses intercut with the completed animated sequence.

 

Next, animators Eric Goldberg (Supervising Animator for “Phil”) and Ken Duncan (“Supervising Animator for “Meg”) took the stage to share stories of what it was like behind the desk. Goldberg showed some clips of early test footage of the Phil character while Duncan did the same for Meg. Duncan also displahyed a rather adorable drawing of Meg in a cast, which he had drawn for Susan Egan (Voice of “Meg”) after she broke her foot during a performance of “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway. The icing on the cake was a speech bubble reading “That’s the last time I let Herc rub my feet!”

Egan herself was welcomed to the stage next along with Hercules himself, Tate Donovan. Donovan shared his story of getting the role and later adopting it as a “Disney calling card” of sorts after reprising the role for the prequel animated series. Donovan revealed that he originally didn’t think he was going to be cast as widely known actors such as Kiefer Sutherland and Charlie Sheen had been in the audition room with him. He was also distraught when Musker and Clements had looked away from him during his audition, not realizing that since it was a voice audition they intentionally looked away, so as not to be swayed by his physical performance. Egan also shared her audition story of how she was originally told not to audition by Alan Menken, the composer of the film. At the time, Egan had been starring as Belle in Disney’s Broadway adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast”, which Menken had also composed. Menken felt that Egan’s sweet persona wouldn’t fit the sassy character of Meg. After having difficulty casting the character, Menken finally allowed Egan to audition and she completely won over the casting team. As a proper send off to the audience, Egan closed out the panel with a live rendition of Meg’s famous number in the film, “I Won’t Say I’m In Love”.

 

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