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August 1997

Hercules and Xena: The Battle For Mount Olympus Preview

The Hercules movie that everyone's been waiting for is not the one playing in theaters this Summer. Universal Studios' new animated Hercules and Xena movie, coming hot on the heels of the highly successful live-action television series, will premier soon in its direct-to-video release this Fall. Featuring the voices of the series' stars, including Kevin (Hercules) Sorbo, Lucy (Xena) Lawless, Renee (Gabrielle) O'Connor, and more, as well as some amazing animation that could put that other movie to shame, this movie could take some people by surprise. Now, for the first time anywhere, riot gives you a look the
film as well as the inside info. on this rather well-timed project.

Michael Pollis (Universal Home Video's Director of Marketing) and Dana Long (also from Universal) are far more relaxed than they should be. As two of the people leading the charge up the Mount Olympus of making Universals' Hercules and Xena animated movie stand on its own against some rather well-known competition. Pollis and Long seem to have a real
battle ahead of them.

"I'm really not worried," Pollis shrugs. "This is a cutting edge movie. The animation is stylized. It's almost to the point of being caricatures of the live-action stars. This is real artwork in this film."

What Pollis is getting at here is that his Hercules is closer to the real thing than any others you may have seen. That this is animation based on real people and not simply jolly cartoon characters. And that, based upon response to the Hercules and Xena live action series, Universal's betting this animated version is more than ready to take on any competition. "On the web-site alone" explains Long. "there are over 30,000 registered fans of the television shows. And that's just our site, that doesn't even include the fan-generated sites. Our audience for the show is so broad already, this movie is only going to expand
upon that."

Okay, okay. We've heard all of this before. Give us the real deal, though. What really goes on in the movie?

Pollis smiles, beginning, "lt's a great plot. Hercules' mother, Hera, is kidnapped by Zeus and taken to Mount Olympus. She decides that she wants to rule Mt. Olympus, and the only way she can imagine doing this is to release the Titans to help her. This doesn't work so well, though, as the Titans get a little out of control and end up defeating the gods and making a real mess of things on Mt. Olympus. They're basically not fit to oversee the world. So then Hercules and Xena, after seeing all of
this, reluctantly decide that they're going to set things right and take down the Titans."

Easy enough to follow, but what's so great about that?

"The battle," Long exclaims, grinning. "There's this huge battle at the end, with all of this stuff going on, and these amazing graphics. Stuff that we could never do on the television shows because the special effects would just be so enormous for a weekly, live-action television series. But in the animated film, we didn't have those restrictions of course, so we've pulled out all the stops. It's just enormous."

Long pauses here, and then adds, tentatively,"And then there's the singing."

Yes, that's right, like most of the more successful animated movies of recent years. Universal's Hercules and Xena will have an original soundtrack to make the movie even more of a total cinematic experience.

Pollis enthuses. "And we've even gotten Lucy Lawless to sing one of the songs in the film." Yes folks. at one point, rather than 'battling on.' Xena breaks out into song.

"It's sort of at a moment where Xena needs to figure out some things."explains Pollis. "and she just sort of uses the song to help clear her head and make up her mind. She has a wonderful voice." Lawless's singing voice is, in fact, well-known in Hollywood as well as on Broadway, where she'll make her debut this Fall in a revival of Grease. As 70s obsessed as people have become these days, this may be the perfect move for the warrior princess, adding a new level to her popularity

The animated Hercules and Xena, in fact, has at least three original songs already, and the possibility for a best-selling soundtrack hasn't gone unnoticed at Universal. "The music," Long admits. "is often what keeps kids coming back. They like to hear the songs they recognize and see the scenes they enjoy over and over again."

All of which brings to mind exactly who this film is for--the kids or the adults out there?

"Our core audience," says Long. "is mostly made up of teens and adults. But we have a lot of kids who are fans, and even a surprising number of older people who watch and really enjoy the television shows. Our fan-base is tremendously broad."

Pollis agrees, and he believes the animated movie will capture that audience as well. "It's a cartoon, of course, so there will certainly be the kid-appeal. But Moms love the show. They like watching Kevin Sorbo as Hercules, and they really enjoy the fact that Xena: Warrior Princess features two main characters that are female. There aren't many television shows that can say that. And it will most likely be Mom, after all, who purchases this video. So I don't see how it can miss."

So all of this stuff about competition really doesn't faze these two? It appears that way. As the Hercules and Xena animated film nears final completion, Pollis and Long study the graphics laid out on the desk in front of them (one of which you see here). Long looks up from them and smiles, "Looking at these, you know this is going to be a fantastic movie. I can't wait to see the reactions it gets."

We'll all only have to wait a bit longer--until October, to be exact--until the movie hits nearby shelves and we can decide for
ourselves which Hercules is really strongest.

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