Talk about patterns! First, we had a pattern of forgotten/minor characters of royalty; now there seems to be a pattern of forgotten/minor donkey characters! (See my posts on “Pinocchio” and “The Three Caballeros”)!
Oh well, what are you gonna do?
We have arrived at the 35th film in the Disney Canon, “Hercules”!
Released in 1997 and during the Disney Renaissance, this film is unique in that it’s the first and only Disney Canon film to be based on mythology, rather than the usual fairy tale.
The story is simple, Hercules is born to the Greek gods, Zeus and Hera.
All the other gods are happy and enjoying a party up in Mount Olympus. All that is, except for Hades, god of the Underworld!
Hades, angry and jealous of Zeus, has been plotting to take over Mount Olympus for some time, and after consulting with three witch-like seers of the future,
he finds out that Hercules is the only thing that can upset his plans!
So, he has his two henchmen…umm…hench…things kidnap Hercules and feed him a potion to make him mortal, so that they can kill him and be rid of him forever!
Hercules becomes a mortal, but because he didn’t drink every last drop of the potion, he maintains his immense strength!
He’s then found by two farmers and is raised as their own,
until he gets older and finds out the truth about his birth and divinity. He then does all he can to reclaim his place at Mount Olympus and god-like status with the help of a satyr trainer named Philoctetes and a beautiful woman/love interest named Megara.
Phew! Ok, that was a long “brief” summary! So where does our forgotten/minor character appear?
Well, during Hercules’ teenage life with the farmers, they own a donkey by the name of Penelope!
Our first glimpse of her is when Hercules “puts the cart before the horse”, so to speak!
The only other time that she’s seen is during the “happy ending”!
Ok, so you may not think that she’s an IMPORTANT character, but I’d like to make a case for her!
After our first meeting with her, when Hercules takes over her job, he ends up causing damage and destruction to the marketplace, which serves as the “last straw that broke the camel’s back” for him; or in this case, the last event that causes him to find out about his origins.
So if this event didn’t happen, and Penelope had indeed pulled the cart as she’s supposed to, Hercules wouldn’t have sought his origins or at least not sought them as early on in the movie as he did. And that would’ve most likely affected the storyline.
Hence, I consider Penelope the donkey an “important” character! But more importantly, because nobody remembers her, she fits perfectly also as the forgotten/minor character of this film!