- “A true hero isn't measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.”
- ―Zeus to Hercules
Hercules is the titular protagonist of Disney's 1997 animated feature film of the same name. The son of Zeus and Hera, Hercules was stripped away from his home on Mount Olympus and turned mortal by his evil uncle, Hades, though he maintained his immense strength. Under the guidance of Zeus and tutelage of Philoctetes, Hercules would embark on a journey of self-discovery to prove himself a true hero and reclaim his place amongst the gods.
Despite his incomparable power and fame throughout Ancient Greece, it wouldn't be until his chance encounter with the femme fatal, Megara, that Hercules would come to understand the true measure of a hero.
Since learning the truth about his parentage, Hercules's head began to fill with dreams of becoming a true hero, realizing it would lead him to where he truly belongs since throughout most of his life, he always felt out of place in the world. While his strength is well above average, Hercules isn't all that intelligent, but what the hero lacks in outstanding brains, the more he makes up for it in his compassion and the desire to do good. Hercules's heroism is especially appreciated in a world with constant turmoil around every corner, be it by the hands of a demon or beast, or The Lord of the Dead himself.
As mentioned above, Hercules is compassionate, and his most dominant trait is, without a doubt, his innocence and massively kind heart, in spite of being treated like a "freak" by his peers and those around him (with the exception of his foster parents) throughout his childhood, and adolescent years. His teenage years were difficult with his lack of coordination and tendency to break things. Even after becoming a worldwide phenomenon, Hercules retained his innocence and cheerful nature, not once letting the fame dangerously inflate his ego. This makes Hercules one of the purest of heart as a Disney character.
Before training with Philoctetes, Hercules was a courageous youth but clumsy and inept, where even if he accidentally slips or trips, he ended up destroying things. He was also wide-eyed, gawky and awkward, having a tendency to stammer when he speaks or flinch when frightened. When the enormous statue of Zeus came to life, Hercules screamed and tried running away from the giant figure. Hercules' clumsiness and not being agile continued throughout his training with Phil and while attending Prometheus Academy, as Phil once told Meg that it wasn't the most graceful period of Herc's life. When bringing up his cousin Triton, Herc described him as a "bumbling, stumbling, uncoordinated goof", which his friends Icarus and Cassandra compared to Herc's own flaws.
Overconfident, Hercules had dreams becoming a true hero, battling monsters, rescuing damsels, and other acts of heroism. He barrelled himself into situations without thinking and got into trouble. Whenever he confronted a foe, Hercules tried to act bold, sometimes by using good manners, but words failed him and someone would already had the jump on him, causing Hercules to get slammed, dunked or beaten. But once he concentrated, analysed the situation and controlled his strength, he would come out victorious. Upon completion of his training, Hercules became less awkward and clumsy and more skillful in his heroics. However, Phil does berate him for the mistakes he made in the fight with Nessus, such as losing his sword, but Hercules pays him little attention, since he did win. His inexperience is also noted during his battle with the Hydra, where the beast intially swallows him, and while dodging a swarm of heads Herc tells Phil that he didn't think they covered this in basic training. Despite the odds, Hercules used his strength to bury the monster under a mountain of rocks, impressing the crowd of Thebes.
Although he became a first-class hero, Hercules was still nervous when approaching the crowd of Thebans and he was sheepish when he was visited by fangirls. When Hercules tried to introduce himself to Meg, but he became shy and tongue-tied. But once he got to know her, he was less nervous.
Notably, whilst usually on the bright side, Hercules has an effective sternness to his personality, notably seen during the climax of the film, where the actions of Hades take a turn for the worse, killing and threatening the entire world of Olympus, as well as Megara. This can be seen again when his trainer and close companion, Phil, questioned Megara's affections towards the hero after witnessing her plotting against the latter with Hades (though it was a misunderstanding at that point in the movie).
The primary lesson Hercules learns throughout the film is what it takes to be a true hero. Something his father Zeus explained he had to learn for himself, having confused real heroism with beating monsters and being famous. After meeting and falling in love with the beautiful, Megara, Hercules would learn a true hero is measured by the strength of his heart, as opposed to the strength of his muscles.
Hercules has short strawberry-blond hair and blue eyes and wears a brown bandanna on his head. In his god form while he was still an infant before two of Hades' lackeys Pain and Panic remove his godhood by forcefully drinking a magic potion to stop his crying and emerging at the River of Styx after he saves Megara's spirit as an adult, his hair becomes golden blonde and lightens up in a golden hue.
As an infant, he only wears a white Roman-type diaper and wears a red necklace with a golden Zeus pendant.
As a teenager, Hercules is tall and scrawny, with big hands and feet. He wears a white single sleeveless roman garb and brown warrior sandals. Until being trained heavily by Phil, in which he became a little more athletic, he is not seen without his brown bandanna.
When he becomes a fully grown adult, Hercules is top-heavy and muscular. As a hero, he wears a brown Roman warrior armor gear with a dark brown belt, brown wristbands, and matching warrior sandals. He also gains a long light blue cape on the back and wields a warrior sword and shield.
Powers and Abilities
- Superhuman Strength: Hercules possesses high level superhuman strength. This was his sole remaining godly power after being rendered mortal and appears to be higher than most other gods or titans. In the Disney Universe, only Zeus, Bill Cipher, and Genie can rival or surpass him in strength.
- Enhanced Durability and Stamina: Although being incomparable to that of immortal Gods, his stamina and entire body including skin are seen to be strong enough to withstand his own actions that are beyond of normal humans on many occasions both in the film and in the animated series.
- Enhanced Speed: In some occasions, he is seen to be surprisingly fast and is able to disappear being unnoticed by people in physical contacts.
- Trained Hero: By imposing hundreds of Philoctetes' hero rules, and constant days of practice, Hercules transformed from klutzy boy into hero material, tempering his great strength with incredible precision and control. As a trained hero, Hercules is able to use a variety of weapons from ancient Greece including swords, spears, and archery. He is trained to save people, fight monsters, handle dangerous situations and come up with strategies to win battles. However, despite having been taught every trick in the book by Phil, Herc didn't think they covered a multi-head Hydra in basic training. In the animated series, he is also seen to be skilled with various weapons and is able to spy and sneak on subjects diving underground.
- Immortality and universal divinity capabilities (formerly): During his brief times as a god, Hercules was completely immortal. He would not age, grow sick, or be permanently harmed by any force known. He first lost this power when Hades made him mortal as a baby, and again when he chose to live his life with Meg.
Hercules was born on Mount Olympus with all the powers of a god to his loving parents, Zeus and Hera. On the celebration of his birth, during which the Olympian Gods present the infant god with a multitude of gifts, Zeus himself creates the winged-horse Pegasus as a gift. It seems to be a joyous occasion, although one god is not happy about the new arrival: Hercules' evil uncle Hades, Lord of the Underworld. Hades tried to give his gift, a spiked skull-shaped pacifier to Hercules by attempting to stick it into the baby's mouth. Hercules, however, managed to squeeze Hades' hand in order to get him to drop the pacifier before it almost went into his mouth. Hercules is very strong. He has a super strength that he was born with, and ever since he kept it and knew with it, and when he got older he started to help out the villagers with heavy stuff that they could not carry, and helped them from people who will try to come in the village and do wrong stuff like steal and beat up people.
Hades wants to take control of Mount Olympus and the world, and he sees that if Hercules chooses to fight when he is older, his plans will be ruined. Knowing that as a god, Hercules is immortal, Hades sends his two lackeys, Pain and Panic, to kidnap Hercules and turn him mortal by means of a magic potion. Although they succeed in the first part of the plan, carrying Hercules down to Earth, they are interrupted by two human peasants (Amphytryon and Alcmene) before Hercules finishes drinking and the final drop falls wasted on the ground. Pain and Panic nevertheless attack him in the guise of snakes and discover that because he did not drink the last drop he has retained his godly strength and they are beaten back. Amphytryon and Alcmene adopt the child, considering his arrival a gift from the gods since they are themselves childless. Too late, Zeus and the other gods discover the kidnapping. Because Herc is now mortal, however, they are unable to take him back to Olympus.
Hercules grows into a strong, but a clumsy teenager who cannot control his godly strength and only ends up causing havoc and alienating those around him. On one occasion, he accidentally flattens the local market town during a game of discus, causing a commotion and triggered anger in the townsfolk, with one of them calling him a "freak", breaking his spirits. Amphytryon tries to cheer him up by telling him not let what everyone said to get to him, but this is no use, as Hercules finally concedes that no matter how hard he tries, he simply cannot fit in with normal people, and questions if he truly belongs on Earth. That night, his foster parents decide to finally come clean to him about the circumstances of his adoption, showing him a medallion they find that bears the symbol of the gods (Zeus' lightning bolt). Hercules sets off to find his place in the world and goes to the Temple of Zeus for guidance. While in the temple, Zeus himself appears (embodying his own statue), and reveals Hercules' origin. He explains that the only way Hercules can rejoin his parents on Mount Olympus is to prove himself a "true hero". A grown-up Pegasus also joins Hercules as a constant companion. As of that moment, Hercules' journey to godhood has begun.
He goes to see a satyr named Philoctetes, a trainer of heroes. He initially refuses to train Herc, having been let down too many times by losers who could not go the distance, but changes his mind after Zeus zaps him with a bolt of lightning as punishment for doubting Herc. When Hercules has reached adulthood and has passed his training, he sets off with Philoctetes to become a hero in Thebes. On his way, he encounters Megara, who is being pursued by the lecherous Nessus. Despite Megara's insistence that she didn't even need his help in the first place, Hercules intervenes. After a couple of disastrous missteps, Hercules defeats Nessus and rescues Megara. While Hercules quickly develops romantic feelings for Meg, both Phil and Pegasus quickly dislike her and set off. Unknown to them, Megara is working for Hades. On hearing from her that Hercules is still alive, Hades plots once again to kill the would-be hero.
Meanwhile, Hercules and Phil arrived in Thebes, though the townsfolk crowded around see Hercules as an amateur and wouldn't give him a chance to prove himself a hero. However, Meg tells Hercules about two little boys trapped and require rescuing. Lured to a canyon, Hercules lifts a massive boulder from the mouth of a cave, freeing the boys, but only a few people applauded. Hercules thinks he rescued the "boys" (Pain and Panic in disguise) but was oblivious to the unintended consequences. When Hercules moved the boulder, he had uncovered the cave's mouth and releases the Hydra, a giant serpentlike creature, which has been set up as a fixed battle by Hades. Phil ran for cover while Hercules bravely fights the Hydra with just his sword and his wits. Hercules scrambles to defeat the monster until it flipped him into the air and swallowed him whole. But after a moment, Hercules slashed his way out from inside the Hydra. Although Hercules thought he did great, three heads oozed from the Hydra's wound. Flying around on Pegasus, Hercules sliced at them with his sword, only for more heads to grow back. Hercules ends up inside a living jungle of Hydra necks, as the snarling heads gang up to attack him, until the monster's talons pinned him to a cliff. Thinking quickly, Hercules smashed his powerful fists into the cliff, causing an avalanche, burying him and the Hydra under a mountain of rocks. Hercules emerges from the Hydra's foot unharmed. The crowd cheered wildly as the light shined on Hercules and hoisted their new hero on their shoulders.
After defeating the Hydra, Hercules continued his heroics: subduing monsters and overcoming disasters. During the song "Zero to Hero", Hercules is shown to dispatch every variety of monsters Hades sends to kill him, enraging Hades with each victory Hercules attains against the beasts. Hercules and Pegasus again paid a visit to the temple of Zeus. By this time, Hercules has become the toast of Greece: famous, rich, and perhaps a little too cocky. He believes himself a true hero and is distraught when Zeus tells him he has not quite gotten there yet, unsure of what more he can do. Megara, on assignment from Hades, convinces him to play "hooky", or truant for the day, going on a date. The date is ended by Phil, irate at Herc for skipping training. Phil was knocked off Pegasus and wakes up in time to learn of Meg's involvement with Hades. He leaves to tell his sure-to-be-devastated protégé, not hearing Meg's refusal to help destroy Hercules. Hades then discovers that Hercules loves Megara and uses that knowledge to attempt to take the young hero out of the picture while he attempts to overtake Olympus.
Hercules, ecstatic from the date, refuses to believe Phil's warning about Meg, even accidentally hitting him in a flash of blind anger, prompting Phil to quit as his trainer, with Hercules, still in a state of anger, telling him to go ahead and leave, but becomes remorseful over his actions after Phil has departed. As soon as he is gone, Hades confronts Herc, offering Meg's safety if the hero will give up his strength for 24 hours (long enough for Hades to conquer Olympus). Hercules is reluctant to see anyone hurt, but Hades vows that no harm will come to Meg. Herc agrees, and Hades takes the opportunity to humiliate him by revealing Meg's role in his scheme. Enacting his plan, Hades sends a Cyclops that he frees from Tartarus with the other Titans to destroy Hercules so that he can't get in the way later on. Hercules has been so disheartened and demoralized by learning that Meg had been working for Hades (only to realize that Phil was telling the truth about Meg working for Hades and should have listened to him all along), that he doesn't even try to defeat the Cyclops. Meg hurries to fetch Phil, who convinces Hercules not to give up. Using his wits, he seizes a nearby torch as a weapon. He is able to defeat the Cyclops, which he does by burning its eye and sending him hurtling off a cliff.
The monster's fall causes a pillar to topple towards Hercules and Megara pushes him out of the way, taking the impact of the pillar. This, in turn, causes Hercules to regain his strength because Hades' end of the bargain is now broken. Megara, however, is gravely injured and Hercules leaves her in the care of Phil while he rushes off to thwart Hades' invasion of Olympus. His first move is freeing the Olympian Gods from their shackles, then his father Zeus from his imprisonment by the Ice and Lava Titans. He immediately engages the Titans. Ultimately, he wins the battle by using the Wind Titan to suck up the other three Titans, then uses all his strength to hurl them into outer space. There, the group of Titans explode and are forever silenced. After thwarting the invasion, Hades shouts to him that he's got Meg's soul as his 'consolation prize', and Hercules rushes back to Meg's side, only to find that she had died moments before he got there, her Thread of Life cut by the Fates.
However, he then travels to the Underworld to rescue Megara's spirit. Hercules manages to capture Hades' dog, Cerberus, and ride it to Hades' lair. Hades is undisturbed by this, even going so far as to taunt him. When Hades points out that Meg is dead and belongs in the Underworld now, Hercules makes a deal that he will trade his soul for Meg's. Hades agrees to this - IF Hercules can get her out. To do so he must dive into the River Styx, which swiftly ages mortals upon contact, killing them if they spend too long in there. Hercules nevertheless enters the pool to rescue Megara's soul. Although he begins to age as Hades forewarned, he does not die, as his selfless act fulfills the requirement for being a true hero and, thus, Hercules regains his godhood, rendering him immortal moments before the Fates could cut his Thread of Life, leaving them stunned that Hercules is immortal again. He then defeats Hades by punching him into the River Styx and returns Megara's soul to her body.
He is then invited by Zeus to live in Olympus, which was indeed originally his wish, but he decides rather live his life on earth as a mortal with Megara. Although he will eventually die, he believes that even an immortal life without Megara would be empty. Zeus and Hera respect this wish, and Hercules returns to the city of Thebes.
The animated series is set in the period between his teenage years and his first journey to Thebes as an adult, while he is still in training as a hero on Phil's island. The series also reveals that, on Zeus' instruction, Hercules attends a high school called the Prometheus Academy. While there, he befriends Icarus and Cassandra and gains a rivalry with Adonis. Hercules also battles various monsters like Orthos and meet characters like Alexander the Great.
Many of the Olympian Gods and Goddesses only glimpsed during the film pay visit to young Hercules and help or hinder him in his adventures.
In the animated sequel to the film and extension of the series, Hercules and Megara are revealed to have since married, moving into a new home together. During the move-in, however, Hercules' old yearbook from his High School years at Prometheus Academy was uncovered. Not wanting Meg to learn the truth of his embarrassing past, Hercules ordered Hermes to send the book back to Phil's island, to keep it away from Meg at all times. Later on, though, Hercules finds that Megara flew off to the island on Pegasus, and persuaded Phil into revealing the stories of Herc's youth. Once he arrives, he decides to give in and explain some of the stories himself, revealing the truth and believing Meg would see him as pitiful as his peers did back then, only to find out his bride couldn't care less, and her love for him was still as strong as ever.
In a special crossover episode, Hercules met and battled Aladdin. When Hades and Jafar teamed up, they kidnapped Icarus and blamed the kidnapping on Aladdin. They then kidnapped Aladdin's monkey Abu and blamed it on Hercules. After a battle, the heroes learn that they've been duped and travel to the Underworld. Aladdin and Hercules work together to eliminate Jafar once more, forcing Hades to simply give up.
He also appears in the television series House of Mouse. Hercules can also be seen during the opening song with Phil and Megara.
Hercules can also be seen along with Hercules sitting at the table in Mickey's House of Villains right after the Lonesome Ghosts' debut short ended. During the Disney Villains' takeover, however, both Herc and Phil are nowhere to be seen whatsoever.
In the series finale of At Home With Olaf, a short clip of his film featuring a younger version of himself appears during a montage of heartwarming moments from Disney films playing in Olaf's song "I Am with You".
Like in the movie, he was on a quest to return to Mount Olympus. While on his last quest (to defeating 12 beasts and collect 12 labors) he stumbled across Snow White. He listened to Snow White's troubles and decided to train her to become a hero, and taught her to shoot arrows. She faced a group of bandits traumatizing a village but failed. Hercules then knocked on the ground to cause an earthquake as a warning for the bandits to leave her alone. Snow White wanted to quit, but Hercules convinced her to try again by telling her how he almost died when facing his first labor, but nevertheless succeeded. The day next, Snow White manages to face the bandits valiantly and the villagers were inspired to help. Hercules and Snow White then parted ways with a kiss, with Snow going back to become a better princess and Hercules to slay his last beast: Cerberus. He met Megara, who was being chased by the monster and tried to slay it. Unfortunately, the beast proved too powerful for him, and he met his demise in the fatal battle. His soul was then sent to the Underworld, where he remained for decades due to his failure to finish his quest.
A grown-up Snow White, now named Mary Margaret, comes across Herc and asks him to help them defeat Cerberus so they may find Killian Jones. He tries to face the beast, but the fear and memory of failure prove too strong. Mary Margaret, after encouraging words from Regina, convinces Herc to try again by teaming up instead of facing it alone. They find a frightened Megara seconds before Cerberus appears, and the three slay it together. While resting at the Underworld version of Granny's Diner, Meg and Herc recognize each other from their last moment of life. There is clear affection between the two. Herc and Meg then ascend to Olympus together.
Hercules is one of the primary characters featured in the Kingdom Hearts series. Appearing in the first game, Hercules is encountered by Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Cloud Strife after the group runs into Cerberus. Upon the defeat of Cerberus, Hercules is impressed with the trio and encourages them to continue training. When they leave, Hercules reveals to Phil that he had already worn out Cerberus by the time Sora and company came to fight him.
In Kingdom Hearts II, Hercules has continued fighting monsters, but when Megara is captured by Hades, Sora, and the others go off to find her so that Hercules can deal with the attacking Hydra. After defeating it, he joins the others in the rescue but is shocked to discover that the Hydra had caused destruction to the coliseum after Hercules had left it unconscious. The failure causes Hercules to fall into depression. With this opportunity, Hades kidnaps Megara to force Hercules into joining the tournaments in the Underdrome. In the finals, Hercules faces off against a brainwashed Auron and is almost eliminated by the swordsman until the fight is stopped when Sora and the others restore Auron's free will.
Angered by the outcome, Hades throws Megara into the Styx. Like the film, Hercules rescues her and his strength is restored and helps the group defeat Hades. In the credits, it is shown that Hercules has successfully rebuilt the Coliseum with the help of his friends.
In Birth by Sleep, set 10 years prior to the first game, Hercules appears in his younger incarnation from Hercules back when he was still enduring Phil's training to become a hero. He meets Zack, and witnesses the actions of Terra, Ventus, and Aqua when each had visited the Coliseum, each, in turn, inspiring Hercules and allowing him to continue training with Phil after Hercules helped Ventus fight an Unversed.
Hercules also makes appearances in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories as a figment of Sora's memories and Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. Coded is the first game in the series in which Hercules appears as a party member, where he teams up with Sora in order to find Hades.
In the secret ending of Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A Fragmentary Passage- for Kingdom Hearts HD II.8 Final Chapter Prologue, Yen Sid sends Sora to train under Hercules in order to regain his lost powers. He returns in Kingdom Hearts III as a party member.
Hercules used to appear at the Disney theme parks for meet-and-greets but is now a retired character.
Hercules also appears in Fantasmic!, making a cameo during the floating bubble montage alongside other characters from his film. He also appeared on the Steamboat Willie riverboat during the show's finale but has since disappeared.
Despite not appearing in the interactive attraction itself (as Hades, Pain, and Panic are the only characters from Hercules appearing in the attraction), Hercules has a spell card known as "Hercules' Tower Topple" in Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.
In 2018, Hercules was added to It's a Small World along with other Disney characters.
He had his own stage show on the ships called Hercules: The Muse-ical. He is most likely to be seen on the long-running live show The Golden Mickeys.
On the Disney Fantasy ship show Wishes Hercules and the Muses meet three high school graduates. The Muses perform Zero to Hero whilst Hercules battle some of the Titans during the show.
Although never seen in Villains Tonight!, Hercules is mentioned several times, usually to make Hades angry for the reminder of his defeat in the 1997 film.
- Despite being the son of the king and queen of the gods, Hercules himself is not considered a prince nor is he featured in the Disney Princes line up, this is likely due to his movie's lack of success.
- In one episode of the series, a messenger asks for Hercules but mistakes the name as Heracles. Hercules is the Roman equivalent of the Greek name Heracles.
- He is the only one in the movie that is called by his Roman name.
- In the original myths, Hercules is driven mad by Hera's jealousy of another step-son and kills his own wife and children.
- According to the original myths and legends, Hercules may have been the founder of the Olympics. There is also some evidence that Hercules may have been a real person as well.
- In the film, when posing for a pottery painting, Hercules is seen wearing a lions' head and skin cloak resembling that of Scar. This is a tribute both to one of his labors (slaying the Nemean Lion) and to the line in The Lion King where Zazu says Scar would make a handsome throw rug.
- The last full line Hercules speaks in his movie is "I finally know where I belong." However, he does say "Ma, Pa" during "A Star Is Born".
- If mythology is taken into consideration, Hercules and Ariel are related: Hercules' father is Zeus; Poseidon is a brother of Zeus; one of Poseidon's many sons is Triton; and, of course, Ariel is Triton's seventh daughter. This means Hercules is Triton's first cousin, and Ariel is Hercules' cousin once removed. However, if this were true King Triton's lifespan would be called into question as the Little Mermaid takes place in the 1800's and Hercules takes place well over 3000 years in the past. (Though King Triton is a god, and of course, gods are immortal.)
- In the original myth, Hercules had a twin brother named Iphicles by Amphitryon. This is called heteropaternal superfecundation when two different males father fraternal twins by one woman. This was left out when Disney made Hercules, Zeus and Hera's son instead of Zeus and Alcmene.
- When Hercules is made human, his coloring is duller than other humans. This may be because he was not actually a mortal, but a god.
- It is unclear why he had to turn back from immortal life to live on Earth with Megara, and what would happen to him when his life as a mortal comes to an end. Regarding the afterlife, it remains unknown whether he will join the other gods on Olympus and regain his immortality as he did in the Greek legends, or if his soul will enter the Underworld and remain there. Considering that Megara is a mortal and her soul will likely go to the Underworld upon dying, it's likely Hercules will choose to go there as well once he dies to be with her forever due his love for her.
- Unlike in myth, all Olympian or deities of other regions (e.g. Egyptian) including demigods and demigoddesses seem that their superhuman physical capabilities are much restricted (possibly). Demigods and demigoddess are actually capable of matching pantheons.
- Marvel Comics has its own version of Hercules as one of their superheroes, the Marvel version of Hercules has appeared in Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.
- He had been mentioned in School of Secrets and has a son named Herkie in the franchise.