This article is about the film. For other uses, see Hercules.
Hercules is the thirty-fifth full-length animated feature film in the Disney Animated Canon, and the eighth entry of the Disney Renaissance. It is produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures on June 27, 1997. As the thirty-fifth animated feature in the Disney animated features canon, the film was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. The movie is an American fantasy tale very loosely based on Ancient Greco-Roman mythology, more specifically the adventures of Heracles (known in the movie by his Roman name, Hercules), the son of Zeus.
The film begins with the five muses, "Goddesses of the arts and pro-claimers of heroes", telling the story of how Zeus came to power and prevented the monstrous Titans from ruling the world. This leads to the day Hercules is born to Zeus and Hera, much to the pleasure of the other gods except Hades, who receives word from the Fates that Hercules will one day rise to power and prevent him from taking control of the world. He sends his minions, Pain and Panic (a duo reminiscent of Ares's mythological sons, Deimos (dread) and Phobos (fear)), to kidnap Hercules and feed him a potion that will strip him of his immortality; however, they are interrupted by Amphitryon and Alcmene and, while Hercules becomes mortal, he retains his god-like strength (for the potion to fully work, Hercules had to drink every last drop, but missed one when they were interrupted).
Hercules grows up to be a misfit, challenged by his incredible strength and unable to fit in with other people. His adoptive parents finally tell him that he is adopted and they found a medal with his name on it when they found him abandoned on a road as a baby. Hercules then decides to travel to the temple of Zeus. Zeus comes down to Hercules and tells Hercules that he is his father and someone stole him from his parents (Hera and Zeus). Zeus tells him that he must prove himself a true hero before he can join the other gods on Mount Olympus. Along with his flying horse Pegasus, Hercules goes to Philoctetes, an unhappy satyr who has failed to train a true hero yet; he decides to take on Hercules as his final attempt.
After training with Phil, the three of them attempt to save the beautiful Megara, a damsel in distress, from a centaur named Nessus. A smitten Hercules barely succeeds and Meg returns to the forest, where she is revealed to have sold her soul to Hades in order to save her lover's life; her lover abandoned her and now Meg must do favors for Hades in order to avoid an eternity in the underworld. When Hades learns that Hercules is alive, he is enraged and plots to murder him again. When Hercules tries to prove himself a hero at Thebes, Hades sends the Hydra to kill him. Hercules tries to kill the Hydra by slicing off its heads, but more heads grow in their place. After a lengthy battle, he prevails by using his strength to cause a landslide, crushing the Hydra and killing it while he survives, but badly bruised and wounded. However, his victory earns him the respect and support of the people of Thebes after their earlier doubt and ridicule of him. He soon becomes a national, multi-million dollar celebrity as a result. Realizing that his plans are jeopardized, Hades sends Meg out to discover Hercules' weakness, promising her freedom in return. Hercules is disappointed to learn from his father Zeus that he has yet to become a true hero, and then spends the time and day with Meg, who finds herself falling deeply romantically in love again. When Hades intervenes, she turns against him, as she accepts her recently surfaced deep and strong romantic feelings and love for Hercules, much to Hades' dismay.
Phil learns of Meg's involvement with Hades and, thinking she willingly desires to work for him, tries to warn Hercules, who ignores Phil and knocks him to the ground in an outrage. Discouraged, Phil leaves for home. Unfortunately, through this, Hades realizes that Meg is Hercules' weakness. Hades arrives, interrupting Hercules' training, talks a lot, then snaps his fingers, making Meg appear. Before she can finish her sentence, Hades snaps his fingers and she disappears, tied up and gagged by smoke, then reappears with another snap of Hades' fingers. He uses Meg to try to get Hercules to give up his God-like superhuman strength for twenty-four hours, though Hercules adds the condition that Meg doesn't get hurt in any way. Meg shakes her head frantically, trying to convince Hercules not to make the deal, but he does not listen. When Hades sets Meg free, Hades spitefully reveals that she was working for him all along. Deeply heartbroken and crushed, the now-weakened Hercules loses the will to fight the Cyclops that Hades unleashes upon him when he frees the Titans from Tartarus. Meg finds and unties Pegasus and battles her fear of heights to find Phil, persuading him to come back and help Hercules regain his confidence. He finishes off the Cyclops, but just as a pillar is about to crush Hercules, Meg pushes him out of the way, saving him because "people always do crazy things when they're in love."
As a result, the deal is broken and Hercules' god-like superhuman strength is returned. Hercules, along with Pegasus and Phil, saves Olympus from certain doom and Hades returns to the underworld. Meanwhile, Meg dies of her injuries, her thread of life having been cut by the Fates. Hercules arrives and demands Meg to be revived, but Hades shows him that she is currently trapped in the River Styx, a river of souls where all the dead go. Hades allows Hercules to trade his own spirit for Meg's, hoping to return Meg's body to the surface of the river before he is killed. Hercules jumps in and as his lifeline is about to be cut by the Fates, his amazing courage and willingness to ultimately sacrifice his life for others prove him a true hero, restoring all of his godly powers and rendering him immortal, leaving the Fates shocked when they can't cut his thread of life as Hercules was immortal again. As he successfully returns Meg to the surface, Hades tries to talk his way out of the situation. Hercules punches him, knocking him into the River Styx. The other souls grab Hades and pull him down into the stream. Hercules revives Meg and they both head to Olympus, but when Meg's entrance is denied as she wasn't immortal like the Olympian Gods, Hercules chooses to become mortal and stay on Earth with her, which Zeus and Hera grant. Hercules is acclaimed a hero on both Earth and Olympus alike, Zeus creates a constellation in his image, and Phil is remembered for being the one to train him.
In the film, Hercules is the son of Zeus and Hera. In the Greek myth, Heracles (or Herakles) is the son of Zeus and a mortal, earth-born woman, Alcmene. Alcmene and her husband, Amphitryon, appear in the Disney's Hercules version, as Hercules' "foster parents".
Hades, voiced by James Woods, is cast as the villain. This idea is similar to that of the Hades of the Marvel Universe, who wanted to overthrow Zeus and was an ambitious, scheming god. In the movie, Hades is a fast-talking, manipulative deal maker with a fiery (literally) temper, who hates his job as lord of the underworld and plots to overthrow Zeus.
Disney took considerable liberties with the "Hercules" myths since most of the original material and characters were deemed inappropriate for younger viewers by the Disney studios moral standards, such as Hercules being conceived through a god posing as a mortal woman's husband, and of his stepmother Hera's attempts to kill him. Disney also made use of stereotypes when designing the look of the characters, such as depicting Hercules as a more of a crime-fighting superhero than a god (to the point that Hercules physically resembles Superman), the gods as laid-back American types, the Moirae as demonic hags (merging them with the Graeae), the Muses as five gospel-singing divas, and the Titans as brutish giants.
Due to the name's prominence in Western culture, they went with the Latin Hercules rather than the actual Greek Herakles. In the series, the god Dionysus was also portrayed with his Roman name, Bacchus.
The Disney version of Hercules has little relation to the Heracles myths, and should not be regarded as the actual stories about the mythological hero; rather, it is a spin on the character and the culture of ancient Greece, but using elements from DC comics' Superman, particularly 1978's Superman, 1980's Superman II and the three-part pilot episode of Superman: The Animated Series, "The Last Son of Krypton", with the following notable similarities almost to the point of infringement:
- Hercules is separated from his parents as a baby and grows up on Earth as an outcast because of his superhuman strength. When he discovers his true origins, he evolves into the local superhero/crime fighter/protector of the people, right down to wearing a cape, sporting an S-curl on his forehead, and even adopting similar postures to Superman.
- Hades appears to be an amalgamation of four of Superman's enemies: Lex Luthor, General Zod, Brainiac, and Darkseid. Luthor is obsessed with destroying Superman out of pure spite and jealousy; Zod and Brainiac are also from or related to Krypton; and Darkseid is the ruler of Apokolips. Hades shares traits with all four characters, and the Underworld greatly resembles Apokolips. Coincidentally, James Woods voices Lex Luthor (who is portrayed as Hades in the Disney film) in the Justice League Action animated television series.
- Megara appears to be an amalgamation of Lois Lane, Superman's love interest, and Mercy Graves and Eve Teschmacher, Lex Luthor's right-hand women in Superman: The Animated Series and the 1978 film, respectively; Megara's sassy and often sarcastic attitude is similar to Lois, while Megara falling in love with Hercules to the point of betraying Hades in order to be with him mirrors Eve saving and even kissing Superman so that he will save her mother's life despite knowing Luthor will likely kill her for it. Megara's life-debt to Hades mirrors Mercy's life-debt to Luthor, who once caught her breaking into his apartment to rob his fortune but took her under his wing instead of reporting her to the authorities.
- Philoctetes, as Hercules' mentor, has a very similar demeanor to Perry White, the employer of Clark Kent (Superman's civilian disguise): strict on the outside but who cares deeply for his friends.
- Pegasus shares traits with Krypto the Superdog.
- Amphytrion and Alcmene are depicted as a farmer couple who stumble across a baby Hercules, decide to adopt him, and wait until his adolescence to tell him of his true origins with physical evidence to prove it, like Jonathan and Martha Kent did with Superman; in the myth, Amphytrion was a Theban general, and Alcmene was the biological mother of Hercules as a result of an affair with Zeus.
- Zeus speaks with an American accent while Hera speaks with a British one, similar to Jor-El and Lara's accents in "The Last Son of Krypton".
- The Temple of Zeus has a similar purpose to the Fortress of Solitude, where Superman "communicates" with his father, who offers him advice and wisdom.
- Thebes, where Hercules operates, is referred to as the Big Olive; Metropolis, Superman's home city, is placed within the state of New York, and New York City is known as the Big Apple.
- Hercules briefly gives up his powers to save Megara from Hades, an action which leads Hades to unleash the Titans to take Olympus while sending the Cyclops to wreak havoc on Thebes and lure out Hercules to kill him, similar to Superman II when Superman's benevolent actions inadvertently lead to General Zod, Ursa and Non being freed from the Phantom Zone and travelling to Earth, where Lex Luthor allies with them in order to get his revenge on Superman.
- The Titans also play a similar role to Zod, Ursa and Non; in the opening of the film, Zeus imprisons the Titans, but they are later freed by Hades to take their revenge on him, while one, the Cyclops, goes after Hercules, Zeus's son. In Superman, Jor-El sentences Zod, Ursa and Non to the Phantom Zone, and when they are freed in Superman II, with help from Lex Luthor, they go after Superman, who is Jor-El's son, Kal-El, as Jor-El is long dead.
- Near the film's climax, Megara is killed by falling debris, but Hercules finds a way to bring her back from the dead despite Hades warning him of the risks, similar to the 1978 Superman movie, in which Lois Lane dies but Superman brings her back through time travel even though Jor-El (depicted as Zeus in the Disney film) warns him of the consequences.
- At the end of the film, Hercules ultimately gives up his godhood in order to lead a normal life on Earth with Megara, a choice that Superman (depicted as Hercules in the Disney film) briefly makes in 1980's Superman II so as to live with Lois after she admits she is in love with him. Megara's life being placed in danger is what leads to Hercules' powers being restored, similar to when General Zod takes Lois hostage in Superman II and Superman chooses to restore his powers to save her.
Because of this, the movie was widely panned in Greece by the media and the public, which led to the Greek government to refuse the film an open air premiere on Pnyx hill. A Greek newspaper called ''Adesmevtos Typos'' denounced the film as "another case of foreigners distorting our history and culture just to suit their commercial interests".
The movie got a subtitle in Greece calling it Ηρακλής: Πέρα από το μύθο (Hercules: Beyond the myth). The film does contain a brief reference to The Twelve Labors and other myths pertaining to the character, however, such as the Erymanthian Boar. In the movie, Hades sends these monsters to him, rather than their being encountered as they are in the myths. Some other Greek myths are appropriated, as well. One is the myth of Bellerophon, from which was taken the winged horse Pegasus and the scene where Hercules is swallowed by the Hydra (for Perseus it was the dragon Cetus) and cuts his way out. Another is the myth of Orpheus, who goes to the underworld to try to bring back his love, Eurydice. The most obvious is when Hercules is fighting a titanic battle with the Hydra, a lizard-like monster who regrows three heads for every one severed. According to Apollodorus, it regrows two heads instead of three. Many other myths are mentioned, like the ones of the Argonauts, Pandora's box, the Trojan War, and the Gorgons (which Hercules says he had slayed).
Because noted British caricaturist Gerald Scarfe (who contributed the animated segments for the film adaptation of Pink Floyd's album "The Wall") designed the characters, the film has a quirky visual style unusual in recent Disney films. CGI was also used to create the Hydra and the clouds in Olympus.
- Tate Donovan as Hercules, based on the mythological deity Heracles. Supervising animator Andreas Deja described Hercules as "...not a smart aleck, not streetwise, he's just a naive kid trapped in a big body", and that Donovan "had a charming yet innocent quality in his readings". Donovan had not done any voice-over work prior to Hercules. Deja integrated Donovan's "charming yet innocent quality" into Hercules' expressions. Ricky Martin provided both the speaking voice and singing voice for the Latin American Spanish-language dub edition.
- Danny DeVito as Philoctetes/Phil. Eric Goldberg, the supervising animator for Philoctetes, cited Grumpy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Bacchus in Fantasia as the inspirations for the character's design. Goldberg mentioned that they discovered that Danny DeVito "has really different mouth shapes" when they videotaped his recordings and that they used these shapes in animating Phil.
- James Woods as Hades. Producer Alice Dewey mentioned that Hades "was supposed to talk in a slow and be menacing in a quiet, spooky way", but thought that James Woods' manner of speaking "a mile a minute" would be a "great take" for a villain. Woods did a lot of ad-libbing in his recordings, especially in Hades' dialogues with Megara. Nik Ranieri, the supervising animator for Hades, mentioned that the character was "based on a Hollywood agent, a car salesman type", and that a lot came from James Woods' ad-libbed dialogue. He went on to say that the hardest part in animating Hades was that he talks too much and too fast, so much so that "it took [him] two weeks to animate a one-second scene". Ranieri watched James Woods' other films and used what he saw as the basis for Hades' sneer.
- Susan Egan as Megara. Supervising animator Ken Duncan stated that she was "based on a '40s screwball comedienne" and that he used Greek shapes for her hair ("Her head is in sort of a vase shape and she's got a Greek curl in the back.").
- Frank Welker as Pegasus. Ellen Woodbury served as the supervising animator for Pegasus.
- Rip Torn and Samantha Eggar as Zeus and Hera, Hercules' birth-parents. Anthony DeRosa served as the supervising animator for both characters. In the Swedish dub, Max von Sydow provided the voice for Zeus.
- Lillias White, Cheryl Freeman, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, and Vanéese Y. Thomas as the Muses (Calliope, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Clio respectively), the narrators of the film's story. Michael Show served as the supervising animator for the Muses.
- Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt Frewer as Pain and Panic, Hades' henchmen. James Lopez and Brian Ferguson respectively served as the supervising animators for Pain and Panic.
- Patrick Pinney as the Cyclops. Dominique Monfrey served as the supervising animator for the Cyclops.
- Hal Holbrook and Barbara Barrie as Amphitryon and Alcmene, Hercules' adoptive parents. Richard Bazley served as the supervising animator for both characters.
- Amanda Plummer, Carole Shelley, and Paddi Edwards as Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos, the three Fates who predict Hades' attempt to conquer Olympus. Nancy Beiman served as the supervising animator for the three characters.
- Paul Shaffer as Hermes. Michael Swofford served as the animator for Hermes.
- Jim Cummings as Nessus. Chris Bailey served as the animator for Nessus.
- Wayne Knight as Demetrius
- Keith David as Apollo
- Charlton Heston has a cameo role as the opening narrator (later named Bob in the TV series).
|Directed by|| John Musker|
|Produced by|| John Musker|
|Written by|| John Musker|
|Songs by|| Alan Menken|
|Original Score by||Alan Menken|
|Associate Producer||Kendra Haaland|
|Art Director||Andy Gaskill|
|Production Designer||Gerald Scarfe|
|Film Editor||Tom Finan|
|Artistic Supervisors|| Barry Johnson (Story supervisor)|
Rasoul Azadani (Layout supervisor)
Thomas Cardone (Background supervisor)
Nancy Kniep (Clean-up supervisor)
Mauro Maressa (Effects supervisor)
Roger L. Gould (Computer Graphics supervisor)
|Artistic Coordinator||Dan Hansen|
|Supervising Animator|| Andreas Deja (Adult Hercules)|
Randy Haycock (Young & Baby Hercules)
Eric Goldberg (Phil)
Nik Ranieri (Hades)
Ken Duncan (Meg)
Ellen Woodbury (Pegasus)
Anthony DeRosa (Zeus & Hera)
James Lopez (Pain)
Brian Ferguson (Panic)
Michael Show (The Muses)
Dominique Monfrey (Titans & Cyclops)
Richard Bazley (Alcmene & Amphitryon)
Nancy Beiman (The Fates/Thebans)
Oskar Urretabizkaia (Hydra)
|Production Manager||Peter Del Vecho|
- On Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic, "One Last Hope" is included on the purple disc, and "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" is on the orange disc.
- Disney's Greatest Hits also includes "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" on the blue disc and "Go the Distance" on the green disc.
- "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" was also used in the short-lived Disney musical revue On the Record.
Awards and nominations
- "Go the Distance" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, but lost both to Titanic's "My Heart Will Go On".
|Nominated||Animated Theatrical Feature|
|Won||Individual Achievement in Producing|| Alice Dewey (Producer)|
John Musker (Producer)
Ron Clements (Producer)
|Won||Individual Achievement in Directing|| John Musker (Director)|
Ron Clements (Director)
|Nominated||Individual Achievement in Character Animation||Ken Duncan (Supervising Animator - Meg)|
|Won||Individual Achievement in Character Animation||Nik Ranieri (Supervising Animator - Hades)|
|Won||Individual Achievement in Effects Animation||Mauro Maressa (Effects Supervisor)|
Many events of Greek mythology are mentioned by the various deific characters within the film in the past tense, either explaining the events to Hercules or referencing an example. However, several of the events mentioned occurred either during or after the life of the mythological Hercules. These include:
- Golden Fleece: The quest for the Golden Fleece, featuring Jason and the Argonauts, took place during the life of Hercules and featured him as a member of the Argonauts. However, the Argo itself has apparently been disassembled and Hercules has no first-person knowledge of its adventures.
- Orpheus: In the beginning of the movie, Hermes flies in and says that Orpheus made the floral arrangement in the bouquet he is carrying. However, Orpheus was a renowned artisan who was a contemporary of Hercules.
- Trojan War: The war occurred a generation after the life of Hercules, and in fact featured his son as a participant, but Hades makes a reference to the defeat of the Trojans with the Trojan Horse.
- Achilles: In addition to referencing the Trojan War, several characters mention the mythological figure of Achilles, who lived a generation after Hercules and took part in the Trojan War. This is also true of Odysseus, who is mentioned as having lived before Hercules, and, as is additionally implied, dying after Achilles.
- Gorgons: Hercules says to Zeus that he slew a Gorgon, although only one of the Gorgons could be killed (Medusa), and she was already slain by Perseus at about the same time as Hercules' Twelve Labors.
- Titans: In the movie, the Titans were demons that embodied forces of nature (earth, ice, lava, and wind) and had no relation to the gods. In the original, the Titans were the parents of several of the gods and had similar powers to them.
- Hydra: In the original myth, the Hydra was actually a large water snake that lived in a swamp that grew two heads when one was severed. In the film, the Hydra is a gargantuan, dragon-like monster that grew three heads when one was severed. It was also seen apparently sealed under a boulder, which was actually the place Hercules hid the Hydra's immortal head.
- Hippolyta: Phil references Hippolyta while briefing Hercules of his duties, by saying that he had to get "some girdle from some Amazons." In mythology, Hippolyta was an Amazonian queen who possessed an enchanted girdle which Hercules was ordered to retrieve as part of his labors.
- Augeas: Phil also references King Augeas, by saying that he had "a problem with his stables." This refers to the Augean stables, which housed a herd of immortal cattle that produced an enormous quantity of dung. Hercules was ordered to clean the structure as part of his labors.
- Pandora: Hades mentions Pandora during a conversation with Meg, in which he references her weakness as being a box. In mythology, Pandora was the first woman created by the gods, who inadvertently unleashed every evil in the world by opening a jar out of curiosity.
- When Hercules walks into Phil's house on the island, he hits his head on the mast of the Argo. Phil tells him to be careful. This is a reference to Jason of the legends of Jason and the Argonauts, who died when the mast of the Argo fell on him.
- During Hercules' training, he practices a form of karate. This is a reference to the 1984 film, The Karate Kid.
- The animators spent 6 to 14 hours to render a frame of the Hydra depending on how many heads it had.
- After Hercules defeats Nessus and saves Meg, Phil tells him "Next time, don't let your guard down because of a pair of big goo-goo eyes." Phil's original line was "Next time, don't let your guard down because of a pair of big blue eyes," which was heard in the teaser trailer on the 1996 VHS of Toy Story. However, by the time the scene was in color, Meg's eyes were purple.
- The movie is featured in a world, Olympus Coliseum, in the Kingdom Hearts video game series. Hades, while trying to take over Olympus, uses several Final Fantasy characters (Cloud, Auron, and Zack) to aid him by controlling them to kill Hercules or the series protagonists (such as Sora and Terra).
- Hercules, Megara, Philoctetes, Pegasus, Zeus, Hera, Hermes, and the Fates were featured as guests on House of Mouse, and Hades was one of the villains in Mickey's House of Villains.
- The Wilhelm scream is heard.
- Susan Egan would later go on to do the singing voice for Angel in Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure. Roger Bart would go on to do the singing voice for Scamp in the same movie.
- Even though Susan Egan and Roger Bart both worked on Hercules, they did not meet each other until working together in Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure by providing the singing voices for the two main characters.
- Unlike the original myths, in which Hera was the main antagonist, Hera is actually allied to Zeus and Hercules.
- Hercules is so far one of two movies from the Disney Renaissance that doesn't have a chronological sequel that takes place after the events of the first movie. However Disney did have plans for one.
- The Spice Girls were originally considered for the roles of the Muses due to their massive popularity and worldwide success at the time.
- This is Alan Menken's last project within the Disney Renaissance. Of his next projects, Home on the Range was released in the Post-Renaissance (aka the second Dark Age), and Tangled was released in the Revival.
- Caricatures of directors John Musker and Ron Clements can be spotted working on the archway that Hercules smashes into at the beginning of the Agora scene.
- Scar from The Lion King makes a cameo appearance as the dead Nemean Lion worn by Hercules while his portrait is being painted.
- Megara calls Pain and Panic (in disguise) "a couple of rodents looking for a theme park," which alludes Mickey, Minnie, and the Disney Parks.
- During the song "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)", the Muses appear as the Phantom Five from the Haunted Mansion's graveyard scene.
- Hades says, "It's a small Underworld after all," parodying both the ride and song "It's a Small World."
|Disney theatrical animated features|