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This article is about the character from Hercules. For other characters by the name, see Zeus.
“Didn't know you had a famous father, did you? Surprise!!”
Zeus is a major character in Disney's 1997 animated feature film Hercules. The mighty ruler of the gods, Zeus controls the universe and presides over Mount Olympus, with the power to control thunder and lightning. He is also father to Hercules, who—under Zeus's guidance—would become the greatest hero in all of Greece. Zeus is jovial and carefree, which makes him a beloved figure amongst his godly colleagues, with the exception of his evil younger brother, Hades.
Zeus is the son of the Titan King Kronos. Based on an offhand remark by Zeus, Kronos feared Zeus might one day overthrow him so he tried to eat him. Following mythology, his mother hid him away until Zeus was old enough to challenge his father and banish him.
Many eons ago (prior to the movie), Zeus imprisoned the deadly Titans, who threatened to destroy the world, deep beneath the ocean where they would remain for the rest of eternity undisturbed. However, he was unaware that the next planetary alignment would reveal the location of the Titans' prison, and his brother Hades planned to free them by the next alignment so he could use them to help him overthrow Zeus and take over Mount Olympus.
As mighty ruler of the gods, Zeus controls the Grecian universe and presides over Mount Olympus. Zeus prefers to keep things easygoing and is often seen with a large smile and making witty remarks on things. He also has a tendency to be quite stubborn, and at times even childish when faced with a task he would rather not perform. Zeus' antics are often reigned in by his wife Hera, to whom he immediately relents. Aside from this, Zeus is a worthy ruler, wise, and extremely fierce when necessary. This quality makes him a respected king with a combination of fun but maturity when needed. He's protective of Hercules as seen throughout the series.
Despite his joviality, Zeus, unfortunately, created his own worst enemy in his brother Hades. Zeus often makes fun of his brother and belittles him with jokes. While Zeus' behavior is intended as playful at most, it has nonetheless inspired a great deal of contempt within the God of the Underworld and is in no short part of what motivates his efforts to take over Olympus. Zeus does seem to be aware of Hades' attempted overthrows but apparently seems to forgive, or downright forget them relatively quickly.
Zeus has orange skin, a stocky muscular body, long white hair, and a long white beard. Like his son, Zeus has blue eyes. He wears a dark purple chiton with a lavender border, which is held by a round gold pin that displays a thundercloud on it. In the film, he is constantly surrounded by a blinding aura.
In the short time he turned himself mortal, Zeus youthened himself into a teenager, during which he had a skinny but muscular build, long chocolate-brown hair, and no beard. Despite this change, Zeus retained his original voice.
Powers and abilities
As an Olympian God, Zeus possesses the natural powers and abilities of an Olympian God such as omnipotence, immortality, omnipresence, omniscience, superhuman strength, metamorphosis, and teleportation. In the Hercules film and TV series, he displays a wide range of magical abilities, such as life-giving to objects or giving supernatural powers to those who don't possess it.
As the God of the Sky, Zeus rules the sky, thus he has control over the weather and is responsible for creating storms. His control over storms is notably prominent whenever he loses his temper, where he instinctively summons thunder and lightning when angered.
During the beginning of the film, Zeus, along with his wife Hera, were celebrating the birth of their newborn son Hercules with their fellow Gods. During this time, Zeus gave Hercules a gift - a baby colt named Pegasus. Soon enough, Zeus' brother Hades arrives and grows worried that the newborn might become a threat to his evil plot. Hades consults the Fates who reveal to him that Hercules will indeed foil his plot. Fearing that possibility, he sends out his servants, Pain and Panic to kidnap Hercules from Zeus' palace and give him an evil formula that will turn him mortal, thus allowing them to kill him. When Zeus and Hera discover Hercules gone, while Hera breaks down weeping, Zeus becomes so infuriated that his roar of "NO!!" summons a thunderstorm across Olympus and the land below. However, Hercules fails to drink the last drop and manages to retain his God-like strength allowing him to easily dispatch Pain and Panic.
Zeus is devastated by the loss of his son and sends out all the Gods to find Hercules. However, by the time they find him, it is too late, as Hercules has already been adopted by a kind and loving mortal couple. Zeus would not interact with his son until his teenage years wherein Hercules sought to find out where he came from by going to the Temple of Zeus, where the large statue of Zeus is possessed by the real Zeus who proceeds to happily welcome back his long lost son. However, he explains that Hercules cannot go back to Mount Olympus as he has lost his Godhood, and the only way to reclaim it is to become a true hero. For the mission, Zeus' only assistance is returning Pegasus to him and telling him the first step is to visit Philoctetes, trainer of heroes. Hercules goes off and fights off almost every monster and becomes famous. Soon afterward, Hercules returns to the Temple of Zeus and tells his father that this is the day he has been waiting for which is rejoining the Gods, but Zeus tells his son that being famous isn't the same as being a true hero and that in order to become a true hero he must look inside his heart.
Soon, Hades takes Hercules' strength away from him and unleashes the Titans and captures Zeus and the other Gods and starts to rule Mount Olympus. Hercules (who's gotten his strength back from when Meg saved his life) shows up and frees his father and destroys the Titans. Hades takes Meg's spirit into the river of death but Hercules (who willingly gives up his soul to save Meg) jumps in and rescues her and restores his godhood. After defeating Hades and returning Meg her spirit (to which she returns to life) Hercules is reunited with his parents and is told by Zeus for a true hero isn't measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart. Hercules tells his parents this is the moment he's been waiting for, but a life without Meg would be empty and that he wishes to stay on Earth with her to which Zeus and his wife agree. Once Hercules and Meg return to Earth, they reunite with Hercules' foster parents and Zeus paints a picture of his son in the stars.
Throughout the series set between his son's teenage and adulthood years, Zeus plays a major supporting role. He is the one who insisted Hercules be sent to high school. Often he is found either trying to help Hercules or thwart attempts on his throne by Hades.
In "Hercules and the Apollo Mission", when Hercules is given a job that Zeus feels is not worthy, he appeals to the Council of Gods to provide him a worthy job. Hades suggests work in the Underworld for Hercules, but Zeus laughs it off which angers Hades. To the surprise and dismay of Apollo, Zeus then decides that Hercules would drive the sun chariot. When Hercules loses the sun, Hades convinces the council of the gods to vote to dethrone Zeus and decide on a new king of Mount Olympus. When the sun is returned, Zeus finds out that Hades was behind the sun's disappearance which drove him to throw an emergency lighting bolt on him.
Is "Hercules and the Visit From Zeus", Hercules is having trouble dealing with Adonis, so, when he mentions it to his father, Zeus tells him to show him who's in charge. Hercules warns it's not that easy. To prove him wrong, Zeus spends a day as a teenager; at first as a god, then at Hermes' request, as a mortal, under the assumed name "Zach." While he was very popular as a teen god, as a mortal, Zeus is just like everyone else, subject to humiliation - and also, as Hades learns from the Fates, death. In an attempt to be rid of Zeus once and for all, he sends his troublesome dog Cerberus after Zeus while he's still mortal. Zeus gains his godhood back and defeats Hades, but learns a valuable lesson about how hard it is being mortal - though not before getting back at Adonis.
In the interactive game, Hercules has gone off to battle a giant. When Hades starts to cook up trouble, Hermes alerts Zeus, who channels Phil to find a new student and train them in the ways of a hero so that they may substitute until Hercules returns. During the final stage in the Underworld, Zeus grants the player the power of thunderbolts to aid in their mission to stop Hades.
Zeus doesn't make an appearance in the Kingdom Hearts games, but in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, Hercules mentions to Ventus that Zeus is his father and that he can return to him once he's a true hero. In Kingdom Hearts, Phil tells Sora in speech bubbles that Hercules is visiting his father Zeus up on Mount Olympus, and in Kingdom Hearts II, Hades tells Pete that the Underdrome was locked tight by Zeus.
Actor Rip Torn, who provides the voice of Zeus, was married to actress Geraldine Page, who provided the voice of Madame Medusa in The Rescuers.
Years later, Torn would provide the voice of another Greek God, Hephaestus, in Sony's God of War III. Fittingly, Corey Burton, who voiced Zeus in Disney's Hercules TV series also voiced Zeus in the God of War series.
In the movie, Zeus and his wife Hera are Hercules' birth parents. But in the actual myth, Zeus is his birth father, and Alcmene, a mortal woman who was seduced by Zeus, is his birth mother, prompting Hera to punish Hercules through his life as revenge for him Zeus betraying her. In the movie, Alcmene and her husband, Amphitryon are Hercules' adopted parents.
In Greek mythology, Zeus is the youngest brother of the trio of himself, Poseidon, and Hades, but in the animated series, he is the oldest with Hades as the youngest. Zeus is in fact related to every Greek God either by blood or by marriage in actual Greek Mythology, although the Disney version is only related to Poseidon and Hades by blood.
This was likely adapted out to avoid the connotations of infidelity and incest, since Zeus either fathered the other Olympians with his wife Hera, who was also his sister, or by being unfaithful to her.
Zeus' Roman counterpart is named Jupiter, which is also the name of the 5th planet from the Sun and the Solar System's largest planet. This was referenced in "Hercules and the Romans".