Hercules (1997 film)

Hercules is a 1997 animated feature, produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures on June 27, 1997. The thirty-fifth animated feature in the Disney animated features canon, the film was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. This movie was based on the legendary Greek mythology hero Heracles (known in the film by his Roman name, Hercules), the son of Zeus, in Greek mythology. The storyline also draws inspiration from The Karate Kid, Rocky, Superman: The Movie, and most notably, Hercules in New York.

Though Hercules did not match the financial success of Disney's early-1990s releases, the film made $99 million in revenue in the United States during its theatrical release and $252,700,000 worldwide. The film is part of the Disney Renaissance that started in 1989 and ended in 1999. Hercules was later followed by the direct-to-video prequel Hercules: Zero to Hero, which served as a prequel to Hercules: The Animated Series, a syndicated Disney TV series focusing on Hercules during his time at the Prometheus academy.

This film was rated G by the MPAA.


The film begins with a mock-epic spoken narration beginning from Charlton Heston, which whimsically dissolves into the five gospel-singing Muses, "Goddesses of the arts and proclaimers of heroes". After Mr. Heston tells the Muses; "You go, Girls", the five Olympian Divas begin telling the "The Gospel Truth" of how Zeus came to power and prevented the monstrous Titans from ruling the world. This leads to the day Hercules (voice of Tate Donovan) is born to Zeus and Hera, much to the pleasure of all 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. Hades sends his minions, Pain and Panic (a duo reminiscent of Ares's mythological sons, Deimos (pain) and Phobos (panic), to kidnap Hercules and feed him a potion that will strip him of his immortality; however, they are interrupted and, while Hercules becomes mortal, he retains his god-like strength because he didn't drink the last drop.

Hercules grows up to be a misfit, challenged by his incredible strength and inability to fit in with other people. His adoptive parents Amphitryon and Alcemene finally tell him they found him with the symbol of the gods around his neck. Hercules believes the Gods may have the answers behind his mysterious past and decides to go to the Temple of Zeus. Zeus appears and tells him that he is Hercules' father, and that he must prove himself a true hero before he can join the other gods on Mount Olympus so Hercules takes-off from Zeus' Temple on Pegasus; and decides to follow Zeus' advice and seek out Philoctetes ("Phil" for short), an unhappy satyr of heroes. Phil has failed to train a true hero yet; . Phil decides to take on Hercules as his final attempt.

After completing his training, Hercules, Phil and Pegasus set out to establish Hercules as a Hero. Enroute to the city of Thebes Hercules sees the beautiful Megara, or Meg, as she identifies herself. Meg appears to be a damsel in distress. Meg is being threatened by Nessus, a centaur. A deeply smitten Hercules barely succeeds in rescuing Meg, yet finally he triumphs. Meg thanks him somewhat anemically; saying "'s been a real slice", and then retreats to the forest. Here it is revealed that she is in cahoots with Hades; it seems she sold her soul to Hades in order to save her former lover's life. Her lover then abandoned and betrayed her, and now Meg must do favours 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, despite the initial scorn he is greeted with by the people, Hades sends the Hydra to kill him. After a lengthy battle (which at first involves the chopping-off of heads which regrow and triple in number each time), Hercules finally prevails by using his strength to cut open the Hydra from the inside after he is swallowed by the monster, as well as burying it in a landslide. Hades then sends one monster after another to destroy Hercules, but he defeats them all easily - to the Muses background singing of "Zero to Hero" and "Hercules". Hades grows more and more outraged, as well as extremely abusive towards Pain and Panic with each failure to destroy our Hero. Hercules meanwhile soon becomes a national, multi-million-dollar celebrity as a result of his exploits. Realizing that his plans are jeopardized, Hades sends Meg out to discover Hercules' weaknesses, promising her freedom in return. Hercules is disappointed to learn from his father Zeus that he has yet to become a true hero; just defeating monsters and saving people isn't enough, a true hero is "something more than that". Hercules then spends the day with Meg, who finds herself falling in love again, much to her own cynical amazement. When Hades intervenes, she turns from him, much to his dismay. Meg tells Hades that Hercules has NO weaknesses; but Hades realizes that Meg herself is Hercules' one weakness.

Phil learns of Meg's involvement with Hades and tries to warn Hercules, who ignores Phil and knocks him to the ground in an outrage. Discouraged, Phil leaves for home. Pegasus meanwhile, has been captured and tied-up by Pain and Panic. Hades arrives along with a captured Meg and makes Hercules a deal: If he surrenders his strength for the next twenty-four hours, Meg will remain free of harm. After making the deal, Hades frees the Titans from their prison and sends them to attack Olympus and imprison the other Gods, especially Zeus. One Titan, however, the Cyclops, is sent to kill Hercules. Hercules at first takes an awful beating because he's lost heart after Hades reveals to him Meg's betrayal of him. Meg meanwhile deeply regrets her part in all this mess; and frantically tries to set things right by freeing Pegasus and getting Phil to come back and help Hercules. Phil pep-talks Hercules, and pushes him to "go the distance". Hercules uses his wits to defeat the titan and save the city of Thebes. During the Titan's rampage, a column starts to fall. Hercules was right underneath it, and Meg pushes him away from it. The column falls and ends up mortally injuring Meg. As a result, the deal is broken and Hercules' strength is returned. When Hercules asked Meg why she would risk her life for him, she replies in a cynical but deeply affectionate way, "People always do crazy things when they're in love". Touched, Herc promises Meg that she won't die. Hercules, along with Pegasus, saves Olympus from certain doom and Hades returns to the underworld. Meanwhile, Meg dies of her injuries; her thread of life cut by the Fates.

Hercules arrives in the Underworld and demands for 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 soul 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 sacrifice his life for others prove him a true hero, restoring all his godly powers and rendering him immortal (and thus making it impossible for the Fates to cut his life-line). 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 river, from which it will take him a long time (if ever) to escape from, (much to the delight of Pain and Panic). Hercules revives Meg and goes to Olympus, but when Meg's entrance is denied because she is a mortal woman and not an immortal goddess; Hercules chooses to become mortal again and stay on Earth with her. Hercules is acclaimed a hero on Earth and Olympus alike, Zeus creates a constellation in his image and Phil is remembered for being the one to train him. Hercules, Meg, Phil, Pegasus, Amphitryon and Alcemene are all shown happily together on earth at the end; while Zeus and the other Olympians rejoice above.


In the story, Hercules is the son of Zeus and Hera. In some Greek myths, Heracles (or Herakles) is the son of Zeus and a mortal, earth-born woman, Queen Alcmene. Alcmene and her husband, King Amphitryon, appear in the Disney's Hercules version, as Hercules's "foster parents". They are depicted as a "farmer and his wife", very reminiscent of Superman's/Clark Kent's foster parents: Martha and Jonathan Kent.

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 (who comes across very much like a sleazy Hollywood agent-type, with dialogue like "shmooze"). Hades has a literally fiery temper, he hates his job as lord of the underworld and plots to overthrow Zeus.

Disney took considerable liberties with the "Hercules" myths, because some of the original material and characters were deemed inappropriate for younger viewers by the Disney studio's 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, 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. It has been argued that Disney merely added a new 'version' in the long line of Greek myths, since the old myths often existed in many different versions in different parts of Greece. Gods and heroes could play a totally different role in the same story when told in different city-states.

Due to the name's prominence in Western culture, they went with the Latin Hercules rather than the actual Greek Herakles (Ἡρακλῆς). In the later animated series, the god Dionysus was also portrayed with his Roman name, Bacchus.

The Disney version of Hercules has almost nothing to do with 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. This is obvious, since ancient Greece is treated like modern day America, e.g. with several American expressions (such as calling Thebes "The Big Olive", and the exclamation "Somebody call IX I I!" when calling for help), and Hercules-merchandising (Herculade, Air Herc, action figures) after he becomes popular. Also, the sexual element of the original greek myths (such as Hercules actually being the son of the womanising God Zeus and Queen Alcemene, but NOT the son of King Amphitryon or the Goddess Hera - who in the original myths hates Hercules, and is his greatest enemy, not Hades). Obviously, such material is not very G-rated, or family friendly in its original form. The film does contain a brief reference to The Twelve Labors and other myths pertaining to the character, however, such as the Erymanthian Boar. At one point, Hercules is shown wearing the skin of the Nemean Lion, who looks exactly like a dead Scar from the earlier Disney Movie The Lion King. 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, including those of the Argonauts, Pandora's box, the Trojan War and the Gorgons.

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.

Hercules 3: The Trojan War will be a 2009 upcoming Canadian CGI-animated direct-to-video sequel based on the 1997 film of the same name. The sequel will be produced by DisneyToon Studios and released on December 15, 2009 by Walt Disney Pictures and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.


Character English voice actor French voice actor Quebec voice actor German voice actor Spanish voice actor Latin American voice actor Italian voice actor Japanese voice actor
Hercules Tate Donovan Emmanuel Garijo Antoine Durand Til Schweiger Sergio Zamora Ricky Martin Raoul Bova Masahiro Matsuoka
Phil Danny DeVito Patrick Timsit Luis De Cespedes Mogens von Gadow Jordi Vila Marcos Valdés Giancarlo Magalli Ichirō Nagai
Hades James Woods Dominique Collignon-Maurin Jean-Luc Montminy Arne Elsholtz Pep Antón Muñóz Rubén Trujillo Massimo Venturiello Kyūsaku Shimada
Megara Susan Egan Mimi Félixine Céline Bonnier
Dominique Faure (singing)
Jasmin Tabatabai Nuria Mediavilla Tatiana Veronica Pivetti Shizuka Kudō
Zeus Rip Torn Benoît Allemane Marcel Sabourin Wolfgang Dehler Claudio Rodríguez Guillermo Romano Gianni Musy Genzō Wakayama
Hera Samantha Eggar Sophie Deschaumes Élise Bertrand Viktoria Brams María Luisa Solá Beatriz Aguirre Aurora Cancian
Pain Bobcat Goldthwait Éric Métayer Bernard Fortin Mirco Nontschew Juan Fernández Javier Rivero Andrea Brambilla Chappu
Panic Matt Frewer Éric Métayer François Sasseville Stefan Jürgens Pep Sais Gabriel Cobayassi Nino Formicola Pagu
Young Hercules Josh Keaton
Roger Bart (singing)
Emmanuel Garijo
Emmanuel Dahl (singing)
Hugolin Chevrette-Landesque
Joël Legendre (singing)
Dominik Auer Rafael Alonso Naranjo, Jr.
Ferrán González (singing)
Víctor Mares, Jr.
Antonio Benavides (singing)
Stefano Crescentini Jun Akiyama
Nessus Jim Cummings Marc Alfos Jean Fontaine Oliver Stritzel Juan Carlos Gustems Octavio Rojas
Hermes Paul Shaffer Patrice Dozier Sébastien Dhavernas Joan Pera Moisés Palacios
Amphitryon Hal Holbrook Jean Lescaut Aubert Pallascio Goffredo Matassi
Alcmene Barbara Barrie Rosine Cadoret Élizabeth Lesieur Franca Lumachi
Clotho Amanda Plummer Colette Venhard
Lachesis Carole Shelley Jacqueline Staup
Atropos Paddi Edwards Perrette Pradier Masako Isobe
Apollo Keith David Jacques Lavallée
Calliope, Muse of Epics Lillias White Mimi Félixine Mercedes Montalá
Susan Martín (singing)
Rebeca Manríquez
Vicky Gutiérrez (singing)
Emanuela Cortesi
Clio, Muse of History Vanéese Y. Thomas Norma Ray María Caneda Blanca Flores Paola Folli
Melpomene, Muse of Tragedy Cheryl Freeman Jessica Parkers Paula Bas Ruth Howard Paola Repere
Terpsichore, Muse of Dance LaChanze Debbie Davis Mary Lou Gauthier Cani González Mirna Garza Lola Feghaly
Thalia, Muse of Comedy Roz Ryan Assitan Dembele Helen Quiroga María del Sol Lalla Francia
The Narrator Charlton Heston Jean Davy Vincent Davy Paco Hernández Carlos Magaña Hisaya Morishige
Demetrius the Pottery Salesman Wayne Knight Said Amadis André Montmorency


Crew Position
Directed by John Musker
Ron Clements
Produced by John Musker
Ron Clements
Alice Dewey
Written by John Musker
Ron Clements
Bob Shaw
Don McEnery
Irene Mecchi
Songs by Alan Menken
David Zippel
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



As of 2008, Rotten Tomatoes reported that 89% of critics gave postive reviews based on 44 reviews. On its opening weekend, it had a limited release and grossed $249,567 in one theater.

The film didn't receive a wide release until its third weekend when the film opened in second place grossing $21 million. The film saw a sharp decline in later weekends, much like its predecessor, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but grossed $99 million in the United States and $153 million in foreign countries with $252 million.

Awards and nominations

  • Academy Award for Best Original Song - Go the Distance (Nominated, lost to ''Titanic's "My Heart Will Go On")
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song Go the Distance (Nominated, lost to My Heart Will Go On)
  • Best Fantasy Film (Nominated, lost to Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery)
    • Blockbuster Entertainment Awards
  • Favorite Animated Famliy Movie (Nominated lost to Anastasia)
  • Favorite Song from a Movie Go the Distance (Nominated, lost to Evita's Don't Cry for Me Argentina)
  • Best Performance in a Voice Over Role - Young Actor Josh Keaton for Young Hercules's voice (Nominated, lost to Mathew Valencia's voice in The New Batman Adventures for Tim Drake / Robin
  • Result Award Winner/Nominee Recipient(s)
    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)

    Allusions to Ancient Greece

    • The entire film is based loosely on Ancient Greece, complete with the deities, Pegasus, and Hades.
    • When Hercules walks into Phil's house on the island, he hits his head on the mast of the Argo. Phil resultingly cautions 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.
    • The Pillars of Hercules can be seen on Phil's Island.
    • Many mythological beasts are used, such as the titans, gorgons, and the hydra.
    • There is a statue of a discus thrower in one scene.
    • Megara claims that, after Hercules breaks the arms off of a statue, that it looks better that way. This references the Venus de Milo.
    • Phil is a satyr.
    • Hercules, though given his Roman name, is based loosely on Heracles.
    • Achilles is referenced in this film, as well as his weakness.
    • The Trojan War and Trojan Horse are referenced by Hades.
    • Hercules communicates with his father, Zeus, at his father's temple.
    • The muses are featured.
    • Phil is named after Philoctetes
    • Various other Ancient Greeks are depicted.
    • Hercules dives into the River Styx.


    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, in the film 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 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 during or before the Twelve Labors.
    • Hydra: The movie's Hydra was depicted as a gargantuan, dragon-like creature with classic cartoon monster jaws living in a canyon. In the original text the hydra lived in the swamp of Lerna and was simply a viewed as a water snake. However, the hydra was depicted as being underneath a rock during the scene, implying that it might have been imprisoned there. Also the movie's version grew three heads after one was chopped, while the original hydra only grew (depending on the version) one or two.Moreover, the Hydra was killed when Hercules caused an averlance which fell on it in the movie. However, , the Hydra was killed when Hercules cut of its head and got his nephew to burn its neck
    • The muses are depicted as soul singers who narrate the story partially in song and also help Megara.
    • Phil is not based entirely on Philoctetes, but rather partially on Chiron.
    • Pegasus was not created by Zeus, but rather out of Medusa's blood. He and Heracles never encountered each other.
    • Heracles was never the son of Zeus and Hera, and in fact Hera often attempted to kill him.
    • There are only 5 muses rather than the 9 depicted in mythology.
    • Hades does not interfere with Heracles, rather Hera does.


    External links

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