The Mighty Hercules was an animated series based loosely on the Greek mythological character of Heracles, under his Roman Mythology name, Hercules. It was created in 1962 and then debuted on TV in 1963 and ran until 1966.
In the original episode, Hercules beats his friend Theseus in a footrace and a wrestling match, and for his victory is granted any request by Zeus as a reward. Hercules wishes to go to Earth to fight evil and injustice, but Zeus reminds him that going to Earth would cause him to lose his godly powers and become a mortal. Zeus then creates a magic ring that allows Hercules to access his godly strength while on Earth. The rest of the cartoon involves Hercules meeting Helena and fighting a giant named Cacus and the giant's pet dragon. None of the other familiar characters make an appearance in this episode, and it features different character designs for Hercules (who in this one short has a yellow belt and wristbands, with a black H in block lettering on the belt; the ring is of similar design, large and yellow, with a black H in a giant sunburst) and Helena (who has a different hairstyle, a silver necklace, and more makeup than her later versions).
The show generally used real Greek myths for their inspiration, but used the influences oddly. (Daedalus, the evil wizard who is Hercules' most frequent foe, is named for Daedalus, mythological artificer who wasn't a villain at all, and Cacus, the giant in the first episode, is based on the mythological monster Cacus. Other recurring creatures like the Nemean Lion, the Lernaean Hydra, the Erymanthian Boar, and the Stymphalian Birds were taken directly from Hercules' Twelve Labors, but most weren't presented as trials for him to overcome. (For example, Hercules defeats the Lion in one punch before Murtis gives it a Mask of Vulcan to help it, and the Boar is already bound by a silver chain, with Hercules stopping first Murtis and later Dedaelus from freeing it).
In addition to the ring, later episodes added new equipment for Hercules and his friends to use: a "moon stone" beam in his belt (and a matching belt that Newton frequently wore) that could be used to summon him from Mount Olympus, an invulnerable sword and shield (both with the same "H" symbol as his ring and belt), and a set of pipes to summon Pegasus, his winged steed. (Hercules being paired with Pegasus was not in the original myths, but it was used again when Disney made their own animated version of Hercules).
128 episodes of approximately 5 minutes each were produced. Adventure Cartoon Productions made the series in connection with Trans-Lux Television, the same people who later brought the anime series Speed Racer to U.S. audiences.
The show also featured two different sets of voices for the characters (there was no gradual change - most of the early episodes had one set of voices, the rest have the second set). The most noticeably different voice was Newton: in the "older" voice style he sounds like he'd just hit puberty, with his voice constantly cracking, while the later episodes give him a high-pitched Mickey Mouse-like voice. The animation for the "putting on and charging up the ring" sequence also subtly changed with the voices. For an example of the former style and voices, watch the episodes "The Minotaur" or "The Chair Of Forgetfulness"; for an example of the latter, watch "The Nemean Lion" or "The Chameleon Creature".
Hercules's voice actor was Jimmy Tapp. The series also featured a memorable theme song sung by Johnny Nash, a singer whom some fans and web sites, such as Billy Ingram's TV Party, mistakenly claim is Johnny Nash, an African-American pop singer-songwriter of the same name, best known for his 1972 hit, "I Can See Clearly Now". A quick listen to both the cartoon's theme and one of Nash's songs clearly demonstrates that these are two completely different singers.
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