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Hercules is a American animated feature film, produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The thirty-fifth animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. The film is based on the legendary Greek mythology hero Heracles (known in the film by his Roman name, Hercules), the son of Zeus, in Greek mythology.

Though Hercules did not match the financial success of Disney's early-1990s releases, the film received positive reviews, and made $99 million in revenue in the United States during its theatrical release and $252,700,000 worldwide.

Hercules was later followed by the direct-to-video prequel Hercules: Zero to Hero, which served as a midquel to Hercules: The Animated Series, a syndicated Disney TV series focusing on Hercules during his time at the Prometheus academy.


The film follows the tales of Hercules, narrated by the Muses. They explain in the prologue that the world was terrorised by the Titans, until they were sealed away by Zeus. This leads to the birth of baby Hercules to Zeus and his wife Hera. While most of the gods are pleased with Hercules’ birth, Hades is not too pleased. He retreats to the Underworld where he is told by the Fates that in eighteen years time, a planetary alignment will reveal the location where the Titans were trapped, allowing Hades to free them to destroy Zeus and rule over Mount Olympus, but only if Hercules does not intervene. To prevent this, Hades sends his minions Pain and Panic to kidnap Hercules and give him a potion that will turn him into a mortal. However, they fail to give him the full potion, leaving his superhuman strength intact. Hercules is found by Amphitryon and Alcmene who adopt him as their own son.

Years on, Hercules’ powers have caused him to become a misfit and a nuisance to the local townsfolk, as seen when he causes a local marketplace to collapse. His adoptive parents reveal a necklace he had with him when they found him, with the symbol of the gods on it. Hercules ventures out to the temple of Zeus, where the statue of Zeus springs to life and reveals Hercules’ past to him, explaining that Hercules can become a god again if he becomes a true hero and sends him out to locate Philoctetes, a trainer of heroes. Philoctetes, or “Phil” for short, is a satyr who has since given up on training heroes after repetitive failures from previous heroes, but he is convinced to train Hercules.

After his training is complete, Hercules, Phil and Hercules’ friend Pegasus fly to Thebes. However, they first come across Megara (or “Meg” for short), who is pestered by a centaur named Nessus. Hercules defeats Nessus and becomes attracted to Meg, who is actually in league with Hades after she sold her soul to him to save a man she loved previously, but he left her for another woman. Arriving in Thebes, Hercules is lured into a trap set by Hades involving him battling the Hydra, who Hercules manages to defeat by crushing it under a rockslide. Hercules is seen by Thebes as a true hero and is treated very much like a celebrity, however, Zeus informs Hercules he is not yet a true hero. Hades sends Meg out to find out Hercules’ weakness, the two falling in love, which Hades realises in Hercules’ weakness and makes a deal with Hercules to lose his powers for a day and Meg will not be harmed.

Hades releases the Titans and leads them on an attack on Mount Olympusmarker, whilst he sends a Cyclops to eliminate Hercules in Thebes. Phil, who briefly left Hercules after an argument, motivates him to defeat the Cyclops. However, Meg is mortally wounded by a falling column, causing Hercules to regain his powers. He and Pegasus go to Mount Olympus and destroy the Titans. Hades retreats to the Underworld, revealing Meg’s soul has been claimed by the Fates. Hercules goes to the Underworld to get Meg’s soul back, but Hades reveals her soul is already in the River Styx. Hercules decides to offer his soul to Hades in exchange for Meg’s, Hades agreeing to this but instructs Hercules he must save Meg himself. Hercules ages as he swims in the Styx, but he regains his godhood, rising from the Styx with Meg’s soul. He then proceeds to punch Hades into the Styx where he is dragged into the depths by souls.

Hercules revives Meg by returning her soul to her body, and then the two, Phil and Pegasus are transported to Mount Olympus where the gods welcome Hercules back with open arms. However, Hercules concludes his life would be empty without Meg and decides to stay on Earth with her. Zeus and Hera accept this, and Zeus forms a picture of Hercules using stars to hail him as a true hero, accomplishing Phil’s dream of making a true hero as well.

Comparison with the original myths

Disney takes considerable license with the original Hercules myths. In the myths, Hercules was a demigod conceived following Zeus's rape of a mortal woman, Alcmene. Hera's spousal jealously prompts her subsequent attempts to kill Hercules. In the film, Hercules was born a god to Zeus and Hera and Alcmene becomes his foster parent once he loses his powers due to the actions of Hades, the antagonist of the film. Also in the myths, Hercules marries and has two children with Megara but kills them in a fit of madness brought on by Hera. It is in penance for his crimes that Hercules performs many of his heroic deeds, the "twelve labors". This part of the myths is omitted from the film, although some of the labors are referenced obliquely in the film.

Several elements from other Greek myths were also introduced into the film: Pegasus the winged horse is only associated with Bellerophon and Perseus; the Fates are depicted in the film as being like the Graeae, sharing a single eye; Philoctetes was a prince and hero in his own right, and it was a centaur, Chiron who was a teacher to Hercules in the myths.


  • Tate Donovan as Hercules, the protagonist of the story and the son of Zeus and Hera. After he is kidnapped by Hades' minions and made to drink a potion that robbed him of his godhood, a human couple take him in and raise him. He eventually finds out about his origins and attempts to establish himself a hero on earth to regain his godhood. Along the way, after successfully defeating several monsters and becoming famous, he learns from his father Zeus that being a hero takes "something more" than being famous. Hercules at first doesn't understand, but through falling in love with Meg, a human, he learns that a true hero is measured by the size of his heart. He proves himself by willingly giving his life for hers, and sacrifices his godhood to be with her. 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.
  • James Woods as Hades, Zeus' brother, uncle of Hercules and ruler of the Underworld. Hades serves as the film's primary antagonist who tries to destroy Hercules after hearing that he will thwart Hades' plans of taking over Mount Olympus. Hades often makes deals with demigods and mortals, hence his involvement with Meg, manipulating them to his advantage. He makes use of this with first Meg and later Hercules, realizing that each is the other's weakness, eventually ridding Hercules of his powers (temporarily). However, he underestimates the value of true love. 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.
  • Susan Egan as Megara, a mortal woman serving Hades after she gives him her soul in exchange for a man's life, (her former lover; it is heavily implied that unlike the majority of other Disney heroines, Megara is "not" a virgin). After her former lover left her, Megara is left with bitter feelings about falling in love. Despite this, she is impressed by and later falls in love with Hercules, at first denying it due to her past experiences. Hades uses her to lure him into finding out his weakness. Meg is key to Hades' plan after he learns that she is Hercules' one weakness, capturing her and forcing Hercules to deal: her freedom and safety in exchange for his powers. Meg later gives up her life to save Hercules, resulting in a rescue attempt by him. At the end of the film, Hercules gives up the chance to be a god to live with Meg on earth.
  • Danny DeVito as Philoctetes/Phil, a hero trainer who had yet to produce a true hero. He had already given up on hero training when Hercules approached him, but eventually decides to train Hercules. Phil is defined as stubby and bowlegged in appearance, but possessed of a street-wise, sarcastic personality, often providing reality checks for Hercules. It is he who discovers Meg's involvement in Hades' plot, and after Hercules fails to listen to him, he leaves. However, he is convinced by Meg to come back when he finds out his life is in danger. At the end of the film, Hercules has his own constellation and the people all recognize him as his trainer.
  • Rip Torn as Zeus, the ruler of Mount Olympus and Hercules' father. He tells his son that to join the gods, he must become a hero, which he defines as something more than being famous. Zeus is betrayed by Hades, but Hercules later saves him and Olympus, and Zeus reveals that for willingly giving his life to save Meg, he is finally a true hero and can be a god. Nonetheless, he is supportive of his son's decision to remain with Meg.
  • Frank Welker as Pegasus, a winged horse and Hercules' companion who was given to him by Zeus as a present.
  • Samantha Eggar as Hera, Zeus' wife and Hercules' mother.
  • Bobcat Goldthwait as Pain, one of Hades' minions.
  • Matt Frewer as Panic, one of Hades' minions.
  • Jim Cummings as Nessus, a centaur whom Hades wanted to recruit into his army, but is defeated by Hercules after the latter sees him man-handling Megara.
  • Wayne Knight as Demetrius, a pottery salesman whose shop is accidentally destroyed by Hercules. He only barely tolerates Hercules, but the loss of his shop angers him to the point that he openly insults Hercules.
  • Hal Holbrook as Amphitryon, a mortal farmer and Hercules' foster father.
  • Barbara Barrie as Alcmene, Amphitryon's wife and Hercules' foster mother.
  • Paul Shaffer as Hermes, the messenger of the gods.
  • Amanda Plummer as Clotho, the Fate of Future.
  • Carole Shelley as Lachesis, the Fate of Present.
  • Paddi Edwards as Atropos, the Fate of Past.
  • Keith David as Apollo, god of the sun and music.
  • Lillias White as Calliope, the Muse of epic tales, who wears a headband over her big, curly hair.
  • Vanéese Y. Thomas as Clio, the Muse of history, with the ponytail.
  • Cheryl Freeman as Melpomene, the long-haired Muse of drama.
  • LaChanze as Terpsichore, the dance Muse with the short, kinky hair.
  • Roz Ryan as Thalia, the short and plump Muse of comedy.
  • Charlton Heston as The Narrator, who kicks off the story.


Production for the film took place from the fall of 1995 to early 1997.

Design and animation

Each major character in Hercules had a supervising animator. Andreas Deja, the supervising animator for Hercules, commented that the animation crew he worked with to animate Hercules was the "largest [he] ever worked with". He previously worked on other characters (like Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Jafar in Aladdin, and Scar in The Lion King) with about four animators on his crew, but he had a team of twelve or thirteen for Hercules. He cited Greek statues and artist Gerald Scarfe's work in Pink Floyd The Wall as references. With regard to 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.") 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". Eric Goldberg, the supervising animator for Philoctetes, cited Grumpy in Snow White and Bacchus in Fantasia as the inspirations for the character's design.

The actors' performances also influenced the way the characters were animated. Deja integrated Donovan's "charming yet innocent quality" into Hercules' expressions. 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. Ranieri watched James Woods' other films and used what he saw as the basis for Hades' sneer.




Marketing and promotion for Hercules began even before the film's theatrical release. Several Hercules toys, books, and other merchandise were produced, and a parade was held at Times Square during the film's premiere two weeks prior to its theatrical run. Hercules was also received the first Disney on Ice adaptation before the film was theatrically released. A tie-in video game, titled Hercules Action Game, was developed by Eurocom and released in July 1997 for the PC and PlayStation.

Home media

The film's first home video release, on VHS, was February 3, 1998 in the US as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection series. A Limited Issue came out on DVD November 9, 1999, followed by on August 1, 2000, a re-issue to VHS and DVD as part of the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection.


Disney intended for the film to have an open-air premiere at Pnyx hillmarker, but the Greek government declined after Greek media and public responded negatively to the proposal. A Greek newspaper entitled Adsmevtos Typos called it "another case of foreigners distorting our history and culture just to suit their commercial interests".

After a one-theater release in June 15, 1997, Hercules had its wide release on June 27, 1997. With an opening weekend of $21,454,451, it opened at the second spot of the box office, after Face/Off. The film grossed only $99 million on its domestic lifetime, something Disney's executives blamed on "more competition". The international totals for Hercules raised its gross to $253 million.

Critical reception

As of 2008, Rotten Tomatoes reported that 89% of critics gave positive reviews based on 44 reviews.

Awards and nominations

* Academy Award for Best Original Song - "Go the Distance" (Nominated)
* Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song - "Go the Distance" (Nominated)
* Best Fantasy Film (Nominated)
  • Blockbuster Entertainment Awards
* Favorite Animated Family Movie (Nominated)
* Favorite Song from a Movie - "Go the Distance" (Nominated)
* Best Performance in a Voice Over Role - Young Actor Josh Keaton for Young Hercules's voice (Nominated)
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)


  1. Disney's Hercules at Eurocom
  2. Weekend Box Office Results for June 27-29, 1997 - Box Office Mojo
  3. Hercules Is Too Weak to Lift Disney Stock, The New York Times

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