|Directed by|| Rom Clements
|Produced by|| Rom Clements
|Written by|| Rom Clements
|Starring|| Tate Donovan
|Music by|| Alan Menken
|Studios|| Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Feature Animation
|Distributors|| Buena Vista Pictures
|Release date (s)|| June 27, 1997
|Preceded by|| The Hunchback of Notre Dame
|Followed by|| Mulan (film)
Though Hercules did not match its predecessors such as Aladdin and The Lion King (even receiving an overwhelmingly negative reception in Greece, where the myth originated), it got positive reviews and earned $252,712,101 in the box office. While not a flop, it is nonetheless looked upon by the Disney company as a disappointment.
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 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 abandon 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. During the battle, he is almost wounded and almost killed by being stabbed by the hydra's tooth in his heart. 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 is 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. 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 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 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. 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, Hercules chooses to become mortal and stay on Earth with her. 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.
- Tate Donovan as Hercules
- Josh Keaton as Young Hercules (speaking voice) and Roger Bart (singing).
- Danny DeVito as Phil
- James Woods and Hades
- Susan Egan as Megara
- Rip Torn as Zeus
- Samantha Eggar as Hera
- Bobcat Goldthwait as Pain
- Matt Frewer as Panic
- Jim Cummings as Nessus
- Paul Shaffer as Hermes
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's "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, 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, while incorporating elements from several other stories, most notably Superman. Because of this, 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.