Hercules is a 1997 American animated musical film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures.
Hercules, son of the Greek God, Zeus, is turned into a half-god, half-mortal by evil Hades, God of the Underworld, who plans to overthrow Zeus. Hercules is raised on Earth and retains his god-like strength, but when he discovers his immortal heritage Zeus tells him that to return to Mount Olympus he must become a true hero. Hercules becomes a famous hero with the help of his friend Pegasus and his personal trainer, Phil the satyr. Hercules battles monsters, Hades and the Titans, but it is his self-sacrifice to rescue his love Meg which makes him a true hero. Written by Kristi Connolly
- Phil’s line “Don’t let your guard down because of a pair of big goo-goo eyes” was originally “Don’t let your guard down because of a pair of big, blue eyes”. Unfortunately, by the time the scene was in color, Meg’s eyes were purple.
- Hades was scripted as a slow, menacing character until James Woods took the role and impressed the crew with his rapid-fire style. Even after the script was rewritten, Woods ad-libbed many lines.
- When Phil and Hercules first enter Phil’s hut, Hercules bangs his head on what Phil tells him is the mast of the Argo. In Greek mythology, Jason, the captain of the Argo, was killed when the mast hit his head.
- Hermes delivers a bouquet of flowers to Hera. Hermes (Mercury to the Romans) is a registered trademark of FTD Florists.
- Phil cleans himself up using a lion’s skin. The skin once belonged to Scar from The Lion King.
- In Greek mythology, there were nine Muses. The five shown here are: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Melpomene (tragedy), Terpsichore (dance), and Thalia (comedy).
- Raoul Bova voiced Hercules in the Italian language version.
- Leaving aside the ‘Pastoral’ segment of ‘Fantasia’, this was the first Disney animated feature to be completely inspired by mythology rather than a fairy tale.
- Hermes, the Messeneger, is shown during the ending of the film playing the keyboard. Paul Shaffer, who provides the voice for Hermes, plays the keyboard as his primary instrument on the Late Show with David Letterman.
- In the scene where Hercules rushes into the town with a carriage containing Amphitryon, Penelope, and a tall bale of hay, the bale hits the top of the entrance to the town, and two men carrying a stone block fall off the top. These two men are caricatures of the directors John Musker and Ron Clements.
- WILHELM SCREAM: When the cyclops titan first starts crushing buildings looking for Hercules, a Wilhelm scream can be heard.
- Hercules’ Credit Card is shown as: “VI V XI XIV XV XVI IV, ex IV M BC, member since I M BC” or “6511 14 1516 4, expires Apr 1000 BC, member since Jan 1000 BC”
- In the scene where two kids were trapped under a boulder, they said “someone call I, X, I, I”. Though pronounced as letters, this is a reference to the Roman numerals IX, I, I, or 911 – the emergency phone number in the United States.
- The animators spent 6 to 14 hours to render a frame of the Hydra, depending on how many heads it had.
- The wall painting in Alcmene and Amphitryon’s bedroom is the famous “Spring Fresco” from the Greek island of Thera and can be seen at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
- Pain and Panic are named for two of the four minions of Ares, “Phobos” and “Deimos”, which roughly translate to “Pain” and “Panic”. Interestingly enough, “Phobos” and “Deimos” are also the names of the planet Mars’ two moons (‘Mars’ is the Roman name for ‘Ares’).
- The role of Hades is one of James Woods’ all-time favorite characters. So much so, any time Disney needs him to reprise the character for any cartoon show (including “Hercules: The Series”) and video game (The “Kingdom Hearts” series), he has agreed to do so.
- John Goodman, James Belushi, Gregory Peck, and Patrick Stewart were all considered for the role of Zeus.
- Jack Nicholson, Willem Dafoe, David Bowie, and John Lithgow were all considered for the voice of Hades.
- Ricky Martin voiced Hercules in the Spanish language version.
- When Hermes delivers the flowers to Hera, he says, “I had Orpheus do the arrangement. Isn’t that too nutty?” The joke here is in the double use for the word “arrangement” – as in “floral arrangement” and “musical arrangement”. The voice for Hermes is bandleader Paul Shaffer, and in Greek mythology, Orpheus is known as “the father of songs”, so he would be the perfect choice to do an “arrangement”.
- The movie makes many references to the epic poem of the 12 Labors of Hercules including the mid-movie battle with the Lernaean Hydra (2nd Labor). The Nemean Lion (1st Labor), Erymanthian Boar (4th Labor), Stymphalian Bird (6th Labor) are featured in the ‘Zero to Hero’ scene, and the capturing of Cerberus (12th Labor) at the end of the film. Phil also mentions the task of cleaning Augean’s stables (5th Labor) and retrieving a Girdle from ‘some Amazons’ (9th Labor) while Hercules was posing for the painter.
- Disney debuted the movie in a two week exclusive run for the grand re-opening of the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street, NYC, preceding it with a stage revue. The opening promoted the theater, which subsequently hosted long runs of theatrical versions of Disney’s The Lion King and Mary Poppins.
- At one point during Meg’s musical scene “I Won’t Say I’m In Love,” the Muses sing while appearing as marble busts. The busts are in the same arrangement as the singing busts in the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
- On his way to Thebes, Hercules meets Megara after he saves her from the River Guardian, Nessos. While this is not the story of how Hercules came to know Megara in Greek legend, it IS (almost exactly) how he came to know his second wife – Deianira.
- In the music video for “Zero to Hero” it shows Hercules riding Pegasus through the nighttime sky with constellations looking at him, and it shows a woman in a dress that flies up and she holds it down. This is a reference to a famous scene from ‘The Seven Year Itch’ starring Marilyn Monroe.
- The “Air Herc” sandals brand is a reference to the Nike Air footwear line. Moreover, the Hercules mosaic showing Hercules running resembles an actual Nike print ad. Nike was the Greek goddess who personified triumph.
- In the myths, Hercules was one of the heroes/sailors on the Argo.
- When Hermes delivers the floral arrangement to Zeus and Hera, it is a direct parody of the logo for the floral delivery company FTD Florists, who uses Mercury, the Roman name for Hermes.
- Meg says “I don’t think your Pinto likes me.” A Pinto is a type of horse.
- Production designer Gerald Scarfe, who designed nearly all the characters, worked with Pink Floyd multiple times and is best known for his artwork and animations for The Wall.
- First Disney film since Oliver and Company where the villain does not sing, while McLeach (the villain of The Rescuers Down Under) didn’t have a huge musical number like the films that followed, he is seen singing a rendition of Home on The Range.
- Pain calls the potion that turns Hercules mortal Grecian Formula. Grecian Formula is an actual product used to color graying hair.
- The promotional ads featured Hades saying “Two thumbs way way up”. Film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel complained, pointing out that “Two Thumbs Up” is a phrase uniquely invented and trademarked by them, and the use of it in promotional ads implied that the film had received “Two Thumbs Up” when only Ebert gave it a favorable review. Ebert thought the ad was misleading and unfair and asked that the line be removed from the ads (which it was), Siskel quipped that they ought to make it “Two Thumbs Down.”
- The Spice Girls were considered for the roles of the Muses.
- There are many differences between the film and the original myths. For example, Hera wasn’t actually Hercules’ mother. While Zeus was his father, his mother was a mortal named Alcmene, which made him a demi-god. Hercules was conceived when Zeus disguised himself as Alcmene’s husband Amphitryon, who was away to fight in a war. Zeus’ wife Hera, furious over her husband’s adultery, swore vengeance, and bestowed misfortune over Hercules wherever and whenever she could. In the movie, Alcmene and her husband adopt Baby Hercules. The Fates do not share an eye. The Graeae, perpetually old women who helped Perseus find Medusa, shared an eye. Pegasus was created by the blood of Medusa, not clouds (as seen in the film) on Olympus. Zeus did not bestow the underworld on Hades but the two, along with Poseidon, drew lots. In the movie, Hades releases the Titans from a place at the bottom of the ocean, but in the original myth they were banished to Tartarus, which is in the deepest and worst section of the underworld. The Cyclops, although brother to the Titans, was not a Titan. The Titans say Zeus put them there, but Zeus’s grandfather Uranus did. Zeus actually freed them, and he was given the gift of thunder and lightning. Narcissus is not a Greek God, and therefore would not be on Mount Olympus. Megara was Hercules’ first wife, with whom he had children; however, Hera induced a fit of rage and madness in him, during which he killed them all. To repent for these sins, Hercules performed all of his heroic deeds (most of them are seen, mentioned or referred to in the movie). It is his later wife Deianara who Hercules saves from the river guardian Nessos; in revenge, Nessos gives Deianara a poisonous shirt, saying it will make Hercules love her more. Unsuspecting, she later gives him the shirt, believing his love for her is waning. The shirt clings to Hercules’ skin and causes him agonizing pains. He builds a funeral pyre and sits on top of it, begging his friends to set it on fire and end his misery. No one can bring himself to do it, except for Philoctetes (who was a man and not a satyr). Upon death, Zeus deifies Hercules and admits him onto Olympus.
- In the movie, Pain and Panic take the shape of two snakes in order to kill infant Hercules, but he simply grabs and tosses them about. This is another reference to the Herculean myths, where goddess Hera sent two snakes to kill infant Hercules, who simply grabbed and choked them.
- John Lithgow was originally cast as Hades and recorded all of the dialogue. He was ultimately replaced with James Woods.
- There are many references to the Tragedy of Oedipus: Philoctetes decides to take Hercules to Thebes, so that he can be the new hero of the city. There’s also a group of Thebians complaining about fires, floods, monsters and other disasters. This refers to the fact that after Oedipus married her mother Jocasta and became king of Thebes, a plague struck the city. Another reference comes also when Hercules spent the day with Meg and says: “And then that, that play, that, that, that Oedipus thing. Man, I thought *I* had problems.”
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