Hercules (1997) Poster



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 and video game, he has agreed to do so.
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. In the myths, Hercules was one of the heroes/sailors on the Argo.
Phil cleans himself up using a lion's skin. The skin once belonged to Scar from The Lion King (1994).
In the scene where two kids were trapped under a boulder, they said "someone call IXII". 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.
While the movie is about Greek myths, Hercules is actually the protagonist's Roman name. Heracles is his Greek name.
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 and inspired the shoe company's name.
There are many differences between the film and the original myths. Among them are:
  • 1. Hera wasn't actually Hercules' mother. While Zeus was his father, his mother was a mortal named Alcmene, which made him a demigod. 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.

  • 2. The Fates do not share an eye. The Graeae, perpetually old women who helped Perseus find Medusa, shared an eye.

  • 3. Pegasus was created by the blood of Medusa, not clouds (as seen in the film) on Olympus.

  • 4. Zeus did not bestow the underworld on Hades but the two, along with Poseidon, drew lots.

  • 5. 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.

  • 6. The Cyclops, although brother to the Titans, was not a Titan.

  • 7. The Titans say Zeus put them there, but Zeus's grandfather Uranus did. Zeus freed the Cyclops along with Giants and creatures called Hundred-Handed Ones, and he was given the gift of thunder and lightning as a token of appreciation.

  • 8. Narcissus is not a Greek God, and therefore would not be on Mount Olympus.

  • 9. 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.

Pain and Panic are named for two of the four minions of Ares, "Phobos" and "Deimos", which roughly translate to "Pain" and "Panic". Phobos and Deimos are also the names given to the two moons of the planet Mars.
Leaving aside the 'Pastoral' segment of Fantasia (1940), this was the first Disney animated feature to be completely inspired by mythology rather than a fairy tale.
In Greek mythology, there were nine Muses. The five shown here are: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Melpomene (tragedy), Terpsichore (dance), and Thalia (comedy).
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.
The Spice Girls were considered for the roles of the Muses.
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.
The animators spent 6 to 14 hours to render a frame of the Hydra, depending on how many heads it had.
Hermes, the Messeneger, is shown during the ending of the film playing the keyboard. Paul Shaffer, who provides the voice and inspired the look for Hermes, plays the keyboard as his primary instrument on the Late Show with David Letterman (1993).
Four of the Titans in the film are shown as personifications of wind, fire, ice, and earth, the classic Four Elements. This is rather different from how they appear in Greek mythology, but is remarkably similar to the Jötun of Norse mythology, who personify fire, wind, and ice among other things.
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 his mother Jocasta and became king of Thebes, a plague struck the city. 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."
In the myths, Hercules was one of the heroes/sailors on the Argo.
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"
Phil's line "Don't let your guard down because of a pair of big goo-goo eyes" (heard in the ads) was originally "Don't let your guard down because of a pair of big, blue eyes". By the time the scene was in color, Meg's eyes were purple.
The film was released due to backlash against the previous two Disney releases of Pocahontas (1995) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), major criticisms where that they were too "dark" and dealt with "serious issues" that Disney shouldn't use in their animated films. Hercules was released to lighten things up.
During the song "Zero to Hero" the muses talk about Hercules doing things like endorsing products and making personal appearances for money. It may seem anachronistic to the point of being silly on purpose, but even back in ancient Greece and Rome, famous athletes pretty much did all those things and were paid very well for them.
At one point during "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.
Jack Nicholson, Willem Dafoe, and David Bowie were all considered for the voice of Hades. John Lithgow was originally cast as Hades and recorded all of the dialogue, but was ultimately replaced with James Woods in the Final Film.
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.
The statue Hercules hits while skipping stones is the famous Venus de Milo (or Aphrodite of Milos) which can be seen at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
First Disney film since Oliver & Company (1988) where the villain does not sing (McLeach, the villain of The Rescuers Down Under (1990) didn't have a musical number like the films that followed but did sing a rendition of "Home on The Range").
John Goodman, James Belushi, Gregory Peck, and Patrick Stewart were all considered for the role of Zeus. All of them but Gregory Peck would later however star in Future Disney Animated Films: -John Goodman would voice Pacha in The Emperor's New Groove (2000) and Big Daddy in The Princess and the Frog (2009). -Patrick Stewart would voice Mr. Woolensworth the Sheep in Chicken Little (2005). -While not in the Disney Animated Feature lineup, James Belushi would voice Benny the Squirrel in The Wild (2006).
WILHELM SCREAM: When the cyclops titan first starts crushing buildings looking for Hercules.
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.
Animator Andreas Deja, who is best known for animating villains like Jafar in Aladdin (1992) and Scar in The Lion King (1994), requested the task of animating Adult Hercules, the hero.
When Hercules and Phil first meet, Phil says "Two words: I am retired," much to the confusion of Hercules. However, in Greek, "I am retired" is actually only two words.
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.
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.
Pain calls the potion that turns Hercules mortal Grecian Formula. Grecian Formula is an actual product used to color graying hair.
In the version for Latin America, the voice of Hercules is played by Ricky Martin.
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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".
Disney debuted the movie in a two week exclusive run for the grand re-opening of the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street, New York City, preceding it with a stage revue. The opening promoted the theater, which subsequently hosted long runs of theatrical versions of The Lion King (1994) and Mary Poppins (1964).
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.
Phil's appearance was partly inspired by Danny DeVito's.
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The musical number "Zero to Hero" 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.
While the story of Hercules' birth and adoption in the film is not true to the myth, it does mirror the story of Oedipus, who is referenced several other times throughout the film. Oedipus was abandoned on a mountain side, much like the scenery of where Hercules is left: and baby Oedipus is found by a local farmer, who gives the baby to his master, and is raised by him and his wife, who had been unable to concieve. Hercules' adopted parents are portrayed more-or-less as farmers, and his mother comments about Hercules being 'the baby they had prayed for', implying they had been unable to concieve.
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Wayne Knight's cameo appearance makes him the second Seinfeld (1989) cast member to do a voice work in an animated Disney film.
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."
Meg says "I don't think your pinto likes me very much." A pinto is a type of horse.
During "Zero to Hero" they show Hercules and Pegasus making concrete handprints. There are multiple complete handprints around them including Achilles and Aphrodite. Each block also references a "Sid". This is Sid Grauman, the creator of the Chinese Theater that showcases celebrity handprints in real life.
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James Woods ate watermelon to make the slurping sounds more authentic in the scene where Hades is eating worms.
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Zeus is voiced by Rip Torn, who is the husband of Geraldine Page, the voice of Madame Medusa in The Rescuers (1977), another Disney Animated Film released 20 years prior.
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