|First appearance||Hercules (1997)|
|Voiced by||Tate Donovan (adult in Hercules and Kingdom Hearts II)|
Josh Keaton (teenager in film)
Sean Astin (adult in Kingdom Hearts)
Herk the Jerk (By Hades and Pete), Wonder Boy (By Megara and Hades), Blunder Boy (By Hades)
Hercules is a Disney character who first appeared in the 1997 film of the same name and later in the midquel television series of the same name. He is based on the mythical character Hercules, although some aspects of his life differ greatly from the original legend. For example, although he is called a "demi-god" in the myth, in the Disney version he is the full child of Zeus and Hera who has his divinity stolen from him. He popularized the phrase "Zero to Hero". In the film, he was voiced by Tate Donovan as an adult, Josh Keaton as a teenager, and Roger Bart when singing as a teenager (he never sing as an adult in the Tapastry of Fate). Despite the fact that the TV series chronicles his teenage years, Donovan does the voice.
Hercules was born on Mount Olympus with all the powers of a god, and his parents were Zeus and Hera (who has been reimagined as a loving mother instead of a spiteful stepmother). On the celebration of his birth, during which the Olympian gods present the infant god with a multitude of gifts. Zeus himself creates the winged-horse Pegasus as a gift. It seems to be a joyous occasion, although one god is not happy about the new arrival: Hercules's evil uncle Hades, lord of the Underworld.
Hades wants to take control of Mount Olympus and the world, and he sees that if Hercules chooses to fight when he is older, his plans will be ruined. Knowing that as a god, Hercules is immortal and invulnerable, Hades sends his two lackeys, Pain and Panic, to kidnap Hercules and turn him mortal by means of a magic potion. Although they succeed in the first part of the plan, carrying Hercules down to Earth, they are interrupted by two human peasants (Amphytryon and Alcmene) before Hercules finishes drinking and the final drop falls wasted on the ground. Pain and Panic nevertheless attack him in the guise of snakes, and discover that because he did not drink the last drop he has retained his godly strength and they are beaten back. Amphytryon and Alcmene adopt the child, considering his arrival a gift from the gods since they are themselves childless, mirroring the classic story of Superman. (Note that in the original myth, Alcmene herself is Hercules' birth mother, but this was changed to keep the movie family friendly.)
Too late, Zeus and the other gods discover the kidnapping. Because Herc is now mortal, however, they are unable to take him back to Olympus.
Hercules grows into a strong but clumsy teenage boy. He desperately wants to fit in, but as he cannot control his godly strength he only ends up causing havoc and alienating those around him. On one occasion, he accidentally flattens the local market town during a game of discus. His foster parents decide to finally come clean to him about the circumstances of his adoption, showing him a medallion they find that bears the symbol of the gods (Zeus's lightning bolt). Hercules sets off to find his place in the world, and goes to the Temple of Zeus for guidance.
While in the temple, Zeus himself appears (embodying his own statue), and reveals Hercules's origin. He explains that the only way Hercules can rejoin his parents on Mount Olympus is to prove himself a "true hero". A grown-up Pegasus also joins Hercules as a constant companion.
He goes to see Philoctetes (a satyr) a trainer of heroes who originally says he will not train Hercules, but changes his mind after Zeus zaps him with a bolt of lightning.
When Hercules has reached adulthood and has passed his training, he sets off with Philoctetes to become a Hero in Thebes. On his way he saves Megara from Nessus, a centaur acting as river guardian. Meg (who tells Hercules that her friends call her Meg, if she had any that is) was sent by Hades to secure Nessus' allegiance for the coming assault on Olympus, but Nessus had lecherous plans for Megara, who resisted. Hercules then intervenes, defeating Nessus (after a couple of disastrous missteps) and freeing Meg (who didn't want his help in the first place.) Phil and Pegasus dislike her (Phil sees her as a needless distraction to the smitten Hercules, while Pegasus views her as a threat to his bond with Hercules.) Meg relates the events to Hades, by which he learns that Hercules is still alive and so sends a variety of monsters to kill Hercules, the first of which is the Hydra. But Hercules dispatches the Hydra and every monster Hades sends against him.
By this time, Hercules has become the toast of Greece: famous, rich, and slightly cocky. He believes himself a true hero, and is greatly upset when Zeus tells him he has not quite gotten there yet. Meg (on assignment from Hades) convinces him to play hookie, going on a date. At first she was trying to learn any weakness he might have, but she eventually fell as hard for him as he had for her. The date is ended by Phil, irate at Hercules for skipping training. Phil is knocked off Pegasus, and wakes up in time to learn of Meg's involvement with Hades. He leaves to tell Hercules, not hearing Meg's refusal to help destroy Hercules. Hades then discovers that Hercules loves Megara and uses that knowledge to attempt to take the young hero out of the picture while he attempts to overtake Olympus.
Hercules, ecstatic from the date, refuses to believe Phil's warning about Meg, even hitting him in a flash of blind anger, prompting Phil to quit. Hades confronts Hercules, offering Meg's safety if the hero will give up his strength for 24 hours (long enough for Hades to conquer Olympus.) Hercules is reluctant to see anyone hurt, but Hades vows that no harm will come to Meg. Hercules agrees, and Hades takes the opportunity to humiliate him before revealing Meg's role in his scheme. Enacting his plan, Hades sends a Cyclops to destroy Hercules. Without his superhuman strength, Hercules is brutally beaten about by the monster but, with a peptalk from the returning Phil, and using his wits, he is able to defeat the Cyclops and send him hurtling off a cliff.
The monster's fall causes a pillar to topple towards Hercules and Meg pushes him out of the way, taking the impact of the pillar. This in turn causes Hercules to regain his strength because Hades's end of the bargain is now broken. Meg, however, is gravely injured and Hercules leaves her in the care of his friends while he rushes off to thwart Hades' invasion of Olympus. He returns to Meg's side only to learn that her injuries were fatal. However, he then travels to Hades to rescue Meg's spirit. To do so he must enter the River Styx, which swiftly ages mortals upon contact, thus killing them within a short time. Hercules nevertheless enters the pool to rescue Meg's soul. He is able to reach Meg before he dies and his selfless act fulfills the requirement for being a true hero thus, Hercules regains his godhood. He then punches Hades into the River Styx, and returns Meg's soul to her body.
He is invited by Zeus to live in Olympus, which was indeed originally his wish, but he decides rather to live his life on Earth as a mortal with Meg. Although he will eventually die, he believes that even an immortal life without Meg would be empty.
Baby and teenage Hercules
Animator Randy Haycock based the infant version of Hercules on his newborn daughter. He also videotaped a friend's six-month old and rented movies with babies in them. Haycock admits that baby Hercules' curly hair comes from his infant daughter's appearance. He adds, "[Hercules'] mannerisms come right off things I've picked up from her," even though Hercules is more caricatured than a real baby.
The inspiration for teenage Hercules came from Haycock's experiences as an adolescent. "I was too tall and skinny for my age, and I was a lousy athlete. At home I broke just about everything..." Teenage Hercules has big hands and feet that the animator remembers having himself, as well as the lack of coordination.
Andreas Deja was supervising animator for the adult version of Hercules. He studied photographs of Olympic athletes, not the weightlifters with short necks and bulging muscles, but the swimmers, with long necks and natural musculature. Essentially, he wanted to return to the Greek tradition of character drawing. As Deja explains, this means "straight nose, pursed lips -- almost cherubic, large eyes, a lidded look...The classic style you find on Greek vases or drawings."
The animated series Hercules is set in the intervening period between his teen years and his first journey to Thebes as an adult, while he is still in training on Phil's island. The series also reveals that, on Zeus's instruction, Hercules attends a high school called the Prometheus Academy.
Hercules has also appeared, along with the rest of his cast (Hades, Phil, Pegasus, Meg, Pain and Panic, Cerberus, the Hydra and a few of the Titans) in the Kingdom Hearts series of video games. In the former, Sora must help Hercules defeat the evil Hades who, with the help of Maleficent and Pete, is still trying to take over Olympus. In the first game, he is voiced by Sean Astin, but Donovan reprises his role in the second game. His Japanese voice is done by Yasunori Matsumoto.
He also appeared in the television series House of Mouse.
Hercules, Megara and the Muses appear in the Walt Disney World version of Fantasmic! as notable heroes, while Hades is a major villain in the show. He also has his own stage show on the Disney Cruise Line.
And he also appears at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts daily for greetings.
- Thomas, Bob: "Chapter 11: Animating Hercules", pages 201-220. Disney's Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules, 1997