Hercules (1997 film) poster.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed by Ron Clements
John Musker
Produced by Ron Clements
John Musker
Written by Ron Clements
John Musker
Barry Johnson
Narrated by Charlton Heston
Starring Tate Donovan
Danny DeVito
James Woods
Susan Egan
Rip Torn
Music by Alan Menken
Editing by Tom Finan
Robert Hedland
Studio Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Feature Animation
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date(s)
Running time 93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $85 million[1]
Box office $252.7 million[1]

Hercules is a 1997 American animated musical fantasy film film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The 35th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. The film is loosely 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,[2] and earned $252.7 million in box office revenue worldwide.[1]

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


After imprisoning the Titans beneath the ocean, the Greek gods gather to Mount Olympus for Zeus, and his wife Hera have a son named Hercules. While the other gods are joyful, Zeus' jealous brother Hades plots to overthrow Zeus and rule Mount Olympus. Turning to the Fates for help, Hades learns that in eighteen years, a planetary alignment will allow Hades to locate and free the Titans to conquer Olympus, but only if Hercules does not interfere. Hades sends his minions Pain and Panic to dispose of Hercules. The two succeed at kidnapping and feeding him a formula that turns him mortal, but fail to remove his superhuman strength before Hercules is found and adopted by the farmers Amphitryon and Alcmene.

Years later, the teenaged Hercules becomes an outcast due to his strength, and wonders where he came from. After his foster parents reveal the necklace they found him with, Hercules decides to visit the temple of Zeus for answers. The temple's statue of Zeus comes to life and reveals all to Hercules, telling him that he can regain his godhood by becoming a "true hero". Zeus sends Hercules and his forgotten infant-hood friend Pegasus to find the satyr Philoctetes—"Phil" for short—who is known for training heroes. The two meet Phil, who has retired from training heroes due to numerous disappointments, but Hercules inspires him to follow his dream to train a true hero who will be recognized by the gods. Phil trains Hercules into a potential hero, and when he is older, they fly for Thebes. On the way, they meet Megara—"Meg" for short—a sarcastic damsel whom Hercules saves from the centaur Nessus. However, after Hercules, Phil, and Pegasus leave, Meg is revealed to be Hades' minion, having sold her soul to him to save an unfaithful lover.

Arriving in Thebes, Hercules is turned down by the downtrodden citizens until Meg says that two boys are trapped in a gorge. Hercules saves them, unaware that they are Pain and Panic in disguise, allowing Hades to summon the Hydra to fight Hercules. Hercules continually cuts off its heads, but more heads replace them until Hercules kills the monster by causing a landslide. Hercules is seen as a hero and a celebrity, but Zeus tells Hercules he is not yet a true hero. Driven to depression, Hercules turns to Meg, who is falling in love with him. Hades learns of this and on the eve of his takeover, offers a deal that Hercules gives up his powers for twenty-four hours on the condition that Meg will be unharmed. Hercules accepts, losing his strength, and is heartbroken when Hades reveals that Meg is working for him.

Hades unleashes the Titans who climb Olympus and capture the gods, while a Cyclops goes to Thebes to kill Hercules. Phil inspires Hercules to fight and kill the cyclops, but Meg is crushed by a falling pillar saving Hercules from it, allowing him to regain his strength. Hercules and Pegasus fly to Olympus where they free the gods and launch the Titans into space where they explode, though Meg dies before he returns to her. With Meg's soul now Hades' property, Hercules breaks into the Underworld where he negotiates with Hades to free Meg from the Styx in exchange for his own life. His willingness to sacrifice his life restores his godhood and immortality before the life-draining river can kill him, and he rescues Meg and punches Hades into the Styx. After reviving Meg, she and Hercules are summoned to Olympus where Zeus and Hera welcome their son home. However, Hercules chooses to remain on Earth with Meg. Hercules returns to Thebes where he is hailed as a true hero as Zeus creates a picture of Hercules in the stars commemorating his heroism.

Voice cast

  • Tate Donovan as Hercules, based on the mythological deity Heracles. 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. Deja integrated Donovan's "charming yet innocent quality" into Hercules' expressions.[3]
  • Danny DeVito as Philoctetes/Phil. Eric Goldberg, the supervising animator for Philoctetes, cited Grumpy in Snow White and Bacchus in Fantasia as the inspirations for the character's design. 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.[3]
  • James Woods as Hades. 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.[3] Woods did a lot of ad-libbing in his recordings, especially in Hades' dialogues with Megara. 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". Ranieri watched James Woods' other films and used what he saw as the basis for Hades' sneer.[3]
  • Susan Egan as 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.").[3]
  • Frank Welker as Pegasus. Ellen Woodbury served as the supervising animator for Pegasus.
  • Rip Torn and Samantha Eggar as Zeus and Hera, Hercules' birth-parents. Anthony DeRosa served as the supervising animator for both characters. In the Swedish dub Max von Sydow provided the voice for Zeus.
  • Lillias White, Cheryl Freeman, LaChanze, Roz Ryan and Vanéese Y. Thomas as the Muses (Calliope, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Thalia and Clio respectively), the narrators of the film's story. Michael Snow served as the supervising animator for the Muses.
  • Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt Frewer as Pain and Panic, Hades' henchmen. James Lopez and Brian Ferguson respectively served as the supervising animators for Pain and Panic.
  • Patrick Pinney as the Cyclops. Dominique Monfrey served as the supervising animator for the Cyclops.
  • Hal Holbrook and Barbara Barrie as Amphitryon and Alcmene, Hercules' adoptive parents. Richard Bazley served as the supervising animator for both characters.
  • Amanda Plummer, Carole Shelley and Paddi Edwards as Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos, the three Fates who predict Hades' attempt to conquer Olympus. Nancy Beiman served as the supervising animator for the three characters.
  • Paul Shaffer as Hermes. Michael Swofford served as the animator for Hermes.
  • Jim Cummings as Nessus. Chris Bailey served as the animator for Nessus.
  • Wayne Knight as Demetrius
  • Keith David as Apollo
  • Charlton Heston has a cameo role as the opening narrator.



After the critical and financial success of Aladdin, directors Ron Clements and John Musker developed Treasure Planet up until fall 1993,[4] which was originally pitched by Ron Clements in 1985 before Musker pitched The Little Mermaid.[5][6] According to Clements, Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was the chief of Walt Disney Studios at the time, "just wasn't interested" in the idea,[7] and likewise disapproved of the project again. However, Katzenberg struck a deal with the directors to produce another commercially viable film so he would greenlight Treasure Planet or not produce Treasure at all.[4][8] Turning down adaptation proposals for Don Quixote, The Odyssey, and Around the World in Eighty Days, the directors were notified of animator Joe Haidar's pitch for a Hercules feature.[4] "We thought it would be our opportunity to do a "superhero" movie," Musker said, so "Ron and I being comic book fans. The studio liked us moving onto that project and so we did [Hercules]."[8]


Writing the role of Philoctetes, Musker and Clements envisioned Danny DeVito in the role. However, DeVito declined to audition so Ed Asner, Ernest Borgnine, Dick Latessa were brought in to read for the part. After Red Buttons had auditioned, he left stating "I know what you're gonna do. You're gonna give this part to Danny Devito!" Shortly after, the directors and producer Alice Dewey approached DeVito at a pasta lunch during the filming of Matilda, where DeVito signed on to the role.[8]

The casting of Hades proved to be very problematic for Musker and Clements. When DeVito asked the directors who had in mind to play Hades, Musker and Clements responded by saying they hadn't selected an appropriate actor. In response, DeVito blurted, "Why don't you ask Jack [Nicholson|]?"[9] After DeVito notified Nicholson of the project, the next week, the studio was willing to pay Nicholson $500,000 for the role, but Nicholson demanded roughly a paycheck of $10 to $15 million, plus a 50% cut of all the proceeds from Hades merchandise.[9] Unwilling to share merchandising proceeds with the actor, Disney came back with a counter offer that was significantly less than what Nicholson had asked for. Therefore, Nicholson decided to pass on the project.[9] Disappointed by the lack of Nicholson, Clements and Musker eventually selected John Lithgow as Hades in fall 1994. After nine months of trying to make Lithgow's portrayal of Hades work, Lithgow was released from the role in August 1995.[10] According to John Musker, Ron Silver, James Coburn, Kevin Spacey, Phil Hartman, and Rod Steiger arrived to the Disney studios to read as Hades.[8] When they invited James Woods to read for the part, the filmmakers were surprised by Woods's interpretation, and Woods was hired by October 1995.[10]


The character design was based on Greek statues and artist Gerald Scarfe's work in Pink Floyd—The Wall.[11] 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.[3] Given Deja had worked with three villains before, he was first offered Hades, but asked to animate Hercules instead - "I knew if would be more difficult and more challenging, but I just needed that experience to have that in your repertoire."[12]


Hercules: An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack
File:Hercules soundtrack cover.jpg
Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released May 27, 1997
Genre pop, gospel, soul, R&B, musical theatre
Label Walt Disney Records
Producer Alan Menken, David Zippel
Walt Disney Animation Studios chronology

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hercules: An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack is the soundtrack for Hercules. It consists of music written by composer Alan Menken and lyricist David Zippel, orchestrated by Daniel Troob and Michael Starobin,[13] with vocals performed by Lillias White, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Roger Bart, Danny DeVito, and Susan Egan among others. The album also includes the successful single version of "Go the Distance" by Michael Bolton. For the Spanish version of the film, "Go the Distance" was redone by Ricky Martin and released as a single under the title "No Importa La Distancia" and was also very successful, both inside and outside the United States. In the Turkish version of the film, "Go the Distance" was sung by Tarkan, who also performed the vocals for the adult Hercules.

"Go the Distance" was nominated for both the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, but ultimately lost both to Celine Dion's hit "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic.

Belinda Carlisle recorded two versions of "I Won't Say" as well as a music video for promotional purposes. Though the English dub eventually opted not to use it, several foreign dubs have it in place of the reprise of "A Star Is Born" in the ending credits. These dubs include, but are not limited to, the Swedish one, the Finnish one, the Icelandic one and the Russian one. Curiously enough, the DVD release of the Swedish dub has replaced it with the reprise of "A Star Is Born".

Track list:

  1. "Long Ago..." - Charlton Heston
  2. The Gospel Truth/Main Title - Lillias White, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Cheryl Freeman, and Vanéese Y. Thomas
  3. The Gospel Truth II - Roz Ryan
  4. The Gospel Truth III - Lillias White, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Cheryl Freeman, and Vanéese Y. Thomas
  5. "Go the Distance" - Roger Bart
  6. Oh Mighty Zeus (Score)
  7. "Go the Distance (Reprise)" - Roger Bart
  8. "One Last Hope" - Danny DeVito
  9. "Zero to Hero" - Tawatha Agee, Lillias White, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Cheryl Freeman, and Vanéese Y. Thomas
  10. "I Won't Say" - Susan Egan, Lillias White, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Cheryl Freeman, and Vanéese Y. Thomas
  11. "A Star Is Born" - Lillias White, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Cheryl Freeman, and Vanéese Y. Thomas
  12. "Go the Distance (Single)" - Michael Bolton
  13. The Big Olive (Score)
  14. The Prophecy (Score)
  15. Destruction of the Agora (Score)
  16. Phil's Island (Score)
  17. Rodeo (Score)
  18. Speak of the Devil (Score)
  19. The Hydra Battle (Score)
  20. Meg's Garden (Score)
  21. Hercules' Villa (Score)
  22. All Time Chump (Score)
  23. Cutting the Thread (Score)
  24. A True Hero/A Star Is Born (End Title) - Lillias White, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Cheryl Freeman, and Vanéese Y. Thomas



Marketing and promotion for Hercules began even before the film's theatrical release. Several Hercules toys, books, and other merchandise were produced,[14] and a parade was held at Times Square during the film's premiere two weeks prior to its theatrical run.[15] Hercules was also received the first Disney on Ice adaptation before the film was theatrically released.[16] A tie-in video game, titled Hercules Action Game, was developed by Eurocom and released in July 1997 for the PC and PlayStation.[17]

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. The film was released on a Special Edition Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD on August 12, 2014.[18]

Video game

Main article: Disney's Hercules (video game)

A video game based on the film was released for the PlayStation and Microsoft Windows in 1997, later put on the PlayStation Network online service for the PlayStation 3.


Disney intended for the film to have an open-air premiere at Pnyx hill, but the Greek government declined after Greek media and public panned the film. A Greek newspaper entitled Adsmevtos Typos called it "another case of foreigners distorting our history and culture just to suit their commercial interests".[19]

After a one-theater release on 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.[20] The film grossed only $99 million during its run at the North American box office, something Disney's executives blamed on "more competition".[21] The international totals for Hercules raised its gross to $253 million.[1]

Critical reception

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported the film had garnered a 84% rating based on reviews from 49 critics, with an average rating of 7/10. The site's consensus states "Fast-paced and packed with dozens of pop culture references, Hercules might not measure up with the true classics of the Disney pantheon, but it's still plenty of fun."[2]

Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a positive review of the film, enjoying the story as well as the animation. Ebert also praised James Woods' portrayal of Hades, stating that Woods brings "something of the same verbal inventiveness that Robin Williams brought to Aladdin".[22] The New York Times critic Janet Maslin also praised Woods's performance remarking "Woods shows off the full verve of an edgy Scarfe villain", and added "On any level, earthly or otherwise, the ingenious new animated Hercules is pretty divine."[23] James Berardinelli, film critic for ReelViews, awarded the film 3 out of 4 stars writing, "Hercules has the dubious distinction of being the least-enchanting cartoon Disney has fashioned in over a decade", but remained critical of the storyline, visual artwork, and characters.[24]

Writing for The Washington Post, Desson Howe criticized the film as an "insipid, lifeless, animated feature".[25] Likewise, Rita Kempley of Washington Post blasted the film as "a Looney-Tunesy spoof of muscle-bound movies, celebrity worship and, curiously enough, the studio's own shameless hucksterism."[26]

Awards and nominations

  • Blockbuster Entertainment Awards[30]
  • Favorite Animated Family Movie (Nominated)
  • Favorite Song from a Movie - "Go the Distance" (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. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Hercules (1997)". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=hercules.htm. Retrieved 2008-02-03. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Hercules (1997)". [[wikipedia:Rotten Tomatoes|]]. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1078028-hercules/. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "The Quick Draw Artists". Disney Adventures: 44–49. September 1997. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Hill, Jim (April 5, 2001). "Who the hell do we get to play Hades?". Jim Hill Media. http://www.laughingplace.com/News-PID115030-115034.asp. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  5. Everett, Clayton (June 6, 2002). "Treasure Island as it has never been seen before". The Scene Magazine. Archived from the original on 2009-03-30. http://replay.web.archive.org/20090330210757/http://www.scene-magazine.com/archive/filmarchive.php?filmarcid=38. Retrieved 2014-03-15. 
  6. Clicking on the link on this page will redirect to Wikipedia's Hercules (1997 film) article. Template:Cite video
  7. "Treasure Planet". Entertainment Weekly (668-668): p. 64. August 2002 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Gillespie, Sarah Ashman (May 7, 2012). "John Musker Question Countdown #3". howardashman.com. http://howardashman.com/blog/john-musker-question-countdown-3/. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Hill, Jim (April 5, 2001). "Who the hell do we get to play Hades? (Part 2)". The Laughing Place. http://www.laughingplace.com/News-PID115030-115035.asp. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Hill, Jim (April 5, 2001). "Who the hell do we get to play Hades? (Part 3)". The Laughing Place. http://www.laughingplace.com/News-PID115030-115036.asp. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  11. The Soul of 'Hercules', Los Angeles Times
  12. Interview: Animator Andreas Deja, DVD Movie Guide
  13. Hercules (Original Score) at AllMusic. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  14. Grossman, Wendy (June 26, 1997). "Disney flexes marketing muscle for Hercules". chronicle.augusta.com. http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/062697/fea_hercules1.html. Retrieved 2009-01-09. [dead link]
  15. Gest, Emily (June 10, 1997). "DISNEY'S READY TO ROLL WITH HERCULEAN LABOR". www.nydailynews.com. Archived from the original on 2009-05-10. https://web.archive.org/web/20090510213158/http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/1997/06/10/1997-06-10_disney_s_ready_to_roll_with_.htmlready_to_roll_with_.html. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  16. Wasko, Janet (2001). Understanding Disney: the manufacture of fantasy. [[wikipedia:Wiley-Blackwell|]]. ISBN 0-7456-1484-1. http://books.google.com/?id=1goTERg-s28C&pg=PR4&lpg=PP72. 
  17. Disney's Hercules at [[wikipedia:Eurocom|]]
  18. "Hercules Blu-Ray". Blu-Ray.com. March 26, 2014. http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Hercules-Blu-ray/44744/. 
  19. Byrne, Ciaran; Julia Llewelyn Smith (October 9, 1997). "Greeks put Hercules on trial". The Nation: C6, C8. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=cQkFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=EjIDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2055,3065624. 
  20. Weekend Box Office Results for June 27-29, 1997 - Box Office Mojo
  21. Hercules Is Too Weak to Lift Disney Stock, The New York Times
  22. Ebert, Roger (1997-06-27). "Hercules review". [[wikipedia:Chicago Sun Times|]]. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19970627/REVIEWS/706270302/1023. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  23. Maslin, Janet (June 13, 1997). "Oh, Heavens! What a Hero!". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9806E1DD173FF930A25755C0A961958260&partner=Rotten%2520Tomatoes. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  24. Berardinelli, James. "Hercules review". ReelViews.net. http://www.reelviews.net/php_review_template.php?identifier=138. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  25. Howe, Desson (June 27, 1997). "Disney's Myth Conception". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/review97/herculeshowe.htm. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  26. Kempley, Rita (June 27, 1997). "Disney's 'Hercules': Myth for the Masses". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/review97/herculeskemp.htm. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  27. "1997 (70th)". awardsdatabase.oscars.org. http://awardsdatabase.oscars.org/ampas_awards/BasicSearch?action=searchLink&displayType=1&BSFromYear=70. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  28. "HFPA Awards Search". www.goldenglobes.org. http://www.goldenglobes.org/browse/film/25917. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  29. "Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA: 1998". www.imdb.com. http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/Academy_of_Science_Fiction_Fantasy_And_Horror_Films_USA/1998. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  30. "Blockbuster Entertainment Awards: 1998". www.imdb.com. http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/Blockbuster_Entertainment_Awards/1998. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  31. "Nineteenth Annual Youth in Film Awards 1996-1997". www.youngartistawards.org. http://www.youngartistawards.org/pastnoms19.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 

External links

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