Disney: Hercules

Hercules is entry #35 of the Disney Animated Canon, released in 1997.

After Zeus fights and sends the Titans to the Underworld, he becomes the ruler of Mount Olympus, home of all Greek gods. Hades is sent to rule the underworld, but he makes plans to throw Zeus out of Mount Olympus with the Titans' help. The three Fates warn him that his plans would be endangered if Hercules, Zeus and Hera's newborn child, is still around by the time he tries to take over Mount Olympus. Hades sends his minions Pain and Panic to turn Hercules into a mortal and kill him, but they fail in their attempt and leave him on earth with his divine strength to be raised as a human. Hercules grows up but later learns he is the son of Gods, and in order to return to Mt. Olympus he must turn into a "true hero".

Over a year after its release, the film spawned a cartoon that ran both in syndication and on Disney's One Saturday Morning on ABC, from 1998 to 1999. It was a Midquel series that presented Herc's life in High School and had him hanging out with fellow Greek characters Icarus and Cassandra. It also presented a plot hole in that Hades was still trying to get him killed, despite the fact that in the movie he didn't know Herc was still alive until he was an adult, but that didn't seem to matter much to the writers. The show runners admitted to the plot hole and stated their intent was to just have some fun with the setting and characters, hoping that the plot hole wouldn't bother viewers too much. Thanks to James Woods coming back, it did pretty well.

The film is also adapted into a level called Olympus Coliseum in the Kingdom Hearts series… heavily. It has appeared in seven out of eight games, and even in the game it didn't appear in, the world's theme music was used in another world. Hades is even the most recurring Disney Villain in the series besides Maleficent note  herself, probably because you can always rely on getting the big name of James Woods to play him.

While far from Disney's most successful movie thanks to competition, it made plenty of money and was still very successful when compared to the Disney franchise as a whole. Its sense of humour was compared to that which Robin Williams brought to Aladdin, showcasing a villain both competent and hilarious. Some mark it as the turning point where Disney no longer confined humour to incompetent sidekicks.

This animated film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Precursors: The Titans, the portrayal of which was in some ways very close to ancient Greek Theology (ancient beings defeated by Zeus and imprisoned in the Underworld, their powers were very broad as well) and in some ways very different (the original Titans were deities Not So Different from the Olympians and the parents of several of them, rather than near mindless elemental monsters).
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Inverted with the Fates, who were traditionally beautiful women, due in part with confusing them with the Grae Sisters, three eyeless (and toothless) witches who were also somehow sisters to the Gorgons. Some myths suggest that they were also part bird.
  • Adaptational Heroism: As well as Adaptional Maternity, Hera. In the original myth, Hera was Hercules' step-mother and main antagonist.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Hades was not an enemy of Hercules in the original myths.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: One of the lyrics for "Zero to Hero" is "and this perfect package packed a pair of pretty pecs!"
  • Adorkable: Herc himself fits this, especially as a youngster. Even as an adult, he's still sorta awkward.
  • Adult Fear: Surprising? Check Zeus and Hera's reaction when they discover baby Hercules is no longer in his crib and they have to watch another couple raise him from afar at the beginning.
  • Alien Blood: The Hydra's blood is green.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Pegasus acts more like a dog with wings than a horse, especially when he's younger.
  • All Men Are Rapists: Meg comes very close to outright stating this belief in her introductory scene:
    Megara: You know men. They think "No" means "Yes" and "Get lost" means "Take me, I'm yours."
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Hercules is a Cute Clumsy Guy with Super Strength. Guess how well it goes...
  • Almost Kiss: Hercules and Meg when the latter is trying to seduce the former.
  • Always Save the Girl: Double-Subverted. Hades offers a deal for Hercules to give up his strength for 24 hours in exchange for Megara's freedom and to promise that she will be safe from harm. He's aware that Hades plans to do something nasty but Hades pressures him into it.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The Gods, being gods, are different colors and all of them glow.
  • Ancient Grome:
    • Gladiators and Roman numerals are mentioned in a few places.
    • The name of the hero is "Hercules" (the Latinization), not "Herakles", yet the gods are given their Greek names (mostly). Ironically the Greek "Herakles" makes more sense in this version, as it means "Glory of Hera", and considering that in this adaptation Hera is both his actual mother, and a loving and supporting one, the name would make far more sense than in the original myth, where she hated his guts and tried to have him killed repeatedly.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Phil refuses to believe Hercules is the son of Zeus, yet he mentions have also trained Perseus, who was also one of Zeus' sons.
  • Arc Words: The words "Go the Distance" are used many times even outside the song.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Herc asks this to Meg (who is currently being held up by a centaur);
  • Award Bait Song: "Go the Distance".
  • Berserk Button:
    • Don't use Hercules merchandise around Hades. If you do, don't say "Thirsty?"
    • Don't mention Achilles' heel to Phil.
  • Beyond the Impossible: Reconstructed Trope. It's impossible to kill a god; no ifs, ands, or buts. However, it is possible to remove their divinity and then kill them once they are no longer a god.
    Hades: Pain, Panic, got a little riddle for ya. How do you kill a god?
    Pain: I do not... know?
    Panic: Ya can't... cause... they're immortal?
    Hades: Bingo! So first you gotta make the little sunspot... mortal.
  • Big Applesauce: Thebes. Try to list all the similarities between it and New York (it's even called The Big Olive, as an obvious riff on The Big Apple, for example).
  • Big Book of War: Phil's oft-quoted rules of conduct and engagement for heroes-in-training.
  • Big Bad: Hades. He's gathering an army so he can take over Olympus.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Pegasus, who was a gift to Hercules from his father at birth. Described by Zeus as having the heart of a horse and "the brain of a bird", he acts pretty dog-like throughout the movie. Besides the flying, Hercules and Phil get their faces licked by him several times throughout the movie.
  • Big Good: Zeus is the benevolent Top God and Hercules' father.
  • Big "NO!": Done by Hercules when Meg is crushed, by Zeus after baby Herc is kidnapped from Olympus, and by Hades when Herc saves Meg's soul from the River Styx.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Someone call IX-I-I!"
  • Black and White Morality: Hercules, Zeus and Hera become purely good. Hades becomes purely evil. In the original myths they were a lot more morally ambiguous. The only grey character in the movie is Meg. This is one side effect of being Hijacked by Jesus.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Herc's super-strength, when combined with an adolescent's typical clumsiness.
    • Megara's apparent immortality, while she's Hades' slave.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: While there's no visible blood spilled, Hercules decapitates the Hydra on-screen while still inside its neck, although the Hyra grew a few more heads but still. Kinda brutal for a Disney movie.
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: Zeus strikes Phil with some harmless lightning when he refuses to train Hercules. Phil changes his mind.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: It's never properly explained why Hades doesn't just open a can of divine whoopass on Hercules himself. He's clearly shown to be powerful enough and seemingly immune to any physical attack Hercules can throw at him while he's still mortal. It's possible that Zeus would intervene if he did. Hades knew he could never beat Zeus without the aid of the Titans so he has to send his monsters out to fight him instead and risk the chance of Herc beating them.
  • Bound and Gagged: Meg during Hades' deal with Hercules to symbolize her enslavement. As well as to keep Meg from telling Hercules the truth.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • A major example of bowdlerising from Greek mythology; for example, besides a total change of Hades' personality, Hercules is the son of Zeus and Hera.
    • In European and several other cuts, the hydra's blood is replaced with purple smoke.
    • When Phil beats up that one civilian for making fun of his training of Achilles, he says "I'm gonna wipe that freaking grin off your face!" For television broadcasts, "freaking" is changed to "stupid".
      • Subtitles for the movie also replace "freaking" with "stupid", even though Phil very clearly says "freaking".
  • Living Forever Is No Big Deal: The Gods seem to consider immortality part of their lives; they are naturally worried when it's removed from one of them, but in normal times they barely refer to their immortality. Phil, too, who is apparently immortal/has an extremely long life span (since he trained all the heroes of the past), doesn't even mention being immortal.
  • Book Ends: During the beginning of the movie after Pain and Panic kidnap Hercules, turn him mortal, and then try and fail to kill him. Panic runs around worrying that "[Hades]'s not gonna be happy when he finds out about this." Pain says "You mean if he finds out" Panic: "If! If is good!" They have a similar conversation after Hercules punches Hades into The River Styx.
  • Borrowed Catch Phrase: While still on a high after his date with Meg, Herc jokes with Phil some, even mimicking his voice.
    Hercules: Hey I got two words for ya: Duck!
  • Break the Cutie/Broken Bird: Megara. She pledged service to Hades to save an old boyfriend's life - only to have said boyfriend run after another girl shortly afterwards. Plus, she's implied to have had some run-ins with boys who don't understand the word "no". OUCH.
  • Breather Episode: Between the heavier themes of The Lion King, Pocahontas, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame and preceding more darker films in Mulan and Tarzan, this film is a Lighter and Softer comedy with a tone similar to Aladdin. This is emphasised in the opening, when the serious narration is cut off by the muses, who proceed to give the movie a more lighthearted musical opening.
  • Brick Joke: "If. If is good."
  • Bullying a Dragon: During Herc's teen years, the other kids mock him and call him "Jerkules", and the townspeople in general call him a freak and disaster because of his Super Strength. Luckily for them, they are in a G-rated Disney movie and Hercules is a kind-hearted and sweet-natured guy, as opposed to the Hercules of the actual myths, who was known for A) being extremely hot-tempered and B) using his strength against those who angered him, often with lethal results for the mortals involved.
  • Burning with Anger: Hades, literally. He goes from blue to bright red flames. When he loses it completely, his whole head and arms become fountains of fire.
  • Call Back: During the beginning of the movie after Pain and Panic abduct Hercules, turn him mortal, and then try and fail to kill him. Panic runs around saying "He's not gonna be happy when he finds out about this!", to which Pain responds "You mean IF he finds out." Panic is calmed by this, saying "IF! If is good!" They have the same conversation after Hercules punches Hades into The River Styx.
  • Cain and Abel: Zeus and Hades are brothers and the later is trying to usurp and imprison the former.
  • Cassandra Truth: Phil, after he overhears part of a conversation between Meg and Hades, catches on that Meg isn't to be trusted and tries to warn Hercules. The lovesick Herc will have none of it, to the point of hitting him in a blind rage, and Phil leaves Herc in his darkest hour. Hades ends up revealing Meg's involvement to Herc after taking his strength away. And boy does it have a more crushing effect on Herc than having his strength gone!
  • The Chessmaster: Hades has a literal chessboard for planning his take over of Olympus. Several scenes during "Zero to Hero" even have him sitting at a chessboard, pushing various pieces (naturally, shaped like various mythological monsters) toward Herc.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Herc rushes off to help people as soon as he hears about it. A double subversion in that he's doing heroic deeds to regain his godhood, but later realizes that he should be doing good for good's sake.
  • Close-Call Haircut: During the training montage, Pegasus ducks to narrowly dodge a badly-aimed sword, which gives him something like a flattop.
  • Composite Character: The Fates have a lot of the Gray sisters about them (see Sadly Mythtaken).
  • Conspicuous CG: The Hydra still looks pretty CG despite advanced cell shading simulation techniques being applied.
    • Also, Hercules' 'crib' and the colonnade in Olympus.
  • Contralto of Danger: Megara has a sultry, husky voice, atypical of both Disney female Love Interests in general and female characters in the movie. She's also working for Hades (albeit unwillingly), and at one point tries to seduce Herc into revealing his weaknesses, though she ends up falling for him instead.
  • Creator Cameo: Caricatures of the films directors (John Musker and Ron Clements) appear at the top of an arch as Young Herc speeds his foster father's wagon into the market place.
  • Credits Gag: Hades gets one more Funny Moment as the Disney castle comes up.
  • Crushing Handshake: Happens when Hercules shakes Phil's hand. Herc is so excited to meet his mentor that he forgets to be careful with his Super Strength.
  • Curse Escape Clause:
    • If Hercules proves himself worthy, he can rejoin the gods.
    • Thanks to Exact Words, Hercules can get out of his deal of giving up his strength to Hades in exchange for Meg's release: Hades simply promised that "no harm" would come to Meg, so when she pushes him out of the way of the falling pillar, thus bringing her to harm (and sacrificing her life), the deal is broken and Herc gets his strength back.
  • Curtain Camouflage: "What could be behind curtain number one?" His little sandeled toes are even poking out under it.
  • Cut Song: Hercules had a ballad called "Shooting Star", and there was an alternate, slower song for Meg called "I Can't Believe My Heart".
  • Damsel in Distress: Lampshaded:
    Hercules: Aren't you a damsel in distress?
    Megara: I'm a damsel, I'm in distress, I can handle it. Have a nice day!
  • Deadpan Snarker: Phil, Megara, Hades... There's lot of snark in this movie.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • Megara sold her soul to save her boyfriend... who promptly dumped her.
    • Hercules gave up his Super Strength to set Meg free. Cue invasion of Thebes by a giant cyclops.
    • Hercules makes a deal with Hades to save Meg in exchange for his life. This time, Hades's tricks don't work.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Hercules comes close to this after giving up his strength to save Meg from Hades, only to have Hades reveal that Meg was working for him all along. Herc is fully prepared to commit suicide by giant cyclops until Phil comes back and gives him a pep talk. Meg's Heroic Sacrifice also helps to pull him out of it.
  • Death by Cameo: Sort of. Scar makes a cameo as the skin of the Nemean Lion Hercules wears for a vase-painting shoot. This is also an in-joke to the fact that both Herc and Scar are animated by Andreas Deja, as well as a clever little Call Back to The Lion King itself: when Mufasa asks what he should do with Scar near the beginning of the film, Zazu suggests that he "would make a very handsome throw-rug".
  • Death's Hourglass: This film has one with the Fate Sisters and the threads of life: if the thread of life gets cut, said person dies, and their listless soul ends up on the River Styx.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Megara again. Hercules melts the ice created by her jerkass former boyfriend.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Young Herc's market scene involves a lot of stone pillars, one of which he ends up crashing into, causing the rest to topple over likewise.
  • Disneyfication: There's quite a bit of it going on, but the most glaringly obvious was that Herc's original Big Bad was Hera because he was the product of Zeus' adultery with a mortal. If they didn't remove/change that part, how on Earth would the script as a whole pass?
  • Disney Death:
    • In the middle of the film, it happens twice in the same scene during the epic fight between Hercules and the Hydra; once the audience within the film thinks he's swallowed, the next time they think he's crushed.
    • Megara. She is literally crushed by a pillar before Hercules lifts it up to free her, and as he returns after saving Mount Olympus, we see her thread of life get cut and her hand goes limp. This is one of the rare times Disney has ever shown an actual dead body on screen, as Herc weeps over her pale, limp, lifeless, and yet totally undamaged corpse, cradling it in his arms.
  • Disney Villain Death:
    • As a god, Hades can't die, but he is defeated by being punched into the River Styx, where the souls of the dead dogpile on him. He can't fall to his death, so he falls into a bunch of other people's.
    • Played straight with the Cyclops, who is pushed over a cliff by Hercules.
  • Diving Save: Meg pushes Hercules out of the way of a falling pillar.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Before his training with Phil, Hercules' Super Strength caused him trouble. Even afterwards he has some trouble with it.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Aphrodite. Makes sense, as she's the Goddess of Beauty.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Hades and Megara's interaction makes you think of an abusive boyfriend with a girlfriend who is having trouble getting away from him.
      Hades: Meg, my sweet, my flower, my little nut Meg.
    • His Faux Affably Evil personality also mimics her gay best friend trying to console her about her issues with men.
  • Dramatic Drop: Meg drops a vase when Hades offers her soul and freedom in exchange for seducing Hercules into revealing his weakness.
  • Dub Induced Plothole: The Finnish dub changes the last part of the prophecy from "If Hercules fights, you will fail" to "If Hercules lives, you will not succeed", which raises the question of why Hades doesn't kill Hercules after depowering him.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Invoked and justified. According to Phil, it is a hero's job to save a Damsel in Distress.
  • Eagleland Osmosis: Played for Laughs, and adds a Genius Bonus.
  • Eaten Alive: Hercules. The hydra eats him. It's clear he's still alive because A) he cuts off its head from inside and B) the film's only about halfway through.
  • Elemental Powers:
  • Elite Four: Hades looses the Titans from their prison deep within the Earth, using their vengeance against Zeus to engineer a coup d'etat. Four Titans: Lythos (earth/rock), Hydros (water/ice), Pyros (fire/lava) and Stratos (air/wind) advance upon Mount Olympus, while a fifth Titan, Arges (a cyclops with no elemental affiliation) keeps Hercules busy. Apparently poor Arges isn't coup d'etat material.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: Disney got something right here but heavily exaggerated. Hades certainly wasn't the Big Bad like in this film but he wasn't regarded with the same amount of respect as his siblings.note  On the other hand, the fans love him.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Inverted. Megara in mythology was the daughter of King Chreon, making her a princess. In the movie we know nothing about her and being a princess is never mentioned.
  • The Exit Is That Way: Or rather, Mt. Olympus.
  • Evil Plan: Hades is of the Take Over the World variety, because he doesn't like ruling in Hades.
  • Exact Words: The reason Herc retains some godly power. The formula to turn him into a mortal required him to drink the whole thing. He sucked down all but one drop.
  • Expy:
  • Failed a Spot Check: Hades is the god of death. How could he not know Hercules, the son of his most hated enemy, wasn't in the underworld?
  • Fangirl: Crowds of them. Everywhere. "I'VE GOT HIS SWEAT BAND!"
  • Fauns and Satyrs: Obviously, Phil the Satyr. His appearance is of the later renaissance version, but his nymph-chasing, wise cracking bad looks are in fact taken straight from classical depictions of satyrs.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Hades again. His casual buddy talk is a veneer for viciousness.
  • Finger Snap Lighter: Hades (because he is made, in part, of fire).
  • Finishing Each Other's Sentences: The Fates do this, frequently finishing what Hades is about to tell them. It annoys him quite a bit.
  • The First Cut Is the Deepest: Megara, as a result of her slime of an ex-boyfriend, is turned off of love entirely.
  • Five-Bad Band: Hades and his minions.
  • Flaming Hair: Hades is rocking the fiery hair do. He even proves the picture for the Flaming Hair page.
  • Fog Feet: Hades' robes dissolve into wisps of smoke.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When the two "boys" are "trapped", you can hear a slight hissing at the end of their last under-rock sentence.
    • When Hades opens his display to ask Megara about the River Guardian, there are two other figurines visible on it: a giant boar and a gorgon, that are both later sent against Hercules in "Zero to Hero".
    • When Meg takes Herc to the garden, she is surprised and truly flattered by Herc's sincere compliments towards her. Then she backs into the statue of Cupid's arrow. Then they nearly kiss before Phil interrupts and berates Herc for ditching him. Before leaving, Herc, picks a flower from a tree and gives it to Meg and kisses her. The entire garden scene is what foreshadows the song I Won't Say I'm in Love.
  • Framing Device: The parts with the Muses, which involves their likenesses coming to life in a modern-day museum and interrupting Charlton Heston.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When we see Hercules' palace and the five girls climbing the gates, if you're quick one of them can be identified as Megara with her dress hitched up. Furthermore only four girls swarm him while Meg waits behind the door.
  • Friendly Address Privileges: Megara plays with this trope:
    Megara: Megara. My friends call me Meg. At least they would if I had any friends.
  • God of Evil: Hades is portrayed as one, contrary to Greek Mythology and more in line with a Christian line of thought. See Satanic Archetype.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: Played straight and inverted.
    • Zeus singlehandedly defeated and imprisoned the Titans in the prologue.
    • Zeus persuades Phil to take Hercules on as a student.
    • Hades reveals himself as one behind the release of the Titans and their assault on Olympus seeking to usurp the king of gods from his throne. Yet in the climax all the gods are not in the underworld, and are not proceeding to kick Hades' ass.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: When Hercules announces to a small crowd of distressed people that he's a hero, one of the men realizes the "goat man", Phil, that's with him trained Achilles. Phil tries to beat him up and ends up biting his toga, revealing white underwear with red spots. This may qualify Phil under the All Animals Are Dogs trope since that's a very dog thing of him to do.
  • Go Seduce My Archnemesis: After Hercules kicks the collective asses of every monster Hades sends at him, he decides to send Meg in to seduce him in order to find out what his weakness is. Predictably, she falls in love with him instead. However, this provides Hades with the answer he wanted in the first place.
    Hades: Meg, listen. Do you hear that sound? It's the sound of your freedom, fluttering away, forever!
    Meg: I don't care, I'm not going to help you hurt him!
    Hades: [sighs] I can't believe you're getting all worked up over some guy.
    Meg: This one is different. He's strong, he's caring, he would never do anything to hurt me...
    Hades: He's a guy!
    Meg: (smugly) Besides, O Oneness, you can't beat him. He has no weaknesses! He's gonna...
    (she turns and sees Hades smirking at her)
    Hades: I think he does, Meg. I truly think he does.
  • Gospel Revival Number: Basically, anything that the Muses touch. Charlton Heston didn't stand a chance.
  • Grade System Snark: When Hercules defeats the River Guardian and sends him flying (with just a headbutt) to rescue Meg, Phil loudly says several congratulatory remarks, ending with, "Not bad, kid!" This is directly followed by him muttering underneath his breath, "Not what I had in mind, but not bad.", as not a minute earlier he told Hercules to 'use his head' to beat the Guardian.
  • Greek Chorus: Literally! The movie is narrated by the Greek Muses who take part in the story, sort of.
  • Groupie Brigade: One follows Hercules after his fame explodes.
  • Half-Hearted Henchman: Anyone working for Hades.
    • Pain and Panic are clearly with Hades because they are terrified of him. They have no problem lying to him, and after Hercules punches him into The River Styx they clearly do not miss him. Panic is only worried about how angry Hades will be.
    • Meg is only working for Hades because she sold her soul, and is paying off a debt. Once she falls in love with Hercules she turns on him.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Hades, who over the course of the movie has constant difficulty keeping his smooth demeanor with his generally-annoyed-at-everything attitude leading to a tendency to snap into a rage at the slightest provocation. Minor explosions are common, major meltdowns are a sight to behold. Bonus points for having his hair literally go off when he gets angry.
  • Happily Adopted: The human couple that take Hercules in treat him well, though they fade from view after he discovers his godly heritage. He's later shown in one of the musical numbers to be putting his newfound wealth and influence to work paying them back several times over.
  • Happily Married: Unlike the mythology, Zeus and Hera are quite happy together. Hercules' human parents qualify as well.
  • Heroic BSOD: Hercules, after Hades convinces him to give up his strength for Meg's freedom and safety, and then revealing that Meg was working for him all along. It has such a profound effect on him that he doesn't even attempt to fight back against the Cyclops, until Phil's pep talk.
  • Heroic Build: Hercules, following his training with Phil. Just look at the picture at the top of this page!
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Twice, from each side of the Love Interest relationship: first Meg pushes Hercules out of the path of a falling pillar to save him (thus abrogating Hades' deal in which he said he wouldn't hurt her, and giving Herc his strength back) and costing her her life, then Herc gives up his life to Hades to rescue Meg's soul (an act of such selfless heroism it restores his godhood).
  • Hijacked by Jesus: Zeus has become a Grandpa God, Hades a Satanic Archetype, and Hercules a stand-in for Jesus.
    • "And that's the gospel truth"
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs:
    • "Holy Hera! "
    • Thebes is called the "Big Olive ."
    • "Wanna buy a sundial? "
    • "Somebody call IX-I-I! "
    • "Keep your toga  on, pal!"
    • "This is the honest-to-Zeus  truth..."
    • "Is this an audience or a mosaic? "
    • "That's it, I'm moving to Sparta! "
    • "He's just another chariot  chaser."
    • "...but I could see through that in a Peloponnesian  minute."
  • Honest John's Dealership:
    • The man who tries to sell sundials to Herc.
    • James Woods modeled Hades after a used-car salesman.
  • Honey Trap:
    Megara: Wonderboy is hitting every curve you throw at him.
    Hades: Oh, yeah... I wonder if maybe I haven't been throwing the right curves at him...
  • Horsing Around: Pegasus is usually gentle with Herc. Megara, on the other hand...
  • Hydra Problem: Yup. "Will you forget the head-slicing thing!?"
  • Hypocritical Humor: Done to show how out of favor Hades is with the other gods. He introduces himself with a lame joke that meets with no response; as he leaves, Zeus cracks a similarly lame joke, and everyone bursts into laughter.
  • I Gave My Word: Hades may game a deal to come out ahead, but he will abide by an agreement. This actually becomes an enforced plot point later in the film: Herc trades his strength for Meg's freedom, with the promise that Hades will do nothing to harm her. When she's injured by the Cyclops, Herc's strength returns, because Hades freed the cyclops. As Meg explains, "Hades' deal is broken."
  • I Know You Know I Know: Between Hades and the Fates because the Fates know everything and feel a need to remind Hades because he explains things to them.
  • Impossible Hourglass Figure: Four of the Muses and Aphrodite — especially Aphrodite given that she's the goddess of love and has a waist so tiny she could wrap one hand around. It's sort of explained by the fact that they're goddesses. Artemis and Megara have Hartman Hips.
  • Incredibly Long Note: "Go the Distance" holds "belong" for a long time at the end.
  • Ink-Suit Actor:
    • Short, portly Danny DeVito as the short, portly Philoctetes.
    • Hermes, who shares the same features and trademark shades of his voice actor Paul Shaffer, best known as David Letterman's bandleader.
    • Tate Donovan looks almost exactly like Hercules. Ditto for Susan Egan as Meg. Even after nearly two decades, their resemblances are still incredibly striking.
  • It Is Pronounced Tro-PAY: "And they slapped his face on every vase! On every VAHE!"
  • "I Want" Song: "Go the Distance", which also became an Award Bait Song, focuses on Hercules' desire for acceptance.
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: Hades's hair turns from blue to bright orange whenever he is angry. Since his hair is made of fire, this is justified.
  • Kavorka Man: Phil at the end, since Aphrodite kisses him.
  • Kill It Through Its Stomach: When the Hydra swallows Herc, it looks pretty satisfied with itself, until it gives a confused look moments before Hercules decapitates it from the inside. However, this isn't enough to kill it.
  • Kubrick Stare: Herc's Moment of Awesome ensues.
  • Large Ham:
    • Hades. Being a Disney villain, it's not unexpected at all.
    • Also Zeus: "I NEED MORE THUNDERBOLTS!!!"
  • Laughably Evil: Hades is a Deadpan Snarker and general comedian, who is voiced by James Woods. The crew of the movie said that Hades was going to be dark, scary, and menacing, but Woods took a different route than the other auditions and the original plan, and they loved it so much they rewrote the character and, by extension, the script.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: Zeus. On his free time, he's a loving father and husband, spends time joking with everyone and attempts to be a good big bro for Hades; in fact, he's much more lovable than the original Zeus, but once the Titans attack and Hades proved to be a backstabber, we quickly see where Hercules' strength come from and why you don't mess with the King of the Gods.
  • Lighter and Softer: The take on Greek mythology present in the film, in addition to being Sadly Mythtaken, is much lighter and more family-friendly. Without it, the film would have turned out an R-Rating. It also applies in the context of Disney Animated Canon. Of the '90s Disney movies, this film was considerably lighter and more of a slapstick comedy, especially compared to its darker and more epic predecessors (The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and successors (Mulan, Tarzan).
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Portrayed rather positively in this case.
    Megara: People always do crazy things when they're in love.
  • Meaningful Echo: "If. 'If' is good."
  • Meaningful Name: Pain and Panic. Pain is constantly subjected to pain, and as for Panic, he does just that: panic.
  • Mentor's New Hope: The song below is about Hercules serving as Phil's last chance to train a true hero.
  • Mickey Mousing: The coda for "One Last Hope". It seems that, as in Fantasia, the animators took their cue from the music.
  • Minion Maracas: Happens repeatedly to Pain and Panic.
  • Moment Killer: Phil is quite skilled at doing this. He has a megaphone.
  • Mortality Ensues:
    • At the beginning when Pain and Panic make Baby!Hercules drink the mortality potion.
    • At the end when Hercules gives up his reinstated godhood to live on Earth with Meg.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Meg is drawn to be a lot more sexy than the usual Disney heroine, sharing a similar body type to Jessica Rabbot. She also gets scenes like when she washes herself in the river and seduces Hercules.
  • Muggle Foster Parents: Hercules' human parents.
  • Multiple Head Case: The Hydra, while trying to eat Herc, accidentally attacks the other heads or knocks into them. The heads themselves also fight over which one gets to eat him. Justified that it only had one head a few minutes ago — growing extra heads takes some getting used to, you know...
  • My Gods, What Have I Done?: Herc gets this after he hits Phil in a blind rage. He's very shocked at himself for lashing out.
  • Mythology Gag: Aptly enough; despite many changes to the actual myths, there are more than a few references to them outside the main plot.
    • The Mythological Hercules is best knownnote  for performing the Twelve Labors, all of which are referenced in the film, most of them in the "Zero to Hero" segment.
      • The first labor, the slaying of the Nemean Lion, is changed from a lion that terrorized the town of Nemea to a monster that Hades sends. Hercules is later shown wearing its pelt (as he is usually depicted in the myths), and the lion's skin looks remarkably like Scar's.
      • The second labor is the slaying of the Lernaean Hydra; obviously this is referenced by the massive Hydra battle (although it comes before the lion and is not in Lake Lerna, as it is in the myths, and is sent by Hades instead of Hera). In some (often the more detailed versions) of the myth, the Hydra had at least one immortal head, so Hercules had to finish it by burying it under a large rock. In the movie, Hercules defeats the Hydra by burying it under several large rocks.
      • The fourth labor is to capture the Erymanthian Boar, which is alternately said to get its name from where it lives, Mt. Erymanthos, or from Erymanthus, Apollo's son who was blinded by Aphrodite (or in a few accounts Artemis) when he saw her bathing, which led him to send said boar to attack her. A large boar shows up in the "Zero to Hero" as another monster that Hades sends.
      • The fifth labor is mentioned in passing as Augeas having a problem with his stables that Hercules is expected to help with.
      • The sixth labor is to slay the man-eating Stymphalian birds, which are likely referenced by the large bird shown in passing as being a monster Hercules defeated in "Zero to Hero".
      • The eighth labor, in which Hercules steals the mares of Diomedes, unaware that they had gone mad due to an excess of human flesh in their diet, is cut from the family-friendly film for obvious reasons.
      • The ninth labor is mentioned by Phil as having to get a girdle from some Amazons.
      • The eleventh labor does not appear in the movie, but is referenced in the series, where Adonis is cursed by Gaia and needs the golden apples of Hesperides to be cured, which Hercules gets Atlas to pick for him, just as he does in the original myth.
      • The twelfth labor appears at the end of the movie; Hercules was challenged to tame Cerberus, and appears riding him into the Underworld in the finale.
      • The third, seventh, and tenth labors are the only ones that have no mention in the film.
    • In fact, if you count name drops and people in crowd scenes, it's almost a constant stream of references to Greek mythology.
    • There's plenty to other Disney movies too:
      • From Fantasia, we get Zeus's wedge-shaped beard, a blue centaur, pudgy Bacchus and a scene of Hephaestus hammering at Zeus's lightning bolts. In addition, Hercules defeats the Cyclops the same way Mickey Mouse defeated the giant in Brave Little Tailor.
      • One of the smallest ones is the blue centaur Hercules battles to save Meg in their first scene together. His name, Nessus, is said exactly once, and in passing, to boot. In Greek mythology, Nessus was a centaur killed by Hercules who tricked Deianeira (Hercules' wife) into using his blood as poison to kill her husband.
  • Nervous Wreck: Panic.
  • Non Sequitur Thud: When Phil tries to whisk Hercules back to training after finding he was playing hooky with Meg:
    Phil: (gets smacked off of Pegasus by a tree branch and lands on his skull behind bench, raises arm in protest, slurred) That's IT! Next time, I'm driving... (arm collapses)
  • Not Wearing Tights: Hercules is portrayed as this; unsurprising, considering that the Greek demigods are arguably the earliest forms of the Superhero archetype.
  • Nouveau Riche: Hercules gets rich and famous after his victory in Thebes, as "Zero to Hero" describes. The house he buys for his human parents is huge.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: This exchange between Meg and Hercules after Hades has sent her to find out his weakness.
    Hercules: You know, when I was a kid, I would have given anything to be exactly like everybody else.
    Megara: (scoffs) You wanted to be petty and dishonest?
    Hercules: Everybody's not like that.
    Megara: Yes they are.
    Hercules: You're not like that.
  • Off Model:
    • Hercules will frequently suffer Clothing Damage to his tunic, only for it to be repaired by the next frame. Most obviously when he's attacked by his fangirls — one strap of his tunic comes down, in the next frame it's fixed and in the next it's the other shoulder down.
    • The river in the Underworld before Hercules jumps in. First he's able to dip his hand into the water. A few frames later, he jumps off a precipice to get into the river.
  • Offhand Backhand: Done by Herc to Hades near the end.
  • Oh Crap!:
    • The look on the Hydra's faces when Herc triggers the rock slide.
    • Pain and Panic do this frequently whenever they screw something up.
  • Oh My Gods!: Pain and Panic are the Trope Namer.
  • Orphean Rescue: Hercules travels to the Underworld in order to rescue Meg's spirit and reunite it with her body, thus getting his godhood back.
  • Papa Wolf: Zeus comes to Hercules' aid a couple times.
  • Panty Shot: Rare male example, as Hercules has a really, really short toga.
  • Parental Abandonment: One of the only films in the entire Disney canon to avert this trope. Herc not only has his immortal parents watching from on high, he has a pair of mortal adoptive parents who love him very much.
  • Pegasus: A winged horse made of clouds as a gift for Hercules on his birthday.
  • Phosphor-Essence: The gods glow. At the end, Hercules starts glowing when he regains godhood.
  • Physical God: It's Greek Mythology, what do you expect?
  • Pietà Plagiarism: This is played twice: once when Hercules cradles Meg's corpse in his arms, and once when he, restored to godhood, holds her listless spirit.
  • Pig Latin:
    Herc: (meeting the Hydra) Uh, Phil? What do you call that thing?
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Not much choice when you adapt Classical Mythology into an animated family film.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Hades' main reason for wanting Hercules dead is a prophecy says he's The Chosen One who'd defeat his scheme. Otherwise he'd have left him alone. Ironic that his attempts created a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (this is itself a bit of a Shout-Out to classic Greek mythology, as almost every prophecy ever given ended up coming true because of someone trying to circumvent it).
  • Princeling Rivalry: The central conflict of the story involves Hades' scheme to supplant his brother Zeus, and become supreme ruler of Olympus, Tartarus and all the Earth in between. Zeus is the strongest god and older brother, while Hades is a scheming younger brother.
  • Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: Lampshaded:
    Fates: In 18 years, precisely, the planets will align, ever so nicely...
    Hades: Oy, verse.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I've got 24 hours to get rid of this bozo, or the scheme I've been setting up for 18 years goes up in smoke, and you. Are wearing. His. MERCHANDISE!?!"
  • Red-Headed Hero: Herc has red hair and is The Protagonist of the film and midquel TV series.
  • Refusing Paradise: At the end, Hercules chooses to remain on Earth with Meg instead of returning to Olympus.
  • Rescue Introduction: Hercules meets Megara when rescuing her from a monstrous centaur.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: Herc storms the underworld to bring Meg back.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Titans go on one of these against Zeus after being released from the vault he locked them in.
  • Rule of Funny: Why isn't Phil a pile of dust from the lightning? Because it's funnier to see him with ash-face instead.
  • Running Gag: "Two words — (insert three [or more or less] words — in a place where two words could have been used)". Bilingual Bonus 
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Frequent but given the nods it seems like the writers ARE familiar with Greek Mythology and merely dealing with Pragmatic Adaptation, necessary due to the film having to be acceptable to kids.
    • The Fates in the movie seem to have more in common with the three Grey Sisters, most notably including the single eye among them.
    • The original nine Muses are condensed to five.
    • Hera is Hercules' mother, Amphitryon (here presented as a lowly farmer rather than a prince and general) and Alcmene being merely his adoptive parents.
    • Philoctetes was never a satyr or heavily involved in the Hercules myths (his only claim to fame with the half-god was lighting his funeral pyre and gaining his bow and arrows as a reward, although he was one of Hercules' lovers in some accounts).
    • Hades was never a God of Evil in the religions of Ancient Greece and only dealt with Hercules a couple of times (such as his Trial to retrieve Cerberus). Hades was more the custodian of the afterlife and a True Neutral whose only concern was balancing the books and was Above Good and Evil most of the time.
      • Although admittedly a minor detail, in Greek Mythology Hades was the eldest of the three brothers, followed by Poseidon and then Zeus, and was not the youngest.
    • Megara was never assaulted by Nessus (that would be Herc's second wife, Deianeira; Megara was killed by Herc himself after Hera made him loopy).
    • Hephaestus is capable of using his legs. He does, however, have a missing leg (complete with stone prosthesis).
    • The prophecy concerning Herc and the Titans is actually the Gigantomachy, rather than a Titanomachy 2.0.
    • The Titans weren't just random elemental monsters — Two of them (Cronos and Rhea) were Zeus' parents.
    • Zeus didn't fight the Titans alone. In the original myth most of his siblings participated in the war by disembowling his father Cronos.
    • Pegasus wasn't born from a cloud; he sprang forth from Medusa's neck after Perseus chopped it off, but this is not kid appropriate.
    • Hephaestus didn't make Zeus' thunderbolts. Those were the product of Cyclopes that didn't oppose him in the war.
    • Several references are made to Achilles and the Trojan War. In myth, Hercules predated said war by three generations.
      • Even more nuts, in the television series, The Trojan War is at one time implied to take place after the Odyssey and have nothing to do with Achilles, and to be a simple inter-school feud blown out of proportion by a tabloid journalist.
  • Sassy Black Woman: All five of the Muses; however, Thalia, the short plump one, seems sassier than most.
  • Satanic Archetype: Hades, the ancient Greek lord of the underworld, as depicted in this film. He acts a lot more like a cartoon Satan than how he's depicted in the old myths. His brother Zeus is essentially the Grandpa God, as Hades' scheme is to rebel against him and take over Mount Olympus, i.e. Heaven.
  • Say My Name Trailer: Though the last one is Hades saying "Jerkules" (but with the voice of one of Herc's mocking classmates, from the collapsing agora scene).
  • Scenery Porn: Mount Olympus and Hades (The Underworld, not the villain) simply look amazing.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Titans. Zeus imprisons them all beneath the ocean with lightning bolts, but when the planets align, Hades is able to release them. Hercules uses the Tornado Titan to suck the other Titans in, then throws them all into space where they explode.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: The sheer number of references to real Ancient Greek Religion makes it clear that the writers did, in fact, do the research.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Hercules does this to Hades by punching him in the face when the latter tries to go back on his second deal.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Though crossed with Femme Fatale and Broken Bird, Meg fulfills the trope in her ability to manipulate and her Heroic Sacrifice inner steel.
  • Slave Mooks: Meg (by contract) and Pain and Panic (implied) to Hades.
  • The Snark Knight: "Megara. My friends call me Meg. At least, they would if I had any friends."
  • Soul-Cutting Blade: The Fates' scissors. When your life is over, they cut it and that's why it's over. Gods are immune to them.
  • Sore Loser: Hades does not like being denied any sort of victory.
    Hades: We were SO CLOOOOSSSSE!!! So close, but we trip at the finish line! Why? Because that little nut, Meg, had to go all noble!
    • And then Hades really loses it when the River Styx doesn't do Hercules in when he saves Meg's soul (after he had told him he would be dead before he can reach her).
      Hades: This is impossible! You can't alive! You'd have to be a...
      Pain and Panic: A god??
      Hades: (flaming up) NNNNNNOOOOOOOOO!!!! Hercules, you can't do this me! You can't— ''(Hercules punches him in the face, silencing him briefly) Okay, well, I deserved that.
  • Stealth Pun
    • Gospel is a genre related to praise and worship of a higher power. What better way to augment the story of Hercules than with a set of Gospel Revival Numbers? Also referenced in the Title Drop of the Muses' (three-part) opening number, "That's the gospel truth."
    • While fighting the Centaur, Herc lost his sword and grabbed a fish by mistake. He pulled out a swordfish!
  • The Stinger: Stick around after the credits and hear the lamentations of Hades.
  • Supernormal Bindings: After Hades assaults Olympus, the gods are shown being led away in chains, which vanish rather than fall off after Herc cuts them.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Hades and to a lower extent, Phil. Both of them groan by the intelligence of the people around them.
  • Talk to the Fist: Done to Hades by Hercules when the former tries to reneg on their second deal. Overlaps with Shut Up, Hannibal!.
  • Tailor-Made Prison: The Titans are imprisoned in an undersea vault.
  • Terrible Trio: Hades and his minions Pain and Panic.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Hades: "Meg, my sweet, my flower, my little nut Meg."
  • This Cannot Be!: See the second Sore Loser example above.
  • Totally Radical:
  • Too Dumb to Live: You are fighting a giant serpent. You chop off its head, and three more grow back. What do you do next?
    Phil: Will you forget the head-slicing thing?!
  • Tsundere: Megara is an easy example. Look at "(I Won't Say) I'm In Love" for a perfect example of a tsuntsun-to-deredere switch.
  • Two Words: Obvious Trope: Phil loves them. Sadly, his math is a bit off.
    • Right before Training Montage, during the song, it looks like the trope is about to be played straight with the lines "Askin' me to jump into the fray/My answer is two words:" setting it to rhyme with something like "No way." Then he's zapped by lightning.
    Phil: (charred and smoking) O-kay.
    • The Latin Spanish dub is funnier because it was the only time he actually got the count right.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Meg's former lover. She gave Hades her soul for him, and he repays her by running off with someone else.
  • Use Your Head: "Not bad! Not exactly what I had in mind, but not bad."
  • Vanilla Edition: This became one of the first four movies in the Disney Animated Canon to receive a DVD release.note  Unfortunately, the disc contains only a non-anamorphic presentation of the movie, a making-of featurette that runs less than 10 minutes, and a Ricky Martin music video for the Spanish version of "Go the Distance". A second DVD release made literally no improvement to the picture or the extras. The Blu-Ray has vastly improved picture and sound, but just one additional bonus feature: a sing along of "Zero to Hero".
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Most viewers are amused that Phil says he's going to say only "two words — I am retired!" which in English is of course three words, but the joke beneath the joke is that the equivalent phrase in Greek is Είμαι συνταξιούχος — which actually is only two words.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Hilariously after Hercules survives the River Styx and frees Meg's soul from Hades where the god resorts to fast talk so fast it's hard to understand him while getting his face bashed in.
  • Visual Pun: Phil says "I get the greenhorn!" while his horns are covered in green olives.
  • Welcome to the Big City: Hercules' arrival in Thebes. "Wanna buy a sundial?"
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Phil calls out Hercules for being too distracted by love to see that Meg is using him. Hercules takes a flying leap to avoid the hint, takes his rage out on Phil and disowns him as his trainer, leaving Phil to mumble one last admonishment and leave him to his darkest hour.
  • Win Your Freedom: Megara.
    Hades: You give me the key to bringing down Wonderbreath and I will give you the thing you want most in the cosmos... your freedom.
  • World of Snark: The only other Disney Canon entry that rivals this film in the amount of Deadpan Snarkers is The Emperor's New Groove.
  • Wowing Cthulhu: After the battle for Olympus, Hercules goes down to Hades to get Meg's soul back. He offers the god of the underworld his soul in exchange for hers, if he can get her back from the river of death. Hades is stunned when Herc emerges from the river not only alive, but as a god.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Hercules is happy to finally get accepted into Mount Olympus after becoming a hero...only for Zeus to tell Hercules that he has yet to become a true hero.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Phil and Hades. We're aware that that doesn't really make any sense. Most of us don't care.
  • You Got Spunk:
    Nessus the centaur: (to Meg) I like 'em fiery.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Blue, fiery hair.
  • Younger Than They Look: The film begins with Hercules's birth, and the Fates inform Hades that he can release the Titans in 18 years.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Hades does this to Meg after stripping Herc of his strength. It's obviously the only reason he's holding up his side of the bargain and setting Meg free.
    Hades: Meg, babe. A deal's a deal. [snaps fingers, Meg's smoke gag vanishes] You're off the hook.