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".While the film is considerably Bowdlerized from the original myths, there really was no alternative if you want to make a family film out of Greek Mythology. The result was a widely praised (except in Greece) film, which is considered by many to be one of the Canon'sfunniest installments along with Aladdin and The Emperor's New Groove. Plus, it's one of the only times Everyone Hates Hades hasn't ruined a work, mainly due to how genuinely likeable and funny he is. For myth buffs, keep the MST3K Mantra in mind, and you'll find a solid, funny film with a lot of literal Mythology Gags that show that they did, in fact, do the research - they just couldn't make said research work in a G-rated family film without bumping the rating up a few notches. That said, the film is arguably the most Parental Bonus-laden film in Disney history; after all, in what other animated film is Oedipus mentioned as a passing gag?Unfortunately, due to a combination of following two divisive films in the canon and still not being up to snuff with the earlier Renaissance installments, it was only a modest success at the box office - audiences felt it was too samey to Musker and Clement's last film, Aladdin. This, however, didn't stop it from being featured heavily in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, with Colliseum battles in the first installment, and a more full plot centering around the Olympus Colliseum in Kingdom Hearts II.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 viewers.
The film features examples of:
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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).
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.
Blessed with Suck: Herc's super-strength, when combined with an adolescent's typical clumsiness.
Bond Villain Stupidity: It's never really mentioned 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. Maybe he's worried Zeus will suspect him, but that doesn't hold up at the end of the movie when he's still trying to get Hercules out of his hair literally minutes before he mounts an attack against Zeus.
Bowdlerise: Big time. Besides a total change of Hades' personality, Hercules is the son of Zeus and Hera. Of course, for a kid's movie... there isn't much alternative.
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 "Hes not gonna be happy when He finds out about this." And Pain says "You mean if He finds out" Panic: "If! If is good!" They pretty much have the same 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 mimicing his voice.
Big Friendly Horse: 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.
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 "Hes 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.
Deal with the Devil: Megara - she sold her soul to save her boyfriend... who promptly dumped her. Also, Hercules. He gave up his Super Strength to set Meg free. This worked out for him just about as well as could be expected...
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. He was fully prepared to commit suicide by allowing a giant cyclops to beat Him and eat Him until Phil came back and gave Him a pep talk
Disneyfication: A crapload. Most noticeably, Herc's original Big Bad was Hera trying to kill him because he was the product of Zeus' adultery with a mortal. Then again, if they didn't remove/change that part, how on Earth would the script as a whole pass?
Disney Death: 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.
And before that, 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.
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.
Diving Save: Meg pushes Hercules out of the way of a falling pillar.
Everybody Hates Hades: Although, in fact, the fans love him. Disney actually got something right 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. (See the article)
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.
Megara. My friends call me Meg. At least they would if I had any friends.
Genre Savvy: Hades at the end is offered Hercules's life for Meg's. It occurs to the car-dealer-type villain that it's maybe just a little too good to be true - but he's not given much time to think about it.
Most of Hades' dialogue, references to Oedipus, just to name a few...
Within the first two minutes:
"I'd like to make some sweet music with-" "Our story actually begins long before Hercules..."
Though the fat muse's nickname for Herc takes the cake:
English version: Hunkules. Icelandic version: Sexikles.
Don't forget Phil's reaction to the 'sundial seller'.
The way Pain and Panic react to Hades when he finds out they didn't do the job right.
Pain and Panic: OH MY GODS!!!
Notable because Disney would never get away with "Oh my God."
Pain's whole "my intentions were pure, I really was attracted to you!" thing.
Look at how Hercules finds out Nessus is a sir. In fact, Most of Nessus' scene.
In the scene with the nymphs, Finnish!Phil claims to be, and I quote, a "nymphomaniac".
The Muses call Hercules "their favorite flavor" in the song Zero to Hero. It's okay, though, because then it shows Hercules drinking the Hercules sports drink of Ancient Greece.
Meg: "You know how men are; they think 'no' means 'yes', and 'get lost' means 'take me, I'm yours'."
You have to pause to see it, but during the Zero to Hero song, there's a shop named "Aphrodite's Secret" next to Hercules'...
Meg getting flirty with Hercules: "No weaknesses whatsoever? No trick knee? Ruptured... disks?"
God of Evil: Hades is portrayed as one, contrary to Greek Mythology.
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 actually provides Hades with the answer to what Hercules' weakness is.
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.
Gorn: By Disney's standards, the part where Hercules slices the Hydra's head off and you actually get to see the bleeding stump (it bleeds a translucent green liquid though, so it's not quite as gory as it sounds). Further reduced in severity by the revelation that the Hydra isn't really hurt by this. Hercules then goes nuts cutting heads off, to the point that it loses any grossness it might have had.
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."
Greek Chorus: Literally! They even provide the page picture.
Half-Hearted Henchman: 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. And Meg is only working for Hades because she sold her soul, and is paying off a debt. Though once she falls in love with Hercules she turns on Hades.
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 Married: Unlike the mythology, Zeus and Hera are quite happy together. Hercules' human parents qualify as well.
Harpo Does Something Funny: After James Woods was cast, the script was essentially re-written to allow for his ad-libbing. Most of the dialogue between Hades and Megara was simply made up.
According to one commentary they pretty much just pulled the pages containing most of Hades' dialogue out and threw it away.
Let's just say it - in this movie, James Woods comes off almost as well as Robin Williams in Aladdin. Not quite as good (and a rather different type of humor), but at least in the same league.
Heroic Build: Hercules, following his training with Phil. Just look at the picture!
Heroic BSOD: Hades does this to Hercules after convincing Him to give up his strength for 24 hours and then revealing that Meg was working for Him. He physically humiliates Hercules by throwing a dumb bell on top of Him. It was only after Meg found Phil and brought Him back to give Hercules a pep talk that He got past this
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 practically wrap one hand around. It's sort of explained by the fact that they're goddesses. Artemis and Megara have Hartman Hips.
Ink Suit Actor: In addition to short, portly Danny DeVito as the short, portly Philoctetes, you've also got Hermes, who shares the same features and trademark shades of his voice actor Paul Shaffer, best known as David Letterman's bandleader.
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.
Orphean Rescue/To Hades and Back: 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 tries to be this, but it is to no avail the first try.
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 and avert it hard. Herc not only has his immortal parents watching from on high, he has a pair of mortal adoptive parents who love him very much.
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".
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."
The Stinger: Stick around after the credits and hear the lamentations of Hades.
Totally Radical: They gave Meg, one of the more complicated and interesting Disney love interests, dialogue like "Been there, done that" and "Don't even go there." It... hasn't aged well. Phil also mentions having "been around the block before with blockheads just like you" to Hercules. He means he's trained people like Herc already, but...well, he's a satyr, and it's Ancient Greece.
Fridge Logic: Meg has served time in the Underworld so her dialogue may be somewhat out-of-date.
Pain, under the disguise of the little boy that Hercules rescues from the giant boulder says to Herc "Jeepers, Mister, you're strong!", on which Panic hangs a rather snarkylampshade.
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?
A.) You stop chopping and find another way to kill it.
B.) Idiot Ball You continue chopping until it grows a hundred heads, all trying to devour you.
"A" is obviously the better choice, right? RIGHT?
Tsundere: Megara has to qualify as an example. Look at "(I Won't Say) I'm In Love" for a perfect example of a tsuntsun-to-deredere switch.
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."
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 subverted after Hercules survives the River Styx and frees Meg's soul from Hades.
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.
A non-combat version applies to Icarus, which allows him to adjust to new situations (unless he's very jealours, and then acts irrational). Sometimes based on Rule of Funny—the Zeus-a-palooza had him enjoying himself while with tacky stuff around him. Icarus even takes it Up to Eleven when he portrays Hades for a one-man show, making Hades wonder "Do I really sound like that?"
A combat version applies to Hercules when he had the Alladin crossover: realizing Jafar and Hades wanted them to rush at each other without knowing the truth (they were set up to believe each one took the best fried of the other), Hercules know they can't blindly rush into the Underworld to save Abu and Icarus without a plan. Phil smiles, "YES! He CAN be taught!" Herc dons Alladin's clothes and rides Carpet, while Al rides Pegagus while wearing armor that easily falls off to let him be agile again. Once Herc is "trapped in stone" he breaks out to reveal his armor.
Been There Shaped History: Most of the episodes dumped Hercules into various Greek myths, such as replacing Phaeton (Apollo's son, who failed miserably at driving the sun chariot) and facing the Minotaur alongside Theseus (which he actually did in some versions of the myths). Thus, Hercules became responsible for practically everything in Greek mythology before he even became famous. It Makes Sense in Context.
Berserk Button: As revealed in Aladdin crossover, Hercules HATES being called "Jerkules".
Blood Knight: Nemesis, demi-goddess of vengeance. Comes with the territory.
Boot Camp Episode: The series has Herc and Icarus infiltrate Spartan Military Academy to save Adonis, who has to go through basic training in accordance to family tradition. Ironically, Cloudcuckoolander Icarus warms up to the military lifestyle.
The Cameo: In "Hercules and the Bacchanal", Ursula can be seen at the convention Phil goes to.
Sebastian and one of Ursula's eels appears in the Atlantis episode.
Cassandra Truth: With the Trope Namer being a main character, this is a given.
Cassandra: I joke and they listen. But if I foresee a shower of boiling lead, no one even puts on an umbrella.
Casting Gag: A recurring villain on the show was Echidna "the mother of all monsters" voice by Kathy Lee Gifford. In one episode, Hercules accidentally used one of Zeus's thunderbolts to destroy the mountain imprisoning her husband Typhoeus, voiced by her old talk show partner, Regis Philbin.
Merv Griffen appears as a gryphon with a talk show.
Crossover Cosmology: Hercules encounters Egyptian and Norse gods. The Olympian gods also become Roman godsnote Notably, Bacchus is never referred to as Dionysus at all, they even like their new Roman names (except Hades, see Shout Out). The Fates also moonlight as the Norns.
It's also possible for a dead Arab genie to go to the Greek underworld. (Then again, it being possible for genies to die at all is a deviation from mythology.)
In Hercules and the Big Lie, when Icarus is searching for the flower that can cure the disease Catastrophia, he utters the phrase "pluck and run."
In Hercules and the Underworld Takeover, Athena and Ares are having one of their characteristic arguments, and Athena dismisses Ares, saying, "oh, go polish your spear." Younger viewers are unlikely to think anything of it, as it makes logical sense with Ares being the god of War, but since Athena hates Ares and means it as an insult, an unfriendly double entendre is apparent.
Godly Sidestep: At the end of one episode, Zeus is about to give the meaning of life on a chat show. However, they run out of airtime just before he states it.
Icarus Allusion: Icarus himself appears. Naturally, he has a permanent tan and lightning bolt-shaped hair (except when he, Herc and Adonis are drafted to the Spartan Army; Icarus gets a crewcut and starts going gung-ho).
How sad... because in Greek Mythology, Icarus, son of Daedalus, flew too close to the sun using artificial wings of wax and feathers, and fell to his death. It's mentioned that he did fly too close to the sun, thus the hairstyle and (purportedly) the general loopiness. (The opening of the TV cartoon had him "flaming out" and being caught by Herc and Pegasus.) He also says he "learned his lesson" and uses the wings for more lower-level gliding.
Large Ham: Hades. Also Icarus when getting into character AS Hades for the Drama Festival.
Missing Episode: At least four episodes were removed from rotation following 9/11, most notably Hercules and the Hostage Crisis which involved terroists taking over Prometheus Academy.
Never Heard That One Before: During the Aladdin crossover, Al calls him "Jerkules" during their fight. "You know, everyone thinks they're being clever when they call me that..."
Oh Crap: Aladdin gives out this expression in the Aladdin crossover when he realizes that he and Hercules made a big mistake in fighting each other.
Old Superhero: Achilles' death was retconned so that when his heel was hit he was instead crippled, and we see him as a weakened old man.
Rebellious Spirit: Electra is very anti-establishment, but Zeus only knows exactly what that is or what her real issues with it are (she and the kids like her are a heavy-handed Take That at Goths). All we know is she's happy they get detention, hates heroes as "enforcers of the established order" and can command Furies to appear whenever she's mad, leading them to attack those who annoy her.
Riddling Sphinx: The Sphinx is a quizmaster, voiced by game show host Wink Martindale. His riddle was "What does a man do standing up, a woman sitting down, and a dog on three legs?" The answer is shake hands.*
This is a reference to the induction ceremony for the Turtle Club, a real-life Brotherhood of Funny Hats, where the inductee is given a series of supposedly lewd riddles and has to give the correct, family-friendly answer to each one.
Sadly Mythtaken: Aside from the usual stuff, a number of gods that weren't in the movie make appearances some using their Roman names (Bacchus, who was Dionysus in Greece, Cupid, who was Eros). In particular the god Trivia stands out, presented here as a god of useless knowledge, where Trivia was actually the Roman name for the goddess Hecate, who makes a separate appearance of her own in the series. The only thing they got right was that he was the god of where three roads meet, which is among Hecate's schticks.
Series Continuity Error: Although the series takes place during the time period when Hercules is training with Phil, Hades seems to be already aware of him and actively trying to kill him. In the movie, Hades doesn't learn that Hercules is still alive until shortly after Hercules finishes his training.
Ship Tease: Bacchus kisses the muse Thalia on the cheek in "Hercules and the Bacchanal".
Weapon Jr.: One episode has Hercules training with a "junior javelin" despite wanting to use a real one. At the end, Athena offers him any weapon in existance to beat the villain with. Having learned his lesson he asks for the training weapon, wins and turns down the offer of an actual javelin from the woman he impressed.
Weird Sun: The sun is on a chariot driven by Apollo.