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 viewers.
This animated film and its television spinoff provide 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).
Adaptational Heroism: As well as Adaptional Maternity, Hera. In the original myth, Hera was Hercules' step-mother and main antagonist.
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.
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. 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. Sadly the Latin Hercules is much more well known, and Disney would have received ungodly amounts of complaints from people who thought they were spelling it wrong.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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 mimicing 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.
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.
The Chessmaster: Hades has a literal chessboard for planing 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 See the article. On the other hand, the fans love him.
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.
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.
Megara: 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.
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.
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.
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! The movie is narrated by the Greek Muses who take part in the story, sort of.
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 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 pulled the pages containing most of Hades' dialogue out and threw it away.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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...
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 (besides for killing his wife in a goddess-induced fit of madness) 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 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.
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.
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. Herc not only has his immortal parents watching from on high, he has a pair of mortal adoptive parents who love him very much.
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)."[[label]]Interestingly, when Phil says "I am retired”, the Greek translation is "Είμαι συνταξιούχος," which is indeed two words.[[/label]]
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).
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 — one of them was even Zeus' father.
Zeus didn't fight the Titans alone. In the original myth most of his siblings participated in the war.
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.
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.
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.
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 Satyr, 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.
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 Its DVD came out one week after the initial release of Pinocchio, and the same day that 101 Dalmatians and Mulan made their DVD debuts. 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.
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 jealous, 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 Aladdin 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 Aladdin's clothes and rides Carpet, while Al rides Pegasus 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.
All Myths Are True: The Greek gods rule over Greece and later Rome when the Romans put out an ad for gods. The Egyptian gods rule Egypt and come to Rome after reading said ad but demands that the Romans demolish the Coliseum to make way for pyramids, causing the Romans to go for the Mediterranean Olympians who understand their culture better. Scandinavia, Iceland, and Greenland are also shown to be ruled by the Norse gods.
Ascended Extra: A number of gods appeared as background characters in the original movie, but didn't speak or even get identified (it was just easy to tell who they were). Nearly all of them show up in the series, with the same character designs, in expanded supporting roles.
Baleful Polymorph: The obligatory appearance by Circe in the ongoing cartoon of Disney's Hercules featured the personality polymorph, complete with Icarus, the resident weirdo, becoming a platypus (and Adonis becoming a peacock.)
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". True to movie form, he's also not going to be too happy if you hurt the people he cares about.
Big Brother Instinct: Herc has this toward Icarus. For instance in "Hercules and the Grim Avenger", Herc briefly goes anti-hero when the Minotaur's destructiveness injures him.
Blood Knight: Nemesis, demi-goddess of vengeance. It 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.
Brainless Beauty: Helen of Troy. 1000 ships weren't launched for her intelligence after all.
Bullying a Dragon: Adonis regularly antagonizes Hercules, and occasionally other gods and beings more than capable of killing him. Hercules is too good to do anything to him, but Gaea nearly kills him for disrespect and Zeus smites him twice.
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.
"Hercules and the Dream Date" has a guest character in Galatea, Hercules' date for the Aphrodesia Dance, who's completely obsessed with him. Galatea was voiced by Jennifer Aniston, who was dating Tate Donovan at the time.
Clip Show: "Hercules and the Yearbook" and "Hercules and the Big Show".
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.
Dark Is Not Evil: Electra. Yeah, she produces furies from her rage, but she's not using them to attack anyone, it's just a natural consequence.
Cassandra hardly said anything that wasn't droll and sarcastic.
Hades as well, once again.
Adonis, Aphrodite, and Medusa all have their moments.
Description Cut: In "Hercules and the Parents Weekend", a monster captured some of the parents. Adonis' Dad said he was probably taking "swift and decisive" action. Cut to the next scene showing Adonis decided to have himself crowned the next King of Thrace.
Dumbass Has a Point: Icarus in "Hercules and the Gorgon". When Hercules gets upset that Medusa is a Gorgon and calls her a "freak", Icarus calls him out.
Icarus: Well, well, the hero's too good to have a freak for a friend. What you gonna do? Get rid of her, stick her head in a purse? What are you gonna do then? Get rid of all the freaks? Freaks who flew too close to the sun?!
Enemy Mine: When Athena and Ares see both Athenians and Spartans are going to be eaten, they work together during the "War Games".
Fertile Feet: Aphrodite when she makes her entrance, complete with theme song.
Find the Cure: Icarus sets off to do this in "Hercules and the Big Lie", after he hears that Herc has Catastrophia.
Fountain of Youth: In "Hercules and the Spring of Canathus", Pain and Panic take water from the eponymous spring that reverses age and squirt Hercules, Pegasus, Icarus and Adonis with it, turning them into babies. Pain accidentally gets some water on himself and changes as well.
Bob: Mysterious, dangerous, cunning, evil (Circe points her scepter at him) gorgeous, lovely, beautiful! Thalia: Uhh, Bobby? You okay? I've never seen you like this now! Of course, I've never seen you at all...
One episode has a Noodle Incident of which it's said, "She lost her left buttock."
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.
"Hercules and the Drama Festival" has Icarus mess up a line as Hades with "Ladies and gentlemen, dwellers of the nether regions.".
In "Hercules and the Visit from Zeus," Hermes off-handedly mentions that "Hepheastus is after Athena again" with a bouquet assumedly Hepheastus wants delivered to Athena. Now attentive viewers would note that in previous episodes, Aphrodite mentioned she was engaged to Hepheastus...
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.
Gone Horribly Right: In "Hercules and the Dream Date" (essentially a retelling of the Pygmalion myth), Herc asks Aphrodite to make Galatea "crazy about [him]." She quickly turns into an ultra-possessive nightmare.
Hero Insurance: There's a lot of property damage involved in battles, but it's always rebuilt. Deconstructed in "Hercules and the Falling Stars", when Hercules and Orion demolish so many buildings fighting constellations even the jaded townspeople find it out of line.
He Will Come for Me: The kidnapped Icarus and Abu tell Hades and Jafar that Herc and Aladdin will come to save them. Unfortunately, their respective heroes attempting a rescue was what the villains had in mind.
Hypocritical Humor: In the Circe episode, Adonis mocks Icarus for having only lasted as Circe's boyfriend five minutes, despite the fact that he only lasted three seconds.
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).
Jerk Ass Gods: Averted for the most part, with this being Disney. The worst traits of the gods are either played down or written out all together. The closest would be Nemesis, Ares and Hades. Nemesis is only doing her job (if with a bit too much enthusiasm). Ares is close to being a Jerk Jock, but too ineffectual and not mean enough. Hades is about the only one and his smooth persona covers up much of his jerkiness.
In "Hercules and the Prince of Thrace", Adonis gets this courtesy of Gaia's Vengeance. Gaia herself curses Adonis with death for disturbing her slumber. Given how he forced his workers to dig despite the warning, how he treats his servants, and how he bullies Hercules, who's to say he didn't deserve this fate?
Adonis is on the receiving end of this again by Circe turning him into a Peacock.
Kryptonite Factor: The Cronus Stone is this. Bonus points for the stone's resemblance to Kryptonite.
Large Ham: Hades. Also Icarus when getting into character as Hades for the Drama Festival.
Laser-Guided Amnesia: Several episodes used the water of the Lethe river, which causes memory loss, as a plot device. One such episode even involved Hercules meeting a younger Megara, with the episode ending on them losing their memories of 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.
Opponent Switch: Hades sends Jafar after Hercules, only for Jafar to admit he isn't used to dealing with Super Strength. Amused that Jafar's enemy is only a "clever mortal", Hades sends his minions after Aladdin.
Jafar: Well, that was indeed worth a chuckle, but I couldn't help but notice that Aladdin IS STILL ALIVE!
Hades:You win. The kid is trickier than I thought.
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 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.note 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, and 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. As for the issue of the title character's name, this got inverted when they managed to sneak in the name Herakles during one episode.
Self Fulfilling Prophecy: "Hercules and the Big Kiss" has Cassandra end up having to kiss Icarus awake. He was put into the magical sleep because of her efforts to avert a vision that showed her kissing him.
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. Course you could say this is an Alternate Continuity. It was the Muses who were telling the story after all and they may have embellished a little to compress the story. Think of the series as the untold tales the movie couldn't cover.
Ship Tease: Bacchus kisses the muse Thalia on the cheek in "Hercules and the Bacchanal".
The Grim Avenger episode is a reference to the Worlds Finest comic books with Theseus as The Cowl stand in for Batman and Hercules as The Cape stand in for Superman. The Minotaur plays the role of The Joker. Theseus even has a rich playboy civilian identity. The Norse Mythology episode is a reference to the fights in Marvel between Thor and Hercules. They were both written by Greg Weisman who's a big comic book fan.
Shown Their Work: The writers seemed incredibly keen on parodying and satirizing Greek mythology.
Snark Knight: Cassandra never stops snarking, but she's still heroic when she needs to be.
Spared by the Adaptation: Tragically, 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.
Stay in the Kitchen: Lampshaded, Inverted and ultimately Defied in the episode "Hercules and the Girdle of Hippolyte". Herc and resident Amazon classmate Tempest get into an argument during a Home Economics class. Taking Phil's lead, Hercules insists that Tempest do all the work, on the grounds that she's a girl, so of course she has to do the housework. Tempest, being an Amazon, was raised to believe that men are the ones who should do all the housework. Later Herc actually meets Tempest's parents. When her father intervenes in her mother's overly militaristic handling of Tempest's mistakes her mother actually tells him to "Get back in the kitchen." He refuses and then delivers the episode's aesop.
Straw Feminist: Tempest has her moments. It's understandable since she's an Amazonian princess.
Superheroes Wear Tights: When Hercules learns how to dance, Cassandra sees the future and says that thanks to him, all heroes will wear tights.
Super Strength: In both the movie and TV series, Hercules has shown to be a very strong being, just like the original. He can lift anvils as if they were nothing and wreck pillars with his bare hands.
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.