Though Hercules did not match the financial success of the Disney Renaissance Era, the film received positive reviews, and made $99 million in revenue in the United States during its theatrical release and $252,712,101 worldwide.
Hercules was later followed by the direct-to-video prequel Hercules: Zero to Hero, which served as a prequel to Hercules: The Animated Series, a syndicated Disney TV series focusing on Hercules during his time at the Prometheus academy.
In Ancient Greece, after imprisoning the Titans beneath the ocean floors, Zeus becomes ruler of the Greek gods on Mount Olympus. He and Hera get married and have a son named Hercules. While the other gods are overjoyed, Zeus' jealous brother Hades plots to overthrow Zeus and rule Olympus. Turning to the Fates for service, Hades learns that in eighteen years a planetary alignment will allow him to locate and free the Titans to conquer Olympus, but only if Hercules does not interfere. Hades sends his minions Pain and Panic to dispose of Hercules. The two succeed at kidnapping the infant and feeding him a formula that turns him mortal, but fail to remove his superhuman strength from the last drop when Hercules is found and adopted by the farmers Amphitryon and Alcmene. Without his godhood, Hercules is unable to dwell on Olympus.
Years later, the teenage Hercules becomes an outcast due to his strength, and wonders where he came from. After his foster parents reveal the necklace they found him with, Hercules decides to visit the temple of Zeus for answers. The temple's statue of Zeus comes to life and reveals all to Hercules, telling him that he can reclaim his godhood by becoming a true hero. Zeus sends Hercules and his forgotten infant friend Pegasus to find the satyr named Phil who is known for training heroes. They meet Phil, who has retired due to numerous disappointments; particularly the shameful death of Achilles, but Hercules inspires Phil to once more follow his dream to make him be recognized by the gods. Phil trains Hercules into a potential fighter, and then they headed towards Thebes. On the way, they meet Meg a sarcastic damsel whom Hercules saves from the centaur Nessus. After Hercules and the others leave, Meg is revealed to be Hades' slave, who sold her soul to him to save an unfaithful lover.
Arriving in Thebes, Hercules is turned down by the downtrodden citizens until Meg appears, saying that two boys have become trapped in a gorge. Hercules saves them, unaware that they are Pain and Panic in disguise, and unwittingly releases the Hydra. Hercules crushes it and becomes a celebrity, but despite Hercules' growing fame and defeating every subsequent monster Hades unleashes, Zeus tells him he is not yet a "true" hero. Saddened and frustrated, Hercules spends a day out with Meg, where the two fall in love with each other. Phil discovers Meg's association with Hades and tries to warn Hercules but he refuses to listen and then departs. On the eve of his takeover, Hades learns of the relationship and he holds Meg hostage and offers her in exchange for Hercules surrendering his strength for a day. On the condition that Meg will be ‘freed’, he accepts, and is heartbroken when Hades reveals that Meg was working for him.
Hades releases the Titans, who climb Olympus and capture the gods, while a Cyclops goes to Thebes to kill Hercules. Meg convinces Phil to come back and help Hercules who is getting beaten. Despite the disadvantage, Hercules defeats the Cyclops; Meg then saves him from a falling pillar and is mortally injured. This breaks Hades' promise that Meg would not be harmed that allows Hercules to regain his strength. Hercules and Pegasus fly to Olympus where they free the gods and vanquish the Titans, but Meg dies before he reaches her.
With Meg's soul now Hades' property, Hercules penetrates the Underworld and offers to free Meg from the Styx in exchange for his own life. His willingness to sacrifice himself restores his godhood and immortality before the life-draining river can kill him; he rescues Meg and punches Hades into the Styx, where irate souls pull him under. After reviving Meg, she and Hercules are summoned to Olympus, where Zeus and Hera welcome their son home. However, Hercules chooses to remain on Earth with Meg in lieu of living on Olympus. Hercules and his friends return to Thebes, where they watch Zeus etch Hercules' image into the stars to commemorate his heroism.
When Walt Disney Feature Animation begin plan Hercules in late 1991, while still in production on its thirty-first animated feature Aladdin.
After the critical and financial success of Aladdin, directors Ron Clements and John Musker developed Treasure Planet in late 1991, which was originally pitched by Ron Clements in 1986 before John Musker pitched The Little Mermaid. According to Ron Clements, Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was the chief of Walt Disney Studios at the time, "just wasn't interested" in the idea, and likewise disapproved of the project again. However, Katzenberg struck a deal with the directors to produce another commercially viable film so he would greenlight Treasure Planet at all. Turning down adaptation proposals for Don Quixote, The Odyssey, and Around the World in Eighty Days, the directors were notified of animator Joe Haidar's pitch for a Hercules feature. "We thought it would be our opportunity to do a "superhero" movie," Musker said, so "Ron and I being comic book fans. The studio liked us moving onto that project and so we did Hercules.
Writing the role of Philoctetes, John Musker and Ron Clements envisioned Danny DeVito in the role. However, Danny DeVito declined to audition so Ed Asner, Ernest Borgnine, Dick Latessa were brought in to read for the part. After Red Buttons had auditioned, he left stating "I know what you're gonna do. You're gonna give this part to Danny DeVito!" Shortly after, the directors and producer Alice Dewey approached Danny DeVito at a pasta lunch during the filming of Matilda, where Danny DeVito signed on to the role.
The casting of Hades proved to be very problematic for John Musker and Ron Clements. When Danny DeVito asked the directors who had in mind to play Hades, John Musker and Ron Clements responded by saying they hadn't selected an appropriate actor. In response, Danny DeVito blurted, "Why don't you ask Jack Nicholson?" After Danny DeVito notified Nicholson of the project, the next week, the studio was willing to pay Nicholson $500,000 for the role, but Nicholson demanded roughly a paycheck of $10 to $15 million, plus a 50% cut of all the proceeds from Hades merchandise. Unwilling to share merchandising proceeds with the actor, Disney came back with a counter offer that was significantly less than what Nicholson had asked for. Therefore, Nicholson decided to pass on the project. Disappointed by the lack of Nicholson, Ron Clements and John Musker eventually selected John Lithgow as Hades in late 1991. After nine months of trying to make Lithgow's portrayal of Hades work, Lithgow was released from the role in 1994. According to John Musker, Ron Silver, James Coburn, Kevin Spacey, Phil Hartman, and Rod Steiger arrived to the Disney studios to read as Hades. When they invited James Woods to read for the part, the filmmakers were surprised by Woods's interpretation, and Woods was hired by 1994.
The character design was based on Greek states and artist Gerald Scarfe from Pink Floyd The Wall, each major character in Hercules had a supervising animator Andreas Deja for Adult Hercules, commented that the animation crew he with to animate was the he ever worked with, he previous worked on other animated Disney villains (such as Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, Jafar from Aladdin or Uncle Scar from Lion King) with about four animators on his crew, but he had a team of twelve or thirteen for Hercules. Give Deja had worked with three villains before, he was first offered Hades, but asked to animate the protagonist instead, Deja says "I knew if would be more difficult and more challenging, but I just needed that experience to have that in your repertoire". One is the myth of Bellerophon, from which was taken the winged horse Pegasus and the scene where Hercules is swallowed by the Hydra (for Perseus it was the dragon Cetus) and cuts his way out. Another is the myth of Orpheus, who goes to the underworld to try to bring back his love, Eurydice.
The enthusiastic audience reception to a teaser trailer for Hercules with the song "Zero to Hero" during the teaser trailer for this film, while both Hercules and Mulan were commercial successes, Hercules received more post feedback and earned larger grossed than did with Mulan was released in 1998. This film was released in the Summer of 1997, however, Ron Clements & John Musker have not been working on Mulan, they have been working on Treasure Planet, as well as The Princess and the Frog.
Marketing and promotion for Hercules Summer Spectacular premiere at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York City's Famous Time Square on June 13, 1997 before the film's theatrical release, in the past two years prior to its theatrical run such as Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Hercules was also received the first Disney on Ice adaptation before the film was theatrical release. A tie-in video game, titled Hercules Action Game, was developed by Eurocom and released on June 20, 1997 for the PC and PlayStation.
A video game based on the film was released for the PlayStation and Microsoft Windows on June 20, 1997, later put on the PlayStation Network online service for the PlayStation 3.
This film was first released on home video on February 3, 1998 in the US as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection line and a Limited Issue DVD came out on November 9, 1999, followed by a re-issue title to VHS and DVD on August 1, 2000 as part of the Walt Disney Gold Classics Collection line. This film was originally released on 2-Disc DVD in the Spring 2007 to celebrates its 10th anniversary, instead Peter Pan: Platinum Edition was released on March 6, 2007 and this was out-of-print since went back into the Disney Vault in January 2009, along with the same time as The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition did. This film was re-released as a Special Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack on August 12, 2014, which is not part of the Walt Disney Diamond Editions line.
|Josh Keaton||Young Hercules|
|Lilias White||Calliope, Muse of Epics|
|Vanéese Y. Thomas||Clio, Muse of History|
|Cheryl Freeman||Melpomene, Muse of Tragedy|
|La Chanze||Terpsichore, Muse of Dance|
|Roz Ryan||Thalia, Muse of Comedy|
|Charlton Heston||The Narrator|
|Wayne Knight||The Pottery Salesman|
|Jim Cummings & Gary Trousdale||Additional Voices|
|Roger Bart||Young Hercules|
- Long Ago...
- The Gospel Truth I/Main Titles
- The Gospel Truth II
- The Gospel Truth III
- Go The Distance
- Oh Mighty Zeus
- Go The Distance (Reprise)
- One Last Hope
- Zero To Hero
- I Won't Say (I'm In Love)
- A Star Is Born
- Go The Distance (Single) - Michael Bolton
- The Big Olive
- The Prophecy
- Destruction Of The Agora
- Phil's Island
- Rodeo Listen
- Speak Of The Devil
- The Hydra Battle
- Meg's Garden
- Hercules' Villa (Score)
- All Time Chump (Score)
- Cutting the Thread (Score)
- A True Hero/A Star Is Born (End Title)
- The Gospel Truth
- Go the Distance
- One Last Hope
- Zero to Hero
- I Won't Say (I'm in Love)
- A Star is Born
- Disney's Hercules and some of the other major characters have also been used in Disney's House of Mouse. There is a brief cameo appearance by Scar, the villain of The Lion King, as the Nemean Lion, whose skin is worn by Hercules in one scene. Note: Andreas Deja, the animator who animated Adult Hercules, also animated Scar for The Lion King.
- When Hercules walks into Phil's house on the island, he hits his head on the mast of the Argo. Phil tells him to be careful. This is a reference to Jason of the legends of "Jason and the Argonauts", who died when the mast of the Argo fell on him. (In the actual Greek myths, Hercules, or Heracles rather, was an Argonaut himself, but left the crew of the Argo because he was in search of his friend, Hylas, who had gone missing on an island).
- The Pillars of Hercules were spotted on Phil's Island.
- In Greek mythology, Hades, though the god of the Underworld, was not the personification of the devil as he is portrayed in the film. He ruled both the good AND the bad, and was a just and fair god. This idea is seemingly taken from the Hades of the Marvel Universe who wanted to overthrow Zeus and was an ambitious, scheming god.
- Hercules was not the son of both Zeus and Hera, but rather the son of Zeus and a mortal woman. Hera was spiteful against both, and vexed Hercules until his death. Disney felt that the original myth of Hercules, with its story of infidelity and spousal jealousy, was inappropriate for its movie, and therefore made Hades the villain instead.
- Hades was originally scripted as a slow, menacing character until James Wood auditioned for the role and impressed the casting directors with his rapid-fire style.
- In the sequence where Hades takes over Olympus, he yells down to Zeus "Zeusy, I'm Home." This is a reference to Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy.
- The characters from this film appear in the video game Kingdom Hearts and also its sequel, Kingdom Hearts II.
- A direct-to-video sequel, Hercules II: The Trojan War, was once planned but later cancelled.
- Hercules' short attention span can be seen in * the character of Marvels' Hercules.
- After Hercules saves Meg from Nessus the Centaur, Phil tells him, "Next time, don't let your guard down because of a pair of big goo-goo eyes". The line originally came out as, "Next time, don't let your guard down because of a pair of big, blue eyes". But, by the time the scene was in colour, Meg's eyes were purple.
- Max von Sydow provided the voice of Zeus in the Swedish version of the film.
- Hades refers to Zeus as Mister "Hey You, Get Off My Cloud", which is a reference to the Rolling Stones song, "Get Off My Cloud," as well as the opening line to the song "M.E.T.H.O.D. Man" by The Wu-Tang Clan.
- Hermes gives Hera a bouquet of flowers, a play on F.T.D. Florists, who use him as their mascot.
- "Go the Distance" is a term from boxing, meaning to last all fifteen rounds. It is also a quote from Rocky.
- A beverage that Hercules sponsors is named "Herculade", a spoof of Gatorade.
- "Air Herc", a brand of sandal seen throughout the film are a spoof of the shoe brand Air Jordan.
- During the song "I Won't Say I'm in Love," the Muses are portrayed as singing busts with one bust laying broken on the ground. This is a direct reference to Disneyland's The Haunted Mansion.
- During the same sequence, a constellation of Marilyn Monroe can be seen. However, in the original trailer, it was Sebastian from The Little Mermaid.
- Marilyn Monroe also appears in a Sea of Souls in the film's climax.
- During the scene in the movie where Hercules is rescuing two children from a cave-in in a gorge (which was actually a staged calamity to lure Hercules into danger,) one of the children can be heard saying; "Someone call IX I I", which are the Roman numerals for 9-1-1.
- During the final number, "A Star is Born", Hermes can be seen playing the piano, a reference to Paul Shaffer, who is the voice of the character and the piano player on The Late Show With David Letterman.
- The sentence, "Zero to Hero" was used as one of Quagmire pick-up-lines in Family Guy.