Hercules is a 1997 American animated fantasy drama musical film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures on June 27, 1997. The thirty-fifth animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. The film is based on the legendary Greek mythology hero Heracles (known in the film by his Roman name, Hercules), the son of Zeus in Greek mythology.
Long after Zeus, ruler of the Greek gods of Mount Olympus, defeats the Titans and locks them deep in the bowels of the earth, he and his wife Hera give birth to a son, Hercules. All the gods of Olympus celebrate Hercules's birth except for Zeus's jealous brother Hades his Uncle, who was forced by Zeus to work as lord of the dead in the Underworld, and seeks to overthrow his brother. Hades learns from the Fates that in eighteen years, a planetary alignment will reveal the location of where the Titans are trapped, allowing him to free them and take over Olympus, but only if Hercules doesn't interfere. Hades sends his minions Pain and Panic to kidnap Hercules, bring him to Earth, and kill him after giving him a potion that will turn him mortal. However, Pain and Panic are unable to give Hercules the entire potion which, while still making him mortal, allows him to retain his godlike strength. Hercules is then found by a farmer and his wife, who raise him as their own son.
Over the next sixteen years, Hercules grows up into a misfit, his strength seen as a nuisance to all the locals. After being rejected by the townsfolk when he accidentally destroys the marketplace, Hercules questions where he truly belongs. His foster parents reveal how they found him with a medallion bearing the symbol of the gods, so Hercules travels to the Temple of Zeus, where the almighty god's statue comes to life and reveals his past and true lineage. Zeus explains that Hercules can become a god again and return to Olympus if he can become a true hero, so he sets out on his old childhood friend Pegasus to find the satyr Philoctetes—"Phil" for short—a trainer of heroes. Phil has long-since retired after failing to train a successful hero, but is convinced to train Hercules.
After his training is complete, Hercules sets out with Phil and Pegasus to the city of Thebes to prove his newfound worth. Along the way, Hercules saves a woman named Megara—"Meg" for short—from being pestered by the centaur Nessus, and becomes attracted to her. Unbeknownst to Hercules, Meg is in league with Hades after selling her soul to save a man she once loved, but had left her for another woman. Discovering Hercules to still be alive, Hades sets up a trap for him outside of Thebes where he is forced to battle the Hydra. However, Hercules manages to defeat the Hydra, and is praised by all of Thebes as a hero. Hercules is treated like a celebrity, but Zeus informs him that he is not a true hero yet.
Meg is sent by Hades to find Hercules' weakness, but she falls in love with him instead. Phil discovers Meg to be working for Hades and attempts to warn Hercules, but abandons him after an ensuing argument. Realizing that Meg is Hercules' weakness, Hades uses her to make a deal with Hercules in which he must give up his powers for an entire day in exchange for Meg's safety, using this time to free the Titans and take over Olympus, while Hercules is crushed by Meg's deception and loses the will to fight. One of the Titans, a Cyclops, is sent to Thebes to eliminate Hercules. Meg convinces Phil to return to Hercules, motivating him into battling and defeating the Cyclops through improvisation. However, Meg is mortally wounded by a falling column to save Hercules, though it breaks Hades's deal of Meg not being harmed and restores Hercules's powers, allowing him to destroy the Titans. Unfortunately, he is too late to save Meg from dying.
Hercules confronts Hades in the Underworld and offers his soul to reclaim Meg's. Hades accepts, but only if Hercules can reclaim it in the River Styx, which gradually saps his life force as he swims. However, his will to sacrifice his life for Meg awakens Hercules as a true hero and restores his status as an immortal god. Hercules successfully retrieves Meg's soul and punches Hades into the River Styx, where he is dragged to the depths by vengeful souls. Hercules returns Meg's soul to her body and brings her back to life, and is brought to Olympus where the gods welcome him back into his old home. However, Hercules is unable to live without Meg, and Zeus allows him to stay on Earth as a mortal to stay with the one he loves. Zeus creates a constellation of Hercules in the night sky, allowing the world to hail him as a true hero. At the end of the credits you can here Hades asking if the Movie is over.
- Tate Donovan as Hercules, based on the Greek mythology deity Heracles. Supervising animator Andreas Deja described Hercules as "...not a smart aleck, not streetwise, he's just a naive kid trapped in a big body", and that Donovan "had a charming yet innocent quality in his readings". Donovan had not done any voice-over work prior to Hercules. Deja integrated Donovan's "charming yet innocent quality" into Hercules' expressions. Ricky Martin provided both the voice and signing voice for the Latin American dub. Hercules can't sing, only the Muses got to sing.
- Josh Keaton provided the speaking voice of Hercules as a teenager, while Roger Bart provided his singing voice. Originally, Keaton provided also his singing voice, but his singing was re-recorded by Bart. Randy Haycock served as the supervising animator for Hercules as an infant and teenager.
- Danny DeVito as Phil. Eric Goldberg, the supervising animator for Philoctetes, cited Grumpy in The Seven Dwarfs and Bacchus in Fantasia as the inspirations for the character's design. Goldberg mentioned that they discovered that Danny DeVito "has really different mouth shapes" when they videotaped his recordings and that they used these shapes in animating Phil.
- James Woods as Hades. Producer Alice Dewey mentioned that Hades "was supposed to talk in a slow and be menacing in a quiet, spooky way", but thought that James Woods' manner of speaking "a mile a minute" would be a "great take" for a villain. Woods did a lot of bing in his recordings, especially in Hades' dialogues with Megara. Nik Ranieri, the supervising animator for Hades, mentioned that the character was "based on a Hollywood agent, a car salesman type", and that a lot came from James Woods' bed dialogue. He went on to say that the hardest part in animating Hades was that he talks too much and too fast, so much so that "it took [him] two weeks to animate a one-second scene". Ranieri watched James Woods' other films and used what he saw as the basis for Hades' sneer.
- Susan Egan as Megara. Supervising animator Ken Duncan stated that she was "based on a '40s screwball comedienne" and that he used Greek shapes for her hair ("Her head is in sort of a vase shape and she's got a Greek curl in the back.").
- Rip Torn and Samantha Eggar as Zeus and Hera, Hercules' birth-parents. Anthony DeRosa served as the supervising animator for both characters. In the Swedish dub Max von Sydow provided the voice for Zeus.
- Lillias White, Cheryl Freeman, LaChanze, Roz Ryan and Vanéese Y. Thomas as the Muses (Calliope, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Thalia and Clio respectively), the narrators of the film's story. Michael Show served as the supervising animator for the Muses.
- Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt Frewer as Pain and Panic, Hades' henchmen. James Lopez and Brian Ferguson respectively served as the supervising animators for Pain and Panic.
- Patrick Pinney as the Cyclops. Dominique Monfrey served as the supervising animator for the Cyclops.
- Hal Holbrook and Barbara Barrie as Amphitryon and Alcmene, Hercules' adoptive parents. Richard Bazley served as the supervising animator for both characters.
- Amanda Plummer, Carole Shelley and Paddi Edwards as Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos, the three Fates who predict Hades' attempt to conquer Olympus. Nancy Beiman served as the supervising animator for the three characters.
- Paul Shaffer as Hermes. Michael Swofford served as the animator for Hermes.
- Jim Cummings as Nessus. Chris Bailey served as the animator for Nessus.
- Wayne Knight as Demetrius
- Keith David as Apollo
- Charlton Heston has a cameo role as the opening narrator.
- Thurl Ravenscroft as voice of the singer for the song "You're a Mean One Hercules".