Friday, May 16, 2014

Project Disney - Hercules

Project Disney: The plan is to tackle all of the Disney films, re-reading the classic stories and tales that inspired many of them and to look at how the changes the filmmakers made, the new elements they introduced and the essential elements they kept. We will, of course, be talking about the films as movies as well, saying why we enjoy them and what some of our favorite moments are, but our focus will be on looking at them as adaptations. For the films that are not drawn from any one work we’ll be looking at some of the possible literary influences that we see in the stories. I am participating in Project Disney inspired by Picture Me Reading!  

I have been waiting for Hercules on Project Disney forever!  This is one of my all time favorite Disney movies.  I will say though that this movie was harder to pinpoint the origin story for the film.  Hercules is apart of Greek Mythology, so there are a lot of stories and books that have to do with his background.  The movie of course doesn't just focus on the Hercules myth either... it includes the muses, Pegasus, Megara,  and lots of mythological monsters.  I know all the songs for this movie, and I of course watched the Hercules cartoon series on Disney channel.  I loved that show so much.. it explored way more mythology then the movie. For this Project Disney I read : Edith Hamilton Mythology and Don't Know Much about Mythology. Plus a lot of internet research.

The movie mainly follows Hercules from his birth to adulthood.  Hades discovers that Hercules will someday prevent Hades from taking over the world. So Hades makes it his mission to take away Hercules immortality.  Hades sends Hercules a drink to do this but Hercules leaves one last drop. Hercules is not allowed in Olympus anymore unless he can prove himself a true hero. Hercules is trained by Phil and falls in love with Meg. Eventually Hercules is able to prove he is a hero by saving Meg and is allowed on Olympus. So since this movie is totally not like the myths I thought we could compare the myth to movie.  I will try to talk about the myths as they appear in the movie.

The beginning of the movie has the Muses are telling us the story of Hercules.  The Muses sing gospel songs to us and just seem to love Hercules. The Muses in Greek mythology are actually daughters of Zeus. There are 9 of them and they aren't really friendly to humans... nor do they have anything to do with Hercules in mythology.

Next up Hercules is revealed to be a demi-god born to Hera and Zeus.  In the movie he is the only child of Zeus and when Hades sends his minions Pain and Panic to poison Hercules.  While they are doing this Amphitryon and his wife Alcmene walk up on them and find the baby Hercules.  They have been wanting a baby for a long time so they adopt him. In the myths Zeus actually sleeps with Alcmene and she becomes pregnant.  Zeus actually appears to her looking like her husband so she had no idea. Zeus sleeps with a lot of women and Hera is very unhappy about this (Zeus and Hera are brother and sister). Hercules is also a twin, his brother's name is Iphicles.

Next up we meet Hades.  I love love Hades in the Disney movie.  His attitude is fabulous and to be honest I think he is funny.  In the original versions Hades is actually not a scary guy (not like how Christians think of the Devil).  The Greeks think of him as just another god trying to take care of the dead in the underworld.

Hercules is first seen in the film as a young man who goes out and finds a satyr Phil to help him train for the obstacles he must go through to be allowed back in Olympus. OK as for the myth.  The reasons he ends up doing his ten famous tasks is a long story. He kills a lion that has been bothering the town of Thebes and then the king there allows him to bed his daughters.  Hercules ends up with 50 children from this!!! Hercules continues to help the town of Thebes and Hera becomes jealous of his accomplishments so she drives him mad.  He kills two of his children (at this time he is married to Megara and it's 2 of his children with her).  He goes to see the Delphi Oracle and discovers that if he completes ten tasks for Eurystheus he will be immortal again and allowed in Olympus.

Pegasus.. who doesn't love that horse in the movie.  I love how buddy buddy he and Hercules are.  So cute.  The real story of Pegasus does not have him coming from a cloud, rather he comes from the blood from Medusa's head when Perseus chopped it off. Also... Poseidon's son is the person who rides and tames Pegasus.  Earlier I mentioned Phil or Philoctetes.  In the movie he is satyr and trains Hercules.  In the myth Philoctetes does actually meet Hercules but not until the end of Hercules story.  Philoctetes is actually human and meets Hercules as he is dying.  Philoctetes lights Hercules funeral pyre.

Let's chat about Megara now. In the film Megara is seen trying to get Nessus the centaur to join in the Underworld for Hades.  In the scene Hercules sees her and saves her, which is how Hades finds out Hercules is still alive.  Megara has sold her soul to Hades to save her ex-boyfriend. So she pretty much has to do what Hades says.  Hades now hires her to lure Hercules into traps.  In the original myth Hercules murders their kids so he marries Megara off to his cousin. This is really the only time she is in the myth. Nessus on the other hand plays a huge part in the story of Hercules. Nessus steals Hercules second wife and Hercules of course beats him down because of it.  While dying Nessus gives Hercule's wife a potion to give to Hercules if Hercules does anything to hurt her.  She gives Hercules the potion when she thinks he is having an affair and it burns Hercules so bad he rips off his own skin and lays dying.

Hercules' 12 tasks (they become 12 because he supposedly cheats on two of them)  are pretty much just shown in a montage in the Disney film. We do see the Hydra of Lerna but Hercules defeats it in a different way. He gets help from his cousin who burns the necks after the heads have been chopped. The big battle at the end of the movie with the gods and Hercules battling the Titans is fun to watch.  In the film after the battle Hercules decides to stay on Earth with Megara since she can't enter Olympus.  In the myth Hercules goes to Olympus after he dies.

As you can see... Hercules has a lot going on.  I love the film though.. the music in this film is some of my favorite.  The Michael Bolton "Go the Distance" song is just amazing.  The film and the myth are so completely different this time around in Project Disney but I had fun comparing the two.  There really is a lot more information that I didn't include in this post since it was already getting so long.  I recommend you go out and read more information on Hercules.  His story is just fascinating.

Be sure to check out my other Project Disney:
Snow White
Peter Pan
Treasure Planet
Sleeping Beauty
The Great Mouse Detective 
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Princess and the Frog
Beauty and the Beast
Lady and the Tramp
Alice in Wonderland
The Rescuers
The Rescuers Down Under
Oliver and Company
The Little Mermaid
101 Dalmatians
Fantasia 2000
The Jungle Book
The Emperor's New Groove
The Sword in the Stone
The Aristocats
The Lion King
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
Winnie the Pooh (2011)
Robin Hood
The Black Cauldron
Mary Poppins
Lilo and Stitch  
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Make Mine Music
Melody Time


  1. This is my favorite Disney movie! I like Pegasus especially :) And "someone call IX I I !" Glad to see it show up in my feed today!

  2. I love love this movie too!! I think the humor in it is SPOT on. The songs... everything about it. I always waited for there to be a part two since at the time all the movies were getting a part two. though I am glad there was the cartoon series on Disney. That was a really good show!!! Zero to Hero!

  3. I love this! Revisting all the classic Disney movies, what an awesome idea. I've never actually seen this one though, I know, who hasn't seen it! Not having kids and not being into the cartoons when I was younger, I've been so sheltered. Must admit, I'm a sucker for the Pixar films though.

    You've inspired me to check Hercules out though :) Fabulous idea.

  4. I feel like I've seen this movie...but I can't really remember! Ah, I need to remedy that. It sounds great. Thanks for all the information. So much going on in these myths!


  5. Rinn (Rinn Reads)May 16, 2014 at 3:04 PM

    Ohh, what a great post idea! :D Plus looks like I discovered it at the right moment - Hercules is one of my absolute favourite Disney movies.

    If the film followed the traditional myth of Hercules, it would NOT be suitable for kids, haha! I remember translating the story of the conception of Hercules from Latin at university, and it's actually quite funny. Like you said, Zeus disguises himself as the husband of Alcmene - and he gets Apollo (I think) to guard the door! And Zeus and Hera as a loving couple = HILARIOUS. Those two were constantly trying to one up each other :P

    There's another myth of how Hercules died. I think it was the Chiron the centaur, he gave Hercules' wife a ball of wool and told her to make Herc something with it. Unfortunately it was poisoned so when Hercules wore the clothing it killed him. In any of the stories he dies pretty horribly :(

    Great post, Angela! :D I had 'Zero to Hero' in my head the other day, so I was listening to it on repeat ;)

  6. I watched this one pretty recently (in an attempt to fill in the gaps in my Disney education) and I think I would have loved it more if I had watched it when I was younger, but I really enjoyed the movie and you are right that the music is great too! I think the first time I watched it I was trying to compare this to the myths and it was hurting my head, so I should give it a rewatch. I think Disney did a great job reimagining the story though, the changes really make the story fun.

    Now I'm going to listen to Go the Distance! :D

  7. I love to revisit the Disney films and read the books that go with them. Hercules was more of research then reading a story though. I wish there was one location out there with all the information but since this film mixes a lot of myths I had to really look into it. I left out information on the Hydra for example and the 12 tasks that Hercules must do.

  8. This is one of my favorite Disney films and everyone should watch it. It is on Netflix right now if you have the time to watch it.

  9. HAHHAH!! Yes this is one film that would be terrible if Disney followed the myth... kids and parents would be freaked out. I am excited to see the new Rock movie coming out called Hercules. I think that one might follow the myths better.

    I thought the way Hercules dies is sad. It's like he did all that work and what not and then dies. Though in the myth... he does then get to go to Olympus and marries a new woman there. I have never thought it was fair that Hera was always making him crazy and he would do terrible things to his family. So sad!!!

    Really though..I just love mythology! So glad someone else does too.

  10. I will say Disney does make the myths fun. What I hope is that this makes kids more interested in myths. I had to take mythology in honors senior English in high school and I loved it so much. That is when I first learned that I loved the fantasy genre (mythology makes me think of fantasy). I have always loved ancient Greece. I think it's just beautiful. The statues, the clothes, plus I think all the different gods is fun.

  11. Amanda P. @ Of Specs and BooksMay 17, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    I loved Hercules! It is one of my favorite Disney movies! As an English major I loved it because it was extremely kid friendly while also being absolutely hilarious to the adults who actually knew mythology. There are so many hidden snippets throughout the movie that had me rolling or connecting dots to other myths!

  12. I love that grown ups get the inside jokes... like Zeus and Hera actually loving each other. I never really mentioned the Fates but then are pretty funny in the film... and of course Cerberus. I just didn't really cover the monsters in the post though I wanted to. The post was just getting so long!!!

  13. This indeed is one of the best Disney films. The characters, the humor, the music are just so enjoyable! i haven't seen this in quite sometime though.

    But I might want to see this again before The Rock's Hercules comes out in July. I know they're no way the same, but I can't think of any other Hercules film I'd want to watch right now. :)

  14. I love ALL these old school Disney movies, the new ones are good to, but there is just something different about growing up with them. While I can easily say Lion King was MY ULTIMATE FAVORITE, Hercules was pretty close! LOVE him!


  15. I agree... I think I like the older films better but it's because I have memories of those movies. Cinderella tops Frozen to me any day. I just love the classic feel to it.

  16. I love this movie. It's fascinating how different it is from anything in Greek Mythology. Great post, I loved reading it! (And Go The Distance is probs one of the best Disney songs ever, IMO.)

  17. Go the Distance doesn't get the love it should. ... it didn't even get radio time. Michael Bolton!! Love him!! Ok I know most people don't.... but I love his songs.

  18. This, along with most of the newer ones, is not a favorite of mine. I'm not sure if it's the humor that I start to get annoyed with, but it's seems a little more juvenile than the earlier movies.

  19. Yes... that is true. I believe that this movie has a different humor then the more classic films. It is a goofy film, where it could've been more of a serious film. I don't normally think of mythology as funny. But more beautiful. I could see Disney going both ways with this film.

  20. I was *so* excited when this came out on Blu Ray a few weeks ago. This is easily one of my favorite Disney films and I was happy to read that you share my enthusiasm for this one. Great action, wonderful characters and some really fun songs - my favorite is I Won't Say I'm In Love. :)

  21. I am so excited about it coming out on BluRay too!!! YES YES I just think all kids should get to watch this one and enjoy it too. I find that it isn't as popular as it should be. Did you ever watch the cartoon series on Disney?

  22. I loved the cartoon series too. I felt that they actually had decent stories to tell unlike some of the other spinoffs. :)