If you’ve watched the Disney animated Hercules film from 1997 you might remember one of two things from it: Hades was the villain and The Muses were awesome. In all honestly, the film did bomb, especially for a Disney film, and in my opinion that was to be expected considering how it came about.
Let’s travel back to the year of 1985, John Musker and Rob Clements are pitching Treasure Planet aka “Treasure Island in space” and the Little Mermaid to the chief Disney studios, Jeffery Katzenberg. Katenzburg hated the Treasure Planet idea and thought nobody would want to see a comic book style version of the Robert Lewis Stevenson novel, so he picked The Little Mermaid instead which went on to become a huge hit and is now one of the films people say was integral to the “Disney Renaissance”.
Now let’s fast forward a couple of years to November 1992. In ‘92,
Aladdin was released and became another Musker and Clements hit. Obviously, since Clements and Musker had two hits under their belt they chose to redevelop Treasure Planet from then until the fall of ’93 in order to pitch it once more to Katzenberg, thinking he’d be all for it but he still wasn’t convinced.
Why you ask?
It’s simple; money. Katzenberg wanted a hit, he wanted a film with so much commercial success that it couldn’t flop or do bad, he wanted merchandise. But Clements and Musker simply wanted to make their dream project. So in order to get this money-making film Katzenberg made a deal with them, make the most commercial film ever and he’d greenlight their movies. That is how we have the 1997 classic, Hercules.
So now since we know why the film was made let’s talk about one of my two issues: the mythology.
Zeus was what you’d call a “womanizer”. Zeus would cheat on Hera with all sorts of women and he also was a huge dick considering not all of them were consensual, but the awful antics of Zeus is a whole other piece in itself. Hercules was conceived due to one of Zeus’s many affairs and this time it was with mortal named Alcmene, which made Hercules a demigod, not him losing his powers due to some magic potion. Hera had lived through Zeus cheating on her but this was the last straw, the one to finally hit her to her senses and because of that she vowed to make Hercule’s life a living hell which started before he was even born.
Hera tried to prevent the birth by having Eileithyia tie Alcmene’s legs together but that failed when Eileithyia was frightened whilst tying them and Hercules was born. Alcmene was worried about Hera and rightfully thought that she would enact revenge on her child due to what Zeus had done. In order to protect him, Alcmene had Athena take Hercules to see Hera but she did not recognize him and nursed him which gave him supernatural powers from her milk.
As we remember from the film, Hades’ minions tried to kill Hercules in the form of snakes but that didn’t actually happen. Hera was the one to actually send two snakes to kill Hercules as a baby but much to her dismay he was found a little later laughing whilst babbling baby talk and strangling the two snakes in each hand due to his now incredible strength.
Fast forward a decade or so and Hercules has grown into a fit healthy young man with a wife and children, but guess what happens next? Hera. See Hera still hated Hercules and knowing he was married and had kids only made it easier for her to exact revenge. Hera drove Heracles mad and he, unfortunately, killed his children and to some sources even his wife. In order to atone for this, he was sentenced to twelve Labours in order to make up for his crime. He served Eurytheus, The King of Tiryns and Mycenae during this time.
Now you’re wondering where is Hades? Yeah, hate to say this but he’s barely even affiliated with Hercules and that’s why him even being the villain in the film makes no sense. The one of the few times they were mentioned together was when Hercules did his final Labor where Heracles was instructed to bring the hellhound Cerberus up from the infernal kingdom of Hades.
I could get into how the plot doesn’t work or how Hercules never really changes during the film but I’m not a film student so it’d be a pretty short piece. However, you can watch this video by Chez Lindsay on why it’s a mess.
I get why Hercules couldn’t be 100% faithful because his story does have some dark aspects but in my opinion, Hera would’ve made a much more compelling villain compared to James Woods’ Hades. Hades really only had beef with Hercules because of a prophecy which was kinda bs, to be honest. Hades really has nothing to do with Hercules and has no reason to hate him as he isn’t all that envious of either of his brothers despite what many modern retellings may depict. Hades, for me, is the most chill and non-douche of the big 3 Greek Gods, but hey what do I know? I’m just an 18 year old who loves Greek Mythology and Disney way too much.
Author: Han Angus
Editor: Ammaarah Mookadam
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a neuroscience nerd turned Creative Consultant and Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on TikTok or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels. From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.