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Hercules (Also known as Hercules: The Animated Series) is an animated series based on the 1997 film of the same name and the Greek myth. The series follows teenage Hercules training as a hero as well as trying to adjust to life. With his free-spirited friend Icarus, his future-seeing friend Cassandra and his teacher Philoctetes ("Phil"), he battles his evil uncle Hades. Like all teenagers though, Hercules has to worry about peer pressure when the snobbish prince Adonis ridicules him.
The series was produced by Tad Stones, who had previously done Aladdin. The directors of Hercules, John Musker and Ron Clements, jokingly said to him while the film was being produced "Hey Tad, we're doing a pilot for a series." The producers decided that the irreverence of the movie would be captured more easily by doing a midquel - not preceding nor following the events of the movie, with Stones declaring that "by ignoring continuity and trying to stay true to the elements of humor and adventure in the film, we came up with a much stronger series that really stands on its own." Since James Woods signed to voice Hades again, along with most of the cast of the film, many big-name actors were interested in taking part on the show. Over 150 celebrities took a part in the series, some self-lampooning: Merv Griffin played a griffin talk show host, game show host Wink Martindale played a riddle-expert sphinx, and Mike Connors, famous for Mannix, played Athenian policeman Chipacles (named after CHiPS).
Disney's revamping of Greek legend moved to the small screen in the fall of 1998. Disney's Hercules had the Greek god still in "geek god" mode, before his "Zero to Hero" transformation. In the series, "Herc" was enrolled at Prometheus Academy, a school for both gods and mortals. Since events occur before young Herc meets and falls for the lovely Megara (Meg), he is joined by two new friends Cassandra (voiced by comedian Sandra Bernhard) and Icarus (voiced by French Stewart).
Disney's Hercules debuted as part of Disney's One Saturday Morning block, joining the block's original 3 shows ( Pepper Ann, Recess and Disney's Doug). The show proved to be as big a hit on television as it had been in theaters, still going strong in the early 00's.
The series ended on 2000, and on 2001 the series moved to Toon Disney, where it continued airing until 2008.
Disney's Hercules, like the animated series Disney's The Little Mermaid, is a spin-off of the 1997 theatrically released animated film of the same name (Hercules) and is based on his teen-aged adventures, though it is not a prequel to the film of the same name (Disney's The Little Mermaid featured tales of a 16-year-old Ariel which occurred before the start of the theatrical film). Nor is it truly a sequel like Disney's Aladdin (whose tales takes place after the original film and Return of Jafar). Rather Hercules features events which occur midway through the actual film (sometimes called a "midquel"), during his years in training on the Isle of Idra under the tutelage of Philoctetes (Phil) the Satyr. Many of the Olympian Gods and Goddesses only glimpsed during the film pay visit to the young hero-to-be and help or hinder him in his adventures. Other characters from the film that appear are the evil god Hades (voiced by James Woods) and winged stallion Pegasus (voiced by Frank Welker).
However, the series ignores a certain fact about the movie; Hades believed that Hercules was dead throughout his first 18 years of his life, but they have many interactions during this time.
The main cast of the series includes:
- Hercules (voiced by Tate Donovan) - The god turned mortal hero-in-training; thus he is now half-mortal, half-god. He is a son of Zeus and Hera which is in contrast to the myth.
- Philoctetes (voiced by Robert Costanzo) - The satyr hero trainer. One of the few characters from the movie whose voice actor (Danny DeVito) didn't return.
- Pegasus (vocal effects provided by Frank Welker) - The winged horse formed from clouds by Zeus, he is the childhood pet and faithful companion of his owner Hercules with the brain of a bird.
- Icarus (voiced by French Stewart) - Hercules' best friend. The boy who escaped from the Labyrinth with his father on wax wings appears as a complete nut (he was "brain-fried" by flying too close to the Sun). Despite his accident, Icarus still flies every chance he gets resulting in a few more encounters with the sun. Icarus is very adaptive and hence could adjust to about every situation, except when he is very jealous and acts irrational. He could become an ultra serious soldier at boot camp or a nearly identical version of Hades himself. Thankfully, at the end of each episode, he reverts to his own odd self. His father, Daedalus (voiced by David Hyde Pierce), is a teacher in the academy and Icarus doesn't acknowledge his parents' divorce. When Icarus graduates, he goes into inventing with his father and makes a fortune, earning the commercial title "The Wax-Wing King".
- Cassandra (voiced by Sandra Bernhard) - The Trojan War prophet appears as an anti-social girl, that has visions of the future (usually bad) once in a while, which are rarely believed. Icarus is completely obsessed with marrying her; she has no reciprocation, but merely tolerates him, though she loathes even trying to kiss him. After graduating, she joins the Oracle Friends Network.
Main article: List of Hercules: The Animated Series episodes
Zero To Hero
4 episodes of Hercules: The Animated Series were put onto D2V home video in movie format, Zero To Hero. The episode Hercules and the Yearbook is the main plot of the video. Unlike the televised version, the random clips are replaced with 3 other episodes (In the following order):
- Hercules and the First Day of School
- Hercules and the Grim Avenger
- Hercules and the Visit From Zeus
Some of the dialogue between Hercules and Meg are altered to fit the episodes. An example of this is Hercules and the Visit From Zeus replacing the clip of Hercules graduating from Promethous Academy.
Differences from the original mythology
- Every character is portrayed with their original Greek names, except for Hercules, Cupid and Bacchus, who are portrayed with their Roman names (the original ones being Heracles, Eros, and Dionysus, respectively). Eros is given his Roman form due to the family-friendly theme of the cartoon.
- Hercules is shown in the film and in this series to be a legitimate son of Zeus and Hera but in the mythology, he is the illegitimate child of Zeus and a mortal woman (named Alcmene in Greek mythology). In this version, Alcmene is the mortal woman who, with her husband Amphitryon, simply finds the abandoned infant Hercules and raises him as their own. The legends generally depict Hera as despising Hercules, with the goddess frequently trying to kill him or otherwise hinder his quests.
- Alcmene is stated to be the daughter of Electryon and grandaughter of Perseus. Perseus was a son of Zeus. Thus Zeus's affair with her was incest with his own great-granddaughter. Thus Alcemne gave birth to not only her son but her great-uncle. Hercules as well as being the son of Zeus was also his great great-grandson. Hercules was also at the same time as being the great-grandson of Perseus, also his half-brother.
- Narcissus is depicted in the series as an Olympian god, which he was not in original mythology.
- There were nine Muses in Greek mythology; in the series there are only five shown, with no mention as to the other four.
- The series shows Pegasus being created by Zeus to be Hercules' pet and servant. In mythology, Pegasus was a wild beast created from Medusa's blood, who was captured by another hero, Bellerophon, who briefly becomes Pegasus' master in Hercules and the Pegasus Incident. The original Hercules never even encountered Pegasus.
- Homer appears as a reporter, yet is a historical, not mythological figure.
- Icarus originally died when he flew too close to the Sun.
- In mythology, Cassandra received her ability to see negative events from Apollo, but with the curse that nobody would believe her predictions. In the series, Cassandra's friends do usually listen to her, unlike the original myth. However Hercules does note in The Big Sink that "no one ever believes her", while the reporter claims, to her dismay, that he will make the name Cassandra "synonymous with warnings of calamity."
- The original Adonis was a deity, while the one in the series is a mortal. Albeit a highly arrogant and narccistic one.
- In the original mythology, Hera is the one who tries to interfere with Hercules, not Hades.
- Cupid isn't clearly shown as being the son of Aphrodite and Ares, which he is in mythology.
- Pan is portrayed as king of the satyrs in the series; he was originally a god and son of Hermes as well.
- Hercules introduces the Greek Pantheon to Rome, a city yet to be founded let alone grow to be a large city.
- Trivia, the god of when three roads meet and of trivial information, doesn't exist in Greek Mythology. Trivia was, however, the Latin name for Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft and darkness.
- The series depicts Atlantis being sunk. The island was (according to legend) sunk many years before Hercules' time.
- Ceto, Medusa, the Minotaur, the Harpies, Geryon, Argus Panoptes, the Cyclops and the Erymanthian Boar are depicted as children of Echidna and Typhon, which they are not in mythology.
- In mythology, the Nemean Lion is killed by Hercules and isn't able to talk, unlike the series' version.
- Galatea was created by Pygmalion, not Hercules.
- Hercules never found Medusa in Greek mythology. In the series Medusa gradually becomes Hercules' friend.
- Unlike the Circe of the series, that seduces men to her island, the original Circe turned to animals those who dared to go there.
- Unlike in the series, griffins can't talk in mythology.
- Hercules participates in the Ancient Olympics, which he didn't in the original mythology. Also, most likely due to the family-friendly theme, the participants of the Olympics wear clothes.
- The armies of Sparta in Greece use war elephants in battle. One of the Spartan war elephants was knocked by Hercules in "Hercules and the Secret Weapon."
- Hades is referred to as Zeus' younger brother. However, Zeus is the youngest, and Hades is the oldest of the brothers in mythology.
- Megara is depicted as a simple Greek citizen, not as a princess, complementing Hercules' humble upbrining as a farm boy. She is also not the wife of Hercules but is shown as an adult in a romantic relationship with him that will likely result in marriage. Her father Creon is never mentioned.
- In the series, Hades is evil. But in the Mythology, He's an ally of Zeus, and he doesn't even care about Mount Olympus. He just wants to stay in the Underworld.
- Hades never wanted to unleash the Titans. Nor were the Titans ever unleashed, so the Titans never stormed Mount Olympus. However, snake-legged children of Mother Earth did try to storm Olympus once.
- In the movie, Nessus the centaur attacks Hercules. But in the mythology, he at first offers to help Heracles' wife, Deinera, across the river but later changes his mind and tries to carry her off, causing Heracles to shoot the centaur with one of his poisoned arrows.
- Although Philoctetes was a friend of Heracles, he wasn't a satyr in the mythology, and never even trained him.
- In the series, when Hercules was born, he was just born as an original citizen as well as a prince of the gods as Zeus and Hera were the King and Queen Respectively. But in the mythology, he was born of royal blood in Thebes, thus making him royalty among gods and men.
- In the series, Hercules was born on Mount Olympus and later taken down to Earth. But in the mythology, he was born on Earth.
- Paris and Helen are not shown as lovers even though they were famous for it in legend.
- Geryon in Greek myth was the grandson of Medusa. In the series they are considered siblings born from Echidna and Typhon