In this post (and video), we’re taking a look at Disney’s Hercules’ Best Easter Eggs, from famous actors, and movies, to modern-day New York and iconic Disney World rides…
The narration that initially introduces the story of Hercules, but is quickly interrupted and replaced by the Muses, is voice by the Hollywood Icon Charlton Heston.
When Hermes gives Hera flowers at the start of the movie he recreates the FTD Florists logo, which is a symbol of Hermes delivering flowers.
As Pain and Panic kidnap the baby Hercules they force him to drink Hades’ potion that turns the baby god into a mortal. Pain calls it ‘Grecian Formula’ a joke at the real-world Grecian Formula which is an anti-grey hair product, and definitely not a supplement for baby formula.
After failing to give the baby Hercules all of the potion Pain and Panic transform into snakes and try to attack him. Retaining his godly strength he picks them up with ease and throws them away. This echoes the actual legend of Hercules whereas a baby he defeated two snakes sent by Hera (jealous of Zeus’ affair with a mortal) to kill Hercules. His early success against the creatures foretold his future of defeating many monsters.
The Superman Homage
Directors John Musker and Ron Clements saw Hercules as their chance at an animated superhero film, and so brought in numerous references to one of the most popular superheroes of all time. The many nods to Superman mainly come in the similarity between his story and Disney’s version of Hercules. As a baby he is taken from his home in the sky, he is then found by an elderly farming couple who could never have a child of their own, becomes a dorky teenager whilst discovering his powers, and goes on to be a cape-wearing superhero.
Musker and Clements
Hercules directors Musker and Clements, who also directed The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Treasure Planet, and more recently Moana, make a brief cameo appearance as two men hit by hay as Hercules loses control over the cart.
As Hercules adoptive parents, Amphitryon and Alcmene, tell him what they know of his true origins their interior design choices show off a famous pattern. The painting resembles the “Fresco of Spring” one of the oldest known Greek paintings uncovered on the island of Santorini, which is now held at the Athens Archaeological Museum.
Hercules features a number of nods to Star Wars throughout, drawing a comparison from Hercules to Luke Skywalker. These include Hercules’ shock at his father’s identity, defeating the giant cyclops by tying its legs together (just like the Imperial Walkers are destroyed in The Empire Strikes Back), and being raised by adoptive parents on a farm. But the biggest homage to Star Wars is when Hercules first meets Phil, which echoes Luke meeting Yoda.
Both scenes take place in a swampy, secluded environment, both Luke and Phil don’t realise that the small strange creature they initially meet is the legendary hero they are looking for, both hit their heads inside the small house, both have a blue and white sidekick that is left outside, and Hercules even ends the scene by lifting. Large spaceship looking shield, echoing Yoda raising Luke’s X-Wing with the Force.
As Hercules enters Phil’s house he hits his head on a part of the Argo. In mythology, both Hercules and Philoctetes were argonauts on Jason’s famous ship. Jason eventually died after part of the ship fell on his head.
Other Famous Greek Heroes
When Hercules and Phil first meet Phil refuses to train Hercules due to his past experiences. He mentions training several famous Greek heroes of mythology including Jason, Odysseus, Perseus (another son of Zeus), and Achilles.
The Karate Kid
After Phil agrees to train Hercules the film jumps right into Phil’s song “One Last Hope” and the accompanying training montage. During the sequence, Hercules, Phil, and Pegasus recreate the famous sunset scene from the Karate Kid, complete with an actual kick and gong.
The Ancient New York
Disney’s version of Ancient Thebes is very much a parody of modern-day New York City and features a number of references to the city that never sleeps. Early on Phil calls Thebes “The Big. Olive”, putting an appropriately Greek spin on New York often being referred to as “The Big Apple”. Phil later shouts “I’m walking here” quoting Dustin Hoffman from Midnight Cowboy, a film famously set in New York. And lastly, Phil tells Hercules that “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere”, which is a slightly altered line from one of Frank Sinatra’s most famous songs, New York, New York.
When Pain, Panic, and Meg lure Hercules to the Hydra they shout for someone to call “IXII”, which is the Roman Numerals for “911”, the phone number for the modern-day emergency services in the US.
Only Half time
As it appears Hercules has defeated the Hydra (before it begins sprouting new heads), Hades says “Relax, it’s only half time.” This line comes almost exactly halfway through the movie.
The twelve labours of Hercules get a few nods throughout the film. These include Hercules defeating the Hydra, which gets a full battle scene, taking on the Nemean Lion, The Ermanthian Boar, and The Stymphalian Bird, all of which are glimpsed during “Zero to Hero”. Capturing Cerberus was one of the labours and is seemingly how Hercules is able to take control of the three-headed dog at the end of the movie. Phil mentions two of the other labours when discussing upcoming jobs for Hercules, cleaning the (Augean) stables, and retrieving an Amazonian Girdle (The Girdle of Hippolyta).
During “Zero to Hero” a brief shot shows Hercules’ brand new “Grecian Express” credit card, the Ancient Greek parody of American Express.
As Hercules and Pegasus fly up into the stars they recreate Marilyn Monroe’s iconic wind dress photoshoot scene as they pass a familiar-looking cluster of stars.
With such a huge rise to fame, Hercules becomes the Ancient Greek Equivalent of (90’s) Michael Jordan, starring in Nike parody ads, and having his own range of “Air Hercs’ rather than “Air Jordans”.
Hercules and Pegasus enshrine their hand/hoof prints into the pavement as a homage to the many prints outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Hercules also writes “thanks Sid”, as an extra Nod to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre creator Sid Grauman.
The Lion King’s Scar
As Hercules is posing for a new portrait he wears a large Lion’s skin. The fur in question is Scar from 1994’s the Lion King. How exactly Hercules retrieved Scar’s body is unclear, but when Scar’s pelt is thrown to the floor it is a clear nod to Zazu’s line in the Lion King, in which he claims Scar would make a good throw rug.
After Hercules’ and Meg’s date Hercules says “that Oedipus thing, I thought I had problems”. Oedipus as King of Thebes married his own mother (which led to the modern-day ‘Oedipus complex) and was even blamed for bringing a curse to Thebes (with the cities recent unfortunate luck also being mentioned earlier in the animated film).
Whilst skipping stones Hercules accidentally creates one of the most famous sculptures, the armless Venus De Milo.
The Haunted Mansion
During Meg’s “I Won’t Say I’m In Love” the Muses recreate the famous singing heads scene from Disneyland’s iconic Haunted Mansion ride.
Another statue based reference during Meg’s emotional solo is the Muses becoming Caryatids, sculpted female pillars that were popular throughout Ancient Greece.
It’s a Small World
When Hercules goes to the Underworld to retrieve Meg’s soul, Hades says “well, well, it’s a small underworld after all” – referencing Disney’s infamous song “It’s a Small World After All”.