Disney animators bring ancient Greek mythology down to earth in Hercules, a spiffy, fast-paced, and inventive tale that provides children with a meditation on the question "What is the measure of a true hero?" Hercules (voiced by several actors for his different ages), the son of Zeus (voiced by Rip Torn), finds himself waylaid into a humble family where he is raised in an atmosphere of love. However, the boy's awkward strength earns him the nasty nickname "Jerkules." In order to fulfill his destiny, Herc puts himself under the tutelage of Phil (Danny DeVito), a satyr who grooms him to be a hero — "to go the distance." His most formidable and resourceful enemy is Hades (James Woods), Lord of the Underworld, who dreams of taking over Zeus's empire. This schemer, whose anger flares out into flames, uses Megara (Susan Egan), a sassy woman in his service, to find out Herc's weak point.

After defeating the multi-headed Hydra that threatens Thebes, Herc is the toast of the town, called cleverly "The Big Olive." In the end, he must decide whether heroism means the daring feats of a celebrity or the self-sacrificial love that comes from the heart. The lively gospel music score by Alan Menken puts an accent on Herc's ultimate decision. As directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, Hercules is an Olympian triumph.