Animated Series Takes Disney's Hercules Back to School

Action, Comedy and All Star Cast Pack New Series

Rescue an Amazon Princess? Piece of Cake. Match muscles with the Mother of all Monsters? Easy Breezy.

Cram for an exam?......... Find a date for the dance?

"Athens...we've got a problem............"

 


Such are the labors ahead for "Disney's Hercules," the new animated television series premiering Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 4th on Toon Disney five days a week, Monday-Friday (check local listings). "Disney's Hercules" is an outgrowth of Disney's 1997 animated feature film, which chronicled the lifelong exploits of the mythical hero. The series expands upon the Greek demigod's feats during his formative, hero-in-training, "high school" years.

Packed with action and humor, and complemented by an entertaining array of music, the series features an all-star voice cast including the film's Tate Donovan (Hercules) and James Woods (Hades), new co-stars French Stewart ("3rd Rock from the Sun"), Sandra Bernhard ("Without You I'm Nothing") and Diedrich Bader ("The Drew Carey Show"), and an amazing roster of guest stars. Jason Alexander, Jennifer Anniston, Kathie Lee Gifford, Lou Gossett Jr., Merv Griffin, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Lisa Kudrow, Heather Locklear, Wayne Newton and William Shatner are just a few names from an eclectic list of nearly 170 entertainers from primetime television, major motion pictures and the Broadway stage.

Executive Producer of "Disney's Hercules" is Tad Stones, the creator and producer of "Darkwing Duck," "Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers," "Disney's Aladdin" TV series and both "Aladdin" video premiere movies - "The Return of Jafar" and "Aladdin and the King of Thieves." The series producers are Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley ("Disney's Aladdin" television series and both "Aladdin" video premiere movies).

With respect to the original film, the animated series is being treated as a "mid-quel," explains Stones. Chronologically within the feature film, the TV series occurs during Hercules' adolescent "hero-in-training" segment. Instead of simply honing his physical skills, however, Hercules, at Zeus's insistence, also receives a balanced education. To that end, Hercules is enrolled in the Prometheus Academy, the high school of choice among the Greek elite.

Half mortal, half god, the series' Hercules is a gawky teenager with superhuman strenh which he can't always control. He's a misfit torn between two worlds, with only one path back to Mount Olympus - by becoming a true hero. But at this stage of life, defeating monsters is only half his battle. This demigod must also endure the challenges of high school.

"Disney's Hercules" isn't all action-adventure, though. The series is grounded in Greek mythology and provides life lessons within its overriding storyline of Hercules' search for self-improvement and acceptance. Among the issues and themes of the 52 episodes exclusive to syndication: the rigors of enrolling at a new school ("Hercules and the First Day of School"); establishing career objectives ("Hercules and the First Doctor"); the tribulations of dating ("Hercules and the Dream Date"); and the corruption of money ("Hercules and the Big Sink").

Each episode will feature the most outrageous, larger-than-life adventures a wanna-be hero can face," says Stones. "But when you strip away the amped-up action and epic mythology, you have a journey that everybody takes: the trek through adolescence."
"Being the strongest man on earth, no challenge is too great for Hercules, except one - growing up," Schooley says. "We parallel our fantastic plots with very earthbound complications........

Herc may be able to thrash a Nemean Lion, but can he find a date to the dance? We wanted to ground his heroic journey in a way that is appealing and meaningful to our audience."

Hercules struggles to fit in among the likes of (to name a few): Adonis (Diedrich Bader), the arrogant big man on campus; the all-too-perfect Helen of Troy (Jodi Benson); and Tempest (Jennifer Jason Leigh), an Amazon princess in direct competition with Herc's noble intentions.

Still, Hercules does form a tight friendship with two other outcasts, Icarus (French Stewart) and Cassandra (Sandra Bernhard). "Despite his best efforts, Icarus can't shake his Greek 'geek' label - he's the boy that flew too close to the sun, and his hair wasn't the only thing that got fried. It goes deeper," McCorkle says. "Cassandra is the sour counterpoint to the show's gonzo testosterone. She has the dubious gift of seeing the future, which means she also has a keen perspective on life after high school. Her wry detachment adds a note of maturity to the group."

Compared with the feature film, the series provides greater range for exploration (and parody) of characters and locations. For example, the Agora will be familiar to any kid who's hung out in a local mall; Sparta offers the ultimate in military cold-war paranoia; and Abacus Valley provides the last word in high tech. Hercules and his friends answer the riddle of the sphinx posed by an overwhelming game show host ("Sphinx Martindale," voiced by Wink Martindale), while those with a desire to learn the future contact the Oracle Friends Network.


The Prometheus Academy's distinguished faculty includes the institution's founder, Prometheus (Carl Reiner); gym teacher Phys Oedipus (Richard Simmons); guidance counselor Parenthesis (Eric Idle), whose dialogue is peppered with parenthetical phrases; and shop teacher Daedalus (David Hyde Pierce), who is also Icarus' father.

Hades (James Woods) is the series' central recurring villain, and he is backed by comic henchmen Pain (Bobcat Goldthwait) and Panic (Matt Frewer). All three actors/characters return from the film.

Added for the series is a lengthy list of mythological antagonists, including Kathie Lee Gifford as Echidna, the "mother of all monsters." Also guest starring is Tom Arnold (Cupid), Tim Conway (Griff) and Harvey Korman (Arismap) as ancient foes, Jane Curtin (Hippolyte), Linda Hamilton (Nemesis), Florence Henderson (Demeter), Reba McEntire (Artemis), Mandy Patinkin (Hippocrates) and Vince Vaughn (Loki).

Music weaves an amusing and often narrative thread through the series' action and comedy. The majority of the 65 episodes feature full-blown songs and/or ditties. While the Muses (Lachanze Sapp, Roz Ryan, Lillias White and Cheryl Freeman) play an integral role in most of the musical numbers, many prominent stars - several singing for the first time - also take a crack at carrying a tune. Among those performing are James Woods, Kathie Lee Gifford, French Stewart, Dom DeLuise, Sandra Bernhard, Melissa Manchester, Paul Shaffer (also reprising his movie role as Hermes), Tate Donovan, Idena Menzel, Eric Idle, Robert Stack, Corey Burton, Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt Frewer.

Two of Walt Disney Feature Animation's leading ladies - Susan Egan (Meg from "Hercules") and the aforementioned Jodi Benson (Ariel from "The Little Mermaid") - also recorded songs for their characters. Egan reprises her Meg role in two flashback episodes, while Benson is a "Disney's Hercules" regular cast member.

"Disney's Hercules" is a production of Walt Disney Television Animation.Tad Stones is Executive Producer, and Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley are the Producers and Executive Story Editors.

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