Who can believe it has been twenty years since John Musker and Ron Clements brought the story of a demi-god to life in HERCULES?? This past Sunday at the D23 Expo 2017, we were given a special behind-the-scenes look into the making of this fan favorite in Zero to Hero: The Making of Hercules. Special guests for the panel included Tate Donovan (voice of Herc) and Susgan Egan (voice of Meg) plus Eric Goldberg (animator for Phil) and Ken Duncan (animator for Meg).

There was a lot packed into the hour so you’ll want to make sure to watch our full panel video. In the meantime, here’s a small selection of some of the most memorable moments…

Ron and John started talking about how they wanted someone to narrate the movie. They really wanted a voice like Charlton Heston and to their surprise he accepted. There was one line though he thought they should change. Recommending “There you go, young lady” line instead of “You go, girl” After doing some takes with his suggestion they asked him to just try doing “You go girl” and that’s what ended up in the film.

For Megara, Ron and John stated that she was “based on a ’40s screwball comedienne” which we learned was Barbara Stanwick. They also used Greek shapes for her hair “Her head is in sort of a vase shape and she’s got a Greek curl in the back.”

Susan Egan was currently in rehearsal to do Belle for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST on Broadway when they started production on HERCULES. “When I’m Belle I’m acting, Meg is where I live” says Susan Egan about convincing casting she could do both characters. She played Belle 787 times on Broadway!

Supervising animator Andreas Deja described Hercules as “…not a smart aleck, not streetwise, he’s just a naive kid trapped in a big body”, and that Tate Donovan “had a charming yet innocent quality in his readings”. Donovan had not done any voice-over work prior to Hercules. Deja integrated Donovan’s “charming yet innocent quality” into Hercules’ expressions.

Josh Keaton provided the speaking voice of Hercules as a teenager, while Roger Bart provided his singing voice. Originally, Keaton provided also his singing voice, but his singing was re-recorded by Bart. Donovan teased during the panel that he could actually sing, and why didn’t they use him. Ron and John also said that his house that they designed in the film was actually based on the Getty Museum.

Robert Mitchum was an early concept direction for Hades, then there was talk about Jack Nicholson, but finally they landed on James Woods. Woods fast talking was opposite of their initial idea of a smooth slow talking Nicholson-type but it worked!

Nik Ranieri, the supervising animator for Hades, mentioned that the character was “based on a Hollywood agent, a car salesman type”, and that a lot came from James Woods’ ad-libbed dialogue. He went on to say that the hardest part in animating Hades was that he talks too much and too fast, so much so that “it took [him] two weeks to animate a one-second scene”. Ranieri watched James Woods’ other films and used what he saw as the basis for Hades’ sneer.

Eric Goldberg, the supervising animator for Philoctetes, cited Grumpy in Snow White and Bacchus in Fantasia as the inspirations for the character’s design. Goldberg mentioned that they discovered that Danny DeVito “has really different mouth shapes” when they videotaped his recordings and that they used these shapes in animating Phil. And no, it’s not lost on him that he looks like both Danny DeVito and Phil. XD

For the final surprise of the panel, Ron and John showed us the animated scene and background vocals for “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” with Susan Egan doing the main vocals live! It was a great moment and a perfect ending to the panel.

More to See!

We were at the D23 Expo 2017 the entire weekend with plenty to see! Check it all out by clicking below!