Titles: Lord of the Dead, God of the Underworld
Premiered in: Hercules (1997)
Voiced By: James Woods
Out of the entirety of Disney Villains, I’d have to say that Hades, tied with the likes of Maleficent and Shere Khan, is one of my top favorites. It’s not just because of his dry sense of humor or his marvelous highs and lows in regards to his, quite literally, fiery temper but rather that he, much like the other two villains, is not strictly evil for the sake of being evil. While it cannot be argued that Disney severely childproofed the legends of Hercules to an almost insane degree right from the very start, with his own conception/birth no less, they did mostly right by Hades at least in general attitude. True, he is the Lord of the Dead and God of the Underworld but contrary to what many might assume he is not, in fact, the actual God of Death amongst the Greek Pantheon. No, that honor goes to Thanatos but I digress. Let’s move on to Hades’ main motivation shall we?
From the very start, it’s obvious that Hades wants to become ruler of Olympus and, by default, the cosmos itself. This stems primarily from the fact that, though not mentioned in the film itself, Hades is in fact the older brother of both Zeus and Poseidon and it was through a game of lots, or drawing straws, that Hades ended up with dominion of the underworld, both the actual Underworld realm and everything and anything underneath the dirt.
While he primarily rules as Lord of the Dead, Hades is also in charge with precious metals and gemstones beneath the earth’s crust. Of course, being the richest god of his pantheon, which I’m sure makes Hades laugh maniacally whenever the mood strikes him, doesn’t mean squat because, as Hades himself puts it, the Underworld is “a little dark, a little gloomy and, as always, hey, full of dead people.” Compare that to the majesty of Olympus and I would definitely agree that, in that regard, Hades drew the short straw.
As to minions… Oh boy, Pain and Panic… While it can be argued that Megara fit the role better in that she not only managed to accomplish all that Hades set for her to do, however unwillingly, he did have the two imps on his payroll for far longer and boy, I bet he wished he had a return deposit on the two of them.
Panic is the skinny, fearful of the two and lives up to his name almost the entire time he’s on camera, nearly having a heart attack on more than one occasion. Pain, the squatter of the two, has the most matzi as he is the one to bring up the idea of lying to Hades when they failed to not only turn Hercules fully mortal but in killing him as well. He is also the one who breaches the idea of whether or not he and his fellow imp will have to deal with Hades after Hercules punched him into the River Styx something that would, for any other god, be quite a hindrance but considering who and what Hades is…
Yeah, the two of them will forever live up to being nothing more than punching bags for Hades, and I’m quite okay with that. To this day, there will never be a funnier scene in a Disney movie than when the Lord of the Dead discovered that one of his very own minions was wearing the merchandise of the very hero who would and could put a stop to his plans that took the better part of eighteen years to facilitate.
Overall, Hades makes for one of the greatest of the Disney Villains except… I just can’t imagine him as a villain. Never mind what Disney had made of him, Hades is, quite frankly, the most benign of the Greek Gods. He never screwed anyone as whatever deals he made were upfront and were only broken because the person couldn’t, or wouldn’t, hold their end of the bargain. He never cursed any mortals who slighted him directly or indirectly as many others, including gods whom one would think to be above such pettiness, did not. He also was one of the few, if not the only, Greek god who both stayed true to his wife but also had all of his kids by her and not some other woman. That alone puts Hades well above the rest in my book.