Young Hercules intro card
Sword and sorcery
|Developed by||Robert Tapert|
|Country of origin||New Zealand
|No. of episodes||50, plus pilot|
|Executive producer(s)||Sam Raimi
Robert G. Tapert
|Running time||21:20 min.|
|Original channel||Fox Kids Network
|Original run||September 12, 1998 – May 14, 1999|
Young Hercules was a spin-off from the 1990s syndicated television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. It was aired on Fox Kids from September 12, 1998, to May 12, 1999. It lasted one season with 50 episodes and starred Ryan Gosling in the title role.
The show features the efforts of Ares, the god of war, played by Kevin Tod Smith, who attempts often to destroy his younger half-brother to win over Zeus' good graces. Among his group is his nephew Strife (Joel Tobeck), who is the rather weaker member of the team. Strife's mother is Discord, goddess of retribution (Meighan Desmond), who acts more level-headed and power hungry than her counterpart on more than one occasion. The series has other two villains: Hera, queen of the gods and Hercules's stepmother; and Apollo, god of the sun and Hercules's half-brother.
The storyline follows Hercules (Ryan Gosling) as he attends Cheiron's Academy to train in the arts of the warrior under the wise headmaster Cheiron the Centaur (Nathaniel Lees). He makes friends with the future king of Corinth Prince Jason (Chris Conrad) and a thieving former member of a bandit group named Iolaus (Dean O'Gorman), who was sentenced to train at the academy as an alternative to prison for his crimes. Hercules also meets the academy's first female cadet, Lilith (Jodie Rimmer). Other characters of interest include Kora, the inn keeper who unknown to Hercules and his friends is a devotee of Artemis: Goddess of the Hunt. As the series develops, Kora is revealed to have special powers which allow her to do Artemis' bidding. There are hints of romance between Hercules and Kora, although their friendship keeps it all innocent.
Young Hercules' executive producers were Robert Tapert and Spider-man director, Sam Raimi. Liz Friedman and Eric Gruendemann were co-executive producers and former MTV producer, Cynthia Hsiung was producer of the series. In New Zealand, where principal photography was shot, Janine Dickins held down the fort as the New Zealand Producer while three series directors took turns shooting the episodes in blocks of four along with a fourth director for second unit. Chris Graves, Charlie Haskell and Andrew Merrifield shot principal photography and Simon Rabbi shot second unit. Later in the series, Simon Rabbi shot principal photography for the 50th episode, "Valley of the Shadow."
The series has been used in case studies of how to shoot television series efficiently. Traditional television series are shot one episode at a time. "Young Hercules" was shot in blocks of four episodes at a time. The three main directors of the series were on a rotation, one director for each four episode block. The four would be written with this in mind, keeping sets, locations, and actors similar in all four episodes even if story and plot lines might not interrelate. This saved tremendous amounts of money and time allowing the series to be shot on a shoe string budget, but with maximum on-screen dollars. The 50 episodes had a budget of roughly $20 million which includes above and below the line costs. Shooting in New Zealand also allowed the series to circumvent considerable Guild regulations for further savings. Additional monies were saved shooting the series on 16 mm film. Early research was done to see if digital film could be used, but it was determined that technology just wasn't adequate at that time to make digital filming economically viable.
Principal photography took place in New Zealand while post-production elements including visual effects and music were all edited and integrated together in Los Angeles. Ian Bohen played Young Hercules in the pilot movie was offered the part, but opted not to move to New Zealand where the series would shoot principal photography. Early on in the series, special visual effects were conceived by Richard Taylor's Weta Workshop, the then little known visual effects company that went on to win several Academy Awards for their superb work on The Lord of the Rings. Weta and Richard Taylor stepped off "Young Hercules" early on to work on "Lord of the Rings." In fact, the early production days of "Young Hercules" saw many of its crew leave to work on the then little known Peter Jackson sensation, "Lord of the Rings."
Ryan Gosling was only 17 when he was cast in the lead role. To train for the role, Ryan took intense martial arts classes by the same trainer who taught Lucy Lawless and Kevin Sorbo. He was so tall and thin that his costume had to be reworked to minimize the look of how thin he was. Original costume sketches showed a darker upper body costume. When Ryan was cast, the costume designers made the upper body of his costume lighter in color and broader in the chest to help create a more bulky look. Make-up was used on Ryan's arms to help add muscle contours. Similar tricks were used for both Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless for their characters.
It was known to be only superficially faithful to Greek mythology, as was its predecessor; it uses similar characters, but in a variety of stories, some of which contain anachronisms.
The series aired on Fox Kids Network at first on Monday through Friday at 4:30pm PST and Saturday mornings at 8:30 am PST. Later in the year, the series aired Monday through Friday only at 3:30pm PST. Although ratings on the Fox Kids Network were strong for the season (2nd top rated live-action series below Power Rangers), "Young Hercules" was not renewed.
Awards and nominations
Daytime Emmy Awards nominations
- Outstanding Sound Editing (1998)
Writers Guild of America, USA
- Children's Script (2000)
- Young Hercules Wiki - Everything you ever wanted to know about "Young Hercules"!
- Young Hercules at the Internet Movie Database
- Young Hercules at TV.com