Standards are a little different now. What looked harmless and playful 20 years ago can take on a whole new light in present day. Even with that in mind, it's incredible that anyone tolerated Phil's lascivious antics. Though the main character thrust of Danny DeVito's goatman involves his desire to one day train a truly great hero, his opening scene makes a pretty bad first impression.
Hercules has just landed in the area where Phil is supposed to live, and is looking around when he hears laughter. Peeking over the bushes, we see a few nymphs laughing about nothing, not unlike the women portrayed in today's yogurt commercials.
Right off the bat, we're introduced to Phil as a creeper who likes to watch women from afar. It's one thing for Herc to wander over to see what was happening, but it's an entirely different matter to be the dude leering at them from the bushes for extended periods of time. There's no getting around it: Phil is a straight-up stalker.
When Herc busts him and Phil's skeezoid game is up, the nymphs make a run for it. And Phil gives chase, attempting to catch these innocent creatures.
What exactly was he going to do if he actually caught one of these poor girls? What happens next? Was Phil just going to mount them then and there? These nymphs aren't even in on the fun -- if you look at their faces, they're scared and/or angry at this pervy pest. Phil can't possibly have an endgame in mind that doesn't include sexual assault.
In Greek mythology, Phil is what's known as a satyr. In addition to often being portrayed as goat-legged Danny Devitos, satyrs are indeed known for lusting after and/or groping nymphs. Thankfully the production team left out the part where every satyr is stricken with a very visible case of perma-boner, but otherwise, Phil's horniness is somewhat accurate to his species. But that begs the question: Why would Disney adhere to this particularly creepy part of Greek myth when they disregard almost everything else?
Nobody expects a cartoon from the House of Mouse to be close the source material. If Disney did that, then Ariel would have dissolved into seafoam after Prince Eric ditched her, and Pinocchio would have murdered Jiminy Cricket before being lynched in a tree. So we forgive the little things, like the fact that "Hercules" is the Roman version of the character, with the Greek version being "Herakles." You can even gloss over the fact that Hera wasn't originally Herc's mom, since that might give way to an unsavory (yet canonical) exploration of Zeus' swan-fucking shenanigans.
But some of the changes to the lore are downright baffling. Take Narcissius here, a god briefly seen on Mount Olympus early in the movie.
Problem is, Narcissius isn't and never was a god. In most versions of his story, he was born to a river god and a nymph. Ever the self-lover, Narc was tricked into staring at his reflection so long that he died (dying being not something that immortals do very often). Disney completely made up a deity just for a quick offhand joke, one that explicity references the way that hubris helped this character kill himself.
These small asides and one-liners don't mean much, but they're handled so carelessly that they show just how little respect Disney showed to the setting and history of the world they played in.
Phil seems to be an amalgamation of different mythic characters, so Disney got to write their own backstory for him. As it turns out, he was more or less the grizzled Mickey to the Rocky of several heroes. That's an acceptable origin story, except for the part where Phil claims he trained Perseus. See, Perseus also happens to be the son of Zeus. Not only does nobody make a note of the fact that Phil trained Herc's half-brother, but Phil laughs aloud when he hears where his new trainee came from. He doesn't believe that Hercules is the son of Zeus, despite already having admitted to training a son of Zeus.
Another reason this whole Perseus thing is bullshit? Phil claims his dream is to one day see one of his trained heroes get their own constellation. He gets his wish in the end, and Hercules is immortalized in the stars of the night sky. But the thing is, he got his wish twice -- Perseus is already a constellation. Again, just the tiniest piece of dialogue managed to unravel any sense of a cohesive universe.
This is all to say nothing of the real stories of Hercules. Even if the movie did include more than a passing mention of his famous Twelve Labors, Disney would have undoubtedly glossed over the real truth.
If the source material is so lurid, gory and unfamily friendly, why make the movie at all? At some point, you've got to try for accuracy somewhere. To be fair, Disney did make an attempt, just in all the wrong places.
While Meg is singing about definitely sort of maybe not being into Hunkules, she saunters through a beautiful garden with a staggering amount of impressive statues. But the small group of sculptures above are particularly troubling. Take a look at what they're depicting. Yep, all of these statues feature women being carried off against their will. Since carvings don't typically have prequels or sequels, we just have to imagine what happens next -- and especially in this time period, it doesn't end well for the ladies.
What could possibly possess Disney to include these horrific statues? Why, they're historically accurate, of course! There's a long line of Greek and Greek-inspired art that is based in and around women in sexual peril. Let's look at a couple of the individual statues, shall we?
On the left we see the statue as seen in the movie: A satyr attempting to restrain a woman, presumably a nymph, presumably for nefarious purposes. On the right we see an ancient statue of a nymph trying to escape from a satyr, a piece creatively named "Nymph trying to escape from a satyr." Again Disney references the lurid nature of the satyr, the same species which features prominently in their movie, and the same character of which they cast a recognizable movie star.
If you think that's bad, the centaur is even worse.
In many of their iterations, arguably including that of the Harry Potter universe, centaurs are notorious for kidnapping and raping women. You can see it on the right with the statue named "Centaur raping a nymph." Now, originally the word "rape" meant "to seize or carry off," but the word's meaning transformed, probably because everyone knew what was going to happen after the kidnapping. By the time Hercules was in production, the word had already become what it is today.
The point being, the statues in the film almost certainly had to be researched, and they would have come upon the meaning of these statues before deciding to reference them in the film. That, and you know, they probably had to look at what they had done at some point. As a result, it's hard to believe that no one at Disney were oblivious to the true nature of these skeevy statues, and yet they made the cut -- when so much other family-unfriendly material didn't.
Now you can't ever say you haven't seen rape depicted in a Disney film. To be clear, you probably shouldn't make it public that you have, either.