By Jocelyn Buhlman
Sometimes you’re born a princess, and sometimes you’re born a street rat. But no matter your status in life, there’s always a chance to save the day—just look at Hercules. Celebrating its 20th anniversary today, Hercules tells the mythical tale of an orphan boy turned demigod. But he’s not the only Disney character who turned his story from “zero” to “hero.” We’ve rounded up our favorite characters who stepped up to save the day—and change their lives.
Hercules, Hercules (1997)
He’s the original zero who became a hero, the one who put the “glad” in gladiator—Hercules! While he was always a demigod, it took a lot of training—and a whole lot of monster fighting—before Hercules reached the status of a true hero.
Moana and Maui, Moana (2016)
You may think that Maui, Shapeshifter, Demigod of the Wind and Sea, Hero of Man (and Woman) would not have started as a “zero,” but it turns out that this demigod has a lot to learn before he becomes a true hero. After he loses his magical fish hook, Maui teams up with Moana, a chief’s daughter, who is anxious to prove herself as a wayfinder. Through their adventure to return the Heart of Te Fiti, they discover what it takes for both of them to be heroes in their own ways.
Milo Thatch, Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Milo Thatch used to be a laughingstock for his obsession with the lost city of Atlantis while as a linguist for the Smithsonian Institute, but when he was hired for a real expedition to Atlantis, he had the last laugh. Not only was he able to pursue his life dream of uncovering the ancient city, but he also helped save Atlantis and its people from the greedy schemes of Lyle Rourke.
Aladdin, Aladdin (1992)
Aladdin spent a lot of his life believing he would be nothing more than a street rat, but with the help of a magical genie (and several stunning musical numbers), Aladdin became a prince—and not just because he wished it! After he and Princess Jasmine defeated the evil sorcerer Jafar, they were able to pursue their romance and get married, making Aladdin a real prince, and a real hero!
Kristoff, Frozen (2013)
Originally a simple ice harvester with no friends besides his reindeer, Sven, Kristoff faced an unexpected opportunity to become a hero when Queen Elsa froze all of Arendelle. Teaming up with Elsa’s sister, Anna, Kristoff helped free Arendelle from its permanent winter and stopped devious forces from attempting to take over the kingdom.
Mulan, Mulan (1998)
Mulan thought she could never be a perfect daughter because she couldn’t act the way she was expected to—but then she found a place where she fit in. Going to war in place of her father not only allowed Mulan to become a hero, but to find the confidence within herself to be the person she was meant to be, and not the person everyone else expected her to be.
Wart/Arthur, The Sword in the Stone (1963)
Aspiring to squiredom, a young boy named Wart studied under the tutelage of the wizard Merlin while wishing for a bigger role in life, such as to become a knight. His dreams gave way to an even bigger reality when Wart unknowingly pulled a sword out of a stone—and becomes the famed King Arthur!
Princess Tiana, The Princess and the Frog (2009)
While Tiana started as a workaholic waitress, it was her adventures as a frog that gave her a chance to save the day. Not only was she able to defeat Dr. Facilier, but, with help from her new friends, she bought her dream restaurant and was able to finally open “Tiana’s Palace.”
Judy Hopps, Zootopia (2016)
Before Judy Hopps joined Zootopia’s police force, most everyone believed that bunnies couldn’t be cops. While Judy always knew that she could fit in with the team, it wasn’t until she exposed major corruption within Zootopia’s mayoral office and stopped a horrible plot to turn animals against each other that she was able to prove to the world that she belongs on the police force. Now, she not only fits in, but is considered a hero for her work in protecting Zootopia.
Mickey Mouse, The Brave Little Tailor (1938)
Mickey played the role of a simple tailor in this classic animated short, whose only accomplishment was killing seven flies at once. When that feat is mistaken as killing seven giants at once, Mickey is appointed the “Royal High Killer of the Giant.” While at first Mickey is discouraged by the enormity of the task in front of him, using his wits and his sewing abilities, Mickey is able to take down the giant and free the people of the land!