If you had asked me going into this project what my least favorite Disney movie is I would have said Hunchback of Notre Dame. Indeed when I asked my friends on facebook and instagram what their least favorite was Hunchback and Pocahontas were at the top of the list:
To my knowledge I don’t know anyone personally who likes Hunchback (I’m sure they will come out of the woodwork since I said that but I did ask and nobody defended it). And yet online it has lots of fans. I have seen it on numerous top 10 lists and people claiming it is the best Disney ever made. On Amazon it has 230 5 star reviews and only 36 bad reviews.
So what is this separation between the people I know and the online community of Disney fans? I am not sure. It probably has something to do with my being very religious, conservative and family focused. Hunchback is not a great fit for any of those adjectives. It’s tough on religion, morally relativistic and definitely not family friendly, so I suppose it makes sense for it to be at the bottom of most of our lists.
When I first saw it I was 18 and just starting college. I was visiting a friend and we were watching her nephews. In an attempt to placate them we decided to put on a Disney film and Hunchback was there. Boy was I stunned! The kids were completely uninterested in the story and we probably should have turned it off but it was on and I watched in shock as we had a girl dance erotically, characters singing about rape, a deformed man mocked and tied down, and a family nearly burned in their house for no reason. I was stunned! This wasn’t the empowering Disney I had grown to love in Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.
After that unpleasant experience I had no desire to watch it again but this project came and I turned it on last night with an open mind hoping to be dazzled. Unfortunately, while it does have its strengths, and I can see why people love it, it has serious problems and contradictions which make it hard for me to recommend.
You can’t serve 2 masters is the takeaway from this movie.
The strange idea to do an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel Hunchback of Notre Dame came from an executive reading the Classics Illustrated comic book version.
These comic books were published from 1941-1971 and were a fun way to introduce children to classical literature in a format they could absorb easily. I wish they had picked Jane Eyre. That would have been so cool to see with this same type of treatment. They had to know going into it Hunchback was going to be a tough sell at the box office.
Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise from Beauty and the Beast were approached with the idea and they ‘jumped at the chance’ to do something new.
I couldn’t find a ton of other production notes out there on the movie (the behind the scenes video is laughable and not in a good way). But my overall consensus from what I’ve read is the creative minds who had been successful were able to steamroll over the practical considerations of the studio, with a few exceptions.
It seems clear the production team wanted to make a film for adults where the studio wanted Burger King toys, sing along videos and even a ‘my first read along’ for toddlers…yes, Victor Hugo for toddlers!
I really wish Disney had just allowed its team to make a movie for adults because the end result of creativity and commerce mixed together is extremely uneven and frustrating.
Back in the early days of Disney they had darker themes mixed with commercial appeal (think Pleasure Island mixed with Jimminy Cricket) but such a mixture is tough to swallow when your kids are wanting to act out the scenes from a movie where Quasimodo is beaten and tied up with their Burger King hand puppets:
The music is gorgeous with songs and score by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. And the voicecast featuring Demi Moore, Tom Hulce,, Tony Jay and Kevin Kline, is all fine.
I must admit up front to having never read the original novel by Victor Hugo. However, I do understand it enough to know this is a very loose adaptation. The biggest change they make is the villain Frollo is a judge not a priest, which doesn’t make any sense.
In the original story Claude Frollo, as Archdeacon of Notre Dame, had an all consuming power and righteous indignation to condemn anyone he didn’t agree with, and the authority to do something about it.. In the Disney version Frollo chases a gypsy woman to the cathedral and when she dies he almost throws the baby down a well because it is ugly (you know for kids!).
The Archdeacon stops Frollo and as penance for killing the woman and almost killing the baby he insists Frollo raise the child who will live in the cathedral of Notre Dame. Yes, that makes so much sense. An Archdeacon wants a baby to be raised by a madman who wanted him thrown down a well?
If Frollo was the Archdeacon instead of a blah judge it all makes so much more sense for him to take the child in out of guilt over the mother. In a way by ‘trying to not offend Catholics, they do more harm than if they were outright villains. The whole church in the film is an apathetic institution to the suffering of those living within its walls. At least in the novel Frollo is consumed by Satan, which is an interesting conflict for a holy man to have. The Disney version just left me dumbfounded at the Archdeacon’s choices.
Next we see Quasimodo as an adult who is basically a prisoner to the cathedral. Again, why would the Archdeacon allow such a thing? The film does not explain it well enough.
His only friends are 3 gargoyles who come to life making terrible puns. We never really know if they are imaginary or can only talk to Quasimodo or magic or what they are because nobody else can see them but they can shoot people? Even reviewers who love this movie usually agree the gargoyles are the weak spot. It so screams ‘we are trying to make this is for kids’ which is off-putting when the rest of it is so not for kids. Got to pick one or the other Disney not both. Worst of all, they just aren’t funny.
The story gets going when we learn there is a Festival of Fools which Quasimodo has long dreamed of attending but Frollo won’t allow it. Why? Wouldn’t it make more sense for him to abandon Quasi now that he is an adult? He is 20 years old so why does Frollo bother with his charge? I guess just to get a feeling of power but that is never really explained adequately. And again would the Archdeacon allow such treatment of someone in his church? It’s very strange.
Nevertheless, the gargoyles encourage him to go and Quasimodo sings a gorgeous song called Out There
I love that Quasimodo’s voice is normal, unprofessional sounding. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a voice like it in a musical but it is beautiful.
For the first time Quasimodo ignores Frollo’s counsel and goes down for the festival (and why they gave Quasimodo spiderman like abilities to climb up and down the cathedral is beyond me.) Nevertheless, he makes it and is immediately picked by the gypsy Esmeralda as having “the ugliest face in all of Paris” because they think it is a mask. I think we are supposed to like the gypsies but it is hard when they are so cruel to our lead character.
Esmeralda eventually saves Quasimodo after he is tied up, beaten, mocked and thrown food at (you know, for kids!)
Esmeralda then dances for Frollo and the other men in a strange scene. The movie can’t seem to decide if Esmeralda being a sexual object to men is a good thing or bad? Frollo is clearly in the wrong for his lustful reaction but Phoebus can say ‘what a woman’ with no sense of condemnation at all?
Frollo chases Esmerelda but Phoebus refuses to arrest her and she appeals to the Archdeacon for sanctuary in the cathedral. (Again, why does the Archdeacon not do anything more than give sanctuary? In that day and age they had tremendous power!).
Stuck in the church Esmeralda sings the best song in the movie- God Help the Outcast (singing voice Heidi Mollenhauer).
Quasimodo is able to help her escape using his spiderman skills and she gives him a necklace with a map to the gypsies hideout “The Court of Miracles”.
We then get the oddest but well done song of the film where Frollo sings to Mother Mary about his lust for Esmeralda. Tony Jay is very good and it is filled with creepy animation. Perhaps I would like it again if this movie was not marketed to children, but even for adults a song about rape is a tough sell.
The song is called Hellfire and he says
It’s not my fault… I’m not to blame.
It’s the gypsy girl. The witch who sent this flame….
Protect me, Maria
Don’t let this siren cast her spell
Don’t let her fire sear my flesh and bone
And let her taste the fires of hell
Or else let her be mine and mine alone
Now gypsy, it’s your turn
Choose me or
Be mine or you will burn
Hmmm…So he wants to have sex with her but she doesn’t, but he’s going to kill her if she doesn’t. Great we’ve got rape and murder in my Disney movie marketed to kids…(for the record I don’t enjoy adult movies about rape and murder but one even marginally marketed to kids is even worse)
When Frollo finds out about Esmeralda’s escape he does a massive search burning down homes, setting Paris ablaze. (What kind of judge is this? I’m not expert on medieval France but I don’t think this was how it went down? Not even Napoleon could have burned down France looking for a woman)
As captain, Phoebus (a thoroughly undeveloped character) must help Frollo, but we get to a scene where Frollo literally wants to burn a family in their home for being gypsy and nothing else. (you know for kids…)
The fact this movie got a G rating with that kind of violence should convince anyone the rating system is a total joke. Do not pay attention to it!
So Phoebus gets shot with an arrow for not burning down the house and Esmeralda brings him to the cathedral for refuge.
Before they arrive we get a little comic relief that sadly is not comical. The gargoyles are trying to convince Quasimodo that Esmeralda will fall in love with him. It actually comes across as kind of cruel and at best patronizing.
Esmeralda arrives with Phoebus and Quasimodo helps them but also see’s them kiss and his heart is broken. (you know for kids…).
Esmeralda leaves and Frollo comes causing Quasimodo to hide Phoebus under a table while Frollo lies about attacking the Court of Miracles. Again where is the Archdeacon in all this? You would think he would have a lot to say but not until the very end do we see him again.
Quasimodo goes with Phoebus to find the Court of Miracles where the gypsies capture and almost hang them (Aren’t the gypsies supposed to be the moral good in the story or is just everything corrupt except for Quasimodo?)
Frollo follows Quasimodo and arrests all in the Court of Miracles (again do I feel that sorry for them when they were minutes away from hanging our heroes?).
But Frollo wants to burn Esmeralda at the stake and even starts the fire. Quasimodo breaks the chains which Frollo has bound him with in the tower and he and the gargoyles start attacking the crowd watching the burning (I guess they aren’t imaginary then. They are like the toys in toy story who only move in certain conditions?).
The whole final battle is really slapsticky and so off the established adult tone. It’s almost like Home Alone with bricks falling on people’s heads and teeth coming out. It feels so discordant from the rest of the picture.
And then out of nowhere Quasimodo has turned Notre Dame into a molten ore refinery with lava spewing from giant vats out all sides of the tower. It’s bizarre.
The death of Frollo is pretty well done but again not appropriate for children. It’s too scary. It’s too religiously confusing and too tense.
At least the movie has the guts to have Phoebus and Esmeralda together and not Quasimodo. That would have been so lame and I do like the optimistic tone we are left with.
This movie is very hard to grade because it is a failure at what it is trying to do but it has some wonderful moments. I just wish they had made an animated movie for adults and forgotten all the softened edges for kids. As it is, I feel frustrated. The violent moments are too much for kids, they will be bored by a lot of the story and the commentary on religion, madness of crowds and power gets diluted out of a fear of offending people and institutions. But then the comedic moments are all wrong for adults so it is a miss for them too.
The messages in the movie are very muddled. Power is bad, except for when it is used to save others. Discrimination is bad except when it is done by the minority. A hero can oogle a woman dancing but a villain cannot. An Archdeacon can jump in when needed and then be absent when literal crimes are being committed under his roof. How am I supposed to explain even one of these things to a child?
People say ‘well, it’s not for kids’. Well, then don’t market the movie for kids or have kid-friendly elements. Don’t put it on kids meals and make plush toys. Don’t have wise cracking gargoyles and slapstick home alone violence thrown in.
And I’m sorry when you have a song where the lead character is singing about wanting to rape another character that is where I draw the line. I do not want to have to explain such a thing to my child, and especially have to tell her that bad people think rape isn’t their fault but the fault of the vixen who tempted them. Are you kidding me Disney!
Hunchback actually makes me kind of mad because it has so much potential. I wish it was a grand movie just for adults. The animation is certainly stunning. It is layered and beautiful. The stained glass alone is awesome.
The music is also wonderful. If I heard it in a Broadway show meant for adults I would probably love it. But sadly the picture is both too grown up for kids and too childish for grown ups leaving me frustrated. The rape undertones and burning the people in the house were just too much for me to support given the silliness of other elements. Got to pick an audience Disney!
In the end, I admire what they were trying to do but I think it was a failure.
Overall Grade- D
81 thoughts on “Movie 34: Hunchback of Notre Dame”
I love this movie, especially the Hellfire song. Ok, maybe it’s about rape, but Frollo is a pretty bad guy, so the song fits his personality.
I just wish they had gone all the way like Pans Labyrinth did with childrens fantasy and done a hard R. The appeals to kids like the slapstick violence and the gargoyles combined with the rape and murder and adult concepts bothers me. It makes the tone all over the place and hurts the story. They should have picked a side. I’m sure it is more the fault of the studio than anyone else.
But for me it crossed a line and I just cant support a film which was marketed to children (see burger king ad) and has a family bolted in a house about to be burned for doing nothing. Too much.
I can see why you like it and I admire what they were trying to do but it didn’t work for me. 🙂
I see. Yeah, I’m a fan of dark elements and themes in children’s films as long as there’s nothing vulgar: onscreen sex, cursing, gore, etc.
But I wouldn’t let my kid watch this until they were in their teens, at least.
I get what you are saying. I really do. I was pretty sheltered as a kid and it served me quite well. There is plenty of time for kids to learn about rape and murder without it coming from Disney. I guess everyone has to decide what the line is for their particular children.
I have no problem with my children learning about evil. But to me the difference is in for example, the Wizard of Oz has appropriate darker themes where Return to Oz with it’s violent themes does not and was not a good thing for me to watch as a child. A wicked witch is one thing but a woman with a hallway of heads is violent and disturbing, so that’s where I draw my line.
But even if I were to ignore the marketing and approach it as a film for teenagers or adults I still have issues because of the attempts to appeal to kids thrown in, so I feel both audiences are left frustrated (same actually with Return to Oz). It makes the tone all over the place and both the harsh and silly moments stick out like a sore thumb.
I also thought the gypsies were confusing characters. I think we are supposed to like them but then they are mean to Quasimodo and want to hang the trio.
So it isn’t just dark elements I’m opposed to. It’s the extent and how it was combined with childlike elements which left me unsatisfied.
Anyway, I know many are fans and I respect that.
But I sincerely don’t know how you get more violent than bolting a family in a house and setting it on fire. That’s brutal stuff.
And the fact it got a G rating is a complete joke. The MPAA is ridiculous
Yeah, this film could’ve used a PG rating. But, I’m a fan of the MPAA, so I don’t hold them to account, lol.
And come to think of it, I don’t even think the song, “Hellfire”, is about rape. Because Frollo says that if Esmeralda won’t be his, then she’ll burn, i.e. he’ll kill her. So it’s more a song about murder than rape.
It’s about both murder and rape. He will have her no matter what or she will die.
Yeah I think we will have to agree to disagree on the MPAA. Total joke to me. What makes an R is so stupid.
But thanks for commenting and reading! 🙂
Some of my friends thought I should have given it an F, so that just shows how differently people can think about something. Funny.
For me I admire what they are trying to do but don’t think the outcome worked.
I watched this movie when I was around 5-6 and was never disturbed by it. Oddly enough, the things that did scar me were half-rate sequels like Secret of NIMH 2 and All Dogs Go to Heaven 2. The episode of Tale-Spin called “The Balooest of the Blue Bloods” was my definition of horror! I never understood Frollo’s motivations until much
later and it changed the movie completely for me.
“A hero can oogle a woman dancing but a villain cannot.”
Frollo wasn’t being demonized for lusting after Esmeralda. This was actually the only thing he really vilified himself for and it just led to him doing genuinely horrible things due to overreacting and denying the fact that it was particularly natural for him to lust for her when she was trying hard to make men feel that way. Note that Quasimodo lusted after Esmeralda just as much but he accepted that she and Phoebus had chosen each other in the end with no resentment toward either party. THAT is true virtue.
Ha! Those sound horrific. My question was what the animators were trying to say in their seeming condemnation of Frollo’s reaction to Esmeralda while Phoebus gets a ‘what a woman’. You are right about him being self condemnation as far as the plot but it seemed the animators were sending a mixed message. Both men are lusting after Esmeralda yet one is shown in a positive light and another is not? That’s what I was wondering about.
Didn’t you think the tone was all over the place? That didn’t bother you at all? Most people even if they like it admit the attempts to appeal to children (gargoyles, slapstick violence) weaken the picture. I also didn’t understand why they made the gypsies so unlikable. They almost hang Pheobus, Esmeralda and Quasimodo. Aren’t we supposed to be rooting for them?
It’s a very beautiful movie and I want to like it more but it just goes a step too far for me. Especially the burning the house scene is just too much. I do love the song Out There so there are some things I like about the picture. Not an F. I wish it had been made all adult and I would have less issues.
But that’s just me. I guess I’m a softie. 🙂
I agree about the gypsies.
I haven’t actually seen the movie from beginning to end since I was around 11. I didn’t think about tone then. I liked the whole movie as a child, but mostly just because I found the story interesting. I didn’t realize it was so targeted towards adults until it was pointed out somewhere else.
Cool. Would be interesting to know what you think if you get to do a rewatch. Just shows every kid is different. I can only say what my reaction was but I know many love it and I can see why.
I rewatched the movie on Netflix Instant last night. My opinion has not changed very much. I think it is a very well-done dramatic story, and you’re right that it seems more aimed at adults than children.
My opinion can’t help but be colored by the fact that I watched it as a child and I thought it worked well. I think I’ve always liked dramatic stories, and I’m not interested in the marketing for the movie in 1996 because it has nothing to do with the actual film. The main reason the movie worked for me was because of what a sympathetic character Quasimodo was. Out There is an amazing song, I’ve always loved it, and I think they did a very good job making Quasimodo likable.
But I was different from those kids you described because I actively tried to watch every Disney movie and I paid close attention to them trying to like every one. Atlantis: The Lost Empire is the only one I really hated. I couldn’t identify with Milo at all and I found the story boring and I thought the movie was clearly made for grown-ups, without much in it to like for kids.
I wasn’t disturbed by anything in the movie either. Quasimodo getting pelted by tomatoes was just a typical sad scene for me, and Frollo burning the mill was just a typical bad-guy thing for me that never stood out as interesting. (Also Frollo did not want them killed for being gypsies, they weren’t but he wanted them dead for sheltering gypsies.) I thought Frollo’s death was typical and much less disturbing than Clayton’s in Tarzan. And of course I didn’t understand Hellfire or that Frollo was lusting after Esmeralda. I assumed everything he says about wanting to have her referred to wanting to keep her as a prisoner, and his “burning desire” to kill her.
I have to admit even re-watching it, I didn’t really mind the gargoyles. I actually liked them as a kid, because they were just the typical Disney sidekick comic relief. They’re the strongest “Disney” element in the film, and it amazes me they were so controversial simply because they were such common archetypes in the Disney films of the 90’s, and no one ever cared except in this movie simply because of how dramatic the storyline was. Victor, Hugo, and Laverne all have distinctive personalities and I think it is undeniable that they are mere reflections of Quasimodo’s subconscious (though this is something I didn’t pick up on as a child either). Quasimodo has no company most of the time and is stuck in arrested development. They basically act as stuffed animals, projections of his own personality. Even at the end I think Quasimodo was obviously doing their part in the battle and simply imagining that they were participating. From a story perspective they provide someone for him to talk to and provide useful plot information as to the Festival of Fools. Even “A Guy Like You” is not particularly egregious because it is a catchy upbeat song, and this just illustrates the tragedy of Quasimodo convincing himself over and over than his luck has come, only to have his dreams immediately shattered when Esmeralda returns and he watches her and Phoebus. The quick tonal change is actually very effective here. I do think they should have left the movie at “We’re only made of stone, we just thought you were made of something stronger”. I especially hate that the movie ends with a gargoyle joke.
As to the Archdeacon, an interesting opinion I’ve heard from fans is that the Archdeacon, while seeming a kindly man, was really only concerned with the reputation of the Church. Note that his condemnation of Frollo at the beginning relies on “See here the innocent blood you have spilt on the steps of Notre Dame/You never can run nor hide what you’ve done from The Eyes, The very Eyes of Notre Dame!” and only briefly assures Esmeralda that Frollo learned to respect the sanctity of the Church before wandering off. Then he is nowhere to be found when Frollo is burning Paris, and only appears at the end to yell “I will not tolerate this assault on the House of God!” (Another theory is that he is a manifestation of Frollo’s conscience, but this doesn’t work because we see him talking to Esmeralda.)
I think Phoebus is a good character, actually, and I can see why Esmeralda chooses him instead of Quasimodo. But I don’t really know why you were happy about this. I feel uncomfortable discussing some aspects with you because you said you are deeply religious and I will say that the movie more shows how sinful humans acting in God’s name can harm the Church. To conclude, I still see this as a better version of what Atlantis: The Lost Empire was trying to do, and it makes me want to read the Victor Hugo novel. So, what DID you think of Confused Matthew’s review of The Incredibles?
Thanks so much for sharing an alternative point of view . It certainly is a valid interpretation. There isn’t one way to look at a film and so having these discussions helps you see a different perspective . It was too much for me as a kid and now as well. I know many feel differently so that’s fine.
I only mentioned the marketing because some people claim the movie was never intended for children at all but clearly by the marketing we can see that is not the case. They clearly made the movie with the intent to appeal to children which I suppose in your case worked. That’s great.
I always say the great thing about Disney is there is something for everyone. To me Atlantis and this are a million worlds apart. One is a Victorian intense drama and another is a fantastical action adventure. It’s like comparing Indiana Jones and Christmas Carol.
I like Out There and few of the other songs but I still feel it swings to radically in tone and I was not able to absorb the house burning or Hellfire like you were. I don’t judge you for that. It’s just a different interpretation. Don’t worry about discussing religious themes with me. I will not be offended. It just seems to me they made the change from Frollo being the Archdeacon in the book to a Judge to not offend the Catholic church (they were clear in publicity that’s why they did it) and by making the Archdeacon so passive (or as you say only worrying about appearance of church) makes the church look even worse. At least to me apathy is almost worse than outright evil.
But it’s just a different take on a piece of art. That happens and it’s ok. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I will ponder each of your points and perhaps watch it again with that in mind. My opinions are not fixed points but can grow and change. That’s why I like the discussion. I still think it would have been much better if they had gone all adult like Pans Labyrinth which dared to do a fantasy story with an R rating and it is awesome (different genre but the principal would have worked better in this movie).
But again just me. I responded so differently at every age so far but I’m glad it moved you and inspired your creativity. That’s great.
The only thing I can say for the MPAA is that they’re better than the Hays Office.
I never heard of Hays Office but just looked it up. Yikes. But sometimes I think studios were forced to be more creative with those high standards and now they can put anything in it can be less subtle and less effective. Yet, all in all, I’m glad we have freedom to produce content artists are inspired to create even if adult in nature and we as consumers can decide. I just wouldn’t use the MPAA as a guide for judging the content. I use Screenit.com instead and do quite well in avoiding content which I do not want to watch.
Thanks for bringing all that up. I learned something!
One last memory I’d like to share is once when I was at the YMCA when I was about 8, I had an illustrated book version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I sat at the large fountain reading it. Then a young woman in her early 20s sat down next to me and started a conversation, and soon enough she started reading from the book to me. Then slowly a whole crowd of kids gathered on the fountain to listen to her read.
It was the strangest experience I’ve ever had.
Also you did not answer my last question. If you decided not to watch the review then just forget it.
Cool. That’s a neat story.
The Confused Matthew review I honestly wasn’t a fan of. It seemed like click baiting to me and most of his points were reaching at best. He certainly wasn’t able to convince me the Incredibles is mean spirited and cynical. It’s got a pretty intense villain but it’s also about a family that loves each other. It is also a movie about work and how what we do every day needs to be something that inspires us. I love movies about work.
But if you like or don’t like it then that’s fine. Life goes on and there are plenty of other films to watch and enjoy.
Hunchback just isn’t my favorite but I know it is up there for many people. That’s awesome. I’m sincerely glad they found a movie they respond too. In general I want to be an advocate for film. I don’t want to just criticize everything so I try to find the positive and there were things I liked in Hunchback. So we can agree on those good parts. 🙂
I agree…some elements, mainly the score and the animation are really, really good. Top notch. As is the villain. But the end result is just a mess. I think it depends on how forgiving you are towards plot problems…I am not, so Hunchback is pretty low on my list, too, though by far not as low as movies like Dinosaur. I rather take a mess with ambition than something boring and bland.
I’m actually the same. Already I’ve reviewed 4 or 5 with lower grades than hunchback (D- no total failures yet). I agree. It is a tonal mess but I admire what they were trying to do. But I agree I’d rather see this (without kids) than a lazy effort like The Aristocats.
Oh, I like the Aristocats…call it my guilty pleasure. I wouldn’t call it lazy, it is just more geared towards children then the common Disney movie. I actually discussed Duchess just two reviews earlier.
Cool. To me it seemed very derivative of 101 Dalmatians and lady and the tramp. Thats what felt lazy to me. You’ll see on my review. Everyone is allowed their guilty pleasure 🙂
Mmph, now that I read your review, I have a better understanding of the comment you left on my review, and I cannot say that I disagree with a lot of it. Personally, my little cousins did not want to watch the movie because Quasimodo is ugly (I know, so awful), not because it is scary or violent. I personally think there are films in the canon that are more violent, but to each their own. I don’t know how the hell this film got a G rating either, whereas Tangled and Wreck-it Ralph got a PG rating.
I think Frollo raises Quasimodo to balance the karmic scales, and for a debt not only to the Archedeaon (whom after reading your review, he is not a very good one), but to God.
I don’t feel bad for Quasimodo at all when it comes to Esmeralda and Phoebus. The two met before either even met Quasimodo, and she did not owe him anything in that aspect. I don’t get how her kissing Phoebus would be too much or traumatic for children. I think the difference is that Phoebus likes her as a person and likes her kickassery, while Frollo sees her as a tool, and Quasi idolizes her.
I think the biggest issue with the film is that they have the wrong protagonist. After the first third, the film ends up being about Esmeralda. Think about it, If she was the protagonist, we could spend more time with the gypsies to feel sympathy for them, develop her relationship with Phoebus, develop Phoebus, and to take off some focus from Quasimodo (since he is not strong enough as a character to hold a story), though he can still have his plot.
I definitely do understand why you dislike this film, and the fact that you are very religious only adds to that. Great review, though I don’t agree with everything about it.
Very good point about the wrong protagonist. I agree.
I don’t have a problem with the kissing Phoebus and it isn’t traumatic. I was actually glad she didn’t end up with Quasimodo. I just felt the messaging in the film was a little bit muddled. But I have given lower grades than this film so it is not a total failure. No Disney so far has been an F. They all have good things.
Oh. I thought that is what you were saying when it came to the kiss part of the film. I just misinterpreted it I guess. I have never given a Disney film a failing grade either (lower than 50).
I read over it again and I did say that about the kiss. You are right. It is a sad moment for the character of quasimodo because of the song the the gargoyles sing building him up that she will love him. That’s a complicated emotion for a kid to sift through but I suppose not bad to think about. Perhaps I overstated the situation in my review. Thanks for helping me clarify.
As far as the ending I’m gald Phoebus and Esmerelda ended up together.
I just couldn’t tell whether the movie thought Esmerelda’s dancing was empowering or demeaning. Seemed to be saying both but not a big issue of the film
Well, I would say even the not as popular films of the Renaissance era were enjoyable too. I guess maybe if I had to choose, I would likely say this one. But if not, I’d go ahead and give it a pass. The music was great, the animation was awesome, and I liked how the people ended up eventually accepting him. Now, if this film fell more along the lines of the book, I definitely would hate it for sure. As far as Phoebus and Esmeralda goes, I don’t know, I wish it had been Esmeralda and Quasimodo together only because 1) he had a rough life and it probably makes sense because of that and 2) there probably wouldn’t have been a need for the sequel that came out 6 years later. Honestly, I think it was likely because Quasimodo didn’t end up with Esmeralda or anyone else for that matter that Disney decided to come out with the sequel. That is since he and that Madellaine girl end up together surprisingly. Oh, and is it strange to say that I kind of wish that Frollo had repented and become good at the end?
I’ve heard the sequel is really bad. The Disney sequels from the 90s and 2000s are for the most part very bad so I’d be hesitant in lumping them in with any judgement of the original films.
I can see your point about Quasimodo but I don’t mind them not getting together in the end. I just wish we had gotten to know Phoebus better. I wish they had stuck with Frollo being the Archdeacon. There decision to make him a judge didnt really make sense and made the archdeacon in the film seem very apathetic to Quasi.
They just didn’t go far enough. They should have gone all grown up if tackling this material and not tried to please everyone thereby pleasing no one.
But I agree the animation is stunning and the music is good even if I’m not crazy for Hellfire.
Well, I’m glad you agree on some of that. Yes, you’re definitely right about most of the sequels to the Disney films that came out in the 90s and 2000s. Though, to be fair, Return Of Jafar and Aladdin & The King Of Thieves were at least the only better direct-to-video sequels. Oh, and for the gargoyles, I liked them, but they’re definitely not as funny as say Mushu or Term or some of those other side characters.
I like Cinderella 3 and the little mermaid sequels too!
On, and one more thing! A Guy Lime You was the on so g in the film that I didn’t like. That is, since they were singing about how Esmeralda loves him, which turned out to be a lie in the end. Oh well!
Yeah that song was so tonally off. The gargoyles are a huge problem for me but especially in that song. It makes no sense for the arc of the story or the characters.
My friend Ashton liked Cinderella 2 and 3 as well. I haven’t seen either, but he’s recommended them. So here’s hoping I check them out soon. I’ve seen Little Mermaid 2. I haven’t seen Ariel’s Beginning. Just curious, between Little Mermaid 2 and Ariel’s Beginning, which one would you say you like the best?
Cinderella 3 is a lot better than 2. In it lady tremaine goes back in time and changes everything so Anastasia is marrying the prince.
I think the second little mermaid is best but the prequel is fun too. The Aladdin sequels are good so I guess there are some but a lot like Bambi 2 that just don’t need to exist. The Tinker Bell movies are good
I haven’t seen any of the Tinker Bell movies. So I’ll try to see some of those soon. Yeah, I’m glad they decided to quit making direct-to-video sequels after Ariel’s Beginning.
If you have a little girl to watch them with you will probably like them even better because they are so well made for that age group. I’ve enjoyed watching them with my nieces.
Well, as far as the sequel to Hunchback of Notre Dame goes, I wouldn’t say it was necessarily bad, but definitely mediocre to say the least. You want to know what a bad direct-to-video Disney sequel was though? Did you ever see 101 Dalmatians 2: Patch’s London Adventure? I would say of all the Disney direct-to-video sequels that I’ve seen so far, I definitely liked that one the least. But on the bright side, you know what else was an enjoyable Disney sequel? Lady & The Tramp 2: Scamp’s Adventure. As for Lion King 2, I’d say that one was at least decent, but definitely does not hold a candle up to the original, that’s for sure.
You’ve seen all the sequels it seems! I do remember the Lion King sequels were ok. Been a while. 101 Dalmatians 2 sounds awful. I’ve seen the live action sequel…dreck.
It was just a cash grab, bad idea to do most of those sequels instead of having something new to say or add.
Well, I haven’t seen quite all of them. There have been a few that I still have yet to see. For instance, I haven’t seen Cinderella 2 or 3, Fox & The Hound 2, Pocahontas 2, Ariel’s Beginning, Bambi 2, or any of the Lilo & Stitch sequels. There may be few others that haven’t come to my head, but like I said, I haven’t seen all of them quite yet. Just curious, I know you mentioned you’ve seen both of the Cinderella sequels, but have you seen say the second Lady & The Tramp or any of the ones that I mentioned that I mentioned that I haven’t seen just now?
Pocahontas 2…wowzers so bad. I haven’t seen the Lady and the Tramp one but it doesn’t look terrible on a Saturday morning cartoon level. I’ve seen Return to Neverland and that was pretty good. Bambi 2 is awful. Fox and the Hound is basically the same movie made over again. I can’t remember what other one’s you asked about? Pixar seems to pull off the sequel better than Disney.
Well, I know you mentioned you saw Ariel’s Beginning and Little Mermaid. Well, I also asked if you saw any of the Lilo & Stitch sequels. Really, Pocahontas 2 was that bad, eh? Well, good thing I haven’t seen it yet. Yes, so true, Pixar definitely pulls a sequel better than Disney for the most part (except for Cars 2, that is, but even than was likely even a little bit better). Oh, I forgot to ask, did you see The Jungle Book 2?
I haven’t seen the Lilo and Stitch sequel or Jungle Book 2. So many sequels so little time 😉
Cars 2 was a mess but there were a few things I liked about it. I think because Pixar had set the bar so high people are pretty tough on it and on Brave, which although far from perfect had some things I liked.
Yeah Pocahontas 2 is really that bad. It looks awful, total revisionist history (even worse than original) and terrible music too. It’s just bad.
Glad to know! I have a couple little girl nieces, but that’s it. So here’s hoping I can watch a couple or few with them sometime soon.
I wish mine lived closer and we could have tons of fun with Disney.
Wow, sorry Pocahontas 2 was that bad. Well, glad that was one of the Disney sequels I haven’t seen then. I’ll definitely avoid that one if at all possible.
Well, as far as Frollo goes, I don’t think it was so much his lustful reaction for Esmeralda that was bad as it was that he was willing to go to such violent needs to get what he wanted in the end, you know? But that’s my take on it at least. I’d be curious to hear your take on that.
Definitely that’s true in the movie as a whole but in the dancing sequence I just found the way the 2 characters were treated was interesting
But I may be reading too much into the scene. It just struck me as strange when I saw it. It’s just such an unpleasant film mixed with strange attempts at comedy that isn’t for me. I always say there is something for everyone with Disney
Kirksroom, now to be fair, I actually liked Atlantis mainly since I could identify with Milo Thatch. Also, I disagree about Atlantis being made only for adults. Do I think it’s a little too violent for a Disney film? Very much so. However, if you think that one is made for adults, I suggest you watch Titan A.E. Chances are, if you were to watch that one, you might find that Atlantis is clearly made for kids more so than one might think, even if it’s not as kid friendly as most other Disney films in general. But that’s my take on it. I only say that since Titan A.E. was likely way more violent than Atlantis easily by the blood alone. My friend Keith even said that it should’ve been rated PG-13, and I tend to agree. Anyway, watch it and feel free to let me know what you think.
Yeah I think Atlantis and Hunchback are probably Disney’s most divisive films. You either go with what they were trying to do and the creative risks they took or you dont. I think we can all agree it’s great they took such risks instead of bland predictable stuff even if we quibble on the end product.
I felt Atlantis was made only for adults when I was a very young child. It wasn’t just due to the violence, I just got that general impression that it was a serious story for adults. And I tried to like it when I was a kid, I actually did, I just found myself hating it more and more.
You’re probably right about Titan A.E., which I know as Don Bluth’s last film, but I really have no interest in seeing that movie at all.
It’s all good. We all have different tastes. I respect that
I respect that we all have different tastes too. Oh, and as far as the thing about Clopin and the gypsies almost hanging Quasimodo and Phoebus goes, I thought they did that because they thought they were spies sent by Frollo. I mean if you were either in Clopin’s, or most of the other gypsies positions and though that, wouldn’t you have likely done the same thing? Of course Esmeralda stops them thankfully, but I’m just saying.
Yeah it just makes them hard to root for the way they treat Quasi in the square and hanging them. They have their reasons but I just feel like their behavior is one more thing in the picture that feels dark and unlikable
Once again, I have to agree to disagree. Despite its flaws, I actually like this movie quite a bit. And by that, I pretty much agree with Doug Walker 100% when it comes to the parts I like and the parts I dislike. I actually saw it when I was 18 and found myself reminded in a good way of Disney’s Renaissance hits through the animation, songs, music and characters. Even more so, I caught it at an age when I was feeling very insecure about life and felt myself slipping into the characters’ places. And again, my hobby is medievalism and from that standpoint, it’s a visual and musical treat.
I love Quasimodo, I love Esmeralda, Clopin and Phoebus; and Frollo is probably one of the most sinister and complex animated villains of all time! I will say that the Gargoyles are possibly a figment of Quasimodo’s imagination as his Id, Ego and Superego, even the battle is pretty much an embellishment of Quasi’s imagination, even if they don’t work as comic relief. It probably is far too scary for small children, but a teenager might see something in how many risks it takes, even if it means putting up with the Gargoyles. Granted, they probably shouldn’t have marketed it for children, but those days are behind us. I find myself forgiving its clunkiness given that it’s an adaptation of one of Victor Hugo’s darkest books. Perhaps not as accessible as many other Disney films and I will give you its flaws, but as a curiosity I say it’s worth a watch for all the parts I highlighted.
Definitely worth a watch (didn’t give it an F). I totally get what you are saying and can see why you would respond that way. I love what they were trying to do and appreciate the risks and the animation is some of Disney’s best. I just wish they had gone all adult like Pans Labyrinth made a fantasy for adults. Trying to appeal to both kids and adults (not just the marketing but the story) kind of spoils it for me but definitely a lot of positive attributes and worth a watch. My Disney canon scores are a little different than the rest. Given movies as a whole it would get higher than a D but compared to other Disneys its a lesser favorite. If I was comparing it to movies in general than I would give mostly As and Bs. There are only 4 Disney movies I really dislike and wouldn’t want to watch again.
I think the fact I first saw it with my friends little nephews and it was so shocking and awkward makes a difference. If I saw jt alone or with my girlfriends I might be more receptive. Still think it goes too far for a Disney movie. But like I said I totally get why you love it. I know we have films we agree on. I only gave 11 Ds and Fs in my Disney Canon out of 54. 🙂
True, true. In fact, I oftentimes wonder if Hunchback and Pocahontas would have been better served if released under the Touchstone brand, with the creative freedom to go as dark as they want to and thus create a niche of more adult animated films. Granted, the Disney animated canon would loose out, but better that than be ravaged by critics for going too dark for a family movie.
I agree. It was probably the way to go. It’s what they did with Nightmare Before Christmas and that worked out great. The artists wouldn’t have felt the pressure to include the kid elements and could have just made an adult film like Studio Ghibli did at that time. They are all grown up. I also think Disney was desperate to recapture the hit of Lion King which had these deep themes with slapstick. But I think it’s different when you are dealing with lions.
Hunchback is definitely better than Pocahontas for sure which I almost gave an F too.
This is my favourite Disney movie. I know it has flaws, and it’s tonally weird, and there are plotholes, but the animation, songs and characters are flawless. I’m such a sucker for the Latin choir. Also, Phoebus doesn’t say ‘what a woman’ during the dance scene. He says this as she’s fighting off the guards and almost knocks him out with a helmet, so I think that he’s appreciating how badass she is.
Thanks for your comment. You may be right about Phoebus. The animation is great and I can totally see why it would be your favorite. I disagree about the characters but the music is really stirring. If they had just either gone all the way and made it for adults only or toned it down for kids I could embrace it because it does have elements that I love. That said I get why it would be your favorite. Thanks
Hunchback wasn’t my favorite Disney film. Like you said, it had potential, but something was off. However, I absolutely loved the opening scene (The music, the drama, the backstory). To me, its the best part of the film. As been a die-hard Disney fan, I bought Hunchback of Notre Dame on Blu-Ray only to watch the first seven minutes.
the animation is gorgeous throughout. No doubt about it. I also love songs like God Love’s the Outcast and Out There. It has real strengths so that’s why I can’t completely pan it. If I was judging it based on films at large I would probably give it a C but against other Disney movies that are more even in tone and story it is on the low side of things despite many strengths. But I’ve thought about getting the blu-ray just for those things I do like.
You proberbly won’t read this because it’s so old, but i feel like I had to say something.. I couldn’t resist.
I don’t like that you focused so much on it being a movie for kids. You weren’t a kid, you watched it when you were 18 for the first time. I strongly believe kids and adults get something different out of this movie. Because it isn’t a movie ONLY for kids.
– Yeah ok, so disney made kids toys, but that doesn’t mean the movie itself isn’t suited for adults too.
When i watched it for the first time i was a kid (don’t remeber how old) but i didn’t understand the deapth of Frollo and Hellfire. I was not harmed, but i do understand if some kids find it scary, but! He is supposed to be and he clearly is. As a kid might have thought the scene where he sniffs Esmarelda’s hair as weird, but now? Boy oh boy, it’s so creepy and disguting i almost want to fastforward over that part of the movie, I don’t tho. Do i dislike it? Yes! Did i wish it wasn’t in the movie? No. Because it makes Frollo much more evil and much more sinister. Lowkey think it’s one of disneys best villans.
Disney movies are often times really sad, and i cry more to them as an adult as i ever did as a kid. I understand them much better and much different than what i did before. If “kids movies” are okay with being sad = making kids sad. I think it’s fine if they make movies scary too, of course it should never be gore or something like that. It’s not a horror movie.
But i like the sinister characters e.g. Scar and Frollo.
I get that you might not like it for religious reasons, I’m not that religious so it doesn’t bother me.
I love the choir in this movie, it gives the movie so much! It would not have given as good an effect if the story had been more gentle for “kids” to enjoy. It needs drama to be that epic.
Other than that i really love the animation, but man the music in this one is amazing.
Bells of Notre Dame gives me chills!
It’s so different from the rest of disney movies, both in story and in music. There is nothing like this one. I like it so much more as an adult than i did as a kid.
p.s. I like to think the gargoyles are his imagination.