Flashback Review: The Hunchback Of Notre Dame

After “Pocahontas” came out in 1995 alongside “A Goofy Movie” & “Toy Story,” Disney immediately commenced development on their next project titled, “The Hunchback Of Notre.” An adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel, the company challenge themselves to adapt a novel with dark material containing controversial themes like racism, religion and sadism. They also added original material without parents sending angry letters. Remember “Batman Returns” sparked controversy over its darker tone from parents complaining about its content? After a long process, the film was officially distributed worldwide.

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame was released in 1996. (same year Matilda came out) It received positive reviews from critics, families and movie goers alike. In addition to decent reception, the film made enough money at the box office. An unnecessary direct-to-video sequel titled, “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame II” came out in 2002. Unlike the first film, the sequel horrendously bad.

As you may know, a live action remake starring Josh Gad (Olaf from Frozen) as Quasimodo will be release in the future. Something tells me it’s gonna suck. Before this future Razzie winner comes out, I wanna share my thoughts on the animated version of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.

It doesn’t matter if SPOILERS are present. Us 90s Babies grew up in The Disney Renaissance. Does The Hunchback Of Notre Dame still holds up? Let’s find out shall we?

Forgiveness & Sinful Aspects

Forgiveness: Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, Jason Alexander & the late Tony Jay all did an excellent job for their respective voiceover performances.

Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise both did a great job directing.

Animation‘s hand drawn format is timeless.

Musical Numbers are unforgettable except the song with the gargoyles known as “A Guy Like You.” My favorite is “God Help The Outcasts.” Thank goodness the singing isn’t god awful like Russell Crowe’s performance in “Les Misérables.”

Disney veteran composer Alan Menken orchestrated the music.

Judge Claude Frollo is arguably one of the best Disney villains. Like antagonistic a-holes Amon Goth (Schindler’s List) Hans Landa, (Inglorious Basterds) & Calvin Candie, (Inglorious Basterds) Frollo is a racist, manipulative, hypocritical, misogynist, sociopath an one sick bastard. Like Scar from “The Lion King,” every time you see Frollo onscreen, makes you wanna punch the prick in the face.

Character Development involving Quasimodo. As the film progresses, he stands up to himself against Frollo. Risking his life to save Esmeralda with help from Phoebus and the gargoyles.

Chemistry between Quasimodo, Esmeralda & Phoebus serves as one of the main highlights. Quasimodo’s interactions with them moves the story forward.

I can’t believe Disney got away with Esmeralda pole dancing with clothes on. Demi’s Razzie winning film “Striptease” came out in 1996. There’s a reason why Ashton Kutcher married her.

Primary Themes are Discrimination, Religion, Sadism, Acceptance, Friendship & Freedom. For a Disney film, each theme is handled maturely.

The only joke that made me laugh is Esmeralda saying “You sneaky son of a..” followed by Phoebus interjecting “Watch it, you’re in a church.”

If you have a good ear, Jim Cummings (Winnie The Pooh) & Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick Star) have voiceover roles as guards. It’s funny they play against types as bad guys.

Phoebus’s horse is named, Achilles. A Greek hero of The Trojan War. Two Years Later, “Hercules” came out.

Opening Scene establishes Quasimodo as a kind and gentle guy helping a baby bird leave with its family. Frollo is a racist sociopathic douchebag who murders Quasimodo’s mother. At first, he attempted to murder a baby Quasimodo. He changes his mind, if he crosses the line, he’ll go straight to hell.

Frollo’s death from a statue coming to life as a demon from hell is one of the most satisfying scenes in movie history. As a kid I shouted YAY! Now that I’m older, I can quote Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker” shouting “You get what you f**king deserve!”

Unlike many previous Disney animated films, Quasimodo doesn’t win Esmeralda’s heart. A refreshing take on two people not forced as a couple, but they share a platonic relationship. Talk about a breath of fresh air.

Sinful: The Tone & Humor is problematic when it comes to gargoyle statues providing comic relief. I don’t have a problem with them. Just the dramatic and comedic balance can’t decide whether to take itself seriously or not. Imagine if “Teen Titans Go” shows up in Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker? Would that work. Absolutely not.

Computer Animation with extras in the background look fake like Cardi B’s inflated backside.

I didn’t cry when Frollo refuses to stop the crowd from bullying Quasimodo. Disney movies never made me cry.

The Final Verdict: B, FOR BREATHTAKING!

Despite my three gripes, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame still holds up as one of my favorite Disney films from The Disney Renaissance. I was gonna give it a B-, but thanks to Disney taking a big gamble adapting a dark novel into an animated musical, it deserves a B. If you wanna introduce your kids before the upcoming remake, (it’s gonna suck) I highly recommend it. I’m not sure about the remake with Josh Gad. I think it’s gonna tone down the dark subject matter like a dog getting spayed and neutered.

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