The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996 film)
|The Hunchback of Notre Dame|
Theatrical poster by John Alvin
|Directed by||Gary Trousdale
|Produced by||Don Hahn|
|Written by||Tab Murphy
|Based on||The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
by Victor Hugo
|Narrated by||Paul Kandel|
David Ogden Stiers
|Music by||Alan Menken|
|Editing by||Ellen Keneshea|
|Studio||Walt Disney Feature Animation|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Pictures
Buena Vista Distribution
|Running time||91 minutes|
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1996 American animated musical drama-romance film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released to theaters on June 21, 1996 by Walt Disney Pictures. The 34th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film is loosely based on Victor Hugo's novel of the same name. The plot centers on Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer of Notre Dame and his struggle to gain acceptance into society.
The film is directed by Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale and produced by Don Hahn. The songs for the film were composed by Alan Menken and written by Stephen Schwartz, and the film features the voices of Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, Paul Kandel, Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough, David Ogden Stiers, Tony Jay, and Mary Wickes (in her final film role). It belongs to the era known as Disney Renaissance, which refers to the ten-year era between 1989 and 1999 when the Walt Disney Animation Studios returned to making successful animated films, recreating a public and critical interest in the Disney studios. The film is considered to be one of Disney's darkest animated motion pictures similar to films such as The Black Cauldron and released during the same period of time in the 1990s that the first-run episodes of Disney's still-popular Gargoyles, with a similar degree of "darkness" in its own storyline, were airing on American television.
A direct-to-video sequel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, was released in 2002.
In 1482 Paris, Clopin, a gypsy puppeteer, narrates the origin of the titular hunchback. A group of gypsies sneak illegally into Paris, but are ambushed by Judge Claude Frollo, the minister of justice, and his guards. A gypsy woman in the group attempts to flee with her deformed baby, but Frollo pursues and kills her outside Notre Dame. He tries to kill the baby as well, saying that it is an "unholy demon" from Hell, but is confronted by the cathedral's archdeacon, who accuses Frollo of murdering an innocent woman. To atone for his sin, Frollo agrees to raise the deformed child in Notre Dame as his son, naming him Quasimodo.
Twenty years later, Quasimodo develops into a kind yet isolated young man who dreams of seeing life outside the bell tower, but is told by Frollo that he is a monster and would be rejected by the outside world. Three living stone gargoyles serve as Quasimodo's only company and friends. The gargoyles encourage Quasimodo to attend the annually-held Festival of Fools. He goes but is stopped by Frollo who says he should stay inside the bell tower and forgives Quasimodo. Ignoring Frollo's advisories, Quasimodo attends the festival and he is celebrated for his bizarre appearance, only to be humiliated by the crowd after Frollo's men start a riot. Frollo refuses to help Quasimodo, but Esmeralda, a kind gypsy, intervenes and frees the hunchback, and uses a magic trick to evade arrest. Frollo confronts Quasimodo and sends him back inside the cathedral.
Esmeralda follows Quasimodo to find him, only to be followed by Captain Phoebus of Frollo's guard as well. Phoebus does not approve of Frollo's methods and refuses to arrest her for alleged witchcraft inside Notre Dame and has her confined to the cathedral. Esmeralda, encouraged by the Archdeacon, offers a prayer to God to help her and the outcast. Esmeralda finds and befriends Quasimodo, who helps her escape Notre Dame out of gratitude for defending him. Esmeralda entrusts Quasimodo with a pendant containing a map to the gypsies' hideout, the Court of Miracles. Frollo soon develops lustful feelings for Esmeralda and upon realizing them, Frollo begs the Virgin Mary (referring to her as Maria) to save him from her "spell" to avoid eternal damnation, after learning of her escape, engages a city-wide manhunt for her involving burning down numerous houses which he suspects would shelter gypsies in his way. The gargoyles try to make him feel better about himself. Phoebus, now realizing Frollo's evil reputation, defies him after being ordered to burn down the home of an innocent family and is ordered to be executed, but flees. Phoebus is briefly injured and falls into a river, but Esmeralda rescues him and takes him to Notre Dame for refuge.
Frollo returns to Notre Dame later that night and realizing that Quasimodo helped Esmeralda escape, bluffs that he knows about the Court of Miracles and that he intends to attack at dawn. Using the map Esmeralda gave Quasimodo, he and Phoebus find the court to warn the gypsies, only for Frollo to follow them and capture all the gypsies present. Frollo prepares to burn Esmeralda at the stake after refusing his advances, but Quasimodo, chained up inside the Bell Tower, manages to break free and rescue her in time, bringing her to the cathedral. Phoebus then frees himself and the gypsies and rallies the citizens of Paris against Frollo and his men, who attempt to break into the cathedral. Quasimodo and the gargoyles pour molten copper onto the streets to ensure no one enters, but Frollo successfully breaks in himself and pursues Quasimodo and Esmeralda to the balcony where both he and Quasimodo fall over the edge. Frollo falls to his death in the molten copper, while Quasimodo is caught in time by Phoebus on a lower floor. Afterward, Quasimodo is encouraged by both Phoebus and Esmeralda to leave the cathedral into the outside world, where the citizens hail him as a hero and accept him into society.
Differences from the book
The Disney version, while retaining many themes and characters from the book, has some important differences: The main differences are that in the book:
- Claude Frollo is an Arch-Deacon who takes pity on Quasimodo as an abandoned baby and adopts him. In both the film and the book, Frollo is very powerful, lusts after Esmeralda, and is the chief villain.
- The talking gargoyles aren't present in the book.
- Phoebus is a profligate and not a hero. Esmeralda is in love with Phoebus but it is unrequited.
- Esmeralda is golden skinned, is the daughter of a French prostitute, and was kidnapped as a baby by a gypsy. She isn't outspoken like the Disney character. Quasimodo's love for her is mainly unrequited.
- Esmeralda is saved by Quasimodo the first time she is about to be executed, and provided sanctuary in the Notre-Dame. However later on she is caught and hanged. Claude Frollo is killed by Quasimodo. Quasimodo's bones are found joined next to Esmeralda's in her tomb.
Analysis of the Movie
The Disney film contains numerous allusions to preceding works of literature, and contains numerous literary references. Here are some:
- A talking gargoyle's name is Victor, and another is named Hugo. This is an allusion to the name 'Victor Hugo' who wrote the original story.
- One of the gargoyles, Victor, in a speech beginning with "If you chip us, will we not flake?" comically alludes to a famous passage in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice in which Shylock, the Jew, says "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"
- Claude Frollo's self rigtheous prayer in the song 'Hellfire' is an allusion to the pharisee's prayer in a parable narrated by Jesus in the New Testament. See: Pharisee and the Publican.
Other literary devices include the use of contrast and irony such as in Esmeralda's song 'God help the outcast', in which the rich citizens pray for wealth, fame and "for glory to shine on their names" while the destitute Esmeralda prays for the poor and downtrodden.
- Tom Hulce as Quasimodo – The bell-ringer of the Notre Dame Cathedral. He is physically deformed with a hunched back and is frequently told by his guardian Judge Claude Frollo that he is an ugly monster who will never be accepted into the outside world. However, Clopin's opening song asks listeners to judge for themselves "who is the monster, and who is the man" of the two. James Baxter served as the supervising animator for Quasimodo.
- Demi Moore as Esmeralda (singing voice by Heidi Mollenhauer) – A beautiful, streetwise, talented, and always-barefoot gypsy girl who befriends Quasimodo and shows him that his soul is truly beautiful, even if his exterior is not. She is incredibly independent and opposes the horrible manners in which gypsies and outcasts are treated. Throughout the film, Esmeralda attempts to seek justice for her people and the outcasts (even offering a prayer to God help the outcasts). She falls in love with Captain Phoebus and helps Quasimodo understand that gypsies are good people. Tony Fucile served as the supervising animator for Esmeralda.
- Tony Jay as Judge Claude Frollo – A ruthless and self-righteous judge who is Quasimodo's reluctant guardian. He has an intense hatred of the gypsy population, seeing them as "impure" and has a desire to annihilate their entire race. He also lusts after Esmeralda. Frollo generally thinks that everything he does is in God's will, even though the Archdeacon does not always approve of his actions. While he is attempting to kill both Esmeralda and Quasimodo, Frollo loses his balance and falls to his death on molten copper, symbolizing that he is damned to Hell for his sins. Kathy Zielinski served as the supervising animator for Frollo.
- Kevin Kline as Captain Phoebus – A soldier who is Frollo's Captain of the Guard. He falls in love with (and later marries) Esmeralda. He is a heroic idealist with integrity and does not approve of Frollo's actions. This distinguishes him severely from his character in the original story. He has a horse named Achilles, to whom he says "Achilles, sit." on one of Frollo's soldiers twice. Russ Edmonds served as the supervising animator for Phoebus and Achilles.
- Paul Kandel as Clopin – The mischievous leader of the gypsies who will defend his people at all costs. He introduces the audience to the story, explaining how Quasimodo, the bell ringer from Notre Dame, got to be there. Michael Surrey served as the supervising animator for Clopin.
- Charles Kimbrough, Jason Alexander, and Mary Wickes as Victor, Hugo, and Laverne – Three gargoyle statues who become Quasimodo's best friends and guardians. In the DVD audio commentary for Hunchback, Wise, Trousdale, and Hahn note that the gargoyles might exist only in Quasimodo's imagination and thus may well be split-off pieces of his own identity. However, most of their characteristics, including Hugo's strange infatuation with the goat Djali, seem unique to their manifestations when present. They also come to life even when Quasimodo isn't present, often commenting on what's happening. This was Mary Wickes' final film. After Wickes' death, Jane Withers provided the remaining dialogue for Laverne in the film's sequel and related merchandise. David Pruiksma served as the supervising animator for Victor and Hugo, while Will Finn served as the supervising animator for Laverne.
- David Ogden Stiers as The Archdeacon – A kind man who helps many characters throughout the film, including Esmeralda. He is the opposite of Frollo: kind, accepting, gentle, and wise. He is the only figure in the film with authority over Frollo while he is inside Notre Dame. He appears in the beginning of the movie when he orders Frollo to adopt Quasimodo for killing his mother. He does not always approve of Frollo's actions, and in the film's climax, Frollo, in his rage, openly defies him and knocks him down a flight of stairs. Dave Burgess served as the supervising animator for the Archdeacon.
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According to producer Don Hahn, the original idea for the film came from development executive David Stain, who was inspired to turn Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame into an animated feature film after reading the Classics Illustrated comic book adaptation. Stain then proposed the idea to Disney, who called on Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale to work on the project. Wise and Trousdale were working on other projects at the time, but "none of them were quite gelling", so they "jumped at the chance" to do the film. According to Wise, they believed that it had "a great deal of potential...great memorable characters, a really terrific setting, the potential for fantastic visuals, and a lot of emotion."
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is the second Disney animated film directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise after Beauty and the Beast in 1991. The duo had read the novel and were eager to make an adaptation, but made several changes in order to make the storyline more suitable for children. This included making the film's heroes, Quasimodo, Esmeralda, and Phoebus, kinder than in the novel, changing Frollo from Archdeacon to Judge (and creating an original Archdeacon character), adding sidekicks in the form of three anthropomorphized stone gargoyles, and keeping Quasimodo and Esmeralda alive at the end. This ending is perhaps more inspired by Hugo's opera libretto based on his own book, in which Esmeralda is saved by Phoebus at the end of the drama.
The film's animators visited the actual cathedral at Notre Dame in Paris for a few weeks. They made and took hundreds of sketches and photos in order to stay fully faithful to the architecture and detail.
Several of the film's voice actors had been part of past projects Trousdale and Wise attended. For example, Tony Jay and David Ogden Stiers, the voices of Judge Claude Frollo and the Archdeacon, respectively, had previously worked on Beauty and the Beast, providing the voices of Monsieur D'Arque and Cogsworth/the narrator respectively (although their characters did not share any scenes together). Also, Paul Kandel, the voice of Clopin, was chosen after the directors saw him playing the role of Uncle Ernie in the opera production of Tommy. Demi Moore was chosen for the role of Esmeralda based on her unusual voice, as the directors wanted a non-traditional voice for the film's leading lady.
Despite the changes from the original literary source material in order to ensure a G rating, the film does manage to address mature issues such as lust, infanticide, sin, profanity, religious hypocrisy, the concept of Hell, prejudice, and social injustice, as well as acceptance that Quasi yearns for. Songs also contain rather mature lyrical content such as the words "licentious" or "strumpet" which introduce the concept of sexual indulgence, as well as frequent verbal mentions of Hell. Also notably, it is the first Disney animated film to use the word "damnation".
The film's soundtrack includes a musical score written by Alan Menken and songs written by Menken and Stephen Schwartz. Songs include "The Bells of Notre Dame" for Clopin, "Out There" for Quasimodo and Frollo, "Topsy Turvy" also for Clopin, "God Help the Outcasts" for Esmeralda, "Heaven's Light" and "Hellfire" for Quasimodo, the Archdeacon, and Frollo, "A Guy Like You" for the gargoyles and "The Court of Miracles" for Clopin and the gypsies.
The film premiered on June 19, 1996 at the New Orleans Superdome, where it was played on six enormous screens. The premiere was preceded by a parade through the French Quarter, beginning at Jackson Square and utilizing floats and cast members from Walt Disney World. The film was widely released two days later.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame opened on June 21, 1996 to positive reviews. As of September 2011, Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a positive 73% based on 49 reviews with its consensus stating "Disney's take on the Victor Hugo classic is dramatically uneven, but its strong visuals, dark themes, and message of tolerance make for a more-sophisticated-than-average children's film". Despite this approval rating, Rotten Tomatoes placed it on their list of Kids' Movies Inappropriate for Children. Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert rewarded the film 4 star calling it "the best Disney animated feature since Beauty and the Beast--a whirling, uplifting, thrilling story with a heart touching message that emerges from the comedy and song". Some criticism, however, was provided by fans of Victor Hugo’s novel, who were very unhappy with the changes Disney made to the material. Critics such as Arnaud Later, a leading scholar on Hugo, accused Disney of simplifying, editing and censoring the novel in many aspects, including the personalities of the characters. In his review, Later wrote that the animators "don't have enough confidence in their own emotional feeling" and that the film "falls back on clichés." London's The Daily Mail called The Hunchback of Notre Dame "Disney's darkest picture, with a pervading atmosphere of racial tension, religious bigotry and mob hysteria" and "the best version yet of Hugo's novel, a cartoon masterpiece, and one of the great movie musicals". Janet Maslin wrote in her New York Times review, "In a film that bears conspicuous, eager resemblances to other recent Disney hits, the film makers' Herculean work is overshadowed by a Sisyphean problem. There's just no way to delight children with a feel-good version of this story."
In its opening weekend, the film opened in second place at the box office, grossing $21 million. The film saw small decline in later weeks and ultimately grossed just over $100 million domestically and over $325 million worldwide, making it the fifth highest grossing film of 1996.
- BMI Film Music Award (Won)
- Satellite Awards
- Oscar 
- Golden Globes 
- Young Artist Award 
- Best Family Feature Film - Animation (Nominated, lost against James and the Giant Peach)
- Annie Award Tony Jay
- Outstanding Achievement in Voice Acting - Tony Jay (Nominated)
- Golden Screen, Germany (Won)
- Artios Award
- Best Casting for Animated Voiceover (Won)
- Golden Raspberry Awards
- Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million (Nominated lost to Twister)
The film currently stands with an 73% "fresh" rating at Rottentomatoes.com, with a 60% "fresh" rating by established critics (the "Cream of the Crop").
- American Film Institute Lists
The Hunchback of Notre Dame was first released on VHS, standard CLV Laserdisc, and special edition CAV Laserdisc on March 4, 1997 under the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection label. It was then re-issued on March 19, 2002 on DVD along with its direct-to-video sequel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment announced that The Hunchback of Notre Dame will be released for the first time ever on Blu-ray alongside its sequel in a Special Edition "2-Movie Collection" on March 12, 2013. 
Disney has converted its adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame into other media. For example, Disney Comic Hits #11, published by Marvel Comics, features two stories based upon the film. From 1997 to 2002 Disney-MGM Studios hosted a live-action stage show based on the film and Disneyland built a new theater-in-the-round and re-themed Big Thunder Ranch as Esmeralda's Cottage, Festival of Foods outdoor restaurant and Festival of Fools extravaganza, which is now multipurpose space accommodating private events and corporate picnics.
The film was adapted into a darker, more Gothic musical production, re-written and directed by James Lapine and produced by the Disney theatrical branch, in Berlin, Germany. The musical Der Glöckner von Notre Dame (translated in English as The Bellringer of Notre Dame) was very successful and played from 1999 to 2002, before closing. A cast recording was also recorded in German. There has been discussion of an American revival of the musical, which was confirmed by composer Alan Menken in November 2010.
Sequels and spin-offs
In 2002, a direct-to-video sequel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, was released on VHS and DVD. The plot focuses once again on Quasimodo as he continues to ring the bells now with the help of Zephyr, Esmeralda and Phoebus's son. He also meets and falls in love with a new girl named Madellaine who has come to Paris with her evil circus master, Sarousch. Disney thought that it was appropriate to make the sequel more fun and child-friendly due to the dark and grim themes of the original film.
Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Victor, Hugo, Laverne and Frollo all made guest appearances on the Disney Channel TV series House of Mouse. Frollo also can seen amongst a crowd of Disney Villains in Mickey's House of Villains.
In 1996, to tie in with the original theatrical release, The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Topsy Turvy Games was released by Disney Interactive for the PC and the Nintendo Game Boy, which is a collection of mini games based around the Festival of Fools that includes a variation of Balloon Fight.
A world based on the movie, "La Cité des Cloches" (The City of Bells), made its debut appearance in the Kingdom Hearts series in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. It was the first new Disney world confirmed for the game. All of the main characters except Clopin and the Archdeacon (although Quasimodo did mentioned him in the English version) appear.
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- AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
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- BroadwayWorld.com Interview
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- The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Big Cartoon DataBase
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