The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Courtesy of Disney Animation
|"The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1996).|
The idea was to adapt Victor Hugo's classic "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1996) into a children's film. There was a lot to be said for the idea of this Disney movie, as the visuals of Paris would be breath-taking, Hugo's story is an epic tale, and possibilities abound for cute gargoyle characters and the like.
|The gargoyles provide comic relief.|
|The star of our show, ladies and gentlemen.|
|Better than four dogs playing poker on black velvet, I suppose.|
|Paradoxically, the stone gargoyles are the liveliest part of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."|
|A very pretty picture that really didn't need an animation to achieve.|
|"Look at me, I can fly... Oh, wait, wrong Disney movie."|
|"I'm just a wild and crazy guy!"|
|There is something very disturbing about this picture.|
|Esmeralda is quite vivacious.|
|"Nyah Nyah, I have Esmeralda and you don't!"|
The main setting is a church, so the songs tend to be quiet - Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell" wouldn't fit in at all despite the fact that Quasimodo actually does that, well, you know what I mean. Dark songs like "Hellfire" with Latin chants are not big crowd-pleasers, though they certainly support the plot of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and create the mood the animators needed.
|Oh, my poor little soldier man.|
Demi Moore with her distinctive throaty voice is Esmeralda, and it cost Disney a pretty penny to get her, making her the highest-paid actress in Hollywood. Kevin Kline shines as Phoebus, with several funny lines delivered only the way he can do it. Disney movie stalwart David Ogden Stiers ("Beauty and the Beast," "Atlantis: The Lost Empire," "Lilo and Stitch" and several animated Disney series) plays the small but pivotal role of the Archdeacon in typical Stiers arch fashion. Tony Jay, the voice of Monsieur D'Arque in "Beauty and the Beast," voices Frollo in fine, deep villainous tones. That role almost went to Marlon Brando, which would have been epic. Marlon, though, didn't like the material and turned it down.
|"If you're sexy and you know it, clap your hands."|
|"I really shouldn't have eaten that lemon...."|
The story has been around for almost two hundred years, though - who really needed Disney to put together a stage version?. In Germany, where they like dark, Gothic productions like Wagner's "Die Nibelungen," the stage version of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was a huge hit, which may tell you something about the tone. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" receives occasional revivals elsewhere as well, pushed heavily by Menken. If you like Gregorian Chants, it's about as enjoyable a soundtrack as you'll find anywhere, and the song "Hellfire" is well-remembered by many.
|Watch that hand, buddy!|
When you mess with the classics like "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," you take your chances with the critics. Here, Disney escaped without too much damage, though, looking at it now, one might wonder whether today this would have had lower-profile actors and gone straight to video. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was a fairly good adaptation of the novel, and the same team went on to do "Atlantis: The Lost Empire," another mediocre animated Disney movie. Neither of those was nearly as good as the team's first effort, "Beauty and the Beast," but few Disney movies are.
|The original Quasimodo, played by Charles Laughton.|