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The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Theatrical poster by John Alvin[1]
Directed by Gary Trousdale
Kirk Wise
Produced by Don Hahn
Written by Tab Murphy
Irene Mecchi
Bob Tzudiker
Noni White
Jonathan Roberts
Novel:
Victor Hugo
Starring Tom Hulce
Demi Moore
Tony Jay
Kevin Kline
Paul Kandel
Jason Alexander
Charles Kimbrough
Mary Wickes
David Ogden Stiers
Music by Alan Menken
Stephen Schwartz
Editing by Ellen Meneshea
Studio Walt Disney Feature Animation
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures
Buena Vista Distribution
Release date(s) June 21, 1996 (1996-06-21)
Running time 87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $70 million
Gross revenue $325.5 million
Followed by The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1996 animated feature produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released to theaters on June 21, 1996 by Walt Disney Pictures. The thirty-fourth animated feature in the Disney animated features canon, the film is inspired by Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. While the basic structure remains, the film differs greatly from its source material. The plot centers on the Gypsy dancer, Esmeralda; Claude Frollo, a powerful and ruthless minister of justice who lusts after her; Quasimodo, the protagonist, Notre Dame's kind-hearted but deformed bell-ringer, who adores her; and Phoebus, the chivalrous if irreverent military captain, who holds affections for her.

The film was directed by Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, directors of Beauty and the Beast, and produced by Don Hahn, producer of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. The songs for the musical film were composed by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, and the film featured 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. A direct-to-video sequel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, was released in 2002.

Contents

Plot

The movie opens in 1482 Paris with Clopin (Paul Kandel), a gypsy puppeteer, telling a group of children the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame ("The Bells of Notre Dame"): One night, four gypsies attempted to enter Paris but were stopped by Judge Claude Frollo (Tony Jay), the Minister of Justice and de facto ruler of Paris. One gypsy woman who was carrying a bundle attempted to flee and Frollo pursued, thinking that she was carrying stolen goods. Chasing her to Notre Dame, Frollo snatches the bundle from her and kicks her, causing her to fall and hit her head against the stone steps of the cathedral. Frollo discovers that the bundle is a deformed baby and attempts to drown it in a well, but is stopped by the Archdeacon (David Ogden Stiers), who tells him to care for the child as repentance for killing an innocent woman. He agrees, on the condition that the child will live in the cathedral. Frollo names the baby Quasimodo, meaning "half-formed".

Twenty years later, Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) is shown to be the bellringer of Notre Dame. Frollo tells Quasimodo to never leave the bell tower because the people in the city will mistreat him because of his ugliness. Frollo has also lied about Quasimodo's mother, saying that he took Quasimodo in when his mother abandoned him. Nevertheless, after Frollo departs following a visit, Quasimodo dreams of spending a day out in the world ("Out There"). Quasimodo's grotesque friends (Hugo (Jason Alexander), Victor (Charles Kimbrough), and Laverne (Mary Wickes)) convince him to sneak out of the cathedral, given that it was the annual Feast of Fools and everyone is in costume.

Frollo and his new captain of the guard, Phoebus (Kevin Kline), arrive to oversee the festival as Quasimodo tries to keep himself from being seen ("Topsy Turvy"). When the time comes to crown the ugliest man at the festival as the "King of Fools", Esmeralda (Demi Moore), who has just performed for the crowd, pulls Quasimodo onto the stage, thinking that his face is a mask. When his face is shown to be real, the crowd is shocked, but Clopin hurries to calm them, and Quasimodo is crowned the King of Fools. He is initially met with applause, but Frollo's guards incite the crowd to turn on him, tying him down to a wooden turntable and pelting him with produce. Phoebus disapproves of the cruelty, and asks permission to put a stop to it, but Frollo holds him back, to teach Quasimodo a lesson for disobeying him. However, when she realizes what is going on, Esmeralda frees Quasimodo and accuses Frollo of cruelty for not having it stopped sooner. Frollo orders her arrest for insulting him, but Esmeralda uses illusory tricks to disappear, after which Frollo accuses her of witchcraft. After Quasimodo heads back to the cathedral, humiliated, Esmeralda and her goat Djali follow him, disguised together as an old man.

Recognizing her disguise from when he first saw her in the street, Phoebus pursues Esmerelda. She is initially aggressive towards him, even attacking him with a candlestick and forcing him to engage her in hand-to-hand combat before she realizes that he is honorable about the sanctity of the church and is not intending to arrest her. Frollo bursts in on them and attempts to have Esmerelda dragged out, but Phoebus saves her by saying that she claimed sanctuary. The archdeacon then commands Frollo and Phoebus to leave out of respect for the church. They leave, Frollo warning Esmeralda that she will be arrested if she leaves the cathedral. Esmeralda, though thinking herself unworthy to offer a prayer, prays for God to protect her people and the other outcasts ("God Help the Outcasts"). Quasimodo hears the song and she spots him, following him to the bell tower, where he becomes even more infatuated with her and helps her escape. In gratitude for his kindness, she gives him a necklace with a map of Paris, with points representing Notre Dame and the Court of Miracles, the gypsy hideout. With her on his mind, he realizes that she is the first one to show him true respect. ("Heaven's Light"). Meanwhile, Frollo is disturbed by his own lust for Esmeralda and fears eternal damnation as a consequence ("Hellfire").

The next day, Frollo leads a search for gypsies, burning down houses and buildings. Phoebus is disturbed by his actions, and when Frollo orders him to burn down a mill with people inside, refuses. When Frollo does it he dives into the mill to save the family. Frollo attempts to have him executed for insubordination, but Phoebus steals Frollo's horse and escapes. He is pursued and shot with an arrow as he is crossing a bridge, causing him to fall into the river below, but Esmerelda, who has been watching in disguise the whole time, dives in to save him when the coast is clear. After Quasimodo has just been convinced by the grotesques that Esmeralda is romantically interested in him ("A Guy Like You"), Esmeralda brings the injured Phoebus to the bell tower, and Quasimodo is heartbroken to see them declare love for one-another.

By now, Frollo suspects Quasimodo of helping Esmerelda. He returns to the cathedral just as she leaves, and Quasimodo hides Phoebus under a table. Frollo frightens Quasimodo into admitting the truth, then tells him of his plans to attack the Court of Miracles "at dawn with a thousand men." After Frollo leaves, Phoebus and Quasimodo decide to work together to warn the gypsies, after a brief quarrel about Esmerelda. They manage to find the Court of Miracles using the necklace Esmeralda gave to Quasimodo, but upon arriving they are captured by Clopin and his men. Mistaking them for spies, the gypsies sentence them to death by hanging ("The Court of Miracles"). They are saved by Esmeralda and they warn the gypsies of Frollo's plan, but Frollo and his soldiers arrive to arrest all of them; he had followed Quasimodo to the Court of Miracles.

The next day Frollo prepares to burn Esmeralda at the stake in front of the cathedral. He offers Esmeralda a chance to live if she agrees to be his lover, but she is disgusted by his offer. Quasimodo is chained up in the bell tower, despondent, but as he hears Frollo's hypocritical speech about truth and justice and sees Frollo light the fire, his anger gets the better of him and he furiously breaks free from the chains. He rescues Esmeralda and carries her back to the cathedral, where he claims sanctuary. Frollo, however, orders his men to break into Notre Dame, while Phoebus escapes his prison carriage and incites the surrounding crowd to revolt against Frollo's tyranny. They free the gypsies and drive back the guards.

Quasimodo pours molten metal through the gargoyles from above (resembling an incident where the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Reims was attacked during World War I) to drive the guards back as the battle rages below, but Frollo manages to break into the cathedral, where he finds Quasimodo weeping over the unconscious Esmeralda, thinking she has died. Frollo attempts to stab Quasimodo, but Quasimodo overpowers Frollo, seizes the dagger and throws him to the floor. In his rage, Quasimodo snaps at Frollo and comes very close to killing him, but is distracted when Esmeralda wakes up. Frollo brandishes a sword, and chases them to the balconies, where he and Quasimodo begin to fight, with Quasimodo is unable to retaliate due to trying to protect Esmeralda from the deranged judge.

During the battle, Frollo reveals that Quasimodo's mother had actually died trying to save him, and that he intends to kill Quasimodo as he "should have done" twenty years ago. Frollo manages to use his cape to knock Quasimodo off the balcony, but Quasimodo grabs the cape and pulls Frollo with him, although he refrains from letting Frollo drop to his death. Esmeralda catches hold of Quasimodo's arm but is unable to pull him up. Frollo scrambles onto one of the inanimate gargoyles, and raises his sword in preparation to strike at Quasimodo and Esmeralda, declaring "and He shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit!", but the gargoyle spout he is holding onto comes to life, its eyes glowing orange, and it crumbles, sending Frollo falling into the molten metal below.

Quasimodo proves too much for Esmeralda and he slips from her grasp, falling towards the street below. However, Phoebus pulls him over a lower balcony just in time. There, the three heroes reunite and Quasimodo shows his acceptance of Esmeralda and Phoebus's relationship. The couple later emerges from the cathedral to a jubilant crowd, and Esmeralda leads Quasimodo out into the sunlight, where he is finally accepted by the citizens of Paris.

Production

The Hunchback of Notre Dame was the second Disney film directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise after the hugely successful Beauty and the Beast in 1991. The duo had read Victor Hugo's 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 corrupt minister (and creating an original Archdeacon character) adding three anthropomorphized stone gargoyles in the form of sidekicks, 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 (Where the story is set) 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 co-starred in 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 some rather mature themes such as lust, infanticide, profanity, religious hypocrisy, the concept of Hell, prejudice, and social injustice. It presents many themes concerning very serious and deep aspects of Christianity that are thought to be very complex and difficult to understand, especially to young children. 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. Additionally, it is also the first animated Disney film to use the word "damnation." In the DVD audio commentary, 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.

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Cast and characters

  • Quasimodo (voiced by Tom Hulce) – The protagonist of the film, a courageous and enthusiastic character. He is the bellringer of the Notre Dame Cathedral. He is physically deformed with a hunched back and is constantly told by his guardian Judge Claude Frollo that he is an ugly monster who will never be accepted by the world outside. However, the opening song asks listeners to judge for themselves "who is the monster, and who is the man" of the two.
  • Esmeralda (voiced by Demi Moore, 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 isn't. She is incredibly independent and greatly dislikes the horrible ways in which gypsies are treated. Throughout the movie, Esmeralda attempts to seek justice for her people. She falls in love with Captain Phoebus and helps Quasimodo understand that gypsies are good people. 'Esmeralda' is the Spanish and Portuguese word for 'Emerald', which may be why the animators chose to give her emerald green eyes.
  • Judge Claude Frollo (voiced by Tony Jay) – A ruthless and powerful judge who is Quasimodo's reluctant guardian. He is the main antagonist of the film. He also lusts after Esmeralda. Frollo generally does not see any evil in his deeds as he does them in honor of God, even though the Archdeacon often disapproves of his actions. At one point during the song "Hellfire" though, the priests singing the Confiteor manifest as his conscience, chanting the Latin words "mea culpa" ("my fault"), to reveal that Frollo ultimately knows the truth of his actions.
  • Captain Phoebus (voiced by Kevin Kline) – A man who returns to Paris to be Captain of the Guard under Judge Frollo. He falls in love with (and later marries) Esmeralda. He is an idealist with integrity and does not approve of what Frollo thinks or does; also, he is shown in a more heroic sense than in the book.
  • Clopin (voiced by Paul Kandel) – 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.
  • Hugo, Victor, Laverne (voiced by Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough, and Mary Wickes*, respectively) – Three gargoyle statues who become Quasimodo's close friends and guardians.
*This was Mary Wickes' (Laverne) last film. She died of cancer before she finished all her lines (Jane Withers provided the remaining dialogue, and provided the voice for Laverne in The Hunchback of Notre Dame II).
  • The Archdeacon (voiced by David Ogden Stiers) – A kind man who helps many characters throughout the course of the movie, 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 disapproves of most of Frollo's actions, and at the film's climax, Frollo, in his rage, openly defies him and knocks him down a flight of stairs.

Crew

Crew Position
Directed by Gary Trousdale
Kirk Wise
Produced by Don Hahn
Inspired by the novel by Victor Hugo
Original Story by Tab Murphy
Screenplay by Tab Murphy
Irene Mecchi
Bob Tzudiker
Noni White
Jonathan Roberts
Co-Producer Roy Conli
Songs by Alan Menken
Stephen Schwartz
Original Score by Alan Menken
Associate Producer Phillip Lofaro
Art Director David Goetz
Film Editor Ellen Keneshea
Artistic Supervisors Will Finn (Story supervisor)
Ed Ghertner (Layout supervisor)
Lisa Keene (Background supervisor)
Vera Lanpher-Pacheco (Clean-up supervisor)
Chris Jenkins (Effects supervisor)
Kiran Bhakta Joshi (Computer Graphics supervisor)
Artistic Coordinator Randy Fullmer
Supervising Animators James Baxter (Quasimodo)
Tony Fucile (Esmeralda)
Kathy Zielinski (Frollo)
Russ Edmonds (Phoebus)
Michael Surrey (Clopin)
David Pruiksma (Hugo/Victor)
Will Finn (Laverne)
Ron Husband (Djali)
David Burgess (Archdeacon)
Production Manager Patricia Hicks
Additional Screenplay Material by Will Finn

Music

The film's soundtrack includes a musical score written by Alan Menken, songs written by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, and pop singles by All-4-One/Eternal (band). The single "Someday" originally performed by All-4-One on the United States release was redone by British R&B girl group Eternal for the U.K. release. Luis Miguel recorded the version in Spanish, which became a major hit in Mexico.

The special edition CAV laserdisc box set released concurrent with the original VHS and standard CLV laserdisc editions included storyboards and demos for several songs as bonus materials. Although some songs made it to the final film, three were deleted:

  • "Someday" (Originally written to have been sung by Esmerelda to replace first choice of "God Help The Outcasts", but late in the production stages "Outcasts" was returned.
  • "In a Place of Miracles"
  • "As Long As There's a Moon"

The storyboards and demos for "The Bells of Notre Dame", "Out There", and "Heaven's Light/Hellfire" were also included on the CAV laserdisc set. Only "Someday's" storyboards and demos have seen release on DVD so far, and only in region 2.

Reception

The Hunchback of Notre Dame opened on June 21, 1996 to overwhelmingly positive reviews, and was the highest critically acclaimed film of 1996. 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,[2] 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".[3]

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. Although the film could not out-gross its predecessors, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and Pocahontas it nevertheless out-grossed other Disney films released within a decade of its premiere, such as The Little Mermaid, and Hercules.

Awards

  • BMI
    • BMI Film Music Award (Won)

The film currently stands with an 81% "fresh" rating at Rottentomatoes.com, with a 100% rating by established critics (the "Cream of the Crop").

Home video

Hunchback of Notre Dame was first issued on VHS on March 4, 1997 under the Walt Disney Masterpice collection. It was then re-issued on March 19, 2002 on DVD and VHS.

Other media

Adaptations

Disney Comic Hits #11, published by Marvel Comics, features two stories based upon the film.

Disney-MGM Studios had a stage show based on the film from the late 90s til 2002. It was located in The Backlot Theatre in the New York Street section of the theme park (now called Streets of America). After the show's closing, and part of the re-theming of the area, a mural of a San Francisco street went up to block off the view of the theatre's vacant interior. Recently, The Backlot Theatre underwent a major renovation to enclose the theatre. No new attraction for the location has been announced although it is used during special events.[4]

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. Lyricist Don Black and Charles Hart has stated that "I think we're starting up Hunchback of Notre Dame, hopefully, next year. Rumor has reached my ear that it's happening."[5]

Sequels and spin offs

In 2002, the sequel The Hunchback of Notre Dame II was released on video and DVD. The plot focuses once again on Quasimodo as he continues to ring the bells now with the help of Zephyr, Esmeralda and Pheobus'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 felt it was appropriate to make the storyline for this film more fun and child friendly due to the dark and grim themes of the original.

Quasimodo, Esmerelda, Victor, Hugo, Laverne and Frollo make guest appearances on the Disney Channel series, House of Mouse. Frollo also can seen amongst a crowd of Disney Villains in Mickey's House of Villains.

References

  1. ^ Stewart, Jocelyn (2008-02-10). "John Alvin, 59; created movie posters for such films as 'Blazing Saddles' and 'E.T.'". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-alvin10feb10,1,5113268.story. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  2. ^ Laster, Arnaud. "Waiting for Hugo". www.awn.com. http://www.awn.com/mag/issue1.10/articles/laster.ang1.10.html. Retrieved 2007-08-19. 
  3. ^ "I've Got a Hunch That This Is a New Disney Masterpiece." The Daily Mail (London, England) 12 July 1996: 44.
  4. ^ Disney MGM Studios, Florida, theme park guide map, 1996
  5. ^ Playbill.com Interview

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