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Hey, you know what I love? Long, angry flame wars. By which I mean, I do not love those. At all. I bring this up because…while I know that I don’t have anything to worry about (the followers of this blog were, after all, recently voted Nicest Commentariat on the Internet)…
There was a whole ceremony and an award presented by Tom Hanks and a crazy party after…did I forget to tell you guys?
…but nonetheless I’m a little nervous going into this review. Hunchback
, man. People feel…”strongly” about Hunchback
. There are those who will loudly and passionately proclaim this to be the unacknowledged masterpiece of the Renaissance, the best thing Disney ever did. And then there are the Hugo loyalists, who think that the movie is an absolute disgrace to the source material, the perfect case-study for the abominable practice of Disneyfication. And then there are some who don’t have any particular fealty to the source material and just hate it as a movie. My friend Moira, (bracketsandampersandsyoureadnow
) has often told me she just finds the whole film to be downright nasty and unpleasant.
So, which camp do I fall into?
Alright, let’s be honest here. This movie has problems. Serious problems that run right to its very core. The source material, The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, quite frankly is not suited to being adapted into a Disney movie. Not because it’s dark, although it is. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Disney can do dark. It just can’t do bleak. Now, full disclosure, I haven’t actually read the novel…
Yeah. That’s right. I didn’t read the 200,000 word 18th century French novel to research my silly little cartoon blog. Scandal.
…but it ends with Frollo being flung from the cathedral by Quasimodo, Esmerelda being hung and Quasimodo mourning beside her body until he slowly starves to death.
Coupled with that, the book is an often scathing critique of religious hypocrisy and extremism…right?
“Hm? Uh…sure, why not?”
And that’s something that Disney is just not cut out for. So we get changes like Frollo being a judge rather than the Arch-Deacon of Notre-Dame which leads to all kinds of plotholes and general silliness. These two forces, the dark source material and the sunny demands of the Disney formula are constantly pulling this movie in different direction and often threaten to tear the whole thing to pieces.
And yet…and yet…
When it works? When the emotional power of the story comes together with the gorgeous visuals, the near flawless animation, some great voice work and an absolutely spine-tinglingly excellent soundtrack by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz?
Guys, when this thing works? It SOARS.
And it’s brave too. I mentioned the laicisation of Frollo (and you know what? Fair enough. Catholic parents shouldn’t have to deal with a Disney movie telling their kids what’s wrong with their faith any more than Aladdin
should have a screed on the depiction of women in the Qur’an) but notwithstanding that, this movie goes to some pretty dark places. And in its portrayals of sexual obsession and prejudice it’s remarkably honest and unvarnished. And that’s really Hunchback
all over. It’s a weird, misshapen, sometimes ugly thing on the outside. But inside it has such beauty, and heart and courage…it’s kind of like…um…
Dammit, I had something for this.
Ah well, let’s take a look at the film.
We begin with the film-makers essentially giving us a defiant two-finger salute, the twin bell towers of Notre Dame towering over the clouds (so what if the cathedral isn’t nearly that tall shut up it’s pretty!) while Alan Menken’s Hellfire
theme blasts like a glorious doomsday. It’s a moment of stunning, raw power, easily the equal of the opening moment of The Lion King
. And then, as quickly as it began it’s over and we’re zooming down through the streets of Paris to the opening strains of The Bells of Notre Dame
sung by Clopin (Paul Kandel-fucking phenomenal
). Clopin is a gypsy street entertainer who acts as our narrator, telling the local children the story of the bell-ringer of Notre Dame. “A story” he says “of a man, and a monster.” Those of you who attended the disembowling of Pocahontas
a fortnight prior may remember that I was pretty hard on lyricist Stephen Schwartz but now is the time for kudos. Bells of Notre Dame
is a beautifully written song, with some gorgeously intricate lyrics.
Through song we see a group of gypsies being smuggled into Paris by The Man the Plague Couldn’t Kill.
But they’re ambushed by the most ruthless lawman of all, a merciless force of uncompromising justice, a pure symbol of total fascistic oppression, the one the only Judge..
So yes, we’re introduced to Judge Frollo, voiced by Tony Jay.
Yeesh. Every so often doing this blog I come across something that I have to describe that’s already been said a million time before. What can I say about Tony Jay’s performance in this movie that’s going to do justice to it? He is just flawless. The perfect voice for the part, and an actor who knows how to use it like an exquisitely tuned Stradivarius. But I’ll get more into Jay’s performance as we go along. Anyway, one of the gypsies, a woman, makes a break for it holding a bundle. Frollo assumes that it’s stolen goods and, because he’s a hands-on kind of government official, runs her down on his black hell charger outside the gates of Notre Dame Cathedral as she desperately pleads for sanctuary. Frollo grabs the bundle off her and she slips, cracking her head against the stone steps and dying instantly. Frollo examines the bundle, which has started crying. He looks at the baby’s face, and is so horrified that he instantly decides to drown it and is only stopped at the last moment by the Archdeacon played by David Ogden Stiers (hey where were you when the mother was looking for sanctuary? Putting on your slippers?). These first few scenes are just breathtaking, with the music and the terrific animation infusing everything with a dark, eerie beauty.
The Archdeacon tells Frollo that if he’s under any illusions that God is cool with murdering a woman on the steps of his house and then trying to drown her baby, he’s got news for him: God is not cool with that.
Frollo gets a little nervous about God not being cool with that, and asks the Archdeacon what he can do to make God cool with that. The Archdeacon says “Look after the kid. Then he’ll be cool with it.”
We then get to one of the stupider things that arises from changing Frollo from an archdeacon to a judge. Frollo says that he’ll look after the baby, but he’ll only look after the feeding. The Archdeacon will have to keep the hutch at his place (babies go in hutches, right?). Instead of telling Frollo to screw off, the Archdeacon is apparently okay with Frollo leaving a baby in the belltower (right, because that won’t make the parishioners suspicious). Clopin tells us that Frollo chose a cruel name for the child, Quasimodo.
Holder of the world title for Worst Baby Name from 1482 until June 15 2013.
Clopin asks us who is the monster, and who is the man and finishes the flashback with a huge, epic, utterly glorious crescendo; “Sing the BELLS OF NOTRE DAME!!!”
Twenty years later, Quasimodo is all grown up and is voiced by Tom Hulce, probably best know for playing Mozart in Amadeus. And I have to say, he is absolutely fantastic in this role. Quasimodo is one of the most complex and layered of the Disney heroes and Hulce perfectly portrays a character who’s damaged but still fundamentally decent and caring. He’s got a great set of pipes too, and even when some of the songs are a little too Broadway and artificial, he manages to invest an emotional rawness into them that pulls them up a notch. In fact, he’s so good I’d imagine it’s a source of envy to many other actors.
“You’ve never heard of me? F Murray Abraham? I was a very popular actor in my day.”
“No, I’m sorry.”
“Finding Forrester? Star Trek Insurrection? Scarface?”
“Wait a minute! Weren’t you in Hunchback of Notre Dame? I loved that movie!”
“…No. That wasn’t me.”
“That was Hulce.”
I also have to mention the character design. James Baxter, who also animated Belle and Joanna, was told to create a Quasimodo that was ugly yet visually appealing.
James Baxter does not play by your rules. As this clip should make very clear, when we’re talking about James Baxter the laws of logic do not fucking apply.
Normally, this is where we’d get a scene with the hero being nice to a child, but they don’t let children up in the belltower so Quasimodo has to make do with a small bird who’s too afraid to fly. He manages to coax the bird into taking flight and has to watch as it flies to freedom, leaving him behind in his imprisonment.
Now we meet the gargoyles; Victor, Hugo and Laverne (Charles Kimborough, Jason Alexander and Mary Wickes in her last film role). Ohhhh boy.
See, here’s the thing. I don’t mind the gargoyles. I know plenty of people think they ruin the movie, destroying the dark tone and yadda yadda yadda. To which I say, boo frickin’ hoo Princess.
Because I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been to some dark places. I’ve been to the place where a man’s worth is measured by the mouse ears hanging from his neck. The real. Deep. Shit. I’ve travelled to the ninth circle of Disney comedy relief hell and stared the very Satan of that realm right into his fuzzy face.
Consider now how great must be that whole,
Which unto such a part conforms itself.
Were he as fair once, as he now is foul,
And lifted up his brow against his Maker,
Well may proceed from him all tribulation
And you think the gargoyles are annoying? Please. Complaining about comedy relief animal characters in a Disney film is like watching a Quentin Tarantino movie and loudly declaring that this kind of language would not be tolerated on the lowest docks of Bristol.
“Yes, I said it! Bristol!”
Characters like the gargoyles (oh, and the pedant in me could not rest if I didn’t point out that they’re technically grotesques, not gargoyles) are just part and parcel of the genre, either you’re on board with that or you’re not.
Having said that, I will admit the movie misses a HUGE opportunity with the gargoyles. You see, directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise originally envisioned the gargoyles as being in the movie, but that only Quasimodo would ever see or talk to them or interact with them in any way. Because he had gone insane with loneliness.
If they had had the balls to go through with that, it would probably be the most spectacular case of having your cake and eating it in the history of cake and eating and having. You get to have the funny gargoyles joking and singing and clowning around for the kids, while the adults watch in horror as Quasimodo’s pageant of mental illness plays out before them. It wouldn’t have distracted from the movie’s dark tone, instead it would have intensified it. By like, a factor of one million. But no, in the final battle we clearly see the gargoyles helping Quasimodo defend the cathedral so they’re just…magic gargoyles.
No. Fuck it. They’re all in Quasimodo’s head and he’s just hallucinating like Tyler Durdan at the end of Fight Club. Okay. I’ve fixed the movie. It’s perfect now.
Hooray! Mouse! Mouse! Mouse!
Quasimodo’s bummed because it’s the Feast of Fools, and as usual while everyone is down there drinking and partying and getting laid he’s stuck up in the tower pulling his bell.
You knew that joke was coming, don’t you act innocent with me.
manisfestations of his fractured psyche gargoyles convince him that sneaking out just this once wouldn’t hurt and he’s just about to leave when he runs into Frollo. The change in mood when Frollo appears is just so damn effective. Suddenly the gargoyles are stone, and Quasimodo seems to almost physically shrink in his presence. They sit down to have lunch and Frollo quizzes Quasimodo on his alphabet, reciting words to go with the letters: “A?” “Abomination” “B?” “Blasphemy.” “C?” “Contrition.”
But when they get to F Quasi says “Festival” instead of the correct answer “Filthy Hugenots” and Frollo reads him the riot act for wanting to go to the Feast of Fools. Quasi humbly points out that Frollo goes every year and the judge retorts that he goes because he has to, not because he likes taking part in a day long orgy of booze and mind-bending drugs while trying to keep his head above a veritable ocean of gypsy stripper booty extending to the very horizon.
Through the song Out There, Frollo subtly reasserts his control over his adoptive son, reminding him of his deformity while claiming to only want to protect him. It’s exactly how an abusive parent would control their child and it’s honestly quite heartwrenching. Frollo then leaves, thinking that he’s successfully crushed Quasimodo’s sprit, but Quasi sings a triumphant reprise of Out There where he waxes rhapsodic about how wonderful life must be outside the cathedral walls. Out There, honestly, is a very technically accomplished song that nonetheless feels a little mechanical and rote. It’s the big “I want” song because there’s always a big “I want” song. Having said that, any feeling of artificiality is completely overshadowed by the fact that Hulce is going for this thing with all guns blazing. He manages to invest so much raw longing and passion into this song that he pulls it from “okay” to “great” almost through sheer force of will. He is magnificent.
“But it wasn’t Hulce laughing at me…IT WAS GOD!!!”
Yes, I know, Family Guy already did that joke. Look, some jokes I do for you, some I do for me. That was the latter.
Meanwhile, down in the streets, Phoebus returns from the wars with his trusty steed Achilles. In the book, Phoebus is a womanizing ass bastard who tries to seduce Esmeralda and then allows her to be hanged for his own murder even though he’s still alive…
It is, quite literally, a long story.
Anyway, here Disney have remade the character as a hero with a heart of gold. Now, the Hugo loyalists will rend their garments, but I love Phoebus. The character design is a happy medium between the cartoonish style of the early Renaissance and the more realistic models of Pocahontas, and Kevin Kline has a wonderfully dry delivery. It’s actually pretty amazing how likeable they manage to make Phoebus despite the fact that he’s the pretty, jockish love rival of our hero and he actually wins.
We also meet Esmerelda, a gypsy dancer who Phoebus meets in the street, and her goat, Djali, voiced by Frank Welker (who gets a movie role every time a baby laughs and also every time it doesn’t) .
Esmerelda is, hands down, one of my favourite Disney Princessess…what’s that?
She’s not a Disney Princess?
WELL WHY THE FUCK NOT?!
BECAUSE SHE’S A GYPSY? OR BECAUSE YOUR SQUEAKY CLEAN LITTLE “CLUB” WOULDN’T LET A FORMER STRIPPER IN? OH, LIKE YOU ALL HAVE SUCH CLEAN RECORDS! DON’T FORGET, I’VE REVIEWED ALL YOUR MOVIES, AND I KNOW ALL YOUR SECRETS!
From left to right: Found guilty of domestic slavery, killed a guy while DUI, compulsive shoplifter, coke fiend, coke fiend, coke fiend, statutory rapist, coke fiend.
Screw ’em, you don’t need those stuck up bitches anyway, Em. Two guards start hasseling Esmerelda. One of them’s voiced by Jim Cummings…
Take a shot.
…and he accuses her of stealing the money which she earned honestly by shakin’ that ass, shakin’ that ass, shakin’ that ass. Phoebus intervenes and helps her escape. The guards are about to cut him a new sword hole but he reveals that he’s actually a captain of the guard and their new boss. Funny story, that’s how I met my current boss.
“He may have shortened our coffee breaks, but I took the varlot’s hand!”
Phoebus now meets his new boss, who is none other than Frollo. Frollo explains that he’s taken Phoebus from the front line where he’s been doing God’s work (killing Englishmen) so that he can defend Paris from its real enemies; sexy, sexy gypsies. I’m not even kidding. Frollo says that the gypsies have to be destroyed because they “enflame the people’s basest instincts”. Frollo instructs Phoebus to find the gypsies’ secret stronghold, the Court of Miracles and then…
Wipe them out. All of them.
The Feast of Fools kicks off, with Clopin giving us our next song Topsy Turvy. While all of Paris goes to Bahia, Quasi stumbles around completely out of his element until he falls into Esmerelda’s tent. She helps him up and sends him on his way, saying “great mask!” He then gets swept up in the crowd of Parisians; the merchants, the thieves, the hobos…
You know, the number of Disney movies featuring hookers is turning out to be considerably greater than I would have guessed.
Clopin introduces Esmerelda who proceeds to dance for the crowd and hamanasplalaba…
How the hell did they get this into a kid’s movie?!
Does that sound like I’m complaining? I assure you, I am not.
“Mouse? I can’t fight my feelings any more. I want you to take me, right here, right now…”
“Hmm, what? Yeah, I think we have some in the fridge. I’m busy Jasmine.”
Well, I’m not the only one whose basest instincts have been enflamed. Frollo, Quasimodo and Phoebus are all entranced.
Clopin says that it’s time to crown the King of Fools, and Quasimodo is pulled onstage and told to make the ugliest face he can. When the crowd realises that his ‘orrible mug is not a mask, but the real thing, they’re horrified. Someone shouts that “It’s the bellringer from Notre Dame!”
How the hell do you know that? He’s spent his entire life in the bell tower! Is it just common knowledge that there’s a hideously deformed hunchback ringing the bells? Or is this guy the only one who knows because…I dunno, he’s the bell repair guy? He went up one day and came back trembling and saying “Jesus lads, you won’t believe what they have stashed up there!”
Clopin comes to the rescue, crowning Quasimodo the King of Fools and saying “We asked for the ugliest face in all of Paris and here he is, Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame!”
HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT?!
Shouldn’t he be, at best, an urban legend? This is like if I were walking in the woods and I saw Bigfoot and I said “Holy shit! That’s Bigfoot! Born 23 July 1958. Married Cecily Swanson of Idaho, his childhood sweeheart in 1981, voted Libertarian in the last four elections…” They seem to know quite a lot about this social recluse who apparently has never set foot outside the cathedral until today is all I’m saying.
Well anyway, the crowd goes wild and they finish off a big reprise of Topsy Turvy and for a few seconds Quasimodo basks in their adulation. Then one of the guards throws a tomato at him and the crowd turns nasty again. Honestly, I don’t get it. They’ve accepted him one minute, but as soon as he gets hit by a tomato it’s all “No, too ugly now. Kill the beast.” They tie him to one of those French torture wheels normally reserved for punishing people who are too friendly to tourists and Quasimodo begs Frollo to look into his heart and find enough love and mercy within to…
Yeah, I’m not going to waste any more time with that sentence.
Phoebus asks for Frollo’s permission to help Quasimodo but Frollo says that “a lesson has to be learned here.”
But Esmerelda climbs onto the stage and cuts him loose in defiance of Frollo’s orders. Frollo says that she’ll pay for defying him and Esmerelda tells him to screw off like a boss.
Frollo orders Phoebus and his men to capture her but it turns out Esmerelda is the secret lovechild of Aladdin and Nightcrawler and vanishes in a puff of smoke before making Phoebus’ guards look like a bunch of incompetent ninnies.
Frollo gives Quasimodo a glare of such utter rage and contempt that it’s a wonder the poor guy doesn’t just dissolve into a puddle and he slinks back into the Cathedral, convinced that the world is just as cruel and merciless and obsessed with appearence as Frollo always told him it was. Aw Quasi, don’t be like that. That’s just the French.
Meanwhile, as Phoebus searches the square for Esmerelda, he sees her sneaking into the cathedral and goes after her.
He sneaks up on her but she draws his own sword on him and judo throws him to the ground because SHE IS AWESOME.
Phoebus makes with the charming small talk while she’s kicking his ass and she asks if he’s planning on arresting her. He says that because she’s in the cathedral, he can’t.
“There’s LOTS of things you can’t do in here. And doesn’t that make you want to?”
Frollo arrives and order Phoebus to arrest her but he says that she’s claimed sanctuary and can’t be touched because medieval justice was essentially one big game of Tag and she’s in base. The Archdeacon appears and tells Frollo and his men to leave. Frollo hangs back however, and in one of the creepiest scenes in the movie grabs her from behind and tells her that she can’t stay here forever and that he’ll be waiting. Then he smells her hair. Esmerelda asks him what the hell he thinks he’s doing and he says that he was imagining a rope around her neck. Esmerelda says “I know exactly what you were imagining!” and Frollo replies “Such a clever witch. So typical of your kind to twist the truth.”
“I was just talking about hanging you from the neck until you suffocated or your spine snapped. Trust you to make it weird.”
The undercurrent of misogyny and the implied threat of sexual violence in this scene is actually pretty tough to watch. I can see why some people just can’t get behind this movie.
Frollo leaves and Esmerelda starts planning her escape. The Archdeacon warns her that laying low might be the best option and Esmerelda asks him what Frollo has against people who are different. This leads into Esmerelda’s only song, God Help the Outcasts. Honestly, I go back and forth on this song. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I think it’s phony, manipulative drivel. Heidi Mollenhaur (Esmerelda’s singing voice) does a great job with the vocals though.
Esmerelda sees Quasimodo and follows him up to the bell tower. The gargoyles encourage him to make a move on her…well, Victor and Laverne do. Hugo’s too busy perving on Djali which kind of freaks me out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s 2013 and if a male gargoyle and a male goat want to make a go of it I wish those crazy kids all the luck in the world. I’m just a little concerned because we’re operating on the assumption that the gargoyles are all in Quasi’s head which means that at least part of him wants to fuck Esmerelda’s goat.
He shows her his bells (no snickering in the back, and I’ll take the gum please) and then shows her the view of the city. Oddly enough, this movie is full of stunning cityscapes and this scene has by far the least impressive of all of them.
Wow. That’s really something
Esmerelda says that it’s beautiful (sure, I guess?) but she can’t stay because “gypsies don’t do well inside stone walls”. Quasi says that she’s not like other gypsies because she’s not evil. Esmerelda gently tells him that Frollo’s full of shit; he’s not a monster and she’s not evil and “Maybe Frollo’s wrong about both of us.”
Touched, Quasimodo decides to help her escape and Spider-Mans her down to the streets below. She asks him to come with her but after his little spin on the Tourist wheel he’s good where he is, thanks. She gives him a keepsake, telling him that he can use it to find her if he ever needs her help. Quasi, now completely in love, sings Heaven’s Light, a sweet little love song that leads directly into its dark mirror, Frollo’s villain song, Hellfire.
Frollo learns that Esmerelda’s escaped and orders Phoebus to search every home in Paris for her. They find dozens of gypsies but no sign of Esmerelda, despite the reward for any information going up and up with every dead end until finally…hahahhahahaha!
Oh you should have seen your faces.
Okay, so let’s fucking talk about Hellfire.
This song is absolutely unique amongst the Disney villain songs, and I don’t just mean in terms of quality (though, God yes). Prior to the Renaissance, Disney villains as a general rule didn’t really sing unless they were secondary comedic villains (Honest John, Kaa, Madame Mim). If a main villain did get a song, it was usually another character singing about them rather than they themselves singing (Cruella de Vil, The World’s Greatest Criminal Rat). That changed with Ursula of course, who began the tradition of the villain having his or her own big musical number. These songs usually serve the same purpose, either the villain is trying to bamboozle the hero (Poor Unfortunate Souls) or getting the minions psyched for all the evil they’re about to do (Kill the Beast, Be Prepared). But they are always performances, songs sung to somebody else to advance the villain’s agenda. Hellfire is not like that. Its purpose is introspective. It’s not addressed to anyone (alright, technically he’s talking to the Virgin Mary but she’s not really a character) and instead of learning about Frollo’s plan we’re actually learning about the man himself. This is Frollo performing essentially an audit of his own soul and being terrified at what he finds there. Alright, there’s no point being coy; Frollo is getting a perfect score at the end of this review and this song is a very large part of the reason why. While Frollo has all the charm, menace and elegance of the very best Disney villains, this movie goes much, much deeper in its portrayal of evil than any movie we’ve covered so far. Previous villains have revelled in their villainy, exulted in their evil. And that’s fine, that’s one of the things that makes them so fun. But with Hellfire, the movie shows us a simple truth about evil people that the other films in the canon have not. The Frollos of this world, the bigots, the tyrants, the abusive assholes…they are fucking miserable. They are pathetic, deluded, twisted, deeply unhappy people. I’ve spoken before about “The Moment”, that one instant where the truly great Disney villains show just how evil they really are. With Scar and Maleficent, these were moment of particular callousness and cruelty, but with Frollo The Moment is one of extreme vulnerability. Having declared to heaven and hell alike that he will sate his lust on Esmerelda or burn her alive, he prays “God have mercy on her” and then, in a tremulous whisper adds “God have mercy on me.” These are the words of a man who has finally seen the pitch blackness of his own soul and recoiled in horror from it, but cannot turn away. Aside from the fantastic emotional power of the song, it is also just a triumph on every conceivable level. Jay’s voice, the visuals, the phenomenal orchestral work, the chilling Gregorian chanting, Menken’s score and Stephen Schwartz’s lyrics…absolutely flawless.
It is for these reason that I feel confident in declaring it the greatest single song in the Disney canon.
Over the next few days, the soldiers raid, loot and burn countless homes across Paris purely because Frollo can’t get no tang ’round here. The trail finally leads them to the windmill, where Frollo questions the miller about a gypsy talisman that was found on his property.
“Alright, windmill guy? You live in a windmill. I figure if anyone knows where to get some tang, it’d be you.”
The miller claims ignorance so Frollo places him under house arrest until he gets to the bottom of it. Once outside, however, he tells Phoebus to burn the windmill down with the miller’s family still inside. Phoebus tells Frollo to screw off and Frollo has him arrested and sets the windmill on fire himself. The windmill’s sails instantly catch fire and become a massive, spectacular wheel of flaming wait just a damn minute here!
Oh my God. Burton, you whore!
Phoebus manages to rescue the miller and his family and Frollo orders him to be executed. Esmerelda, who’s been hiding in the crowd, creates a distraction that gives him a chance to escape. He steals Frollo’s horse and makes a run for it but gets shot by an arrow and falls into the river and is left for dead. But Esmerelda manages to fish him out and brings him to Notre Dame to be looked after by Quasimodo. In one of the few places in Paris that she knows Frollo visits on a regular basis. Hey, here’s a thought, why not take him to the Court of Miracles? You know, the place Frollo’s been searching for for years with zero success where he’ll be perfectly safe?
“No. That’s just what they’ll be expecting.”
Quasimodo is overjoyed to see Esmerelda is safe but his hopes are dashed pretty quickly when he sees that Phoebus is with her and that the two of them seem to be joined at the lips. Yeesh, poor guy. First he’s banished to the belltower, then he gets exiled to the Friend Zone.
Esmerelda has to run when Frollo arrives (no, really? Who could possibly have foreseen that?) and she begs Quasimodo to make sure nothing happens to Phoebus.
“Sure thing. Hey, did you know that someone with multiple personality disorder can’t be held legally responsible for crimes committed by their alternate personalities?”
“Really? That’s interesting.”
Frollo enters the belltower and Quasi hides Phoebus under a table while he and Frollo sit down to dinner and oh c’mon! I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next scene they’ve just literally hidden Phoebus’ unconscious body under Frollo’s nose and hope that he thinks it’s just a booger of unusual size and solidity. Frollo pretends to be all light and sweetness (well, as close as he can manage, which I suppose is twilight murk and slightly bitter aftertaste) but proceeds to lost his shit and tells Quasi that he knows he helped Esmerelda escape and that now all of Paris is burning because of him. He then tells him that he’s found the court of miracles and that he’ll be attacking at dawn with a thousand men. After Frollo’s gone, Phoebus says that they have to warn Esmerelda and after some persuading from the gargoyles, Quasimodo eventually decides to defy Frollo again. Of course, this is all part of Frollo’s plan, to use Quasimodo to lead him right to the Court of Miracles.
“We’re taking a terrible risk. This had better work.”
But how to find the Court of Miracles? Quasimodo remembers the band that Esmerelda gave him and he and Phoebus try to decipher it. Phoebues guesses that it’s Greek, or possibly Arabic.
Yeah, you’re not allowed guess what things are anymore. You have lost that right.
But Quasimodo figures out that it’s a map, with the cross in the middle representing the cathedral and the blue thread the river and the little white dot being the Court of Miracles. Which, if this thing is to scale is probably a solid ten miles across. Whatever, we have our heading. They make their way to a cemetery and find a secret passage leading to the court of miracles. The buddy comedy routine here between Kevin Kline and Tom Hulce is actually very funny and will make the ending when it comes just that bit more palatable. They get captured by the gypsies led by Clopin. Interestingly, Clopin is unmasked here and actually seems a lot more sinister and threatening with the mask off than on. He sing The Court of Miracles which is a fun, dark song. In fact it’s almost a villain song in tone, except that the guys singing it are supposed to be the good guys. I actually like the fact that just because the gypsies are oppressed and discriminated against, that doesn’t automatically make them nice. Instead of being dull Nobility Mannequins like Pocahontas’ tribe, the gypsies are depicted as being quite ruthless and perfectly willing to kill Phoebus and Quasi to protect their home. Esmerelda intervenes just in the nick of time and saves them from being hanged. She thanks them both for coming to warn them, but Phoebus rather gallantly gives all the credit to Quasi. But Frollo suddenly arrives with his guards. Frollo tries to pretend that Quasimodo was working for him the whole time but Esmerelda doesn’t believe it for a second. This is something I actually really like. For starters, we don’t get the whole “How could you?!” “No, you’ve got to believe me!” bullshit that we’ve seen a million times before, and also it speaks to the strength of trust between Quasimodo and Esmerelda. Not only does Esmerelda not believe Frollo, she doesn’t even take a second to consider the possibility because it’s absurd. I like that.
Frollo announces to the gypsies that there’s going to be a bonfire and they’re all invited. Hey, maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all? Who doesn’t love a bonfire?
Quasimodo, has been chained to the pillars of the cathedral, high above the square so that he’s forced to watch Esmerelda’s fiery death. While the angry mob is barely held back by Frollo’s guards, he tells Esmerelda that she has two choices; be burned to death in the most horrific manner possible, or have sex with him.
“You have to do me right here, right now! In front of everyone! And you have to call me “Florence”! NO QUESTIONS DAMN YOU!”
Bit of a no brainer, innit?
I have to make mention of the score here, it’s truly magnificent. It quietly builds as Quasimodo passively watches the scene below, having lost all hope. But then, the second Frollo lights the kindling at Esmerelda’s feet a bomb goes off inside Quasi and he roars his rage to the heavens and breaks the chains while the bells of Notre Dame solemnly chime and the choir rises triumphantly. Quasi grabs a rope and swings down to ground level…
Oh, what? Has he got a magic extending rope?
Oh, and now he’s grabbed Esmerelda and the rope just flies back into his hand.
Sorry, my mistake. It’s a magic MIND-READING rope!
SARCASTIC MAP OF WARTIME EUROPE SHUT THE FUCKING FUCK UP THIS IS THE MOST AWESOME SCENE IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA AND IF YOU TRY TO RUIN IT FOR ME I WILL MURDER YOU WITH MY BARE TEETH!!!!!
Oooookay, I’m gonna go now.
Sorry, but yes. I can’t get enough of this scene, little logical nitpicks notwithstanding. Quasimodo holds Esmerelda’s unconscious body aloft over the cheering Parisians and declares “SANCTUARY!”
While Frollo rallies his men to storm the cathedral, Phoebus escapes from his cell and calls to the people; “Citizens of Paris! Frollo has persecuted our people! Ransacked our city! And now, he has declared war on Notre Dame herself!”
There’s more than one way to read this line. “Notre Dame” of course, means “Our Lady”, and rather than referring simply to the Cathedral, Phoebus’ call could imply that by persecuting the gypsies and the people of Paris, Frollo has turned on the principles of Christianity that he purports to uphold. And that by so doing, he has picked a fight with the Virgin Mary herself.
I’m going to hell for that so I hope you enjoyed it.
Okay so anyway, lalalala, ridiclous scenes with the gargoyles interacting with other character and building catapults, not listening, not listening, it’s all in his head…
Frollo’s forces are beaten back, but the judge manages to break into the cathedral and ascend to the belltower. Quasimodo tells Esmerelda that they’ve won, but for her it’s too late.
Pff, she’s fine. Just needs a bit ‘a prince kissin’.
Now normally, I am not at all a fan of the hoary “Oh no they’re dead oh wait they’re not yaaaay!” fakeout but it occurs to me that if you were watching this for the first time but had read the book this could actually be pretty effective. Because Esmerelda dies in the book, and because this movie has been darker than pretty much every movie in the canon before it, I suppose you could be forgiven for thinking that Disney would actually have the balls to kill off Esmerelda. And, much as I love the character (and I do, rewatching this I actually think she may be the best female Disney character of them all) but killing off Esmerelda might have been the only way this movie could have ended satisfyingly. But I’m getting ahead of myself, we’ll talk about the ending in a bit. Frollo approaches and tells Quasimodo that he had to kill her “It was my duty, painful as it was” and it really is a testament to Tony Jay that he’s able to make such transparently self-serving bullshit sound halfway convincing. Frollo then tries to stab Quasi in the hunch, but Quasi sees his shadow just in time and knocks him to ground. Esmerelda suddenly wakes up from…death…and Quasi grabs her and tries to escape with Frollo in hot pursuit.
Frollo traps Quasi on a ledge and lets him in on a little secret; he killed
Mufasa Quasimodo’s mother. As Esmerelda struggles to pull Quasi up, Frollo raises his sword to kill her and hisses; “And he shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit!” which does not appear anywhere in the Bible so I’m just going to assume Frollo is quoting Black Sabbath lyrics.
But then, the gargoyle Frollo is on transforms and he comes face to face with his own damnation…
Some fun, eh kid?
The possessed gargoyle breaks off and Frollo goes plummeting to a fiery death.
LAZY BASTARD KOOKABURRAS!
So, with Frollo dead there’s really nothing left to do but wrap this thing up. And here we come to the big problem. How do you tack a Disney happy ending onto The Hunchback of Notre Dame? I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I find the ending we get, Phoebus and Esmerelda get together with Quasi’s blessing, deeply unsatisfying. I kind of suggests that only attractive people deserve happiness. Sure, Quasi gets the love and acceptence of the people of Paris (as much as anyone can get the love and acceptence of the people of Paris), but what has this movie taught us, if not the dangers of not being able to get no tang around here? Oh, and the evils of prejudice and religious extremism. I guess. But I’m inclined to cut the film-makers a tiny sliver of slack. I’m not entirely sure there was a way to end this thing satisfactorily. Having Quasimodo and Esmerelda get together would be as big a betrayal of the source material as it’s possible to imagine, and I’m sorry, but a Disney movie simply cannot end with all the principal players dying. So what would I have done differently? Honestly, the only possible way of resolving this movie that I can think of would be for Esmerelda to have died and the movie to have ended on a bittersweet note, with Phoebus and Quasimodo mourning her death as brothers-in-arms, while the audience is left with the knowledge that at least now Quasimodo will be loved and accepted by the people of Paris (again, inasmuch as such a thing is possible).
Well, anyway, this is the ending we get, a flawed but nonetheless beautiful finish, to a flawed but truly awe-inspiring work of art.
Although it would be hard to call a film that was the fifth highest grossing movie of 1996 and netted over €300 million dollars worldwide a failure, it was clear that the salad days of The Lion King were gone and they weren’t coming back. As I’ve said before, I partially blame Pocahontas. Once a studio that’s on a hot streak stumbles, everything else that follows gets viewed with a little less enthusiasm. As for the critical response, well it wasn’t bad. More…confused. A lot of people just didn’t know what to make of this one. People still don’t. But it has slowly and steadily developed a cult following in the years since it’s release. What do I think?
Look. When I first started this blog I didn’t just want to rank them according to my personal preference. That would have resulted in a list with Beauty and the Beast near the bottom, well below things like Make Mine Music or Basil the Great Mouse Detective. Obviously, that would be unfair, so I instituted the 20/20/20/20/20 scoring system to inject a little objectivity into the process. That way, even something that I actively dislike like Pocahontas would still get marks for its excellent animation. What this means is, that while the scores broadly reflect my personal preferences for these movies, they don’t always. Lion King, objectively, is a better movie than The Hunchback of Notre Dame. But if I come home from a long day at work and I just want to watch a Disney movie to pick me up…I don’t watch Lion King. I watch this.
If you want to know what the greatest Disney movie of all time is, you’re going to have to keep following the blog until we come to the end.
But if you were just reading this to know what my favourite Disney movie is?
Here’s looking at you, kid.
Comes damn close to perfection.
The Leads: 20/20
Hey, he may look like a Justin Bieber waxwork that’s been left too close to a heat source, but he’s my favorite Disney lead.
The Villain: 20/20
No objections I trust?
Supporting Characters: 17/20
Okay, hear me out. Sure, the gargoyles are nothing special. But I’m also including Phoebus, Esmerelda and Clopin in the supporting character category. Make sense now?
The Music: 19/20
It has, in my opinion anyway, the single greatest song in the canon. And the score is absolutely excellent. But some of the songs are, if not bad, then less than perfect, so I can’t quite justify giving it a perfect score.
FINAL SCORE: 95%
NEXT TIME: The Unshaved Mouse celebrates its first anniversery, I review Hercules, we dance, we kiss, we schmooze, we go home happy whaddya say?
NEXT UPDATE: 08 August 2013
Neil Sharpson AKA The Unshaved Mouse, is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger living in Dublin. The blog updates every second Thursday. Thanks for reading!
Number 3 for me behind BATB and TLM. Totally on board with you with pretty much everything here. Frollo is absolutely the greatest villain in the Disney canon, no doubt about it (though I would very narrowly place Hellfire second behind Bells of Notre Dame as the greatest Disney song). I also don’t mind the gargoyles, mostly because I really like what the voice actors did with them (particularly Jason Alexander, wish he would do more voice work). The animation is stunning, probably my favorite backdrops of any Disney movie but I do agree with the 19 because the computer animation of the crowds is….distracting…to say the least.
I also really like Phoebus because Kevin Kline is awesome but I’m less enthusiastic about Esmeralda. I do like her, but I often have the complaint that many people have regarding Belle: I think Esmeralda is too perfect. Yeah I know she’s initially repulsed by Quasimodo and yeah she’s technically a stripper but aside from that, I find her overly simple. Main reason for that is God Help the Outcasts, which I think is a very nice song (and the imagery to go with it is very nice) but it’s just paints her as being too damn nice. The downside of the imagery in that song is that it seems to paint literally everyone in Paris as a greedy and selfish asshole while Esmeralda alone is good and caring. So yeah, I like her but not that much.
I can’t really say much more that you didn’t already cover. Excellent job as always Mouse!
Oh, forgot to mention that “Come at me, Fro” sent me into hysterics for a good minute
There are some flaws in her, but I know exactly what you mean when you say that. She is violent (which she uses as first instinct), and a bit unsettling. It is the way she is fleshed out and the story is told that they are to be ignored, since we are rooting for her.
In all fairness, that bit contrasting Esmeralda’s unselfish prayer for her people with the other churchgoers’ “gimme” prayers came straight out of a moment in the Charles Laughton movie.
I watched this movie for the first time ever last night. And don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it. The music is phenomenal, the characters are interesting, the emotion is intense, there’s some funny lines. I like the departures from the house style here, even if it makes the citizens of Paris look like weird chinless peg-people.
I do like that they were brave enough to make Quasimodo actually ugly, not just Hollywood ugly. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel for the guy, especially when there’s that split-second shot during the festival where he cries this little tear of joy.
But that is a difficult face to watch for an hour and a half. And when I finished watching the movie, the optimistic glow I’m usually left with at the end of a Disney flick was missing.
Also, I don’t think it’s that hard to see why the Parisians turn nasty in the festival scene. First of all, there’s alcohol in the mix. Secondly, it’s the (already bastard-y) guards who get it started. Finally, the point of crowning the King of Fools is ridicule; sympathy for the disabled hadn’t been invented yet, so the crowd go, ‘hey, actually, this is funnier than just ogling the freak’. These are people who liked watching executions and dancing bears, after all.
What do you feel it was that didn’t provide that optimistic glow specifically?
I thought of the festival scene in that regard as well, just how sporadic mob mentality can be.
I don’t know why. I guess I felt like the scales had been so heavily weighted with the darker aspects that they couldn’t be tipped back. Especially considering one of those aspects was prejudice, which can be (and is, and clearly was in the movie) so ingrained in a culture that it takes generations to get over.
Oh no, I get that. But he gets hit by the tomato and there’s this sudden horrified gasp like they’ve just noticed that he’s ugly again.
I thought the gasp might be more “surprised” than “horrified”.
I’ll admit it, I’ve been looking forward to your review of this since Snow White. It was the first Disney movie that I clearly remember from the early promotion to the merchandise to actually watching it. Little seven year old me was completely enthralled with the animation, the score, and “Hellfire”. (I actually credit HoND and Sleeping Beauty for making me into a medievalist.) I have to agree with pretty much everything you said. The animation, especially the work they did on the cathedral, is amazing, and Frollo is the best villain with the best song, period. As a fan of Hugo’s novel, I actually have no problem with this. Maybe that is because this movie was part of my childhood, and so, near and dear to my heart, but it captures the spirit of the novel in places. And, let’s face it, there really isn’t a faithful film adaptation out there, at least on my side of the Atlantic. Something about the ending, as fitting it is in the book, seems to turn screen adapters’ stomachs, so even an adaptation that sticks very close to the book (Lon Chaney’s 1920s version), still will have Esmeralda live and end up with Phoebus.
Your comment about what a satisfying ending would be made me wonder if you had seen or heard of the German musical adaptation of HoND, Der Glöckner von Notre Dame? Menken and Schwartz wrote extra songs, the tone was much darker than the film, and it made the gargoyles (renamed Charles, Antoine, and Loni) explicitly part of Quasi’s imagination. It also has the exact ending you described, with Esmeralda dying and Quasimodo and Phoebus mourning her. It ran for three years and was very successful. There’s been a lot of discussion about bringing it to the US, but things are very up in the air.
Great review, as always, and I really did enjoy the excellent commentary on “Hellfire”.
They actually announced that it’s coming to Broadway quite recently. I would sell my soul to the Red Rooster to see that.
What exactly is a “midievalist”, may I ask?
Someone who specializes in medieval culture and history. I’m an art historian, or rather, an aspiring one since I’ll be starting my master’s degree soon.
Oh, that is honestly extremely cool! Did “The Sword in the Stone” influence you as well?
It might have, but maybe on a more subconscious level. I remember seeing it for the first time when I was about four or five, and I didn’t see it again until I was a teenager. It definitely was my introduction to the Arthurian legend, and I know the scene when Wart pulls out the sword impressed little me.
Yeah, lot of people influenced by that movie. Damn it.
@ Alys I just want to say ART HISTORY WOOT!!! *internet high fives* I watched HoND to help me in my Romanesque and Gothic Art class.
Internet high fives to you too, HoneySempai. Great choice for study material. When I was working as a teaching assistant, I told my students to watch HoND because it shows the size and scale of Notre Dame Paris better than many photographs do.
I also used The Road to El Dorado for my African, Pre-Columbian, and Oceanic art class (the midterm was pretty exclusively Pre-Columbian art); specifically I watched “It’s Tough to Be a God” over and over while studying. It’s really amazing the amount of research that DOES go into animated movies re: the incidental/background art.
I’m given to understand that even Victor Hugo himself, writing the libretto for an opera version of Notre Dame De Paris, changed the ending to let Esmeralda live. So I don’t see the point of carping at Disney when the FREAKIN’ CREATOR actually tinkered with the ending at one point.
Love the review, unshavedmouse!
So since this is your favorite Disney movie, is this also the answer to the “What’s your favorite animated movie?” question that I tagged you with a few months ago?
Oh, did you get the picture of the boatman from my blog? Just curious.
Hmm, I didn’t know that “pulling one’s bell” was a euphemism!
I’m actually quite glad that Esmeralda is not a Disney Princess, because I don’t look at the “Disney Princesses” as a brand or title, but I look at it etymologically (or however the heck that word is spelled). What I mean is if you’re not married to a prince nor are you the daughter of a king, then you’re not a princess in my book. This is why I am displeased with Mulan being a Disney Princess, whilst Eilonwy and Kida aren’t. But that’s just my opinion, and it’s not worth much.
Oh and since “Hellfire” is the greatest song in the Disney Canon according to you, is it also your favorite?
Wow, I can’t believe you’d prefer “Make Mine Music” to “Beauty and the Beast”.
Well…maybe not but I do love Make Mine Music. Honestly my favorite animated movie changes all the time. Right now it’s A Scanner Darkly. The boatman was a screen grab. We must have just both used the same frame.
Cool, “Make Mine Music” is quite enjoyable. The boatman’s picture does make a good screen grab.
Oh and Hellfire is hands down my favorite Disney song.
She was a Disney Princess in the late 90s and joined when Mulan did, but got kicked out son after. At the end of the day, it is about if the movie is a financial success and marketable.
Dam capitalism. Marx was right.
This was a movie that took a couple viewings to grow on me, but now it’s in my top 10 faves (maybe even top 5 but that would mean actually sitting down and composing a list and I’m too much of a lazy ass to do that.)
The city scenes . . . ohhhhhhhhh. I’ve give a lot to be able to see this on the big screen again, now that I can appreciate it! I too think the gargoyles were the weak link in this one, but in my head ‘verse they are naught but Quasi’s imaginary friends. And that makes everything better.
The songs are all (with one exception) wonderful. The one exception is “A Guy Like You” but I’m willing to be generous to a song that makes me laugh with its first two lines. Something about Jason’s Alexander’s “true, that’s because it’s on fire” that never gets old for me. And “Hellfire.” . . . Yeah, there are no words for the awesome, except maybe the word “Awesome.” (Although, I must confess, I first saw this movie with my then ten-year-old brother, and I was so stunned by the adultness of the scene that I kept sneaking glances at him to see how he was reacting.)
Tony Jay. My man. If I could have sex with his voice, I would, and I bet it would be the most bell-ringing sex on the planet (pun intended.) . . . . TMI? Nope. Just callin’ it like it is.
Oh, and the kookaburra joke has yet to grow old. 🙂
You will let me know when it grows old, I trust?
My dear Mouse, this is the internet. When the joke is past its prime you will be alerted to the fact immediately and with excessive volume. 😉
I can haz notification when meme iz stale?
Just stumbled on this blog and I have to say, awesome review! Hunchback has always been one of my favorite Disney animated films too and it’s nice to see someone else who seems to see the film the same way I do. I actually HAVE read the book and I think Disney did keep true to a lot of the Spirit of the book if not the exactness of the plot. Actually the original French title is Notre Dame de Paris and its more about the lives of many different characters as it revolves around the cathedral, which includes Quasimodo, Esmerelda, Frollo and other characters that didn’t quite make it into the film. Most people tend to focus on the Quasimodo arc and Disney follows suit in this case. However, I like that the cathedral itself plays an essential and integral part as a character in the story. Just like the book. That said, I prefer the movie over the book. It’s the most mature movie that Disney has ever attempted, and despite its flaws, I’d still rank it as the pinnacle artistic achievement of the Disney renaissance.
Thanks,and welcome to the blog! Sigh, gonna have to read the book now, aren’t I?
Mmm…I will say there is quite a bit of yawn inducing material. (Such as an entire 250 pages devoted to just describing the city and people of Paris.) I’m glad I read it but I don’t think I’ll ever read it again. 🙂
If you have to read it, I would recommend a short, abridged version that is straight to the point. That’s how I read it.
I read part of Les Mis and decided that Victor Hugo didn’t know when to shut the fuck up XD So I won’t be tackling the rest of it or NDdP…I think I’ll find the musical versions of both to be more relevant and touching, honestly.
You are a minister who tells people to shut the fuck up and you have no idea how happy that makes me.
@ unshaved mouse I’m glad; usually after I let my potty mouth run I go into an existential crisis about how I’m an awful minister |D
Don’t be. I’m convinced they had to clean up a lot of what Jesus said about the Pharisees.
I always thought having the cathedral itself be Frollo’s undoing was a HUGE nod to the spirit of the book, since Notre Dame, iirc, was supposed to be considered a character.
My thoughts exactly!
Instead of writing one of my long reviews, I just do this:
But some short points:
I think this movie has three problems, two really big ones and one which just needed a little bit adjustments.
1. It doesn’t stick to a tone
It’s not just the Gargoyles, though they are a huge part of it. Yes, comic relief belongs into a Disney movie. But this movie switches between the highest form of drama (for Disney) to the lowest form of humour. Serious Disney movies usually also have a more serious kind of humour.
2. It lacks focus
I guess mostly because the writers make the mistake that because of the title, the story is about the Hunchback. It isn’t. It’s about Notre Dame itself. Quasimodo takes up so much room in the movie that everything else, the Gypsies, the romance, ends up being underdeveloped.
3. The Characters
No, your rating doesn’t make sense. Phoebus hat no character whatsoever aside from being “the hero”, he is a second John Smith. Clopin rocks every scene he is in, but he makes no sense, he seems to follow what the plot needs instead of being a full-fletched character. The goat is useless. The only good side-character is Esmeralda. That doesn’t really make up for all the others. This movie deserves the same side-character rating Pocahontas got. (well, perhaps slightly higher for at least selling blandness slightly better).
Same supporting character score as Pocahontas? My jaw. Is on. The floor.
Just because Frollo is a complex villain, it doesn’t mean that the movie offers an abundance on layered characters. Even for a Disney movie, those characters lack layers. Esmeralda only gets a pass from me because she could be interesting if she got a better thought out story, instead of just acting as a foil for all the men (and to be fair, that’s pretty much the role of the character in the book, too, Disney’s version is an improvement).
And really, the three Gargoyles alone are reason for a much lower score. You scored down movies in the past for less. Even movies with perfectly serviceable side-characters (by your own admission) got less than 17 from you.
Woah there Swanpride. Phoebus may not be the best supporting character in a Disney movie but Kevin Kline does an excellent job of making him an extremely likable and fun character to watch (he’s pretty great at this in general, the only reason I even kind of like Road to El Dorado is because of his and Kenneth Branaugh’s voice work). And Clopin doesn’t really need to be a totally fleshed out character, he’s the narrator so his job really is to serve the plot. That they made him such an amazingly fantastic character to watch is really a triumph. And the gargoyles being fine shouldn’t bring down the score. In fact, I actually really enjoy the gargoyles for the most part (as I too have just accepted that they’re part of his psyche, the fight at the end is just parts of Notre Dame breaking off and crushing the soldiers).
Phoebus absolutely had a character when you think about what he was set up to be: the “romantic rival”. If Disney were following formula Phoebus would be the smarmy but charming asshole who would eventually reveal himself to be a total douchecanoe, causing Esmeralda to rush into Quasi’s arms. Instead, he was a good-humored, brave, compassionate, stubborn, and snarky guy who stood for principles even at cost to himself. Maybe I’m singular but I’m much more interested in the psychological complexities of a person who sacrifices himself for others than for someone who sacrifices others for himself (even though I do think Frollo is spectacularly wrought, for all the reasons that Mouse outlined above).
I notice it’s a trend (not with you specifically, but in the larger pop culture crit…um, culture) to deride characters who are meant to be genuinely good people as “having no character”. A character doesn’t need to be cruel or tormented or have a tragic past to be interesting or considered well-written/characterized. Most people anyone knows *are* genuinely nice people, and they’re not necessarily boring or not worth exploring.
One of the reasons why I find the fact that they haven’t been able to make a good Superman movie in thirty years so frustrating.
If you make your character a nice person though, they still have to have flaws or be tempted or something to make them interesting. The perfect example of this, in my opinion at least, is George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. He’s a character that always does the right thing and that should make him boring. But it doesn’t because the movie clearly shows that he always struggles to put others before himself (though he always does in the end) and the central struggle of the movie is that he’s not sure if he CAN do the right thing anymore. Being a “nice person” has plenty of room for character. Being a perfect person does not.
Oh and this is also the reason they haven’t made a good Superman movie, because he’s far too perfect and thus boring as shit.
But Phoebus ISN’T perfect and he does have flaws. Rather glaring ones, in fact. Initially–their first meeting, and in Notre Dame after FoF–Phoebus only assists Esmeralda because he finds her attractive. He’s taken aback by Frollo’s sadism and blatant racism during their first meeting, but he doesn’t stand up to it in any meaningful way aside from mild incredulity, and I always got the impression that he was trying to believe that Frollo was right and justified in some respects, due to his lack of protestation (hell, he probably harbors at the least some mildly racist ideas himself; he’s a product of his time). He obeys Frollo’s orders not to assist Quasimodo and to arrest Esmeralda at the FoF. And he goes along with Frollo’s whole “I will invade private homes and arrest entire communities” thing until Frollo crosses the line at the miller’s house. Phoebus is actually rather weak-willed for most of the movie…his heart is in the right place, but it takes EXTREME circumstances for him to stand up to injustice.
I like normal characters (god knows I have argued a lot of times for the lead of “Grimm”, exactly because he is so refreshingly normal). But I still have to understand the motivations of a character. Phoebus for example is supposedly so good, nevertheless he doesn’t react once when Frollo gives him his orders. So, is he play-acting, waiting for an opportunity to betray him, does he think he has to do what Frollo orders because he is a soldier, or what? He is more a plot point than a character, and because he has no motivation aside from “I’m in love with Esmeralda” the whole romance becomes a plot point too, instead of the story-line it should be.
I’m not saying that Hunchback is a bad movie…but it’s not a great or even outstanding movie. In the desire to “rescue” it from being supposedly underrated, it has become a highly overrated movie. Yes, there are some really good elements. But if those elements doesn’t go well together, than the result is just not outstanding. Personally I think it’s frustrating that something which could have been really good ended up being so uneven.
I thought it was pretty obvious that Phoebus obeys orders because he believes that is what he ought to do as a soldier. It’s stated multiple times that he’s a soldier, he behaves like a lieutenant (requesting permission from Frollo to help Quasi is a glaring example), and Frollo even throws it in his face that he was trained to follow orders. Phoebus can stand up to the oafish cops harassing the hot dancer, but Frollo is entirely different kettle of fish…beyond being Phoebus’ boss, Frollo like a lot of bullies is well-spoken, driven, intimidating, manipulative, and charismatic. He always has a bullshit but difficult-to-argue-with reason for the shitty things he does, and when that type of person is in a position of power over you, and additionally you are used to taking a subordinate role anyway, it’s easy to go along with all sorts of nasty things.
Having grown up in the social situation that I did, I recognized what kind of person Phoebus was right away, because he was like a good handful of kids I knew. Phoebus is the kid who wouldn’t pick on the designated Bullied Kid by himself, but he isn’t strong or motivated enough to stand up to an alpha bully on the victim’s behalf in any meaningful way, and he’s *just* captivated by the bully’s charisma and power enough to go along with his shenanigans, and even justify said shenanigans to himself. I mean, judging by his actions and in-actions, he’s a pretty textbook example of that kind of kid. There’s more in what Phoebus DOESN’T say and do than what he DOES, and that initial silence on, and compliance with, Frollo’s sadism and racism speaks volumes. In fact, Phoebus is “so good” ONLY in the fact that the authors grant him a Heel Face Turn, because people like that don’t often have lines set up that a bully can cross.
This movie isn’t considered outstanding and underrated because of its pacing (which is a bit too fast, granted) or the amount of time devoted to the Phoebus/Esmeralda romance (of which there could have been more, yes, though I find their whirlwind romance to be no more offensive or unbelievable than any other Disney Insta-TwuWuv romance; it’s what Disney does best, or at least does most). It’s outstanding because of its spot-on exploration of bullying and emotional abuse: the people who do it, the people who are victims of it, and the people who witness it and either go along with it, like the townsfolk; want to fight it but do nothing, as Phoebus initially did; or actually do fight it, as Esmeralda does. (As well as its dismantling of misogynistic tropes, its bitchin’ soundtrack and animation, and its complex villain).
We are probably brick walls fighting each other, since I think this movie is the best that Disney ever put out and will cotton to no criticism besides mild snarking over minor flaws. But I did want to argue your point that Phoebus is “too perfect” since in my eyes he was always deeply flawed…a likeable character and eventually an admirable one, but very weak-willed – and a little despicable because of that – in the first act…and also to point out that because of my experience, I don’t find him unbelievable, a plot point with personality traits pasted onto him. On the contrary, I find him to be a very recognizable personality type.
Swanpride, I started reading your blogs, and your “By-the-Book” Disney reviews are really interesting. May I request that you do a “By-the-Book” review of Bambi? It’s one of my top favorite Disney movies, and the book is just so deep, dark, tragic, and captivating. Maybe one of Fox and the Hound as well, if you can get your hands on it. I was able to through requesting it at my library.
Fox and the Hound is on the waiting list, because, as you said, I have a hard time getting the book.
With Bambi, I haven’t made a decision yet if I’ll do a By the Book review…the movie fits way better in the article series I plan to do when I’m through with this one, and I would hate to repeat myself.
I’ve read the original book and have a kind of a love-hate relationship with this movie. I rant about this pretty much every time someone mentions Hunchback, but I really don’t like that they made Frollo such a heartless bastard. In the book, Frollo is a tragic character (and my favourite) who is a good man until he starts lusting after a woman and everything goes to hell. He adopts Quasimodo out of the kindness of his heart and is a pretty good dad to him. I just think that the movie would’ve been much more complex and engaging if Frollo had been at least decent to Quasi and it’d actually hurt a little when our hero has to change loyalties. Now it’s like “Oh you were really evil all along, okay, then you can just die!”
I also don’t see the point of making Phoebus a heroic character. He’s easily the most repulsive character of the book, least deserving of Esmeralda’s misguided affections, and they seem to have changed him only to include romance. Because they can’t use Quasi for that because…?
But yeah, the movie has hands-down the best soundtrack in any Disney film ever. Tony Jay is my favourite anglophone voice actor and he’s just amazing as Frollo. And I do enjoy watching the movie even if I think it could’ve been even more brave and daring than it turned out to be. Great review, Mouse!
Yeah, but did you really expect otherwise from Disney. I think when people compare films to the source material, they are practically always disappointed.
“In the book, Frollo is a tragic character (and my favourite) who is a good man until he starts lusting after a woman and everything goes to hell.”
Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book and don’t know how this is portrayed in the source material, but for the purposes of adapting that particular character trait into the movie…I think it could easily lead into an Unfortunate Implication. Specifically “Damn those (gypsy) women, turning good men into evil lechers with their Exotic Sexy Mind Control Vibes!” This movie is actually very sophisticated in its unpacking of a lot of misogynist themes and ideas, and making Esmeralda in any way culpable for “turning Frollo evil” would have ruined that, imo.
I can agree that it might have been a good idea to leave Frollo as a good father to Quasi for the Drama Factor, but I actually do appreciate the Frollo-Quasi relationship portrayed in the movie, specifically in how it shows how child abuse can be subtle and manipulative instead of balls-out explosive and obvious. I think this movie tries to use Frollo (and the Parisian people to a lesser extent) as a way to explore the many different ways evil can manifest, and in how a person who indulges in evil can justify it to themselves. It’s different from how Frollo is used in the book, from what I gather, but I think it’s a worthwhile use of a character regardless.
I agree. Disney movies are a genre unto themselves and one of the conventions of that genre is that the villains are unambiguously evil.
In the book, it’s not at all about women turning men evil but about Frollo being destroyed because his religion considers his desire a sin. The book has its shortcomings in how it portrays Esmeralda, but she’s not presented as being wrong or evil for turning Frollo down (rather it’s considered a good thing that she guards her virginity). To me, the book is obviously saying that it’s the draconian society that vilifies normal human sexuality that is to blame, not men.
In my opinion, it would’ve been more interesting if movie!Frollo was a more decent man, if not necessarily one that starts out good and becomes evil. The movie does a good job in portraying an abusive relationship, but on the other hand it’s just another way this guy is reaaally evil. Movie!Frollo makes a very threatening villain, but I can’t help but be a bit bitter about the way they simplified my favourite character. It’s just my personal feelings.
By the way, all of you should totally read the book. It’s a good read and I didn’t find it hard at all to go through the unabridged version.
I think at that point you have to choose if you want Frollo or the Church to be your villain. For my own reasons I prefer that they chose Frollo (I think it’s way too easy to demonize the Church, and religion by extension, and being a religious type myself–albeit not Catholic–I’m glad that this is one piece of pop media that portrays a religious type as being an unambiguously good person. As I said to…someone awhile ago, when’s the last time you saw a protagonist priest who acts like a priest, and not a vampire hunter or somesuch?) but I don’t hold it against you that you’d have preferred Frollo got his original characterization 🙂 God knows I’ve ranted about the Sweeney Todd film and how “TOBY IS SUPPOSED TO BE TRAUMATIZED AT THE END, NOT ON HIS WAY TO BEING THE NEXT SWEENEY!!!1111oneone” enough.
But it’s exactly the relationship between Frollo and Quasi which makes the story so uneven. Because it is more Frollo who keeps Quasi from the world than society in itself, the movie is kind of ruining the whole message. (Don’t get me wrong, Frollo is a great villain, but he is not the perfect villain for this story).
swanpride, I think we are just destined to oppose each other XD
I don’t see how Frollo and Quasi’s relationship makes the movie uneven, or ruins the message. The movie is unambiguous about this: Frollo and the outside world are both villains; they are just different types of villains. One the direct, personal child abuser with exulted notions of himself; the other subject to bouts of cruelty and mob mentality.
The movie chastises “the world” for its indifference and the world learns its lesson by the end (that is, “don’t persecute those who are different” and “stand up against atrocities”), but the movie also acknowledges that *within* the world there are people (capable) of great inner beauty, and to brainwash kids into believing otherwise and lock them away from the world, is in itself a form of abuse.
And I mean…lots of people who commit child abuse isolate their kids, and teach them that the outside world is a terrible place out to screw them over. I actually think it’s rather common.
“Because they can’t use Quasi for that because…?”
Because Quasi wanted and needed self-acceptance, not romantic love; and because Quasi gracefully accepting that Esmeralda does not love him/loves someone else is the key differentiation between him and Frollo, who doesn’t care about what Esmeralda wants, only if he can have her for himself.
It also unpacks and undercuts the awful tropes of “women who don’t love the underdog/main character/”good guy” are stupid shallow bitches who don’t know what’s good for them, and have to be directed towards their ~proper~ love interest” and “if a woman loves someone who isn’t you, that other person must be a HORRIBLE MONSTER who is DECEIVING your (stupid) woman, and she will surely come around to be with you once she realizes how AWFUL that guy she’s actually attracted to is, and how deserving you are, even though she’s not attracted to you”, which appear in storytelling, and are invoked in real life.
That’s a very good point. It just kind of is unfortunate that the hero they used to demonstrate it is physically deformed. Kind of sends the wrong message.
It’s a very good point, too bad that people are going to read it as “the ugly guy can’t get the girl”. My hangup is less about not pairing Esmeralda with Quasi but pairing her with Phoebus, of all people. If she must end up with someone, why not Pierre Gringoire the poet? He’s quite cowardly, but at least he’s not a idiot bastard who uses women and lets them die for his murder even though he actually wasn’t dead. I agree that the movie does a great job avoiding a lot of misogynistic tropes.
To be fair/honest I think the implication of “Esmeralda doesn’t love Quasi because he’s ugly” IS unavoidable, since Quasi’s appearance is such a huge part of his overall character arc. But I don’t think it’s what’s intended, nor is it *really* supported by the material, if only because all the other themes are pushed more to the forefront.
For what it’s worth, as a child watching this I never got a message of “Esmeralda doesn’t love Quasi because he’s ugly”…if anything I got the message that “Quasi THINKS Esmeralda doesn’t love him because he’s ugly, but the truth is she just loves Phoebus, and Quasi’s appearance has nothing to do with it.”
One of the many things the German stage adaptation did right is put a big honkin’ key change in the middle of Hellfire. Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LjVmX46Xl4
I did not realize this was going to be up today, but I am glad. This film does have some problems, but not as much as Pocahontas, and is on par with some of the “Big Four” renaissance films.
I agreed with everything you said except for how Esmeralda should have died. Phoebus would have just been there for no reason, and almost useless. The characters are good except for the Gargoyles, but I don’t neccesarily hate them like a lot of others do. I think the plot is fine, but there are some plot holes in it, like the one you mentioned about everyone knowing Quasi is the bellringer. The soundtrack is fantastic and has a lot of meaning; everything works well.
I do think that they could have focused on the tone more and made Esmeralda the protagonist. Think about it, after the first act it practically becomes her story. But personally, I do not see how this movie is so much worse than something like BatB or Aladdin (which are both good).
You guys can look at my DreamWorks films review. I am almost finished The Prince of Egypt.
Let me know when you finish PoE. I consider that one of the most underrated animated films of all time. It’s an absolute masterpiece that does not get the recognition it deserves
It should be up Next Wednesday. Thank you for taking interest.
Agreed so hard about TPoE. I actually like it more than HoND.
I agree HoneySempai but it’s like a parent picking their favorite child. I love them both but PoE just a little more
My Prince of Egypt review is up. Click on my name and it will be there.
Some comments I had when reading this review:
I think the Arch Deacon was on his way to coming out to rescue Quasimodo’s mother, but Frollo got to her first (after all, it all happened very quickly and he was on horseback).
You have an interesting point regarding the gargoyles. I was never annoyed by them, and I think it’s good that they are there because we NEED them to balance out the movie’s dark atmosphere. Other people have insisted that Quasimodo was imagining them, but like you said, if that were true then why were they CLEARLY helping out with the battle scene? I wish the movie would have made that more clear.
I kinda got your joke for Mulan but not sure about the other Disney princesses.
The other guard was voiced by Bill Fagerbakke, the actor who voices Patrick Star in Spongebob Squarepants. I don’t know what your opinion is of that show, but it was my favorite on Nickelodeon (for the first few seasons, of course).
Can I have Jasmine? 😉
I agree, how would they know that Quasimodo was the bell ringer? I suppose they needed to somehow work the scene where he is humiliated and Esmeralda helps him into the movie, since it’s a well-known scene in the book.
One thing that really sticks out to me is when Phoebus grabs his sword back from Esmeralda, who almost calls him a “son of a b*itch.” It’s just something that an adult will totally get but it will soar over a child’s head.
Quasimodo wouldn’t have HAD to go back in public if he left with Esmeralda and went straight to the Court of Miracles, but then there is the question of whether or not the gypsies would have accepted him.
Yeah, I’m not sure why Esmeralda takes Phoebus to Quasimodo; in fact he’s not a doctor in any way, shape, or form since she helps heal his wounds herself anyway. She would have done the exact same thing in the Court of Miracles where Frollo never would have found him in the slightest..but I guess it was so that we’d see Quasimodo’s heart get broken. 😦
Your theory of a different ending is an interesting one. I can see Esmeralda dying working as an ending to this movie, with the way you propose it. My question would be how would Frollo’s defeat have been handled? I always liked the way Esmeralda stood by Quasimodo and risked her life to save him even if she didn’t end up with him. As far as how she survived, I’m guessing the smoke just knocked her out for a while, and if Quasimodo had waited a few minutes longer she would have died from suffocation. The fresh air may have brought her back to her senses. Then again, if that’s true, then why didn’t he see her breathing?
I think that’s all I have to say for right now.
Just because I love speculating . . .
Quasi seems to know every inch of the cathedral — it’s likely at least a few churchgoers have seen him now and then. Those who have seen him recognize him at the Festival of Fools.
I think if Esmerelda had taken Phoebus and Quasi to the Court of Miracles, Quasi would have been accepted. After all . . . he’s a gypsy (even though he doesn’t look like it and Esmerelda looks like a gypsy even though in the book she actually isn’t one and arggh must stop comparing book to movie!)
Ahem. But I think the reason she brought wounded!Phoebus to Quasi is twofold. 1) There is a saying that if you want to hide something, hide it in plain sight (thank you, Auguste Dupin!) and 2) the Court of Miracles is reached by wading through ankle-deep sewage. I don’t know about any of you, but I think I’d prefer hiding in a nice, dry cathedral over get dragged through human excrement with a severe open wound.
I agree with you on the smoke inhalation thing. Maybe we didn’t see her breathing because her breathing was so shallow immediately afterwards (Disney trying to fake us out? Nawww!)
The movie actually goes out of its way to show them interacting with other characters because the executives thought it was too dark otherwise. Spongebob is awesome. I can’t give you Jasmine, you’ll have to win her. The Princesses joke was just a weird non sequiter. I would have finished off Frollo the exact same way.
The smoke might have partially asphyxiated her/knocked her unconscious, but the fresh air and shock of water might have awakened her?
I’m glad I’m not a nurse XD
You’d still probably be better at it than Quasi.
Excellent review, Mouse! I find it really interesting that Hunchback is our favorite Disney movie. I have little to say since agree with you on nearly everything you mentioned about it. The movie has its share of flaws but overall, it’s one of the strongest movies in the canon.
Quasimodo is quite possibly my favorite Disney lead as well. Also, Esmeralda could never really be a Disney Princess since she’s not royalty (unless I’m mistaken and she’s like the princess amongst the gypsies or something). Then again, Mulan is considered a DP and she didn’t even marry a prince. So, I guess the inclusion of a heroine in the lineup would happen if she was, in some way, connected to royalty and/or if the movie she starred in was equally popular at the box office and with audiences and critics.
Or, and let’s be honest here, she was marketable.
Taking a quick moment to say that FSR
“The Archdeacon tells Frollo that if he’s under any illusions that God is cool with murdering a woman on the steps of his house and then trying to drown her baby, he’s got news for him: God is not cool with that.”
“the correct answer, “Filthy Huguenots””
would have made me spittake if I’d been drinking anything. Being a minister gives you a strange sense of humor.
Another quick moment:
“How the hell do you know that? He’s spent his entire life in the bell tower! Is it just common knowledge that there’s a hideously deformed hunchback ringing the bells?”
Welp, I’d say yeah. No one in the movie seems surprised that he exists. Quasi plays an active role in maintaining the church (not just bellringing, but cleaning iirc). Also, he was taken in as an orphaned infant. SOME Parisian woman would have to have been hired as a wetnurse in order for him to have survived. (How you can tell this story was drafted by a man: no one thinks about this.) My guess is that the lady would come home with gossip about the hideously deformed baby who she’s only nursing for to get time out of Purgatory, and that parishioners would have seen shadows of Quasi high in the towers ringing bells, or in the corners where he’s busy polishing the candlesticks. My impression is that Quasi is something of a Parisian urban legend, except substantiated.
*My “man” comment is, of course, snarky.
Of course. 🙂
Argh, but then you dropped the “Friend Zone” bomb ;_;
Okay, I get that it’s frustrating and even heartbreaking when a man loves a woman who doesn’t love him back, but the whole concept of a Friend Zone is just…it’s very problematic on a lot of levels, esp. when applied to HoND. As you say later on…
“I[t] kind of suggests that only attractive people deserve happiness.”
No! *cries all the tears* Especially since Quasi was designed to be malformed but still visually appealing. Hell I find him attractive, and I say that as a woman in a same-sex relationship.
What it suggests is that when someone you love is Just Not That Into You, that doesn’t give you license to try to take revenge on them and control them or even retreat into self-serving “well she’s just a shallow bitch and that’s why she doesn’t love me” bullcrap. Quasi is unique among Disney “princes” in that his job was NEVER to Get The Girl. Esmeralda is just not attracted to him the way he is to her, and he not only accepts that, but the ACT of accepting (more accurately, the actions he takes after he accepts that she doesn’t love him) that catalysts him into realizing that he’s a good, worthwhile human being, the “man” and not the “monster” that Frollo and Parisian society tried to convince him that he was. Quasi doesn’t need to have a True Love, he needs to find self-acceptance. Both rewarding him with Esmeralda AND killing Esmeralda off takes all the meaningfulness out of his character arc. With this ending, Quasi has to live with seeing Esmeralda be happy with someone else, but he gets to be secure in the knowledge that he is a good person who does good things and deserves to be treated kindly, which is what he wanted and what he NEEDED far more than he needed a girlfriend.
I admire HoND a lot for breaking out of the trope of “Happy Ending = Good, deserving underdog fulfills all tasks, kills the villain, and is rewarded with hot woman.” A lot of Disney movies (AND the philosophy behind the phenomenon of the Friend Zone) rely on this trope, and it has extremely ugly implications, specifically that women are, to steal Jasmine’s phrase, “prize[s] to be won” and that not getting said prize, even when you “deserve” it, is an affront to you, regardless of how the prize feels about having a relationship with you. (Also that no one can be happy if they’re single; relationships automatically entail happiness; and everyone’s emotional needs can be entirely fulfilled with a romantic kiss while the music swells.)
If I seem overly passionate about this, let me illustrate with a story: I’ve recently watched “The Devil’s Whore” on youtube, which is a fictionalized first-person account of the English Civil War. The main character is in a “for show/protection” marriage with her bodyguard, who has been in love with her from the beginning. After he accuses her of sleeping with someone else, and she tells him that she doesn’t and cannot love him, he throws her down and tries to rape her. He doesn’t follow through, and later saves her life, whereupon she throws herself into his arms. And all the comments on the video were along the lines of “I want to punch her in the face! She’s too stupid to see that he loves her!” and “How can this be happening; he’s loved her forever, how can she reject him?” THE MAN TRIED TO RAPE HER, but for some reason no one–not the viewers, and not the source material–seems to see this as a hindrance to their eventual romance, because he’s “always loved and protected her” before and after the ATTEMPTED RAPE.
This is the narrative that’s handed down to storytellers and storyhearers: if a guy is designated by the narrative as “good” and does nice things for a woman he’s in love with, he not only deserves to have her love, he (and the audience) can act out violently against her when she refuses to give it and he (they) is (are) JUSTIFIED in doing so.
So I admire HoND for swimming extremely hard against that current with the ending they chose. If you love someone and they don’t love you back, a) they are not a bad person for not loving you back, and b) you have to deal with it like a mature and decent adult, bi) especially if that person is going to remain in your life, and bii) even if you’ve overcome obstacles on their behalf and really, REALLY want them to love you back, and biii) ESPECIALLY if you want to be (and be considered) a “good guy”.
Yeah, my wife wasn’t happy about the Friend Zone line either. Sorry, no offence intended. This problem actually reminds me of Pacific Rim which I saw recently and really liked. If you haven’t seen it, the two leads are a White American male and a Japanese woman who pilot a giant robot together. The movie focuses strongly on their relationship but (aside from some sexual tension) that relationship is entirely platonic. In fact, the only “courtship” we see is him trying to convince her to become his co-pilot because she’s too dam good not to. I really, really liked this but I have to confess that at the end I was a little disappointed at the end when they didn’t get together because it felt like once again Hollywood was shying away from showing an interracial romance. Now, this is obviously completely unfair to the movie, because I can’t praise it for A and then criticise it for not doing B which would have made A impossible. And that’s where I think I am with Hunchback. I appreciate that the movie doesn’t treat Esmerelda like a prize to be won, but I can’t help feeling like the movie is straight up admitting that someone like him will never be able to find love.
“Yeah, my wife wasn’t happy about the Friend Zone line either. Sorry, no offence intended.”
It’s okay 🙂 When the Friend Zone meme initially appeared, I thought it was semi-darkly amusing…I can appreciate the use of humor to alleviate the pain of getting rejected. (And I don’t hold said pain of “she doesn’t love me and that SUCKS” against anyone, since yeah. It hurts, and there’s nothing wrong with being disappointed that something you wanted didn’t work out.) The problem is, it’s since then morphed into an utterly self-serving and misogynistic meme about how “women always choose men who treat them badly because they’re more conventionally attractive; what a dumb ho”, or worse, “women are inherently shallow bitches who take joy in stringing along and crushing the hopes of good guys (like me) even though all we do is (passive-aggressively) shower them with affection (similar to what any of her other friends would do).”
I appreciate the narrative of “Shy guy loves confident woman –> Shy guy gains confidence through overcoming personal obstacles –> Shy guy finally asks woman out.” I even appreciate the narrative of “I didn’t realize I was attracted to/could have a relationship with you until you said something” since my own current relationship grew out of a very good friendship, and I was somewhat blindsided by the fact that she was attracted to me at first. It’s upsetting to me that these perfectly legitimate plots have been twisted into a mindset where all the onus is on the woman to love a guy back (even if he never lets her know that he’s in love with her to begin with), and if she doesn’t, that must mean there’s something morally or intellectually wrong with her.
I admit that in my own writing I have a real hard time not pairing everyone off at the end (despite what I sound like I really am a hopeless romantic irl) and have relied on my girlfriend to keep me from stumbling into problematic themes when it comes to writing romantic relationships. The idea that Happy Ending = Marriage and Babies is a hard idea to get out from under, since it’s not only culturally ingrained, but most people WANT to find love. So I completely understand the disappointment at the end of Pacific Rim (which I haven’t seen yet, but everyone keeps telling me it’s excellent…and don’t worry, I love being spoiled about movies and books; spoilers let me know if I want to spend my time on the story or not). Particularly since you introduce the problematic element of Maligned Mixed Marriage. (Do I spend too much time on TV Tropes? Yeah, I think I do.)
I heard a priest joke once that “you can’t talk for three minutes without preaching heresy”. You can’t make a movie/book without sending out Unfortunate Implications no matter how hard you try XD
To be fair to the HoND canon, they rectified the “no one will romantically love Quasi” thing in the sequel. To be fair to good taste, though, the sequel was pretty bad. Not as bad as Mulan II (nothing is as bad as Mulan II), but lacking in any real excitement or sense of urgency. And trying to follow up Frollo with…what they followed him up with >.> I just like to think “and as an epilogue, Quasi met a nice young lady named Madeleine and they were very happy together”, and pretend the rest of the sequel doesn’t exist 8D
What do you write by the way?
I’ve been working a novel for a really long time now…it’s gone through several re-imaginings, and I lost my original MS because my old laptop is a dumbass >.>
But it’s about the people who live in a brothel in Japan in 1633, and I categorize it as historical LGBT religio-fantasy lit. I’d go into the plot details, but it’s sorta like Les Mis in that there are multiple storylines going on, and you can’t describe in the vaguest what one character is doing without going into extreme detail about what other characters are doing. ^.^;
I’ve written drafts of other novels and the first act to a play for a class, but this is my serious writing project at the moment 🙂
That sounds like you just invented your own genre.
Pacific Rim was the most entertaining movie of the year by far. I like Monsters University more, but Pacific Rim was just so goddam fun.
Now to make it marketable! Or, well, to finish it, at least.
Hmm…how to make a story set in brothel appealing to a mass audience…got a challenge on your hands there, no question.
I figure I’ll send it off to the people who published Memoirs of a Geisha or The Concubine’s Daughter, because ~Sexy Asian Ladies~ If that doesn’t work out, off to the smaller and more obscure LGBT publishers.
Being a minister gives you an AWESOME sense of humour , clearly. What denomination I’ve been meaning to ask?
I’m an Interfaith minister, which is more service-oriented than preaching-oriented. Personally I was raised Lutheran, and Christianity is the lens that I see the world through (by which I mean, Christian ethics are my ethics or at very least the *basis* of my ethics; Christian worship services are what I think of when I think of worship services; I am very attached to the personage of Jesus and turn to his teachings when I have a moral or spiritual dilemma), but my stated purpose is to assist others in developing their relationship to God(s) and other people in their own religious and cultural context, and in exploring the variety of spiritual expression the world has to offer. My “shtick” is basically…the universe is so huge, and God is so unlimited, and people are so different in how they think and what they need from each other and from a deity; why can’t all these ideas that we’ve developed over the centuries have some validity? And how can I help make all those ideas and the people who subscribe to them palatable to people with different ideas? And what can I offer people who are struggling with their relationship with the Divine, other than telling them what to believe? (And how can I stop being a sarcastic little shit with social anxiety in order to get things done? |D)
If you click on my name it leads you to my “Reverend” facebook page 🙂 I was actually only ordained last month, though I’ve been seriously studying religion for the past 8 years, and I knew I had a “calling” from when I was 10 (for perspective, I’m almost 24 now). I want to get my feet and some money under me with a wedding ministry, and then go about doing some more serious good once I have financial resources behind me 🙂
(Sorry for the Wall of Text posts |D I have a love of words, and also a deep-seated need to explain and justify myself, especially when it comes to my Interfaith practice, since most people don’t know what it is, or look at me askance for being anything from heretical to religiously wishy-washy.)
Not at all, I find it absolutely fascinating. I think I’m largely in the same place religionwise.
Okay I cannot read the whole thing and then make one large comment, apparently. Sorry for the commentspam.
“Then one of the guards throws a tomato at him and the crowd turns nasty again. Honestly, I don’t get it. They’ve accepted him one minute, but as soon as he gets hit by a tomato it’s all “No, too ugly now. Kill the beast.””
The scene where the crowd turns on Quasi at the FoF is genuinely gutwrenching, and while it seems nonsensical to one who’s applying logic to the situation, it’s absolutely true-to-life. I have always identified very strongly with Quasi because I’ve been in situations where you think everything is going fine and you’ve won acceptance and affection, and then BAM one day you are pariah, you are outcast and the people you depended on to be kind and friendly to you are throwing their metaphorical tomatoes at you. Quasi doesn’t realize it–just as most bullied and attention-starved kids don’t realize it–but the crowd doesn’t love him; they’re using him for entertainment, and once a more amusing method of using him for entertainment comes along, they’ll jump on it like a shark on a wounded seal.
The transition doesn’t even need to be subtle to be realistic. I’m remembering one example in middle school where the decent-sized group of girlfriends I had literally *over a weekend* decided to cut me out of the group…leaving me out of activities like signing a birthday card, stealing my notebook and returning it to me with homophobic messages inside, forcing me to sit alone at lunch, and ignoring me at every turn if they didn’t outright take to harassing me. I went home on Friday thinking everything was great; I came to school on Monday and the rug was ripped out from under me. I wound up making up with one of the girls, who told me the reason for their behavior was “Courtney decided she would be mean to you, and we all went along with it.”
So yeah, I don’t think “the crowd turns inexplicably on Quasi” can be a legit criticism of the movie, because it’s entirely within human nature to build a person up only to, without warning, take sadistic glee in tearing them down and humiliating them publicly.
Jesus. Just…Jesus, that’s awful. You’d have been justified in becoming a supervillain after that.
That was just a particularly noteworthy example, unfortunately…I didn’t have a great time in public school*, and because of it I actually adamantly refuse to send my future kids to public school…if I can’t feasibly homeschool them, then they’re going to a Quaker school or at least an extremely reputable private school.
When I was young and watching this movie, that particular scene didn’t affect me the way it does now, since I was pretty calloused and “used to” being treated badly by my peers. After I went to college, found some real friends and a good social environment, and started working on my issues…now that scene is really visceral and frankly hard to watch, even though it’s also cathartic in a strange way.
*I read somewhere that in the UK, what Americans call “public school” is called “state school”, and what we call “private school” is called “public school”. I’m not sure if that’s true about where you are (and also want to apologize in advance if it’s offensive to imply that you’re part of the UK…being Irish-American gives you all the watered-down culture, but none of the knowledge of the geopolitical intricacies), but I wanted to clarify just in case it would cause confusion.
It’s different here again. By and large most schools are just called “schools” unless they’re privately run schools. Most of the schools here are church run but they’re all state funded pretty much. We’re not in the UK but I don’t take offence at it. It is a HUGELY complicated situation if you don’t live here and I don’t think most Irish get that.
Are you planning on adopting some time in the future?
My Ladyfriend really wants to experience pregnancy at least once, so at least one kid will be via artificial insemination, but both of us want to adopt as well. 🙂
Wow. I was actually asked (jokingly) if I’d be willing to donate but I don’t think I could. The idea that I had a kid out there who’s life I wasn’t a part of just wouldn’t sit right with me.
It’s a bit of a mindscrew for me, too…I don’t think I could donate my eggs or act as a surrogate for that reason, unless I was going to be in the child’s life. The Ladyfriend and I have discussed what role the “birth parents” would play in our hypothetical kids’ lives, and we’re pretty okay with open adoptions, and I would assume (since we haven’t explicitly talked about it yet) letting the kids know their biological dad, so long as there aren’t any pressing concerns such as them/him being unfit to be around kids.
It’s conversations like this that remind me that we’re living in the future.
“The undercurrent of misogyny and the implied threat of sexual violence in this scene is actually pretty tough to watch. I can see why some people just can’t get behind this movie.”
Argh, but that’s the reason TO watch the movie!
Fun fact: when I was little I didn’t understand any of the undercurrents here. This movie confused me for a really long time, but I didn’t ask too many questions as a kid so it went unexplored for LONG after I hit puberty. HoND’s status as my favorite is a recent development.
I feel similarly about “God Help the Outcasts”. Sometimes it makes me cringe with its preachiness and also with how God damn perfect Esmeralda is (seriously woman, you can’t think of ANYTHING you want for yourself? Even the Virgin Mary made demands!), other times it makes me all teary-eyed.
I’ve always also felt badly for the old lady who “asks for love”. I just imagine her as an elderly widow who’s been abandoned by her kids.
Yeah, that has a bit of a kick.
Just to talk about your upcoming Hercules review for a second, I think you might want to have a glance over this piece, if you weren’t aware of it already: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/lb_i.php?lb_id=13214195290B73765100
True, it can get pretty harsh, but I’d still say it’s worth hearing out.
Wow. This guy hates Hercules more than Mouse hates Pocahontas, but I have to admit I agree with him, and probably could even share some of the hate if I hadn’t been desensitized to have any bitter feelings of the movie thanks to all of its merchandising at the time.
I remember Esmerelda as being marketable. I seem to remember (from when I was 6 or 7) having a Barbie of her, and thought it was really cool to play with. She had two outfits – the gypsy clothes, and the white dress from the end of the movie (Yes, I had Barbies – I was 6, don’t judge me!). Maybe she just wasn’t as marketable as the others?
Now that you mention it I remember that too…for some reason.
Yeah. There was a lot of toys do this movie in the late 90s, early 2000s. Disney just decided not to market the film.
I love Frollo because he doesn’t have magic on his side, he reminds me of Lady Tremaine as they both manipulate and use their power to abuse which is something you can notice in other people. With all of this magic, you can do anything and be as evil as you want but the villains that don’t have magic to be evil with are so much more interesting in that respect because it shows you how low a human can stoop to, to become evil. Also, this is one of the best reviews so far for me, you’ve got so many great lines in here I was chuckling away the whole time while reading it. I thought the original story was pretty good and it really shows the differences with the film (and I liked the gargoyles) so the ending isn’t that great but I doubt they could come up with anything else so kid friendly
Awww, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. An animated movie that was almost more for the adults, as it was for the kids. I won’t launch into any reasons why I at both times hate this movie, and love it. I only came to saw this.
Quasimodo is by far, my most favorite movie lead ever. I know I said Aladdin was my favorite movie, but that’s overall. Quasi is my favorite lead. Why? He’s just like me in almost every detail, except I’m not a deformed man, just lacking in what most people call good looks.
Quasi to me was always that one reason to keep life going. Watching this for the first time I was probably 13, and I saw in him everything I was going through, and through this story, I quickly learned why I never was liked in school, why I never fit in. There’s some undefinable quality people call beauty, and it was obvious that that it was denied to Quasi. He never let that get him down. He knew he was ugly, but he still had a good heart, and loved life. So much he risked causing a riot to attend the Festival of Fools. What did he find? For one brief moment, he found love, acceptance, and beauty. I don’t think he lusted after Esmeralda like most other men did, he liked her personality, and her kind ways, things he himself found important.
In the end, it was short lived, but his optimism said to keep looking, he almost had it, and he was going to keep looking for it, even if the man he most trusted, whose advice was proven, at the time, correct. He kept looking, he was determined to find it, but he didn’t lash out when the one person he loved most didn’t return that love to him, he let her go. These were lessons I learned from him, that taught me to a better man, and know that like Shrek, there were layers and though the top layer was ugly, there was an inner beauty you had to see.
While I could go on and on about this movie, It’s probably better I write my own review one day, and post it on TGWTG.com.
Thanks for the review mouse, look forward to the rest!
I too am not deformed nor was I ugly in my childhood/teenage years, but I also had an extremely tough time in school and I feel very similarly about this movie. Watching it is sometimes painful, but I find it very therapeutic, too.
Mouse, I’m going to make wild guess & say Hades is your favorite thing about Hercules.
The first rule about the gargoyles is that you do not talk about the gargoyles. The second rule about yeah yeah, you all know the joke. When I first watched the film, I joined the general opinion of them being insufferable, but by now I don’t really mind them; my only gripe is that the message to their song is rendered pointless in the very next scene.
I mentioned earlier that Hunchback & BatB were the only two Renaissance films laying around my house growing up (Although I should correct myself in that I did not own Pocohontas either…but I don’t feel like I missed out on that one), and I discovered both of them on a nostalgia trip I had two years ago when I moved out of my hometown. I was undoubtedly part of the first group of people you mentioned Mouse, and I spent a few months gushing over it to anyone within earshot. Even at a grainy low-quality on YouTube, my first viewing of Hellfire was breathtaking. I owe this film tremendously for bringing back my passion for animation & film, and it’s exactly as you’ve described as to why: For all it’s shining moments in spite of its rickety foundation.
Great review Mouse, and I am incredibly excited for what’s next.
*very tentative whisper* I’m literally being taken back to a petrified 6 year old me here, I have only watched this memorable picture once, but what made Frollo *thee* scariest Disney Villain for me was the scene when Pheobus returns from the war and (i think) with Frollo’s permission a poor man gets whipped to death. !(o_O)?
Trauma aside, this review is absolutely brilliant as usual Mouse! Despite my better judgement, I read it right before a seminar. My lopsided smile might’ve alarmed a few people. *Have you been to Bahia, my friend?*
Thanks Ella, really glad you liked it.
When I first watched this movie I assumed the gargoyles were just in his head…. What does that say about my childhood? Anyway fantastic blog.
Delighted you like it.
Hahaha, I see what you did there with most of those accusations charged against the Princesses. 😉 Jasmine’s in particular had me in splits.
I still somehow find the gargoyles more offensive than Gurgi. Now don’t get me wrong, Gurgi is a thousand times more annoying and unholy, but at least the movie he was in already sucked. Gurgi or no Gurgi, there was no saving The Black Cauldron from joyless mediocrity and terrible writing. But Hunchback was such a dark, well done movie, and the gargoyles play a big part in killing the atmosphere half of the time. Still, I love this picture, it’s easily in my top ten Disney films.
Ah, I really like this movie! Even after they tried to make it more “kid-friendly”, I don’t think any other Disney movie has covered the issues of religion and lust like this one. And I love the songs “God help the outcasts” and “Hellfire”,
I just happened to stumble upon this blog and I must say, I’ve been hooked ever since and have read the vast majority of your reviews! I know you may never read this, but you’ve done a genuinely entertaining and unique job on these reviews. Heck, one of my favorite reviews of yours is the Three Caballeros one and I’ve never seen that movie. You know you’re good when you can keep me reading even when the post is about something I’ve never seen or heard of.
That being said, it’s surprising how much I’ve agreed with most of your takes on these movies. Love that you don’t hold back on confessing disliking the general public’s favorites (Beauty & the Beast, BLEGH)
As for Hunchback…this is hands down my favorite Disney movie. It gets bashed a lot and I expected no different from you, to be honest, so this review was a pleasant surprise. I feel like the greatness of it overpowers all the flaws it has. It’s a little unfair that people put this in the trash heap just because of the gargoyles. Seriously? Might as well put all the other Disney movies in the incinerator because the sidekick characters are always EFFING ANNOYING. I also think that bashing it because it doesn’t follow Victor Hugo’s novel (which I’ve read) is silly. Did they honestly expect a Disney movie to follow it exactly when no other adaptations that were actually made for adults were ever faithful to the novel?
As much as Disney has its flaws, I appreciate that they were ballsy enough to do retelling of a novel with so many dark themes. I don’t exactly know how they thought that this story could be marketable for children, but $325 million ain’t too shabby, considering.
Funny thing, it wasn’t until recently that I found out that Frollo is a judge in this movie. They sure did a bad job of conveying that because, when I was a child, I always considered him a priest, haha. Doesn’t help that they call him a minister in various parts of the movie.
Love the red rooster cameo in the statue. Quite the devil indeed!
Aw, thanks so much. Really glad you like it.
In spite of this movie’s flaws, it’s still one of my top 10 favorite Disney films. Here’s my list, if you’re interested:
10. Alice in Wonderland
9. Sleeping Beauty
8. The Princess and the Frog
6. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
5. The Little Mermaid
2. The Lion King
1. Beauty and the Beast
I’m also glad that “Hellfire” got the number 1 spot on the Nostalgia Critic’s Top 11 Villain Songs list.
But of course!
Oh, before I forget, I wanted to ask for some help. I’ve been thinking of doing a similar series of reviews like this, but with all of Steven Spielberg’s movies. So, a few questions:
1. Has someone done this before?
2. How should I score the movies (like with your 20/20/20/20/20 system, or something similar)?
1) Almost certainly. Don’t let that put you off. There’s always room for a fresh take. 2) It really depends on what you’re trying to do. I chose my way because I wanted to rank the canon from best to worst in five categories that were present in almost all of them. I’m not sure if you could do that with Spielberg. You could just do a simple five star system, rank them as “Must See” “Give it a try” or “Avoid” or just give your opinion and not have any kind if scoring at all.
Thanks. I’m probably gonna go with the five-star system.
Good luck with it.
I think something a lot of people miss about Quasimodo’s feelings to Esmerelda is how unhealthy they are. Look up the Madonna Whore Complex. Frollo sees Esmerelda as the Whore, while Quasimodo views her as the Madonna. They both see her in black-and-white terms. Frollo sees her as a sex object while Quasi idolises her. That’s no foundation for a healthy relationship. He puts her on a pedestal as a saint, which she isn’t. Phoebus however views her as an actual person. He’s attracted to her kindness as well as her beauty. Quasi just has a very naive idea of human relationships. Essentially he also focuses only on what’s on the outside. He’s matured as a character by the time Madellaine comes along in the sequel
True, but considering his upbringing it’s a miracle Quasi is even a basically decent person.
And that’s why a relationship with Esmerelda wouldn’t work out. It would be like a child trying to date an older woman. Quasi has undergone character development and a better understanding of human relationships by the sequel, which is why Madeleine is a better fit for him. Besides Esmerelda deserves the guy that loves her as a person rather than an object, which is why her relationship with Phoebus lasts
You keep talking about the sequel like it exists.
“So we get changes like Frollo being a judge rather than the Arch-Deacon of Notre-Dame which leads to all kinds of plotholes and general silliness.”
To be fair, mouse, that was NOT the first “Hunchback of Notre Dame” film adaptation to have Frollo portrayed as a judge – see the eponymous 1939 film version (which I highly recommend, if you haven’t seen it yet 🙂 ). The reason that Frollo was made into a judge in the 1939 film version is the same reason they made him into a judge in the Disney film – TO AVOID OFFENDING THE CHURCH BY PORTRAYING HIM AS A CORRUPT, LECHEROUS ARCHDEACON.
Also, keep in mind, that the 1939 film was released during the “Hays Code era” and one of the things that the Censors would not allow in ANY film (including “Hunchback” for that matter) was to have either the church or its individual clergy members portrayed in a NEGATIVE light.
In relation to the Disney version, another reason Frollo was made into a judge was that, according to the trivia section on IMDb, the filmmakers felt that it would make him “more sinister to have control over the city” and therefore he would “not be questioned in his attempts to destroy the Gypsies.” Personally, I think THAT is a better reason to make Frollo into a judge, as opposed to simply avoiding controversy from the Church.
However, I agree with you on how it doesn’t make sense to have Frollo portrayed as a judge (particularly when it comes to his shameful attraction towards Esmeralda, since historically speaking, JUDGES WERE ALLOWED TO HAVE SEX). Unlike in the book where Frollo is ashamed of his lust because he is an archdeacon and had made a vow of chastity, in the Disney film he is ashamed of his lust because he had always thought of himself as being “above” everyone in society in terms of NOT giving into both his sexual and non-sexual impulses (in the song “Hellfire,” he sings “Beata Maria, you know I’m so much purer than the common, vulgar, weak licentious crowd”), and it doesn’t help him that the object of his lust is Esmeralda, a woman whose race he despises and wants to eliminate; basically, the Disney version of Frollo depicts him as someone who never thought he could experience lust, let alone towards Esmeralda.
Ironically, in the German stage version of the Disney film, “Der Glöckner von Notre Dame,” Frollo mentions to Quasimodo that he STARTED OUT AS A PRIEST, but then became a judge in order to purge the city of sin and corruption.
According to the book “The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust,” although Disney could not get away with having Frollo portrayed as a priest in the film, and as a result had to make him into a judge instead, they do however IMPLY that he is a priest, like he is in the eponymous Victor Hugo novel, through his VISUAL DESIGN; the idea of Frollo LOOKING like a priest, even though he isn’t one, can be traced back (again!) to the eponymous 1939 version, in which Esmeralda observantly says to JUDGE Frollo, “You’re not a priest, and yet you look like one.”
Mouse, if you’re interested in seeing the 1939 film version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, it’s available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zakXTnke3m0.
If you like the Disney version, you’ll like the former, since the Disney version does bear some similarities to the 1939 film, such as Frollo being a JUDGE who loathes gypsies, and Esmeralda praying to God to help her people, contrary to the other churchgoers who pray for “selfish” things like happiness and wealth.
Unfortunately, though, the intro. paragraph in the film is written in GERMAN. Sorry! 😦
Other than that, enjoy, and let me know what you think!
Sorry to jump in late–I kind of wondered if the Frollo-as-judge thing in either film took any inspiration from Angelo in “Measure for Measure,” who’s almost the archetypal legal Puritan driven mad by lust. I saw bits of Hunchback before reading any Shakespeare, and I think Judge Frollo influenced my mental picture of Angelo. Certainly you could almost put one’s lines in the other’s mouth, and the flatter “villainous” characterization of this Frollo is much more like Angelo than like book-Frollo. I’ve never seen the ’39 version, so I don’t know what it does with Frollo’s characterization…
Wonderful review, Mouse! I recently watched the whole thing through for the first time (which is shameful as I’m a bellringer myself), but have adored “Hellfire” for years.
I absolutely love Measure for Measure and I am raging that I never saw the similarities until now. Having said that, I think we can chalk it up to coincidence. Frollo’s pervyness is from the book, making him a judge was to avoid offending Catholics.
Probably true, unfortunately. Still…the perviness is true to the book and that motive for the change makes sense–but book-Frollo doesn’t exactly start out as a grandstanding legalistic sadist, more a retiring, nerdy prude, before he goes apeshit over Esmeralda. Disney may have been inspired by the ’39 version if anything, but I wonder if anyone involved with the earlier one was thinking Shakespeare. Now I need to watch it. (Also, apparently they made Frollo’s brother the villain in that one and Claude the saintly archdeacon? O_o)
The creators of this movie have said that their portrayal of Frollo (who, as you said, wouldn’t have had any vow of celibacy to hold him back in this version) was heavily influenced by Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List. In both cases, men who are dedicated to wiping out a certain race develop lustful feelings for a member of said race, and, unable to deal with the cognitive dissonance of it, project their own self-hatred over it onto the object of their lust (“If I’m attracted to one of THEM, it must be HER fault for manipulating me! I’ll show HER!”)
I can definitely see that, Jennifer, although I always thought that the similarities between the two were just COINCIDENTAL. I didn’t know that the filmmakers DELIBERATELY based Frollo on Amon Goeth. Do you mind if you cite the source please? 🙂
Oh wait, I found the source! YAY!
Anyway, you were right that Frollo was influenced/inspired by Amon Goeth from the movie “Schindler’s List,” as evidenced by this quote taken from the “Entertainment Weekly” article, “Playing a Hunch”:
“Producer Don Hahn (The Lion King) says bluntly that one inspiration for Frollo was Ralph Fiennes’ Nazi commandant in Schindler’s List, who murders Jews yet desires his Jewish maid.”
Link to source: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,293046_3,00.html
Add me to the list of people who have this as their favorite Disney movie. Comedy relief aside, it is a surprisingly deep, intricate, and gorgeous film. This is coming from someone who enjoys the original novel, so I believe the bickering from the loyalists is exaggerated and overblown. People shouldn’t ever expect Disney to do a word-for-word adaptation. In fact, it’s astonishing that they left some of the darker material intact.
This picture also contains one of my favorite leads, Quasimodo. He is often overlooked, but I just love him and the complexity of his character. Kid starts off as someone who has no self-worth and gradually learns to take a stand for himself in the midst of extreme adversity. I also believe that the aspect of him not getting the girl adds some major depth to him. In the end, he leaves his insecurities behind and does what he feels is right and not because he’s expecting a “prize” of any sort in return. James Baxter & crew did a superb job of capturing the emotion on what looks like a very difficult character to animate. (By the way, I’m thinking Quasi’s got quite the body count; spilling molten lead all over the Parisians can’t be too healthy for them. Looks like he inherited some of Frollo’s genocidal tendencies, heheh.)
Another thing I can’t help but gush about is this movie’s phenomenal soundtrack–Menken and Schwartz made for an incredible duo. Specifically, one of the facets I adore is the use of genuine Latin and the way the phrases intertwine seamlessly with the scenes in the film. The chorus itself is either complimenting or juxtaposing the story at all times and that sort of quality just something you wouldn’t expect to find in a children’s movie. Most obvious instances of this are present in ‘Hellfire’ (with the hooded figures chanting “Mea Culpa”) and in ‘Sanctuary!,’ where the Latin mirrors the action perfectly (“Libera me Domine de morte aeterna” whilst Quasi is breaking free from the chains and so forth.)
Before I make this post any longer (my deepest apologies for my rambling ways), I’d like to thank you, Mr. Mouse, for your endlessly entertaining and enlightening reviews. Since you always provide us with interesting trivia in all of your reviews, I think that you’ll enjoy reading Stephen Schwartz’s Q&A on this film, if you haven’t already.
[ http://www.stephenschwartz.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/disney-hunchback-movie2.pdf ]
It’s filled intriguing bits of information on how the music was conceived and some of his personal opinions. He actually considers this to be Menken’s greatest score.
Happy Holidays! =)
Glad you like, thanks Cassi.
Hey Unshaved Mouse. Just curious- have you ever heard of the German Stage adaptation of this movie? It’s called “Der Glockner Von Notre Dame” and it is worth checking out because it addresses a lot of the issues you had with the original movie and essentially makes this a much more powerful story from a dramatic standpoint. Esmeralda actually dies at the exact moment you think she should. The gargoyles are shown to be entirely in Quasimodo’s imagination, and disappear toward the end of the second act. Quasimodo actually kills Frollo by throwing him off of the cathedral instead of Frollo receiving his divine retribution. Clopin actually begins the play as an old man recounting this story to the children. A lot of these changes are made due to stage limitations, of course, but they serve to make the story much better.
There’s also a key change in “Hellfire” at exactly the right moment that was added in. There’s no “Court of MIracles” number, sadly, but they make up for it with an excellent ensemble number called “Esmeralda” which has at least 4 different parts going on at once.
There’s a cast album in existence in German, but it is well worth it to track it down. It’s probably easier to get where you live. If you love this movie, I’d highly recommend it. You won’t be disappointed.
I had heard of it. Yeah, I’ll definitely have to check it out.
Funny how you incorporated “Star Wars” references in your review, Mouse, since Tony Jay (the voice of Frollo) was supposed to play Obi-Wan Kenobi in the movie “Star Wars.” YOU READ RIGHT! Had Alec Guinness not gotten the role, TONY JAY would have, according to a 1989 interview for the sci-fi magazine “Starlog”:
“‘If it weren’t for Alec Guinness, I would have had the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in ‘Star Wars,’ which was called ‘Galactic Warfare’ at the time. I was the first one to be interviewed for that role. Lucas came over to [England]. I was asked to go meet him at 20th Century Fox and I didn’t even know who he was. He had just done ‘American Graffiti,’ but I had never seen the film. He said, ‘We’re doing this science-fiction movie, Mr. Jay, and you’re exactly right for this role. We don’t want any stars because we’re putting the money into the effects. I want you to meet my partner in three months’ time. We’re doing the movie at Pinewood Studios,’ and so on. I said, ‘All right,’ but it didn’t really matter. Who knew what it was going to be? The next thing I know, it was Alec Guinness and I never heard from Lucas again. When you think about it, he had Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher, all of whom were totally unknown then. I think he got cold feet and decided that he had to have some kind of star. Who knows what I would be doing today if I had been Obi-Wan Kenobi?'”
As interesting as it would have been to have Tony Jay play Obi-Wan Kenobi in “Star Wars” (could you imagine how AWESOME his acting résumé would have been if he had played Obi-Wan AND Frollo?), in the end I thought Alec Guinness was the RIGHT choice for Obi-Wan.
Just to prove I’m not lying, here is a link to the article: http://www.batb.tv/images/batb/tony3.jpg
Get out! Never knew that.
I’m sure you’ve already heard the news of the theatrical production becoming a reality (playing in San Diego later this year and New Jersey early next year.) Really hoping they do well enough to warrant a Broadway production. One thing that I’ve noticed is that they’re keeping Frollo an archdeacon this time around according to the casting call: http://www.backstage.com/casting/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-epa-27500/
Really excited for this, honestly. Though I hope they change the logo they’re planning on using; it seems pretty unremarkable: http://bit.ly/1jYsBl7
Lol, I almost thought that the rooster you drew on to the possessed gargoyle was Chanticleer from Rock-A-Doodle, but that caption underneath cleared it up for me.
My god, loved that movie as a kid.
Jeepers! I’m all furry! 😉
Kid, you’re a little too young to understand what that means. Hell, I’m a grownup and I STILL don’t know what it means! -Nostalgia Critic.
It looks like Panchito wants to kiss Frollo in that pic.
Awesome! Long-time lurker, first-time poster, and I gotta say. I’ve read all of your blogposts from Snow White, and it was the most pleasant surprise when I got to this one. Hunchback has been my favorite Disney film from childhood, and its cool to see that you love the movie as well.
Oh it’s just awesome. Thanks for reading.
Hey there- I really enjoyed your review of this sadly underrated Disney film- it’s my second favorite film of there’s after The Little Mermaid. The animation is beautiful and it features one of the greatest disney villains ever. The soundtrack is amazing with the Hellfire being my favorite Disney song as well. I’m glad to see there are others out there who love it as much as I do. 🙂
Oh you’re not alone. This onward has a huge following. Thanks for reading. Really glad you like.
I love this film! I have watched Hercules, Hunchback and Mulan, the Post-Pocahontas Renaissance films. Hercules is a load of blah, but Hunchback and Mulan are my two favourites. (On a side note, am I the only one who rates Emperor’s New Groove three places above Beauty and the Beast?)
I also get what you mean about the flaws of it. When I read reviews, fundamental flaws are pointed out. And my reaction? “I guess that is a bit of a problem- screw it. I’ll pretend that DOESN’T exist. Still my favourite. Still love it. Your placement of this amazing feat at #45 is ridiculous. You are an idiot.”
Yep, I freaking love this film!
BTW, you said in one review (idk which one, can’t remember) that your personal list would have Make Mine Music above Beauty and the Beast. What would your personal ranking be? All subjectiveness, inexplicable hatred and ignorance of fundamental flaws involved? (That kind of list theme puts Black Cauldron above Sleeping Beauty for me. I’m going to Disney Hell, I’m sorry.)
Does Ireland/this blog have a 3-strike law? If it does, I have a feeling I’ve got a set of stocks or a hangman’s noose with my name on it. I’m… not big on The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Before you tell Luke he’s got more work, maybe I ought to elaborate. This movie is probably the only Renaissance movie I haven’t watched since my age was a single digit. My memory is so hazy of it that for all I know, I could watch it now and my current self would love the thing to bits. As it is, I mostly know this movie from things I’ve heard of it rather than actually seeing it, and my impression of it isolated from the actual experience of watching it isn’t that great. I think its case is probably hurt the most from its subject matter. It tackles themes of challenging both superficial prejudice and misogyny, which is a troublesome thing to do from the get-go, as those two themes kind of have parts where they clash, especially in today’s society; many current feminists are against any objections to a woman’s rejecting advances for any reason, including her suitor’s appearance. In a way, I think this movie’s admirable for being so ahead of its time, but I think it’s only managed to gain my respect, not my liking because aforementioned issues are kind of… personal ones for me. Let’s face it, maybe the notions I mentioned above are easy to swallow when you’re a handsome mouse, but try having a funnel for a mouth and advocate the idea that being unattractive makes one undeserving of love without developing elephantine esteem issues. This is something I rarely am open about, and a pretty major internal idealogical struggle, so I hope I the Nicest Commentariat on the Internet will refrain from sending torches and pitchforks my way for failing to wholeheartedly endorse all aspects of the feminist ideals.
Having got that off my chest… Nice job reviewing this. Y’know, I actually kind of like the term “grotesques” for Quasi’s stone companions better than gargoyles. A grotesque fella and his grotesque friends, suitable, I think. Also, the Amadeus joke made me laugh anyway. Not like delivery can’t change everything.
Now your description of Phoebus being so surprisingly likeable probably makes me suspect that maybe I’m right in the idea that maybe this movie is much better to watch than to hear a synopsis of. On paper, his role in the story is one I find kind of upsetting as I have quite a bit more in common with Quasimodo than I do with Phoebus, but I actually found myself liking him in a fanfiction story I’ve been reading which seems to portray most of the Disney characters I’m familiar with pretty true to type, so maybe I’d actually enjoy his performance in the movie as well. As is though, making him end up with the leading lady gives a kind of “give up on love” message for anyone who isn’t the traditional Charming archetype which leaves a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth.
Hmm. I wouldn’t argue for Esmerelda being a Disney princess so much as I’d argue against Mulan being one, not being royalty in any way, shape or form, but then again, that leaves the question of why Elionwy isn’t a Disney princess and all that confusion, so maybe that shouldn’t be thought of too much. In any case, give Ariel a break, you know Flounder’s just a bad influence. Also, one of the faint memories I have of this movie is that Esmerelda was awesome. I remember seeing her take on the crowds of Paris and be totally wicked doing it. Don’t blame you for liking her the most.
Why are you questioning a gypsy’s knowledge of something? The answer is, as it always is, crystal balls.
Sorry, that was really cheap profiling. Maybe I can be hell-cell neighbours with you. For the record, “Come at me, Fro” made me burst out laughing and was most definitely worth giving custody of yourself to Rashgiel.
You sure sound harsh on the French though. Do Irish folks generally have the same sentimentalities towards the French as the English do? Or would saying that sounds English make you take all those shots back? I’m kind of glad the French are around, Canada might not have been as friendly a country without them.
And you know, one thing about not having seen The Hunchback Of Notre Dame in the entire latter half of my life is that it means I didn’t completely flip at your summing Hellfire up in two words. I did a double take, as I expected quite a bit of talk on it as I kind of knew it was pretty popular, but that was about it. Great lauding of it though, you sure know how to give glowing praise.
That windmill caption confused me… Why should windmills be the most reliable place to look for tropical fish and/or ancient Chinese dynasties? Also, y’know, Quasi, no need to beat around the bush with Esmerelda. If you don’t think her goat is safe alone around you and Hugo, you can just tell her not to leave them together.
And I’ve got to say, amen to skipping the whole false betrayal being a really wise move. Kudos to the writer who decided that. And who was it who predicted Frollo meeting the Crimson Cockerel by the time this review came? Please give that person a “fantastic foresight” ribbon. Unless they’re a gypsy and just used a crystal ball. Damn. That’s the last time I’ll say that, honest.
So looking at the end, I guess you can’t *completely* blame me for not really liking this one. And again, maybe I just don’t like the general story synopsis of it and would love the movie if I ever actually sat down and watched the thing. In any case, I’m hopefully right in guessing that you’ll give me a pass for not sharing your opinion and refrain from tearing me limb from drumstick with your continent-murdering rodent chompers.
I think you should watch the movie again, because it really is good. And about Quasimodo not ending up with Esmeralda… I used to feel like you do, that it looked like Quasimodo didn’t get the girl because he was ugly. But I have kind of changed my mind because of these four things.
1: Some people say that Quasimodo maybe wasn’t ready for a serious relationship yet, and yeah, that might be true.
2: When you think about it, it can’t be like Esmeralda really obliged to fall in love with Quasimodo, can it? And she at least became his friend, when he only had had the gargoyles (who may be imaginary) as friends before.
3: Phoebus was the only man, who would treat Esmeralda like an equal. Quasimodo saw her as a flawless angel, Frollo saw her as a seductive sinner, but Phoebus saw her as the real woman that she was. So in a way, it does make sense that she ended up with him.
4: Quasimodo did get a girl in the sequel. I have no idea if the sequel is good or not otherwise, as I have yet to see it, but there you go…
Good points. I (and I think some other non-fans) probably am bothered less by the movie’s story itself rather than how it fits into the rest of the canon. The fact that this one tries to move past the whole “beauty equals goodness” idea yet still ends the story with only a happily ever after for the pretty people kind of feels like a values dissonance. I think this is probably why some people don’t like having the Beast turn handsome after turning nice as well (at least the ones who don’t just like him better as a beast).
I remember the year this came out. I was 8, going on 9 years old and that year was very hard for me. After five years of growing up in Illinois and having put down roots, dad gets laid off and ended up getting a new job in the extreme northern part of the state. For some reason, he and mom chose to move to southeastern Wisconsin, since the town they chose wasn’t far from the state borders.
It was the very first time I really could remember having to move and experience the heartbreak and changeover that occurs. (I had moved before, but at that time, I was too young to remember). Cardboard boxes everywhere, you can never see your home again, you have to say goodbye to your friends and never see them again except for letters and phone calls (remember, the internet was in its infancy at the time).
Problem was, I experienced a very nasty case of Culture Shock. Most people get over it, but when you mix Clinical Depression in there, the effects can have long-term effects on the person in question. I started feeling like I had been imprisoned when I didn’t deserve it, and was powerless to change my life situation. I was basically mad at the world, and a lot of things set me off. I hated everything. I hated the state, I hated our neighborhood, I hated my school, I hated the cold, miserable weather, I hated having the boys teasing me all the time, I hated the girls bullying me, I hated all of it. And they hated me back pretty soon. I rebelled against everything, including school. Doing anything these strangers called Wisconsin teachers asked was basically bowing to the enemy, and I was the rebel who wasn’t gonna bend my knee to nobody.
So, that year was pretty much like eating a shit cake. To top it all off, Disney, (in Eisner’s infinite wisdom) chose to release a movie that was like bitter icing on said shitty cake. I mean, after 4 years of the studio releasing fun and exciting movies, my brother and I were not very happy about this one. Even at age 9, everything about it felt wrong. I mean, HOND not only doesn’t follow the fairy-tale formula, it actually seems very anti-fairytale, and probably the most politically correct Disney movie I’ve seen after Pocahontas.
The parents taking their kids to this weren’t too thrilled either. They disliked seeing the Catholic church being mocked and shown as bad guys, or seeing Esmeralda and Phoebus together wasn’t exactly a saving grace for the movie. The sexual undertones with Esmeralda were not lost on anybody, and they felt it was inappropriate for a kid’s film. Frollo also creeped me out. I will admit that I had a Esmeralda doll, toys, and paper dolls related to HOND, and even read the Junior novel, but none of that really changed my low opinion of the movie, and it still hasn’t changed. I’ve made it my business never to watch that movie again, or even own it.
I have to tell you the same thing, that I told Sr Honkergoose: Just go ahead and watch it again! HOND is darker and more mature than most other Disney movies (it was bound to be, since the novel seems to be all kinds of bleak), but you might very well like it better now than what you did as a little kid.
I don’t see how anyone would say that this movie mocked the Catholic Church. It was only Frollo, who took its teachings the wrong way. And there is an archdeacon in the movie, who seems to be a good guy.
And as for Esmeralda ending up with Phoebus and not Quasimodo, I covered that too in my reply to Sr Honkergoose.
I just watched this movie, and I noticed that you skipped over the gargoyles’ song.
Yeah. That’s right. I didn’t read the 200,000 word 18th century French novel to research my silly little cartoon blog. Scandal.
19th Century*. Book was published in 1831, which is well into the 19th Century.
Sorry, carry on.
Bugger bugger bugger. Thanks