The hunchbacked bellringer of Notre Dame becomes the only hope for a beautiful gypsy when she is pursued by a vicious minister of justice.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Written by Tab Murphy, Irene Mecchi, Bob Tzudiker,
Noni White, Jonathan Roberts
Starring Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Tony Jay, Kevin Kline,
Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough, Mary Wickes,
Paul Kandel, David Ogden Stiers
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo
Oscar Nominations - Best Original Score
(Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz)
Disney's mid-90's adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame remains one of their best animated classics and still holds up today. I like it because it's one of the few Disney films that didn't seem like it was aimed at kids. It's a very grown up film, with subject matter involving murder, social injustice racism, and even religious persecution. I think this film gets overlooked because it came out among a string of far more successful Disney classics like The Lion King, Hercules, and Mulan, and honestly, I enjoy this film more than I do those other three.
Notre Dame sports a solid voice cast and some catchy, poetic songs that capture a divided tone that at times can feel uneven, but the dark and the light mesh surprisingly well. The character of Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) is one of Disney's most charming and relatable protagonists. All he wants is a chance to be accepted by society as who he is, but can't because of his physical deformities. His master, Judge Claude Frollo (Tony Jay), is the best villain to come out of Disney's 90's era (except maybe Scar). He stands for hatred and injustice and his villain song, "Hellfire", is nothing short of terrifying for little kids. For once, Disney didn't have the main character get the girl. Instead, Esmeralda (Demi Moore) ends up with the strong and handsome Captain Phoebus (Kevin Kline), with Quasimodo standing on the sidelines as their friend. I think this makes the film more realistic, but for the kids you've got talking gargoyles.
I enjoy this film more every time I watch it because it dares to veer off of Disney's decades-old script. It teaches kids to love one another for who they are inside, that decency and kindness don't necessarily have a face. With a powerful, dramatic score and a host of colorful characters, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an enduring Disney classic that I will always cherish as one of my favorites.