I missed Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame the first time around in 1996 because it didn’t look that interesting to me. However, I was always curious how Disney was going to turn Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel of murder, rape and other horrible things into a kid-friendly musical.
Following the story of the novel, while leaving out most of the really horrible stuff, Disney’s Hunchback tells the story of Quasimodo (Tom Hulce), the deformed bell ringer in the Notre Dame Cathedral. He foolishly believes that the evil Judge Frollo (Tony Jay) is looking out for his best interests. Quasi lives all alone up in the bell tower with only three gargoyles to keep him company, Victor, Hugo and Laverne (Charles Kimbrough, Jason Alexander and Mary Wickes), ’cause every Disney film needs a silly sidekick – or three in this case.
All Quasi wants is to go down and be around normal people once. Finally he does so where he meets the enchanting gypsy, Esmeralda (Demi Moore), who takes pity on him and helps him out. Quasi falls in love with her, but that’s too bad because Esmeralda has fallen in love with the Captain Pheobus (Kevin Kline). Misunderstandings ensue and Frollo realizes that he also loves Esmeralda and that if he can’t have her no one can. Will Pheobus and Quasi be able to put there differences aside long enough to save the woman of their dreams?
Visually, this is a pretty stunning film, even by today’s standards. The way 1400s Paris has been captured is beautiful. Even the dark dingy corners, of which there are many in this film, look great. This is a very dark film for Disney. Not as dark as the book, but there are scenes that could disturb little kids. I was kind of shocked that it wasn’t rated PG-13. There is one song where Frollo sings about how if Esmeralda won’t be his he will kill her and about how his feelings for her are confusing him and how she must be the devil or a witch or something. Frollo is a truly evil man and ranks up there as one of Disney’s worst villains.
This one of the more musical Disney films I’ve seen in a while. The songs, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, are some of the more grandiose in scale that I’ve heard. That’s not to say that I liked them, because I’m not the biggest fan of musicals, but I can easily see how someone who was would really enjoy this aspect of the film.
Then you have Part II, which is one of the most pathetic outings I’ve ever seen from Disney. The film was made in 1997 but not released until 2002, and it’s no wonder why. The story is boring, the new characters aren’t interesting and the animation looks more like a bad early-’90s TV cartoon than a Disney animated feature film. Also, at 66 minutes, it’s hardly a feature film. This movie is so bad it makes me want to lower the over all score of this review to one just for having it included here, but I’ll focus on the positives of part one when it comes to that.
This films are presented in 1.78:1 and 1.66:1 widescreen and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Part One is gorgeous, Part Two looks terrible. It’s hard to believe the two films are at all related.
You get all the same special features that were present on previous DVD releases. There is nothing new. Those features include a making of for both films as well as couple others for Part One.
While the first Hunchback was a beautiful yet mildly enjoyable Disney film, part two was terrible. I feel bad for the original cast that all came back for the sequel. I feel even worse for Jennifer Love Hewitt who says her dream was to be in a Disney animated film and she got stuck in Part Two, one of their worst efforts. I think Disney owes Hewitt an apology and another shot at a better film.
Disney presents The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Written by: Tab Murphy, Irene Mecchi et al. Based on the novel by Victor Hugo. Directed by: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. Starring: Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, Tony Jay and Jason Alexander. Running time: 91 minutes. Rating: G. Disney presents The Hunchback of Notre Dame II. Written by: Jule Selbo, Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus. Directed by: Bradley Raymond. Starring: Same as above and Jennifer Love hewitt and Haley Joel Osment. Running time: 66 minutes. Rating: G. Released: March 12, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Demi Moore, Kevin Kline