51 in 2011

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Image © Disney

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996), Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 34th animated motion picture. Loosely based on Victor Hugo’s tragic novel. Really difficult source material for a Disney animated musical and perhaps too serious and heartbreaking for the genre. The novel’s themes of social injustice are in tact, but with some liberty taken in their interpretation. While Quasimodo still doesn’t win the gypsy Esmeralda’s heart, at least he gets a hug and some acceptance rather the mournful demise given to him in the book (again, maybe not the best story to make into a family animated film…just sayin’). The comic relief added to balance the heavy storyline (talking gargoyles, cartoony battles, etc.) is a bit jarring and seems out of place. Nevertheless, the animation is top notch, particularly the magnificently drawn cathedral. The music and lyrics by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz are complex and compelling, too. The song “God Help the Outcasts,” Esmeralda’s prayer while she is taking sanctuary in the Notre Dame cathedral, is a highlight–her plea to help the “poor and downtrod.” “I thought we all were the children of God.”



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