Disney (Wednes)Day: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

It’s time for the second Disney film of 1996, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This is one I can actually remember hitting theatres but never watched before because my childhood did not include watching lots if Disney movies for some unknown reason. Okay.

The film starts with chanting and singing by a gypsy puppeteer because that’s how all the good stories start. He sings us a story about people fleeing (presumably more gypsies) when Judge Frollo appears to have them killed. The woman makes a run for it with her deformed child but Frollo has her killed anyway, ending up with the baby. WHAT TO DO NOW?

Frollo calls it a monster, then sees a well and just before he throws the kid down the well do die, he is stopped by the cathedral’s archdeacon. Frollo really doesn’t want to take care of the child so he arranges for it to be sent to the bell tower and names him Quasimodo.

Cut to present day, Quasimodo is jumping around the bell tower, talking to hi gargoyle friends. I’m sure they are actually not alive but let’s roll with it. It’s the day where the Festival of Fools is going on and Quasimodo wishes he could go down and be part of it but his master wouldn’t approve. Womp, womp. The gargoyles tell him to just sneak out, nobody will know the difference. Naturally, in that exact moment, Frollo appears and he can’t sneak out. Together they are rehearsing Q’s alphabet. Q has to come up with a word for each letter, when the reach F, he blurts out Festival. Idiot.

Frollo sings a song and looks very gay doing it. I’m sorry. But he does. Then Quasimodo chimes in as well.

We see Quasimodo having little wooden puppets of the townspeople and himself he plays with. This is both weird and also endearing. Stop confusing my emotions!!!

Little sidenote, the way Q longs to go outside and be normal feels to me like such a female point of view. Usually it’s the female characters being locked away, like Rapunzel.

Cut to a blonde guy, looking for the Palace of Justice, he sees a dark haired, beautiful gypsy woman. There is some social commentary thrown in about the way gypsies are supposed to only steal from people and are less than ‘normal’ folks. Blonde Guy turns out to be a Captain.

Frollo talks to Blonde Captain about his task; looking over the city. Blonde Captain is not happy about this, because it’s not a task for a Captain and he is bummed he left the military for such a stupid job. Well, it happens to the best of us.

Everyone attends the Festival of Fools, even Quasimodo, who ends up in the middle of it. He surely didn’t plan for that to happen. Q makes contact with the gypsy woman who’s name is Esmeralda. We only learn that much later in the film but I don’t want to keep calling her gypsy woman. She treats Quasimodo decently and with respect. I’m pretty sure he has an instant liking for her but also feels like she is out of his league.

There is lots of singing going on and it sounded kind of familiar, so I looked up who wrote the songs for this. It’s Stephen Schwartz who also wrote the music for Pocahontas and, of course, is well known for Wicked. As much as I love Wicked, it’s sad in my opinion how you can instantly tell it’s music by him because they all sound alike. Anyway, all the singing has brought Quasimodo into the middle of the town square and he gets chained down. Sad.

Esmeralda cuts him loose, defying gravity Frollo and using magic and witchery to make a run for it herself. Quasimodo apologises to Frollo who isn’t having any of it. He really is an ass.

Esmeralda goes into Notre Dame, thinking she is save there but Blonde Captain is already waiting there for her. They fight even though it could also be considered foreplay if you ask me. Kids movie, I know. So anyway. Frollo appears and Esmeralda claims sanctuary in the church, so Frollo can’t do her no harm. Only, now she has to stay indoors and that’s really not what she is good at. At least she has Quasimodo to keep her company. I like her, I really do. She is fierce and stands up for herself and people who are treated badly. It fits in with the role reversal I hinted at above. Esmeralda is the one fighting and being all brave, a neat change of pace in my opinion.

She sings a song about praying. Quasimodo is watching from afar, already so in love with the woman.

Esmeralda follows Q, wanting to talk with him so he shows her his wooden figure collection and she is impressed. This is a sweet moment. Then he goes around introducing her to his bells and gargoyles, not a euphemism. Man, he really knows how to charm a woman, lol.

She hands him a map of the city so he can always find her and disappears into the night. Blonde Cpatain comes looking for E but obviously can’t find her, so he tells Quasimodo how lucky he is to have such a friend.

Back upstairs, the gargoyles are all cheering for Q and it’s so cute. These are some awesome sidekicks!

Easily my favourite part of the movie. It’s all weighed down a notch because Quasimodo fears she can’t love him because of his disabilities and looks. So sorry for him. To get over it, he sings a song.

Then we cut to monks chanting and Frollo singing. He still has Esmeralda on his mind and I don’t know why he has such an unhealthy obsession with this woman. Gahd. Frollo orders Blonde Captain to find the woman. They are burning down half of the city to find her. It’s terrible. BC gets hurt saving a gypsy family which means he has fallen out of Frollo’s good graces.

Esmeralda comes back to Quasimodo, begging for a favour. He is to hide the wounded Blonde Captain. Oh the poor Q, he has to see Esme and BC kissing.

Frollo appears to talk to Quasimodo but he can read the bell ringer like an open book and knows he is hiding something. Frollo says it’s Q’s fault all of Paris is burring because he won’t give up Esmeralda’s location. This is bullshit!

Quasimodo is determined to find Esme, so he remembers his present. After a moment, he realises, it’s a map of the city. BC thinks he knows better than Q but doesn’t. They navigate their way to a cemetery and find a way underground through a secret passageway. The gypsy puppeteer is there and Quasi and BC get captured. They are nearly hanged to death when Esmeralda appears to save the. Only Frollo the asshole followed Q and BC so there is a ton of bad juju going on. Everyone ends up either dead or captured.

Esmeralda is sentenced to death and to be burnt in the town square. Quasimodo is chained up on top of the tower, his spirits broken. In the last minute, he gets his spirits back, breaks free and saves Esmeralda though it looks like he may be too late and she is already dead.

Frollo goes to break into Notre Dame but Blonde Captain rattles the folks against Frollo. Frollo still gets into the church and ends up fighting Quasimodo. Esmeralda is still alive!!!!!!

Frollo falls down Notre Dame, Quasimodo falls as well but BC catches him. Everyone is safe! Then Q gives Esmeralda and Blonde Captain his blessing and I’m really sad for the poor guy. He has such a big heart!

The end.

I didn’t expect to like this movie but as it turned out, I really did. I can’t tell how truthful this adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel was but I really enjoyed it. Probably because it deals with a lot of mature themes and is rather dark in comparison to other much lighter Disney films.

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  • EmilyHornburg

    I LOVE this one. It’s definitely one of the more underrated Disney movies in my opinion. I haven’t read the novel, but (SPOILERS) I think Q is deaf and dies at the end. Which is awful. One of the times I’m ok with “Disney-fying” the plot. lol But the music and the characters and story and themes are sooooo good.

    • Wilhelmina Upton

      I don’t know why I expected to not like this one, just some prejudice I adopted when I was young and I thought this would be stupid when in fact it isn’t. Honestly, Q must be deaf to work in the bell tower but thankfully Disney doesn’t care for these minor disturbances.

      I liked the music only, every other song I hear from Stephen Schwartz’ work outside of Wicked reminds me of Kill the Witch.

      • EmilyHornburg

        Haha, it totally does!