Hey guys! Gerawallstar here, and I am here to review the 34th Walt Disney animated film called The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was released in 1996. When this film came out, it didn’t do too well financially considering that it was their expensive animated film with a $100 million budget. It made only $325 million world wide. The film was also heavily criticized for being watered down compared to the Victor Hugo Novel. Fortunately over the years, this film has gained an amazing cult following. In my opinion, I really do love this film, despite some issues. This is a very underrated movie.
Story
This movie took out some elements of the book to make it kid friendly, which were the criticisms of the film. In my opinion, I can understand why they would do that because this is Disney. Of course they aren’t going to follow directly from the book. What we got in return is a dark and amazing story that really does well blending in darker themes that disney has never done such as religion, genocide and lust. There are also some emotional scenes such as when the villain burned down Paris in order to get the girl. The moment where Quasimodo breaks down when he sees Queen Esmerelda in love with Phoebus. The scene where Quasimodo rescues Queen Esmeralda is brilliant, and the ending where Quasimodo gets accepted by humans was very strong. Unfortunately the film does have some bad tonal problems,  and I mean really BAD pacing . The problem with the pacing is that it gives a lighthearted tone after the heavy hitting scenes such as The Gargoyles singing a song when Paris was burning to the ground. Its very annoying, and almost distasteful to the movie. It does make me understand why a lot of people don’t like this movie. The story is great and very dark despite its tonal issues. I give the story eight stars.
Animation:
The animation is beautiful. It is one of the best animation I have seen from the Disney Renaissance. With the expensive budget of $100 million, the animation really put in a lot of effort into the animation. The designs of the humans are great, the grand scale of the movie is massive. The fire effects are breathtaking. The CGI is blended tremendously well in this film surprisingly. The animation is breathtaking and fantastic. I give the animation ten stars.
Characters:
The characters are amazing….for the most part. The main character Quasimodo is terrific with being confident, athletic and being a great representation of people that look different. Queen Esmeralda is a great character with her being supportive of Quasimodo and being a bada$$. Phebous is a good character where his relationship with Esmeralda is great. The villain Frollo is the best Disney villain ever made. Hes a three dimensional villain as he has a strong lust for the queen, manipulates Quasimodo and his desire to hurt anybody that gets in his way. He is the Disney Villain that they would never get their hands on doing nowadays. However, with all of the praises I give the characters, the characters that are almost assassination of the movie are the Gargoyles. They are all loud, irritating and they ruin so much of the movie. There could be a slim argument that would’ve made me tolerate them is that had they only been a part of Quasimodos imagination. Sadly, they were in the movie during the climax. I get that they are to lighten down the darker moments of the movie, but they did it too much. Although I did find the moment in the climax where the Gargoyles was saying “Fly my pretties” funny. The characters are great despite having a couple of notorious characters. I give the characters eight stars.
Songs:
The songs are memorable and well-written. Alan Menken did a beautiful job composing the songs. The opening song “Bells of Notre Dame” is beautiful. “Out there” is a powerful song where we relate to the Quasimodo character. “God help the Outcasts” is  sentimental where it makes me cry listening to it. “Topsy Turvy” is a fun song to listen to. The best song in the movie is “Hellfire.” Not only it is the best song of the movie but it is the best villain song of all time. The worst song in the movie is the infamous “A guy like you.” Its irritating and cringeworthy. The songs are fantastic. I give the songs nine stars.
Verdict:
Hunchback of Notre Dame is my favorite Disney movie and an underrated gem. It may have its problems that understandably takes people away from it with the Gargoyles, inconsistent tone and it being toned down compared to the Victor Hugo novel. Fortunately, taking all of that away you have a film that has a fantastic story, gorgeous animation, uplifting songs, and outstanding characters. This is a must watch for everyone who want to see a Disney movie that is VERY different from what they normally do. I give this movie nine stars out of ten. 9/10.
4 thoughts on “Hunchback of Notre Dame(1996) Review”
  1. I loved this movie when I was a kid. I wasn’t really a Disney guy, but this was one of the few Disney movies from this period I really enjoyed (along with Tarzan and Oliver and Company). Great article.

  2. I hate to admit that I remember very little about the movie except for the scenes with Frollo. He was really the standout character of the film, and honestly I think the movie itself would have been better served if it had gone with a more mature tone that better suited his presence. I know, some people think a Disney movie without songs or comic side relief is blasphemy, but imagine how much more impactful it could have been.

    1. Well, most of the songs (major exception being ‘A Guy Like You’) fit in with the overall darker tone when compared to many other Disney films of that decade. ‘The Bells of Notre Dame’ (setting up the setting and telling the story of how Quasimodo first came to Notre Dame), and ‘Out There’ (Quasimodo’s ‘I Want’ Song) certainly fulfill their purpose in establishing characters and tone. ‘Topsy Turvy’ is appropriate for the Feast of Fools.

      And then we get the first songs dealing with religion in a Disney film. ‘God Help The Outcasts’, where Esmeralda prays to God to help her people. And then there’s ‘Heaven’s Light’, sung briefly by Quasimodo about how he used to believe (thanks to Frollo’s bad teachings) that ‘no face as hideous as my face was ever meant for Heaven’s light’, but that has changed thanks to Esmeralda’s kindness and compassion toward him. And then we get the dark side of religion with Frollo’s ‘Hellfire’, which may be the darkest song in any Disney movie, period.

      All these definitely fit the characters, the setting, and the overall tone. The one jarring exception would be ‘A Guy Like You’, which (as I say in my other reply) is all the more jarring given where it’s placed in the movie.

  3. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) is an interesting film in the sense that while it’s lighter than the source material, it’s also a LOT darker than much of Disney’s material. There’s stuff in here we NEVER thought we’d see in a Disney movie, even if it were rated PG instead of G.

    And yes, I’m with you on ‘A Guy Like You’. The worst thing about that song is the timing. It’s too jarring to have an over-the-top comic relief number right after a scene where Paris is burning.

    To put in context, the scene before has Esmeralda and Phoebus save a miller’s family from being burned alive inside their home by Frollo and his men. Phoebus is almost killed, but Esmeralda pulls him to safety. We see that the atrocities continue after Esmeralda and Phoebus have escaped, as we see scenes of buildings being set ablaze. Esmeralda and Phoebus are then presumably unable to save who knows how many people from being burned alive offscreen, arrested, executed, or just reduced to being homeless on the streets and on the run from Frollo’s men.

    So following up that scene with a lighthearted musical number where the gargoyles give Quasimodo a pep talk about his romantic relationship with Esmeralda (complete with ridiculous and over-the-top visuals) is incredibly jarring. It’s the wrong kind of Mood Whiplash.

    All in all, though, this movie is still perhaps my favorite mid-90’s Disney film (with The Lion King being a close second).

    As for the Gargoyles, trying to present them as ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ figments of Quasimodo’s imagination ends up not working, since events in the climax tell us that clearly they are NOT. They’re less ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ and more ‘One Froggy Evening’. I go into detail in my own post here. https://www.manic-expression.com/2021/08/22/wijdw-hunchback-of-notre-dames-anachronistic-gargoyles/

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