It’s time for an exploration of another Disney classic (or should-be classic?),
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Find it on: Amazon
What it is:
A 1996 Disney animation loosely based on Victor Hugo’s romantic, fatalistic, huge novel Notre Dame de Paris.
How I found it:
I was broadly aware of its existence but never actually watched the movie as a child. This was the first time.
Except for a few slightly hiccuppy moments, it’s a good movie and I enjoyed it. Whether I’d watch it with a child is a different matter – I’m not sure.
Best things about it:
It’s actually a good movie: strong, fairly focused, dramatic and socially involved. The characters are instantly likeable or hateable and you feel the atmosphere of the cathedral.
Worst things about it:
I feel this movie is not quite sure who it wants to be for. If it’s for an older audience (dare I say: young adults), there might be too much childish humor personified by the gargoyles. If it’s for kids, maybe there should be a little less sexual obsession and straightforward murder. However, to be quite honest, I might fall into this gray area because I felt I was a representative of the right audience, except I doubt that’s what Disney executives had in mind.
It’s a very interesting, swiftly moving movie that touches upon extremely ambitious, unusual subject matters: xenophobia, fanaticism, alienation, all those things you normally only find in animations as metaphors.
Quasimodo’s character, as well as Esmeralda’s, are quite complex and relatable.
Animation is lovely, especially the cathedral looks great. It is so central to the narrative that is becomes another character and I always like when any place can be presented in such a lovely way, let alone a place so dear to my heart.
I’ve got just one huge problem, which might even be “the worst thing.” Quasimodo is very marginalized in the story! It’s taken for granted that he could never get the girl, just because he’s not handsome. And yes, I know it’s loosely inspired by Hugo but the ending is different anyway, so couldn’t we make it a bit more progressive? Phoebus is great, I know, and they make a good couple with Esmeralda but Quasimodo is shown as having a huge crush on the girl only to have to learn that she is way out of his league. And it might even be a realistic lesson we all learn at one point in life but with the way he and Phoebus are presented, I’m afraid what children take out of this is “pretty goes with pretty.” Again, it might be true but not a message by whose reinforcement I stand.
How it enriched my life:
It’s always fun to look at the Notre Dame cathedral, which is one of my favorite places in the entire world, no kidding. Also, I always wonder what’s up there on those upper balconies where tourists are not allowed to go and the movie is taking place there so I enjoyed that.
It is also very interesting to see this different tone in a classic Disney animation. I think it might be the most underappreciated one out there.
Esmeralda is not a part of the official Disney Princesses franchise and there is really no good reason for this omission. She’s one of the most kickass princesses (well, “princesses,” but so is Mulan), brave, talented and not afraid of her sexuality. Shame, Disney.
In due time I will continue to explore those Disney classics that I somehow missed in childhood. And I will probably rewatch this one some time.
Fans of Disney animation who are already capable of making their own judgments and not excessively afraid of hellfire or of depictions of fanaticism.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Next time: Marvels