The Fell and I got together with two amazing human beings who are both friends and amazing mentors. AE and T are amazing artists, performers, and knowledgeable cultural icons. AE is known for being Jane the Phoole in the renaissance faire community and DJ Phoole on the internet on Friday nights, and T is a graphic artist, sculptor, musician, and incredibly versatile human being. Together, they are most powerful of power couples, and some of our very dearest friends and heroes.
AE has a strong love for Hunchback for various reasons, and T has never seen it… so let’s see what happens!!!
The Film: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
- The movie very nearly received a PG rating for its dark and, in some cases, sexual themes. If it had, it would have been the first movie since The Black Cauldron to bear that rating.
- Based on the novel by Victor Hugo. Many liberties were taken with the original story to fit a Disney audience – for example, Esmeralda was much younger in the novel, Frollo was actually the Archdeacon of the cathedral, Phoebus was engaged to another girl (also quite young), and there were lots of other characters and awful things that took place.
- “Hellfire” is considered the darkest of any Disney song and nearly was cut from the film several times.
- Tom Hulce provides the speaking and singing voice of Quasimodo. Hulce was famous for having portrayed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the film Amadeus and so Hunchback contains several references to Mozart: there are musical references to Requiem in D Minor in the Latin chants, and in “A Guy Like You” there is a moment with towering powdered wigs that are not unlike those worn by Mozart and others in the film.
- This movie contains a large number of Disney cross-references and easter eggs. In “Out There,” the camera pans down into the streets of Paris and if you look carefully you can spot Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Carpet (Aladdin), and Pumbaa (The Lion King). During “Court of Miracles,” Clopin lifts his skirt and prances a little to the music – a reference to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” where Mickey does the same action, since the music in “Court of Miracles” is very similar.
- This is former Disney CEO Michael Eisner‘s favorite film.
- The gargoyles Victor, Hugo, and Laverne are named after the novel’s author and then one of the Andrews Sisters. Originally they had thought of naming them after various actors who have portrayed Quasimodo throughout film history (Chaney, Laughton, and Quinn) but the idea was nixed so as not to offend any living relatives.
- Disney color theory returns with red symbolizing evil and blue symbolizing good – the cloaks that Phoebus, Quasi, and Esmeralda use are blue.
- The music for the film was written by Alan Menken and Steven Schwartz.
- “Ladies and gentlemen, we will be making our final descent into Paris, please remain in your seats with your seatbelts buckled and your tray tables in their upright position…”
- AE: “Is this Clopin singing the prologue? It is!” Aly: “He’s telling this incredibly dark story to a bunch of kids in the marketplace on a Saturday morning at like, 10 AM.” T: “Well, they’re European.”
- Drew: “Judge Claude Frollo… and his giant horse, Snowball.” The name of Frollo’s horse is never said in the movie but in later Disney canon and DVD commentaries, they revealed it to be “Snowball.”
- Victor says “It’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.” AE: “That’s….kind of important.” Drew: “It’s very telling about their relationship.” This was the beginning of our discovery that Quasimodo and Rapunzel would probably be best friends. They have high dex scores, were raised in isolation in high places, and have abusive adopted parents. Yikes.
- Frollo has a lot of design echoes of Maleficent, Evil Queen from Snow White and also Joel Grey, somehow.
- AE recommends picking up copies of Umberto Eco’s “History of Beauty” and “On Ugliness” for further reading on the human concepts of attractiveness and disgustingness.
- The musical expertise of this film is really astonishing. The transition from “Stay In Here” to “Out There” goes from minor to major – indicating hope and joy – and the lyrics are dazzling. We especially loved “heedless of the gift it is to be them.”
- AE: “The birds! The BIRds! THE BURRRRDSSSS!”
- T: “Do you see the hidden Mickey?” Everyone else: “Where?!” T: “Well I can’t see it. It’s hidden.”
- “Scurvy knaves are extra scurvy/On the sixth of Jan-u-er-vy–” AE: “The sixth of January?! This all takes place on the Feast of the Epiphany! That’s AWESOME.”
- There’s a LITERAL poledance. HOW is this a G movie?
- Some Guy: “It’s the Bell Ringer From Notre-Dame!” Drew: “WHO IS THAT GUY? How does he even know!?”
- Aly: “Sunset happened at the exact moment his shirt ripped open.” AE: “I hate it when that happens.”
- AE also recommends Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy” for information on Actual Fools of this time period.
- (“God Help The Outcasts” starts playing) AE: (hushed) “This is the best song in any Disney movie.” T: “Who’s singing this?” Aly: “Heidi Mollenhauer.” T: “Oh. I thought it was Adele Dazeem.”
- Aly: “I can’t. The key change. It’s coming. I’m ALREADY CRYING.” T: “Ann-Elizabeth – when did modulation become popular in music?” AE: “Well it didn’t become legal till after the 17th century. There were clerical laws about what intervals you could use.” Drew: “Really?!” Aly: “Yes! Some of the chords were legally considered Satanic and couldn’t be used.”
- T: “So what, he’s just going to start randomly ringing the bells?” AE & Aly (in unison): “It’s for evening vespers.” T: “Hey, she was in Casino Royale!“
- There so much to say about “Hellfire” that I can’t even get into it. It is probably the best villain song of the Disney canon… and definitely the most evil. SHUDDER.
- Catacombs or underground prop closet? Aly: “There’s so many SKULLS. How did this happen?” T: “…the Plague.” AE: “This song is exactly why you should never mess with variety performers.”
- T: “Is she wearing Pocahontas’ dress?” Aly: “It’s like they threw in some Joan of Arc for good measure… but the French people watching this are like ‘Zis is a differant story, you eediots!'” AE: “SSSStupeed Americaines!”
- We all agreed that the seige at the cathedral would be SUCH a great stunt show at the parks. DISNEY, GET ON IT. Also, if only populist revolts were that easy!
- Frollo: “And he shall smite the wicked…” Aly: “no, No, NO, don’t QUOTE THE BIBLE dude!”
- (The little girl touches Quasimodo’s face.) Drew: “…oh THERE you are, Peter!“
- Clopin: “Three cheers for Quasimodo!” Aly: “SOMEBODY has to emcee this event!”
- (The camera zooooooms out) Drew: “MY WORK HERE IS DONE. GOODBYE PARIS.” Aly: “THIS IS CNN.”
The thing that stuck out the most to me about Hunchback – especially in the current socio-political climate – is that no matter who you are, what you are, what you do/don’t have… you can always do something for someone else. And if you don’t care about other people, what’s the point? Take a leaf out of Quasimodo’s book… and Esmeralda’s… and Phoebus’. Reach out to someone who might need you, even if you’re strangers, and show a little love. ❤
Disney Renaissance Credits Slow Jam
Extra special thanks to my patrons who made this and all Disney Odyssey posts possible: AE, Alexis, Allen, Andy, Ben, Cameron, Candace, David, Dennis, Eric, Erika, Josh, Kat, Katie, Mary & Rhett, Mary-Kate, Matt, Mel, Michael, Rebecca, Stephen, and Tiffany. If you’re interested in supporting this blog, the Disney Odyssey, and future fantastical adventures, please consider donating a dollar or more to my Patreon!
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