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Disney's missunderstood Gem the Hunchback of Notre Dame


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What a fantastic film this film is, and the score and song track is such a fine work.

The animation is perhaps among the highest of art, that has ever been achieved in cartooning, rivalling Beauty in the Beast, and Tarzan.

Frollo is a terrific villian, evil as he can be.

Overall I thought this was a terrific blend.

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yes, but a TERRIBLE kids movie. it is quite frightening. the bass chorale sounds scare the children. the lewd dancing by esmeraldo in the song that frollo sings is inappropriate. etcetc. if this was an adult film, it would be amazing. but by making it so mature, the disney crew screwed upt his movie big.

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Although I like The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, there are so many things in the film that just don't work.

The Hellfire sequence doesn't belong, at all, in a children's movie.

Absolutely true. When I first saw this sequence I thought: what heavy, draining, insinuating stuff for what is basically a movie targeted at 4 to 12 year olds.

The ending - although beautifully visualised and underscored - kind of "rapes" the story Victor Hugo wrote. (Although Hunchback is not the only film with its typical Disneyesque tweakes...)

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I haven't seen this, but I wonder how drastically 'adult' it is for so many members here to deem it more or less inappropriate for children? I've always thought that we need more dark themes and subject matter in entertainment for children, and that Disney especially tends to underestimate their young audiences... Now, there are certain things, or certain way of presenting various issues, that children should be sheltered from, but scary sequences are fun! Looh at Roald Dahl's universe! And even Oscar Wilde's fairytales, not to mention Brothers Grimm!

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Was that a Goofy scream I heard in there? 8O

Anyway, the score is great. I love how the songs return as themes in the score. Out There is a big favorite.

The movie is very good, but they should have just abandoned the kids and gone for all-out darkness. The scenes with the Gargoyles that were supposed to be comic relief felt forced and out of place. I also really didn't like the cheesy ending.

I love the Hellfire sequence, though, and Frollo is a great villain. He's a pretty interesting character. And the animation is great, too. Again, Out There comes to mind. The movements through Notre Dame are wonderful.

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This film is one of Disney's most underrated efforts, probably because its a bit confused. The gargoyles dont fit into an adult movie, while Hellfire (as great as the song is) isnt quite child's play either. Other than that, a lovely film with an awesome score, probably Menken's best, depending on how you rate Beauty and the Beast.

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I haven't seen this, but I wonder how drastically 'adult' it is for so many members here to deem it more or less inappropriate for children? I've always thought that we need more dark themes and subject matter in entertainment for children, and that Disney especially tends to underestimate their young audiences... Now, there are certain things, or certain way of presenting various issues, that children should be sheltered from, but scary sequences are fun! Looh at Roald Dahl's universe! And even Oscar Wilde's fairytales, not to mention Brothers Grimm!

The Hellfire scene isn't a scary scene perse. It's a scene centered around Frollo's sexual obsession with Esmeralda. Even such a thing as a romantic or sexual attraction could have been presented with a little humor or relative innocence, but in Hunchback it's overly dramatized and comes across as extremely heavy and Freudian. It just doesn't work at all in this kind of film. We're it a Lars Von Trier or Polanski film ok. But Disney? Nah...

Frollo:

Beata Maria

You know I am a righteous man

Of my virtue I am justly proud

Priests:

Et tibit Pater (And to you, Father)

Frollo:

Beata Maria

You know I'm so much purer than

The common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd

Priests:

Quia peccavi nimis (That I have sinned)

Frollo:

Then tell me, Maria

Why I see her dancing there

Why her smold'ring eyes still scorch my soul

Priests:

Cogitatione (In thought)

Frollo:

I feel her, I see her

The sun caught in raven hair

Is blazing in me out of all control

Priests:

Verbo et opere (In word and deed)

Frollo:

Like fire

Hellfire

This fire in my skin

This burning

Desire

Is turning me to sin

It's not my fault

Priests:

Mea culpa (Through my fault)

Frollo:

I'm not to blame

Priests:

Mea culpa (Through my fault)

Frollo:

It is the gypsy girl

The witch who sent this flame

Priests:

Mea maxima culpa (Through my most griveous fault)

Frollo:

It's not my fault

Priests:

Mea culpa (Through my fault)

Frollo:

If in God's plan

Priests:

Mea culpa (Through my fault)

Frollo:

He made the devil so much

Stronger than a man

Priests:

Mea maxima culpa (Through my most griveous fault)

Frollo:

Protect me, Maria

Don't let this siren cast her spell

Don't let her fire sear my flesh and bone

Destroy Esmeralda

And let her taste the fires of hell

Or else let her be mine and mine alone

Guard:

Minister Frollo, the gypsy has escaped

Frollo:

What?

Guard:

No longer in the cathedral. She's gone

Frollo:

But how? Never mind. Get out, you idiot

I'll find her. I'll find her if I have to burn down all of Paris

Hellfire

Dark fire

Now gypsy, it's your turn

Choose me or

Your pyre

Be mine or you will burn

Priests:

Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy)

Frollo:

God have mercy on her

Priests:

Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy)

Frollo:

God have mercy on me

Priests:

Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy)

Frollo:

But she will be mine

Or she will burn!

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I haven't seen this, but I wonder how drastically 'adult' it is for so many members here to deem it more or less inappropriate for children? I've always thought that we need more dark themes and subject matter in entertainment for children, and that Disney especially tends to underestimate their young audiences... Now, there are certain things, or certain way of presenting various issues, that children should be sheltered from, but scary sequences are fun! Looh at Roald Dahl's universe! And even Oscar Wilde's fairytales, not to mention Brothers Grimm!

The Hellfire scene isn't a scary scene perse. It's a scene centered around Frollo's sexual obsession with Esmeralda. Even such a thing as a romantic or sexual attraction could have been presented with a little humor or relative innocence, but in Hunchback it's overly dramatized and comes across as extremely heavy and Freudian. It just doesn't work at all in this kind of film. We're it a Lars Von Trier or Polanski film ok. But Disney? Nah...

I thought it was great, exactly because it's not something you expect from a Disney film.

I understand they had to redo the animation of Esmeralda dancing in the fire at some point, because it was deemed too explicit (this happened while the film was still in production I think).

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I have always thought bot movie & score were highly underrated-- it's soooo trendy to bash anything Disney to pose as an intellectual.

Such bashers usually criticise Disney movies for being "kids' movies", always too light-- and when they do deliver something with darker undertones, they bash them for it.

The thing thing also is that when it was released, ten years ago, some of those internet critics were still kids, who loved it, or probably already repeated what the others said, to "sound cool"-- and bashed the score because it didn't include hip bands; that's why we now get more and more albums like "The Shaggy Dog", "The Wild" and "Bambi 2", with little to hardly any score at all, to make room for "hip (albeit unknown and competeley forgettable) bands".

The balance was a delicate one to strike with this adaptation. Maybe it is a bit too dark for children in places. But then, even Snow White or The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Disney's version) might be too scary in at times for young children.

Perhaps it might have worked better had it been conceived as a Prince of Egypt kind of straight movie; it's hard to tell; Disney was riding the Mermaid-Beauty-Aladdin wave while making this picture, and The Lion King was a huge hit; the audience expected that kind of movie; this may account in part for Hunchback's results,

and also mean that people might have been just as disappointed with an "adult" movie.

Menken's score is indeed one of his very best, at the top with Beauty and the Beast: the songs are excellent (The Gargoyles' song is the least interesting, but does the job), with gorgeous themes; the score is wonderful, especially in its grave, dark undertones and magnificent use of choir.

"Heaven's Light / Hell Fire" is a great sequence, from the lovely Hunchback part to the impressive Frollo scene; truly splendid characterization in both song & direction.

The final act, with Paris burning and the cathedral besieged, is also one of Disney's best moments, movie & score-wise.

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The balance was a delicate one to strike with this adaptation.

And I think they failed at some points. Like I said, the gargoyles felt out of place. It felt as if they were forced in there by the Disney suits to give something to the kids. I didn't feel they were a part of the story this film was trying to tell, especially when during the comic relief scenes.

- Marc, who'd like to see The Black Cauldron.

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I haven't seen this, but I wonder how drastically 'adult' it is for so many members here to deem it more or less inappropriate for children? I've always thought that we need more dark themes and subject matter in entertainment for children, and that Disney especially tends to underestimate their young audiences... Now, there are certain things, or certain way of presenting various issues, that children should be sheltered from, but scary sequences are fun! Looh at Roald Dahl's universe! And even Oscar Wilde's fairytales, not to mention Brothers Grimm!

The Hellfire scene isn't a scary scene perse. It's a scene centered around Frollo's sexual obsession with Esmeralda. Even such a thing as a romantic or sexual attraction could have been presented with a little humor or relative innocence, but in Hunchback it's overly dramatized and comes across as extremely heavy and Freudian. It just doesn't work at all in this kind of film. We're it a Lars Von Trier or Polanski film ok. But Disney? Nah...

I thought it was great, exactly because it's not something you expect from a Disney film.

I understand they had to redo the animation of Esmeralda dancing in the fire at some point, because it was deemed too explicit (this happened while the film was still in production I think).

It was definitely great, but I think the issue was whether it was entirely suitable for a G rated film targeted at kids below 10.

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Don't blame Disney, blame the MPAA for awarding the G rating. Perhaps Disney played a big role in garnering the G rating, but seriously, the MPAA is the "decider." the G/PG dynamic of the past ten years has been so screwed up, it's hard to know where to begin. I think that around the mid to late 90's, animated films were becoming slightly more daring in their content that pushed the envelope of the traditional G rating. Since then, we've had movies like Shrek and many of DreamWorks' animated films that have been PG, and have become the new standard for animation. This shift has created a problem for which the MPAA has not been able to appropriately accomodate. The PG in many ways has replaced the G, forcing the G into near extinction. This process really shows the blatant politics of the MPAA and how easily they cave to current standards. They never allowed movies like Hunchback to have their G ratings because Disney had a reputation to protect and the PG actually meant something at the time. They gave it a G because that was the accepted standard. Disney's films were becoming more intense and suggestive, but the MPAA didn't do much about it. If that very same movie was released today, it would have been rated PG.

All these arguments about appropriate kids entertainment I find difficult to swallow. It's a shame that parents don't have a reliable ratings system to depend on. I don't think there is anything offensive about the Hunchback; perhaps it deserved a PG rating at the time, who knows, but such an argument is almost irrelevant now that the PG has become the G and its ok to have more suggestion and violence. In short, the MPAA is hardly a worthwhile, unbiased system to determine children's, family, or adult entertainment. I could rant on more and more, but I will stop.

Ted, who liked the Hunchback of Notre Dame

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I understand that. But then you could also argue that Frollo's character doesn't belong in such a film. His own personal conflict (faith vs. desire) isn't your regular Disney villain material either.

I thought it was exactly that element of the film that made it so great. Unfortunately, again, the film is pulled down by forced comic relief aimed at the kiddies.

In the end, I think this film shouldn't have been targeted at kids below 10. It told a much more mature story than the Disney marketing folk would probably have liked.

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I understand that. But then you could also argue that Frollo's character doesn't belong in such a film. His own personal conflict (faith vs. desire) isn't your regular Disney villain material either.

I thought it was exactly that element of the film that made it so great. Unfortunately, again, the film is pulled down by forced comic relief aimed at the kiddies.

In the end, I think this film shouldn't have been targeted at kids below 10. It told a much more mature story than the Disney marketing folk would probably have liked.

Good point. The movie did seem a bit confused; like it wanted to be more serious but felt obliged to have all the typical Disney kiddie stuff. Disney has created an image for itself that people rely on, and at that time in the 90's, it was pushing more and more into serious territory without ever making the big plunge, as this movie shows. I liked its courage to move beyond its brand name content, but it should had the courage to do so fully and not straddle the line. But I still don't think Disney should be accused for doing something different; the MPAA should have been less biased in reviewing the film's content and not just given it the G because, hey, it's Disney.

That's the problem with the whole system. There's so much bias involved that it's practically impossible to be fair in awarding ratings fairly to all films. There are other issues at play concerning ratings, such as marketing, like you mentioned, and tailoring a film to fit a certain rating, and the countless other terrible things that have resulted from the ratings system. But you make a good point, Marc.

Ted

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I don't think kids really understand Frollo's-conflict-thing at all. My problem with the Hellfire sequence is not perse the "impact" it can have on innocent souls. I'm saying that I as an adult found it all to be so overly heavy and dramatic in such a film. I didn't have this "Wow! What a serious approach in a Disney cartoon! That means it's good!".

???

I loved Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and Pocahontas. Why change the winning formula anyway? These are KIDS movies in the first place.

And Marc; the Frollo-desire-thing could easily have been toned down and could even have been infused with a little humor. Him being in love and all.

At least Scar, Gaston or Jafar had a sick sense of humor. Oh, and The Lion King, BATB and Aladdin were much, MUCH more succesful. Even creatively.

If Tarantino sets out to make an action-thriller aimed at adults and turns out making something like The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, than no matter how entertaining kids may find it, it would also be considered a creative failure.

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I don't think kids really understand Frollo's-conflict-thing at all. My problem with the Hellfire sequence is not perse the "impact" it can have on innocent souls. I'm saying that I as an adult found it all to be so overly heavy and dramatic in such a film. I didn't have this "Wow! What a serious approach in a Disney cartoon! That means it's good!".  

???

No one ever said it was good because it deviated from the kid movie formula. If that's what you think I or anyone else was saying, you're assuming quite a bit. Everyone has their own beliefs and standards when it comes to what is overly heavy or dramatic.

Ted

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And Marc; the Frollo-desire-thing could easily have been toned down and could even have been infused with a little humor. Him being in love and all.

But that's the thing. I'm so very happy they didn't.

To me, The Hunchback of Notre Dame didn't feel like a Disney movie, but a movie made by directors working at Disney (yet forced to inject it with some regular Disney elements). I actually found that much more enjoyable than a movie built entirely on formula (although I'm not going to accuse any of the other films of being straight-out formulaic).

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loved Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and Pocahontas. Why change the winning formula anyway? These are KIDS movies in the first place.

because it is and isnt a formula movie, but in the end it transcends it medium IMHO, just as Beauty and the Beast, which is the best of an otherwise mediocre list of films.

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All of you that adore this great (partly) gothic score need to check out the stage musical version. As far as I know there only exists a CD of the German version, but well, the music is the same ;) Some themes from the score have been made into songs (like one amazing choral passage from "Sanctuary", called "Trommeln in der Stadt" ("Drums in the city")), there is some new stuff (including an amazing new orchestral gypsy dance), and a great final medley track called "Finale ultimo" which includes Sanctuary and what follows, and is infused with snippets of lots of other cues and songs.

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"Hunchback" is one of the five best animated films Disney has ever released. I am sad it never got the recognition it deserved. I was hooked from the opening chorus as the "camera" swooped down through the clouds. I do wish this film got a PG rating, because it, like "The Lion King," had some issues that kids would not know how to handle. The song score is the best Alan Menken work.

I wrote to Alan Menken in 1997 expressing my sadness that he did not win the Original Musical or Comedy Score Oscar (it went to "Emma"). He wrote me back, and I shall try to scan that letter and present it to you shortly.

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I haven't seen this, but I wonder how drastically 'adult' it is for so many members here to deem it more or less inappropriate for children? I've always thought that we need more dark themes and subject matter in entertainment for children, and that Disney especially tends to underestimate their young audiences... Now, there are certain things, or certain way of presenting various issues, that children should be sheltered from, but scary sequences are fun! Looh at Roald Dahl's universe! And even Oscar Wilde's fairytales, not to mention Brothers Grimm!

yes, perhaps we should have dark themes in entertainment for children. but lusting for someone (as in the Hellfire sequence) and IF he could not get her, then killing her? that is an entirely inappropriate thing to show to children. and perhaps its alright to have dark themes in older children novels, but for the target audience, the 5-8 group, these children do not have the mental capacity to understand these difficult issues. until they can actually deal with it, i feel it is completely inappropriate. remember the bambi sequence in which bambi's mother dies? that has been said to be one of the most traumatizing disney sequences and even she dies OFF screen..

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Yes, Hunchback is one of the best Disney scores to one of their best animated films. As good as it is, its kinda strange that that this was one of Menken's last works for Disney.

Rabbit--who thinks that Disney should return to making Hunchback quality traditionally animated films.

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the thing is, the 'Disney' name attracts small kids and parents with small kids and to a certain extent, puts off the young adult/teen group. Maybe it would have been better for Hunchback had it dropped the Disney branding and used Touchstone instead like what happened to Nightmare Before Christmas.

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the thing is, the 'Disney' name attracts small kids and parents with small kids and to a certain extent, puts off the young adult/teen group.

Which is a bit of a shame. I think it's something a lot of us go through. At some point, we think we've become "too old" (you know, about 15) for Disney fare. Then when you go back after you've gained more knowledge about movies, it's like a whole new world has opened up for you all over again. :D

- Marc, who still needs to see the original English-language version of Aladdin

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Dubbing movies in Holland is rare, but all animated fare is released here in both its dubbed and original language (as long as its English, mostly) form.

Although lately, there's been an annoying trend to release some kiddie movies in Dutch only (like Thunderbirds or Garfield 2). The Harry Potter movies are also dubbed, and Chronicles of Narnia was too (I also understand the Dutch version was slightly censored).

And if people refuse to watch Pixar they're really just stupid (not ignorant, stupid). It's the top animation studio right now.

- Marc, who refuses to watch translated animation these days.

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Nice comments about animation, Marc. It's a shame people can't get beyond their own built up expectations and context for viewing animated films. Many of them are treasures, but unless one must be open minded in his or her approach to them (like many kinds of movies) in order to see their greatness. I don't find the Hunchback of Notre Dame to be a great film, but it is a good one, and the animation is superb. I too wish that American studios didn't give up on traditional animation. I like to think of traditional animation as black and white photography vs. Digital animation's color photography. Color may be the standard, but no amount of colors will ever top the beauty of black and white photography.

Ted

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I'm not sure I follow. Which ideological framework? I'm not shunning color photography or digital animation. They can both be exquisite. I don't like the mentality that because something is more sharp, defined, or colorful, it should then become the accepted standard. I relish black and white photography, but there is no denying that I wouldn't appreciate it as much had color photography not become the standard for film photography. It happened to black and white, it's happening now to traditional animation.

Ted

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An essentialist view on film. Like, compare it to the opposers against sound in cinema, after the talkie appeared, that cinema was meant for silent films. I won't go into detail too much but you get the point.

I'm not opposed to black and white, on the contrary, I think a director should choose what is appropriate for the film itself.

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I do as well. I wouldn't say that I have an essentialist view on film. I think the problem is that many of these things are split into twos - like Republican party vs. Democratic party. It's a system designed to make someone take sides. Silent vs. Sound Films. Color vs. Black and White. Traditional vs. Digital Animation. I don't think that just because something came first, that's how it is "supposed" to be. I am for embracing all of the possibilities that cinema can offer. What I don't like is when the previous mode becomes "dated" by the new accepted standard and is made almost obselete. There are still black and white films and traditionally animated movies still being made, but they have been positioned as an extreme minority and in order to use them, there must be a damn good reason. They cannot simply be or exist anymore; they exist in relation to the new standard. I think that is a shame. I am more of a critic of these two-pronged systems of possibility regarding modes of cinema that have been structured than anything else.

Ted

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What a fantastic film this film is, and the score and song track is such a fine work.

The animation is perhaps among the highest of art, that has ever been achieved in cartooning, rivalling Beauty in the Beast, and Tarzan.

Frollo is a terrific villian, evil as he can be.

Overall I thought this was a terrific blend.

i have not seen any of these films.

K.M.

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