In 1996, Disney made one of their more darker films starring a rather unlikely hero.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is based on the 1831 book of the same name written by Victor Hugo. It’s also partly based on the Grand Opera, La Esmeralda, which is based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The Opera was composed by Louise Bertin but the libretto was written by Victor Hugo. In the book, Esmeralda dies by hanging and Quasimodo kills Frollo then retreats to Esmeralda’s grave and dies. Upon Bertin’s request Hugo changed the ending, Quasimodo saves Esmeralda from execution and brings her back into the Church for Sanctuary.
In the original text, Quasimodo was described as being more monstrous in appearance. He was also deaf from ringing the bells, half blind due to a large wart above his left eye and almost inaudible, probably due to the fact he had little companionship. Due to his appearance he was switched at birth with of course none other than Esmeralda…-_- Once his new parents found out what happened they brought him to Paris and left him the steps of Notre Dame before Quasimodo Sunday. Frollo takes him in and names him after the day he found him.
Disney wanted a special actor to portray Quasimodo. They looked to Oscar nominated Tom Hulce to lend his talents. This was the first time Hulce lent his voice to a full length film. He is the third leading Disney man to have both spoken and sang for their characters, the other two being Robby Benson as Beast and Mel Gibson as John Smith. Hulce came back to voice Quasimodo along with the rest of the cast for the 2002 sequel The Hunchback of Notre Dame II.
It took me years to finally give this a chance and I must admit, its not a bad film. Granted, I’m not one of those Disney Sequel snobs, I happen to enjoy the continuation of certain stories. But I really love The Hunchback of Notre Dame and was hesitant about them cheapening the characters. Let me clarify that the sequel is in no way better or anywhere near as good as the original. BUT, it was a sweet nod to the characters and I’d suggest you try it if you’re looking for something light with familiar faces.
Quasimodo almost did not make it to the sequel, Disney was considering having Frollo stab Quasimodo, and presumably Phoebus saving the day. Then the film would’ve ended with Esmeralda and Phoebus helping Quasimodo ring the bell one last time…his dying wish. I for one absolutely adore the real ending.
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