Critique of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996)

Image of Notre Dame with a blue sky surrounding it – edited in Photoshop

One of the few Disney films to focus on religion, as well as use the word that’s the opposite of heaven and “God,” it focuses on a young man, named Quasimodo, who is responsible for ringing the bell in the tower of Notre Dame. However, due to his physical appearance, Frollo, Quasimodo’s master (who took him in after his parents died when he was a baby), forbids him to leave the tower. Not surprisingly, he yearns to go out.

This also counts as a Disney film from the second renaissance that I enjoyed. Below are the aspects that I found strong, and those that could have been better.

Strengths

Quasimodo’s character 

Who couldn’t feel sorry for him? He has an appearance that many characters find unattractive. Despite being prohibited from leaving the bell tower, he goes out and attends the festival–only for others to throw tomatoes at him. 

Regardless of that, Quasimodo remains brave and determined to free himself from Frollo. He is also lucky to have a few gargoyle friends who interact with him numerous times.

Esmeralda’s character

Like Quasimodo, she is constantly misunderstood by others, too. As a gypsy, no one will trust her, either. Until she meets Quasimodo, her only companion is her goat.

She is also the only person to be kind to him as well as empathize with him, since the 2 can relate to each other. While Quasimodo develops strong feelings for her, she falls in love with another guy, named Phoebes. Who will she end up with? See the movie to find out. 

The musical numbers

Most of the songs have medieval or religious sounds to them. Examples include “The Bells of Notre Dame” and “Hellfire.”

An exception would be “A Guy Like You,” sung by the gargoyles to convince Quasimodo that Esmeralda might care for him. While I enjoy that song a lot, my favorite is, perhaps, “Out There.”

That is an underrated Disney song. Yet, it expresses a character’s feelings about being trapped and wanting to get out of his home for one day. Poor Quasimodo has watched everyone in the village for his entire life, and got to know them–but they would never know him. He escapes the tower a few times. Will others eventually accept him for who he is? That is another answer to find out if you see the film.

What could’ve been better

Quasimodo’s education 

At 20 years old, Quasimodo receives an education where he learns the alphabet and answers with more advanced vocabulary words. I found that pretty bizarre.

I don’t know when Frollo began to educate Quasimodo. But it’s possible he did it so late in his life. If so, maybe it was to keep Quasimodo from learning how to leave the tower. Yet, I could be wrong about those.

Why can’t the gargoyles leave the tower?

In spite of how friendly they are with Quasimodo, they can’t leave the tower – not even for positive moments. 

Could it be that they’d frighten the general public? Who knows – except Disney?

Why is Belle walking through the streets when she shouldn’t have existed?

Disney has constantly put hidden characters and elements in their movies. Examples include Rapunzel and Eugene walking to the castle in “Frozen” to attend Elsa’s coronation, and the magic lamp from “Aladdin” being thrown in “The Princess and the Frog” during the song, “Dig a Little Deeper “

However, the idea of putting Belle walking on the streets in Paris wasn’t believable. ” The Hunchback of Notre Dame” takes place in the 15th century, and “Beauty and the Beast” is set in the 18th century. So, Belle shouldn’t have existed for a few hundred years – unless she somehow went back in time, and didn’t notice it at that point during the number, “Out There.”

Conclusion

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” still remains a strong tale with powerful musical numbers as well as occasional humor. 

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Published by Sunayna Prasad

I enjoy writing stories, creating artwork, watching movies and TV shows, cooking, and traveling. These are the topics of my posts. I also publish books, where you can learn about them on my website, www.sunaynaprasadbooks.com. Be sure to copy and paste the link and subscribe to my newsletter on the email list button on the homepage.

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