A young, hunchbacked man who’s spent his whole life inside Notre Dame cathedral befriends a gypsy woman who is subsequently accused of witchcraft. The directors made Beauty and the Beast (1991) and it’s easy to spot the similarities here. Obviously, Victor Hugo’s novel is a very adult choice for an animated Disney film, a dark story where we even get to see the villain do a whole song about his forbidden lust for Esmeralda. The film addresses racism, religious fanaticism and infanticide, but somehow manages to balance those horrifying ingredients with Broadway-type numbers and amusing sidekicks in the shape of talking gargoyles.
1996-U.S. Animated. 91 min. Color. Produced by Don Hahn. Directed by Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise. Screenplay: Tab Murphy, Irene Mecchi, Bob Tzudiker, Noni White, Jonathan Roberts. Novel: Victor Hugo. Music: Alan Menken. Songs: Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz. Voices of Tom Hulce (Quasimodo), Demi Moore (Esmeralda), Kevin Kline (Phoebus), Tony Jay, Jason Alexander, Paul Kandel… David Ogden Stiers.
Trivia: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi were reportedly considered for the role of Frollo. Followed by a direct-to-video sequel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002).
Last word: “Early on, we [took] a research trip with the core creative team to Paris. We spent two weeks all over Notre Dame. They gave us unrestricted access, going down into the catacombs. That was a huge inspiration […] One morning, I was listening to this pipe organ in this shadowy cathedral, with light filtering through the stained-glass windows. The sound was so powerful, I could feel it thudding in my chest. I thought, ‘This is what the movie needs to feel like.'” (Wise, Slashfilm)