The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Watched As an Adult


by Angela Dahl (@AngelaDahling)

The last time I watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it was on VHS and I had a Quasimodo doll that  I got from Burger King. While I liked it as a kid, I didn’t go out of  my way to watch it over and over again, so here’s what I noticed while  watching it again on blu-ray for the first time in at least ten years.

1) Frollo is the creepiest Disney villain… ever.

Judge Claude Frollo is terrifying to me now because he’s not an evil  witch or gigantic demon; he’s a powerful man full of hatred and hypocrisy.  That’s a dangerous combination of character attributes. In his first  scene, he chases and kills a Gypsy woman in front of Notre Dame and  attempts to drown her baby (who ends up being Quasimodo). The archdeacon  stops him from drowning the baby and makes Frollo adopt Quasimodo to  atone for killing the woman. He does, but it’s hardly a healthy relationship.  He makes his “son” call him master. He teaches Quasimodo the ABCs  using words like “abomination, blasphemy, contrition,” etc. I will  say this though: I learned some major vocabulary words when I watched  this as a kid, I’m sure.

Frollo at one point says Gypsies “live outside the normal order”  and “their heathen ways inflame the people’s lowest instincts.”  This is basically the line of thought of anyone who opposes any human  rights, from woman’s rights to African-American’s rights to the gay  marriage controversy today. And speaking of women, Frollo hates women.  He lusts after Esmeralda, the pretty Gypsy dancer, and decides that  if he can’t have her she must burn to death. And he likes it when people  get whipped in the most painful way possible. So, future parents of  America, please teach your sons and daughters that the real villains,  the ones you should fear and want to fight against, are the ones like  Frollo who represent everything that is wrong with humanity.

2) Quasimodo is adorable

He’s no prince, but Quasi’s the hunchback of  my heart. His misshapen face beams with goodness and innocence. If Disney  decided to do a live-action version of this movie, they’d need to cast  Nicholas Hoult because that guy’s face could pull off adorable goodness  even in slightly monstrous make-up. Quasi even kinda walks like R in Warm Bodies. Make it happen, Disney. Quasimodo’s not just  a good guy; he’s THE good guy. Animals trust him, and Disney animals  always know which character is good or not (Snow White will never make  that mistake again). He sees the woman he loves make out with someone  else and gets his heart broken, and literally minutes later he rushes  to help her. He doesn’t even pause for a pint of ice cream or a lap  dance. That’s a good guy.

3) Quasimodo is Rapunzel

Has anyone else ever noticed  the similarities between these two characters? Both are stuck in towers  and turn to art as a creative outlet for loneliness. Both have one authoritative  parental figure that lies about their origins and about people’s motivations.  Both have friends that only they can talk to and who are their only  companions in their captivity. Both befriend trickster characters and  fall in love with them. Quasimodo’s love life doesn’t work out quite  the same as Rapunzel’s, but at least he’s got good company with the  three gargoyles that are essentially Sophia Petrillo, Curly, and Frasier.  He’ll be all right until the sequel (in which he apparently gets a love  interest? I’m usually wary of Disney sequels, but I may have to watch  it).

4) No matter what you do, “Out  There” will get stuck in your head.

Alan Menken did the music  for The Hunchback of Notre Dame (the packaging for the blu-ray  makes sure you’re aware of this), and his music always manages to burrow  its way into your brain. “Out There,” Quasimodo’s I-want-adventure-in-the-great-wide-somewhere-part-of-your-world-song,  is uplifting and great to sing along to. The song begins with Frollo  and his command to “stay in here,” which juxtaposes nicely with  Quasimodo’s desire to be “out there.”  Tom Hulce was both the speaking  and singing voice of Quasimodo, and he really did a fantastic job. Just  try not to get it stuck in your head. Try.

5) The Hunchback and the Last  Crusade

There’s a lot of commentary  about religion in this movie, which is surprising considering this came  out during the Disney renaissance with The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast, none of which had as dark  tones as this movie. To start, Quasimodo’s plain wooden cup looks like  the Holy Grail from Indiana Jones and the Last  Crusade. Does that make him a savior/Jesus-type  figure? He does save Esmeralda by superhumanly breaking his chains and  knocking down pillars and then holds her over his head yelling “SANCTUARYYYY!”  This may be more Hulk than Jesus, but Quasimodo’s personality, I think,  has some comparable qualities. He’s kind, helps others, and loves other  people who may hate him. That’s kind of Jesus-y, right? The “God Help  the Outcasts” song sung by Esmeralda urges people to be unselfish  and tolerant as seen by the last line, “Please help my people, the  poor and downtrodden/ I thought we all were the children of God.” Frollo’s  fiery fall to his death clutching a stone gargoyle head is also pretty  biblical. And well-deserved (see point 1).

One final thing that I forgot  about until I rewatched it is this gem of a gag.

Dang it.

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