I must admit when watching a Disney animated feature film, I sometimes cringe because there are good ones like Aladdin and Mulan and then, there are bad ones like Pocahontas and The Return of Jafar. Every time I think about Pocahontas or The Return of Jafar, I get the willies because these films are bad. Thankfully, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (based off of Victor Hugo’s novel), is not one of those horrible Disney films. It’s not the best Disney film I ever saw, but at least, it has wonderful supporting characters in Hugo, Victor, and Laverne (see picture of the three stone gargoyles below) and one of the best villains that Disney has ever created, in Judge Claude Frollo (voice of Tony Jay). In fact, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is an example of what makes Disney so successful; likeable characters that are either objects or animals and a memorable villain who the audience despises.
Disney’s, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is about a deformed bell ringer named Quasimodo and his love for the beautiful Gypsy, Esmeralda who he must save from the clutches of the sinister, Judge Claude Frollo (see picture below). Joining Quasimodo, in protecting Esmeralda, are Hugo, Victor, Laverne, Phoebus (who also falls in love with Esmeralda), and Djali (Esmerald’s clever goat). While I think the love triangle between Qusimodo, Esmeralda, and Phoebus is interesting and charming, I believe that Quasimodo’s interaction with the three stone gargoyles (Hugo, Victor, and Laverne) and the cruelty of Judge Claude Frollo make the film work, so successfully.
Every time, I watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I always chuckle at the antics of the three gargoyles, Hugo, Victor, and Laverne. I think they provided the necessary comic relief needed, in what would otherwise, be a dark story for a Disney film without. Believe me, the original was not so happy. In fact, it was really dark and morose. I especially like the parts where the gargoyles convince Quasimodo to leave the bell tower, instead of staying in the tower and when they convince Quasimodo that he has a chance with Esmeralda, which the gargoyles do through singing ( “A Guy Like You” ), which is typical of Disney films. Without, the gargoyles providing Quasimodo companionship and support through songs and jokes, the film would fall flat like The Black Cauldron did.
The cruelty and ruthlessness of Judge Claude Frollo also adds to the appeal of the film because a good memorable villain’s job is to make the audience despise him and feel sympathetic towards the hero. This is especially true, when Frollo refuses to help Quasimodo out at the “Feast of Fools” after the crowd starts hurling things at him or when he lusts after Esmeralda. When Frollo sings “Hellfire,” it is very chilling and disturbing because it shows how obsess he is, with Esmeralda. The pinnacle of his cruelty comes when he tries to kill Quasimodo for rescuing Esmeralda; Frollo also reveals, at this point, that Quasimodo’s mother did not abandon him, but that he killed her. In the end, we cheer when Frollo fails to kill Quasimodo and meets his maker.
Overall, Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, is a good example of what makes a Disneyfilm, so successful. The fact that the film has wonderful supporting characters like the three stone gargoyles (Hugo, Victor, and Laverne) and a memorable evil villain like Judge Claude Frollo, helps make the film a success, instead of a failure like The Black Cauldron was. In the end, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is a really well made Disney film.