|The Hunchback of Notre Dame|
|Directed by|| Gary Trousdale
|Produced by||Don Hahn|
|Written by|| Tab Murphy
|Starring|| Tom Hulce
David Ogden Stiers
|Music by|| Alan Menken
|Studios|| Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Feature Animation
|Distributors|| Buena Vista Pictures
|Release date (s)|| June 21, 1996
|Preceded by|| Pocahontas
|Followed by|| Hercules
The film was directed by Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, directors of Beauty and the Beast, and produced by Don Hahn, producer of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. The animation screenplay was written by Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts, who had previously worked on The Lion King, and Tab Murphy, Bob Tzudiker and Noni White, who would go on to write the screenplay for Tarzan. for The songs for the musical film were composed by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, and the film featured the voices of Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, Paul Kandel, Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough, David Ogden Stiers, Tony Jay, and Mary Wickes (in her final film role). It belongs to the era known as Disney Renaissance. A direct-to-video sequel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, was released in 2002. A Darker, Gothic stage adaption of the film was re-written and directed by James Lapine and produced by Walt Disney Theatrical in Berlin, Germany as Der Glockner Von Notre Dame that ran from 1999 to 2002.
The film is considered to be one of Disney's darkest animated films (next to The Black Cauldron) as it's narrative explores such mature themes such as infanticide, lust, damnation, genocide and sin. the film was released on June 21, 1996 and received generally positive reviews and was a commercial success as it grossed over $325 million worldwide which is $250 million more then its $100 million budget and became the fifth highest-grossing release of 1996. The film received Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for Menken's musical score.
While the film has a large fanbase that to this day continues to adore the film, it's infamously hated for its use of broad humor in a story with sensitive subject matter. Ironically, the film was looked down upon by parents for the use of such dark material in a kids movie. Due to both situations, the Disney company is reluctant to exploit the film, making it something of a commercial disappointment.
The movie opens in 1482 Paris with Clopin, a gypsy puppeteer, telling a group of children the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. The story begins as three gypsies sneak illegally into Paris but are ambushed by a squadron of soldier-like thugs working for Judge Claude Frollo, the Minister of Justice and de facto ruler of Paris. A gypsy woman attempts to flee with her baby, but Frollo catches and kills her just outside Notre Dame, intending to kill her deformed baby (Frollo says to the Archdeacon that the baby is "an unholy demon" and that he is "sending it back to hell where it belongs"), but the Archdeacon appears and accuses him of murdering an innocent woman. Frollo denies that he is in the wrong saying his conscience is clear, but the Archdeacon declares he can lie to himself all he wants, but he cannot hide his crime from heaven ('the eyes of Notre Dame', the statues of the saints outside the cathedral). Fearing for his soul and to atone for his sin, Frollo reluctantly agrees to raise the deformed child in the Cathedral as his son, naming him Quasimodo.
Twenty years later, Quasimodo has developed into a kind yet isolated young man with three gargoyles as his only company, constantly told by Frollo that he is a monster who would be rejected by the uncaring outside world. Despite these warnings, Quasimodo sneaks out of the Cathedral to attend the Feast of Fools, where he is crowned King of Fools but immediately humiliated by the crowd when Frollo's thugs start a riot. Frollo, in the audience, refuses to help Quasimodo, and the crowd only stops when a kind and beautiful gypsy Esmeralda frees Quasimodo from his restraints and openly defies Frollo. She then throws the crown at Frollo, deeming him to be the biggest fool. The judge orders her arrested, but she escapes by means of illusions, which Frollo calls "witchcraft." Frollo scolds Quasimodo and sends him back inside the Cathedral.
Esmeralda follows Quasimodo to find him, but she herself is followed by Phoebus, Frollo's Captain of the Guard. Phoebus, who himself does not approve of Frollo's methods, refuses to arrest her inside the Cathedral, saying that she has claimed 'Sanctuary' and thus cannot be arrested as long as she remains in Notre Dame. Frollo finally leaves when the Archdeacon orders him out, but not before warning Esmeralda that his men will capture her the minute she leaves the Cathedral. Esmeralda finds Quasimodo in the bell tower and befriends him. As gratitude for helping him in the crowd, Quasimodo helps Esmeralda escape Notre Dame. In return, she leaves him with a map to the gypsy hideout, the Court of Miracles, should he ever choose to leave Notre Dame again. Frollo himself begins to realize his lustful feelings for Esmeralda and wishes to be free of them to escape eternal damnation. He soon learns of Esmeralda's escape and orders a city-wide manhunt for her, burning down houses in his path. Realizing that Frollo has lost his mind, Phoebus defies the judge, who orders him executed for treason, but is aided in escape by Esmeralda. After being hit by an arrow, Phoebus falls into the river, but is rescued by Esmeralda, who takes him to Quasimodo for refuge.
Frollo soon returns to the Cathedral, forcing Quasimodo to hide Phoebus. Finding out that Quasimodo helped Esmeralda escape, the judge bluffs that he knows where the Court of Miracles is and that he intends to attack it at dawn with a battalion. After he leaves, Phoebus requests Quasimodo's help in finding the Court before Frollo. Using the map Esmeralda left, they find it and are almost hanged by Clopin as spies, but are saved when Esmeralda intervenes and clears up the misunderstanding. However, Frollo's army appears and captures them all, with the judge revealing that he followed Phoebus and Quasimodo.
Frollo then orders Esmeralda burned at the stake after she refuses his proposal of her becoming his mistress. Quasimodo, chained up in the bell tower, initially refuses to help under depression, but when he sees Esmeralda in pain, he gives in to his anger and rescues her, bringing her to the cathedral and yelling "Sanctuary." As Frollo grabs a sword and orders his men to attack the cathedral, Phoebus ignites a mutiny among the people of Paris who have had enough of Frollo's tyranny and a battle ensues in the street between the citizenry and Frollo's thug army. Quasimodo places Esmeralda's unconscious body on a bed and pours a cauldron of molten copper onto the streets to ensure nobody gets inside. Frollo, however, manages to break in and force his way past the Archdeacon. Quasimodo, believing Esmeralda to be dead, breaks down beside her body as Frollo comes into the room to kill him with a dagger. Quasimodo, in his fury, disarms his former guardian and finally rejects all that Frollo had taught him. Esmeralda wakes up and Quasimodo grabs her and flees. The deranged judge chases them on to the balcony, where he attacks Quasimodo and Esmeralda with his sword. The battle ends with Frollo maniacally quoting the Bible and both him and Quasimodo falling of the balcony. After Frollo falls to his death, Quasimodo also falls, but is caught by Phoebus on a lower floor, and the three friends reunite.
As the citizens celebrate their victory over Frollo, Quasimodo reluctantly emerges from the Cathedral to face the populace again, only this time, he is hailed as a hero.