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This is probably one of the Disney movies that I'd recommend a second viewing as an adult. There's a lot of subtext and mature themes that I didn't pick up on my first time watching and instead did the second time around. The ideas of acceptance, evil, racial prejudice and even undertones of religious salvation are packed succinctly into this movie. The music is atmospheric and well adapted to each changing scene. And plus, Esmeralda is such a bewitching heroine.
I loved it. An underrated gem in the Disney canon. It's a very different effort than most Disney movies. Dark and with a truly terrifying villain. The comedy also works very well, most of it aimed at a more adult audience than normal. Warmly recommended.
Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame stands shoulder to shoulder with the Mouse's other great animation achievements of the 90s, but like its lead, it is strange and a little misshapen. The strangeness comes from how ADULT it is. The villain, Frollo, is motivated by lust for the gypsy Esmeralda, and his misogynistic hatred of the woman who forced him into sin. Religion is tackled head on (it takes place in a cathedral, after all), highlighting the "faithful"'s hypocrisies. And it's violent, Victor Hugo's Paris a real powder keg and nest on inequity. And I love it for all those things. But it's misshapen thanks to a trio of tonally deaf comedy gargoyles. A little of them goes a long way, and we get altogether too much of them. The comedy goat and slapstick action worked well enough without this addition, and their featured song, in an otherwise gorgeous musical production, has the audience reaching for the fast-forward button. On the question of whether it is faithful to Victor Hugo's book, I was encouraged to tell this story: There's a tedious and much-mocked (at least, in my household) chapter in the novel called "Paris à vol d'oiseau" ("A Bird's Eye View of Paris") which stops the action to bring you the 18th-Century equivalent of a long Wikipedia article about the history and architecture of Paris. We mock it for its clumsiness and for Hugo possibly fobbing off an old non-fiction essay to a literary magazine that week in lieu of prose, while also appreciating the readers of the time didn't really have access to this richness of context any other way. Now, how could an adaptation of Hunchback be any good unless it actually did the Bird's Eye View? Believe it or not, Disney's keeps returning to it visually, in jokes, and by stressing the right plot points. I was amused and impressed! Now somebody edit me a version where the Gargoyles aren't so omnipresent.
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