I, like many other people, have rewatched just about every Disney movie again since I’ve gotten older. I’m always amazed at how different my reactions to the movies become as I get older. Whether I appreciate aspects of it more or just understand aspects of it more, each movie is a different experience every time I watch it. There is no movie that this is more true for than Hunchback of Notre Dame.
When I was younger, I watched Hunchback, but it never really stuck. I always kind of grouped it as the black sheep of the Disney Renaissance: that one movie that just wasn’t as good. Whenever people even talk about their favorite Disney movies, Hunchback is far from the forefront of the conversation, and rarely is even mentioned at all.
Well, then I watched it again, and I have to admit, I was completely blown away.
From the first song, The Bell of Notre Dame, I realized that clearly I had overlooked this movie. The song is beautifully constructed, giving all of the background information and exposition in an interesting and exciting way, all while being masterfully sung by Clopin, the jester and our narrator through the tale (sidenote: The lyric “Who is the monster and who is the man?” gives me goosebumps every time).
As we moved on, I began to appreciate the intricacies of the story and the characters, from the evil villain Claude Frollo, torn between his religion and his lust, to the lovable hero Quasi Modo, a hunchback restricted to his belltower and possibly the first Disney hero to not get the girl in the end.
I’ll admit, I enjoyed every minute of this movie now that I’m older, and I guess my question becomes, why?
Part of it is that I understand more of it now, as there were some adult themes in this movie. Just look at the song “Hellfire,” sung by Frollo. Not only is the song’s name already a bit strong by Disney standards, just listening to the lyrics is incredible. He is singing on his lust for Esmerelda, and asking God for his forgiveness. This is heavy stuff! Just watch the video, it’s intense. I didn’t even realize that this was a subplot until I watched it again years later.
When compared to other classic Disney movies, yeah, the themes in Hunchback are intense. There’s religion, lust, racism, and violence, all while neatly wrapped around a very Disney-esque theme: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. If you have the chance, give this movie another look through, because you wont be disappointed.
What do you guys think of Hunchback, and are there any other movies that you may not have liked when you were little that you love now?