The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

7.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great animation, good cast

Walt Disney couldn't commit to the completely dark story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Studio:  Walt Disney Animated Features

Genre(s):  Animated/Musical/Family

Release Date(s):  June 21, 1996

MPAA Rating:  G


I changed my mind…you’re ugly

Quasimodo lives in the bell tower of Notre Dame in Paris with the gargoyles.  Raised by the strict Judge Claude Frollo, Quasimodo hides his deformity but longs to be among the people.  When he sneaks out to the Festival of Fools, Quasimodo meets a young gypsy performer named Esmeralda.  Unfortunately, Frollo has fallen in love with Esmeralda and if he can’t have her, no one will!  Quasimodo finds himself forced to disobey the man who has raised him but also competing with the captain of the guard Phoebus for Esmeralda’s love…but can a woman ever love a monster like him?

Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is the thirty-fourth entry in the Walt Disney Animated Features series.  Following Pocahontas in 1995, The Hunchback of Notre Dame adapts the classic 1831 novel Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo (frequently called The Hunchback of Notre Dame).  The movie was a box office success and received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score—Musical or Comedy (losing to Emma).


In a shocking turn of events, Esmeralda ends up hooking up with Frollo

I am a big fan of Victor Hugo.  His most famous works Les Miserables and Notre Dame de Paris are both dark and feature almost a Paris alternative to Dickens’ London.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame has a ton of layers and Disney is barely able to scratch the surface of it in its movie but it does a decent job trying.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame faced controversy upon its release.  Purists to the story (like myself) didn’t like the dumbing down of the story for children.  Plotlines and characters were eliminated and things were changed to soften the tale.  On the flip-side, many parents and some religious groups felt that the movie was too dark and anti-religious for children.

I always found the Hunchback very tragic and I was a bit upset when I was watching the movie the first time because I knew that Disney couldn’t go through with the ending.  Here Esmerelda may not end up with the Hunchback, but she ends up alive.  The movie gives you some hope that  they’ll allow Esmeralda to die, but it cannot do it.


Why can’t she be dead like in the book and the hunchback die from a broken heart?

The film also was criticized for the sexual nature of the movie.  Frollo lusts for Esmeralda and the filmmakers tried to take some of the criticism away by making him a judge instead of a member of the church.  Still, some of the imagery is pretty hardcore for a family Disney film…just not up to the level of the novel.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame looks and sounds great.  It feels a bit more like a traditional musical than some of Disney’s entries surrounding it (which felt like music videos).  I wish that the movie hadn’t tried to straddle the line on issues and committed to a darker Disney film (which backfired for them with The Black Cauldron).  The Hunchback of Notre Dame was followed by a straight to video sequel The Hunchback of Notre Dame II in 2002.  Disney followed the movie with Hercules in 1997.

[easyazon-block align=”center” asin=”B00AO686E2″ locale=”us”]

Related Links:

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response