When it comes to Disney, there are often large debates about which one is the best in their decade spanning portfolio of films. Ignoring Pixar, because they automatically trump anything, especially with Toy Story, the 50 something films are pulled into contention whenever some says, “Oh, it’s the best.” Snow White, being the first animated full length feature ever, is often burning on the lips of people who regale it as a triumph. There’s the classics such as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Pinocchio. Then the renaissance period of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King up until now where the icy hearts of Frozen or the hairy adventure of Tangled still impress with awe. When talking about your favourite Disney film did you at least mention The Hunchback of Notre Dame?
If you answered no, then you are wrong. So wrong.
Coming from the nineties, the style of animation is reminiscent of that era but tinged with the 1500s style of Paris. Told mainly through religion and the church, directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale enhances the visionary aspects of the film with this marble spectrum of colours. Through the fiery tinges of orange that proceed to follow Frollo around, mirroring his unbridled flame to the rainbow hues that dance wildly with the souls of the Parisian families, Quasi and the travellers. From the glorious horizons to the stained glass of the elusive Notre Dame, each frame is bursting with either bubbling characters or tinged with the darkness of Frollo’s soul. It is a profoundly exquisite film.
Matching the stylistic approach of bringing the 1500s to the big screen is Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menkin’s score. Utilising the era and the setting, the pair create this utterly redolent score and song set that soars above the action of the film in his sublime way. The haunting opening, drowned in cascade of bells seduce and awake goosebumps all over. As the chills crawl down your spine, the composition isn’t afraid to tread along with the story, into this darker tone yet still captures the buoyant spirit of Quasimodo and his friends. I’ll be talking about the best song in a bit but the captivating Out There with the epic vocals of Tom Hulce, the wishful God Help The Outcasts and the main them The Bells of Notre Dame are incredible, timeless pieces.
Also there is the message of race and persecution, where the tale focuses on the plight of the Gypsies who are scorned and relegated to petty thieves and criminals. Frollo’s focus on their destruction mirrors the yearly struggle of minorities that is still prevalent today and will continue to be until we all accept every race of humanity.
The pivotal moment for our villain, however, is when Esmerelda arouses his desires. Kept chaste for so long, Frollo is stirred by her beauty and passion. So much so that it conflicts with his anti-sin feelings. The man, showing classic signs of victim blaming, balls up his sexual repression and spits the venom back at Esmerelda, believing him to be cursed by her witchy ways. Despite confronting the idea of hell because of his rampant desires, Frollo decides that she must be with him or she and the entire city of Paris will burn. Striking the core of real life murders and persecutions, particularly from religion and man, Frollo is sadistic, twisted yet still represents a norm that still rages on in today’s society. In the magnificent, deafening and sickeningly beguiling song Hellfire, Frollo’s inner demons are paraded in his musical monologue that is the most powerful and haunting villain song ever created by Disney.
What Do You Think?
Do you like The Hunchback of Notre Dame?
Or is there a better Disney film?
Let us know in the comments
Read Hayley's look at Hellfire.
Also read Cookie's exploration of Frollo.