Anyone that knows me knows that I am a massive Disney fan and I often find it so hard to actually create a real list of my favourite films because to be honest my mind changes almost every time I watch a different film.
My favourite one overall is the only one that never seems to change – Lion King will always be my favourite. However I love when I watch another one out of my massive collection and realise how underrated some of them are.
The 90’s seems to be the golden era for Disney films but I think people only tend to remember Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King but there are others that are just as good. Funnily enough as I get older I appreciate different things about these films that I never did as a child and there is definitely one film that I continue to find new things I love about it.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame!
Now I have always loved this film because it was one of those I had on repeat when I was younger, climbing about the couches in my living room whenever Quasimodo was climbing about Notre Dame singing my favourite song. Of course back then I never understood half of what was really happening and it’s only now that I understand just how good it actually is.
So what is so good about The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Disney?
The Music – the music really is just incredible. One of my all time favourite songs from Disney is in this film when Quasimodo sings about how desperate he is to spend a day outside like everyone else. As a 5 year old I loved it but never really understood how beautiful a song it really was, giving us an insight into how lonely he really was and actually how we should be more grateful for what we have. If that wasn’t enough there is the beautiful Bells of Notre Dame that still manages to send chills down by spine on that final note at the beginning and then later at the end of the film. Finally this film manages to use a song to show just how different the “hero” and “villain” are as people and intentions with the chilling Hellfire. Probably one of Disney’s strongest soundtracks ever!
The Villain – Surely everyone can agree Frollo has got to be one of the most terrifying villains out of really any film. I was so scared of him when I was younger and hated him for how he treated Quasimodo but it was only recently why I realised why he was such good villain. Of course he looks scary enough so that always helps but he is probably the most believable villain with the most worrying reason behind what he does. He believes he is doing the right thing and sees no problems with his actions other than feeling guilty for the lust he feels towards Esmarellda. Funny how he sees himself acting “sinful” towards his feelings about her but cannot see the terror and destruction he has caused, mainly out of jealousy, as the really act of evil. To me this makes him the most believable villain because we could technically all know someone like this (obviously on a much smaller scale).
The Ending – Back in the day when every ending of a Disney film was pretty predictable and was based on the old favourite of a happily every after where the main character finally got the guy/girl, this film took a slightly different approach. Quasimodo didn’t get the girl, in fact we got to watch him get heartbroken before this and we still didn’t suddenly see everyone be made ok again. Quasimodo got his own happily ever after by being able to finally be outside among everyone else. This is a perfectly suited end to the character created because if Quasimodo got the girl then it would be as if he got her through saving her when in fact he saw what she really wanted and wanted her to be happy herself more than what he most likely wanted for himself.
The Message – This film, just like many other Disney film manages to put across tough messages to kids without them realising they are even learning. When I watched this as a kid I hated watching Quasimodo get abused at the Festival of Fools and my mum still tells me how I used to say “he’s not ugly he’s different”. Of course as we mature our perspective changes and we tend to notice people’s appearances but this character still ends up being my absolute favourite because he is an absolute sweetheart. This film manages to talk about bigger more adult issues like the hints towards religion and badly treating minorities and lust and other things without it going completely over kids heads but in the most appropriate way. Kids get to see how badly treated the good characters are but without thinking much more than this happens because the bad guy is the bad guy.
The Hero – Can’t mention the villain without mentioning the hero of the story. Quasimodo is one of the sweetest characters but he can be this sweet character without him being stuck in the box of a good character being good and doing the right thing because he’s the good guy. Just like the villain he is more human than some other characters from other films because just like everyone else he wants what he can’t have, he has doubts about himself but is also able to stand up for himself and those he cares about when pushed to do so. He likes to believe in the good in people and is easily swayed by Frollo due to his upbringing. Even at the end when he confronts Frollo he still chooses not to hurt him despite everything he has done in the past. Quasimodo manages to always put those he cares about before himself. By being deformed and different to the typical ideas of beauty people can relate to him more and kids can enjoy a good story with fun side characters and get the chance to experience more types of people.
I will always have a special place in my heart for this film due to simple nostalgia but it’s nice as an adult to see all those things you missed as a kid to gain a greater understanding of the overall story.