The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996 film)

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Directed by Gary Trousdale
Kirk Wise
Produced by Don Hahn
Written by Tab Murphy
Irene Mecchi
Bob Tzudiker
Noni White
Jonathan Roberts
Starring Tom Hulce
Demi Moore
Tony Jay
Kevin Kline
Paul Kandel
Jason Alexander
Charles Kimbrough
Mary Wickes
David Ogden Stiers
Music by Alan Menken
Stephen Schwartz
Editing by Ellen Keneshea
Distributed by Buena Vistas Pictures Distribution
Release date(s) June 21, 1996
Running time 91 min
Country USA
Language English
Budget $70 million
Gross revenue $325.3 million
Followed by The Hunchback of Notre Dame II

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1996 animated Disney film based on the Victor Hugo novel of the same name from 1831. Due to the original story being not kid-friendly in the slightest, a lot was changed to keep a lighter tone. Although it’s been described by the filmmakers as “The most R-rated G movie you ever seen.”


The story begins one night in Paris, France where a group of Gypsies are sneaking into Paris, but are captured by Judge Claude Frollo, but one escapes with her baby son, which Frollo thinks are stolen goods. The chase ends at the Notre Dame Cathedral, where Frollo breaks the woman’s neck, and sees her baby, who has a deformed look. He goes to a nearby well to kill him, but is stopped by the Archdeacon. Who tells him he must raise the child as his own to make up for killing the baby’s mother. Frollo reluctantly accepts, but he doesn’t want him to be in his home, so he keeps him at the Cathedral’s rooftop, and made him the bell ringer. Frollo named the child Quasimodo as a way to insult his “half formed” appearance.

20 years later, Quasimodo is lonely due to the only human he’s ever interacted with being his “master” Frollo. Quasimodo talks with the Gargoyles, who tell him to go to the annual “Festival of Fools.” Quasimodo accepts, but is stopped by Frollo. Frollo tells him that the world is very cruel, and won’t understand his monster appearance. However, Quasimodo plans to go anyway in disguise so Frollo (who attends the Festival annually) won’t recognize him.

Captain Phoebus returns to the City, and speaks with Frollo about the Gypsy problem, and that Frollo has been killing them, but there’s more and more, and wants to find their home base to end the problem for good. Both Frollo and Phoebus go to the festival.

At the festival, Quasimodo meets Esmeralda, who thinks his ugly look is a mask. Esmeralda later dances to the initial disgust of Frollo, but later develops feelings for her when she dances right in his face. She brings Quasimodo on stage so he can potentially be crowned “The King of Fools.” He gets it, and everyone loves him for it. However, one of the guards throws a tomato at him, so everyone ties him down, and throws food at him. Quasimodo cries to Frollo to help him, but Frollo tells Phoebus to let it continue so Quasimodo can learn a lesson. Esmeralda puts an end to it, to the anger of Frollo, and she gets caught at the Church after meeting Phoebus, who claims she called for Sanctuary meaning the law can’t arrest her. Frollo is angered, but the Archdeacon tells him to leave.

She meets Quasimodo properly, and the two bond, and Quasimodo helps her escape. Once Frollo hears of her escape, he goes crazy and burns Paris looking for her. Frollo then learns that Quasimodo helped her escape, and tells him that he found the Gypsy hideout, and plans to kill them all. Quasimodo and Phoebus plan to get there before Frollo, and warn them all. They find it, but they unintentionally led Frollo there. Esmeralda is about to be executed, but Quasimodo breaks free of his chains, and saves her. A big battle erupts, and it ends with Frollo breaking into the Cathedral to the protest of the Archdeacon who Frollo doesn’t care for anymore. Frollo tries to kill both Quasimodo and Esmeralda, and Frollo admits to Quasimodo that he killed his mother, and he says he’ll do what he should have done 20 years ago. However, he falls with Quasimodo saving him, but Frollo swings to another Gargoyle pillar to kill the two, but he falls to his death.

It’s all over, and the people love Quasimodo, and Esmeralda marries Phoebus.


Tom Hulce as Quasimodo

Demi Moore as Esmeralda

Tony Jay as Judge Claude Frollo

Kevin Kline as Captain Phoebus

Paul Kandel as Clopin Trouillefou

Jason Alexander as Hugo

Charles Kimbrough as Victor

Mary Wickes as Laverne

David Ogden Stiers as the Archdeacon




Unlike other Disney movies, much Christian imagery is used as the Notre Dame is a real life location. Also, the characters rely on God’s grace rather than fairies or magic.

As for portraying Christians, one had hand, it’s more pro Christian than the Victor Hugo novel as Frollo is no longer the Archdeacon but a Judge. Furthermore, the new Archdeacon is portrayed in a very positive light, as he’s shown to like Quasimodo, and convinces Esmeralda to pray to God. On the other, many of the townspeople are shown to be very cruel as in the book, Quasimodo received corporal punishment at the “Festival of Fools” where in the movie, the people did it just to have fun. Furthermore, Frollo no longer has any of his redeemable factors as he adopted Quasimodo due to his real mom abandoning him, and named him Quasimodo after Quasimodo Tuesday.

Sequels and Prequels

The only follow up this movie got was a straight to video sequel simply called “The Hunchback of Notre Dame II” which got released in 2002. It’s often regarded as one of the worst straight to video movies in the Michael Eisner era.