Behind the Fairy Tale: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

hunchback poster

Okay, kiddos, today’s Disney movie is going to be . . . wait, what?  Um, I mean, oh how cool!  It’s about a guy with horrible deformities who is locked up in a bell tower by a lustful, racist, and let’s not forget evil, judge named Frollo.  And there’s a hot gypsy girl who pole dances, and a goat, and this dude name Phoebes with an awful goatee.

I’m starting to think this is a totally different kind of movie.

Okay, here we go.  First things first, I loved this movie.  Really, I did.  My only problem was that, well, strangely enough this book did not seem like the sort of book you’d translate to a children’s movie.  I hear “Victor Hugo” and I don’t think “happy happy joy joy” in other words.  But Disney meant well.  I mean there was a message.  That people are horrible, horrible creatures and really there should be another flood.

No, no!  Sorry. I mean that people should be accepted for what’s on the inside, not the outside.  As in emotions, not the condition of their livers, although that’s important too. But I’m getting away from the story, or, at least, the Disney version of it.  Here we go.

It starts with Frollo chasing this gypsy woman who races for the church hoping for protection.  She makes it, but wouldn’t you know, bonks her head on the steps and dies.  Frollo takes the bundle from her hands and realizes the baby she was holding looks just like Dick Cheney.  In horror, he tries to throw the baby down the well.


It’s hard to blame the guy, really.

But the priest steps out (about time) and reminds Frollo that murdering women and infants at a church is like a level 10 sin, so Frollo asks what he should do to keep from taking a hot bath in the afterlife.  The priest says for him to raise the baby himself and . . . wait, wasn’t this guy just about to kill this baby?  And we think CPS is goofed up today.  Anyway, Frollo agrees, and locks the kid up in the bell tower like so many other awesome Disney parents.

So Quasimodo (a name that rolls off the tongue) grows up alone in the tower.  Okay, I was kidding about Dick Cheney, but he is really deformed, and there’s only so much Disney can do to cuten up a hunchback with a face that looks like it is sliding off his head.  But to their credit, they give old Quasi a great personality and an awesome singing voice.  Women dig that stuff.  He is totally going to get the girl.



If he can get out of the bell tower, cause right now all he has for company are these singing stone gargoyles (he’s been alone a long time, okay?) and the less said about them the better.  But he lucks out when the city has Topsy Turvy day in which the lowly people get to dress up in costume and pretend to be the ones in charge.  For one day, they actually have a decent government.  The costume day is perfect for Quasi, who has the best permanent costume ever.

He puts on a cloak, sneaks out, and ends up backing into the hot gypsy girl’s tent.  Lucky hunchback!  Esmerelda is all, no biggie, and Quasi watches as she dances for the crowd and Frollo who says “Look at that display”.  His goatee’d captain of the guard, Phoebus says, “YES SIR.”  I liked that line.  Essy dances and yes, at one point swings around a pole stripper style.  Holy CRAP, Disney.


This one’s for the kids, but dads like it too!

Then comes the ugly man contest.  Esmerela thinks Quasi’s mask is great until she tries to pull it off in front of a huge crowd of people who suddenly turn into a pack of wild orangutangs, only hurling tomatoes instead of poo.  There might have been some of that too, I don’t know, but it’s really a seriously dark scene, with Quasi ripping his shirt to escape his bonds while the crowd tries to torture him.  Holy CRAP, Disney.

Esmerelda steps up and demands they stop, and Frollo demands they arrest her, alive you know, cause he has the hots for her too, and Disney’s not quite that dark.  She runs and the captain chases after her, but she makes it inside the church.  Phoebus tries to pick her up while arresting her, and they argue and fight and yeah, I can’t imagine where this is going.  But she has sanctuary here, despite Frollo showing up and demanding the girl (he should totally try that Protestant thing like Henry VIII did).  He puts guards everywhere, and the freewheeling gypsy is trapped!

But not alone.  She befriends Quasi, who helps her to escape.  Frollo ain’t happy.  He has a scene in front of the fire where he creepily sniffs Esmerelda’s scarf (oh I forgot, he sniffed her hair earlier – iiiick) and imagines her body gyrating in the flames, tempting him to sin while a huge chorus of red cloaks threatens hellfire.  No, really.  Holy CRAP, Disney.

The little ones love this part.

Totally kid fare here.

Frollo then starts burning everyone’s houses cause he’s all madfaced at not finding Essy, and wow, clearly we’re not near election time.  Phoebus refuses to burn a house, then rescues the cute little family from the flames.  Essy, who is still in hiding, sees this and is all he’s like hot and brave and who was that hunchback again?  Frollo fires Pheebes, and he is chased off and shot in the shoulder.  Essy rescues him and drags him back to the church.

Poor, pathetic Quasi lets them in, and watches while Esmerelda crushes his dreams of ever having love by makin’ out with Phoebus on his sick bed before running off to Gypsyville – otherwise known as the Court of Sewer Rats, er Miracles.  Frollo tells Quasi he knows where the gypsy hideout is, so Quasi and the injured Phoebus (I like how Quasi helps him with his injury as roughly as possible) use this necklace of Esmerelda’s to find the hideout – also leading Frollo there as well.  Whoops.

The gypsies are arrested, and when Essy refuses Frollo with a well-placed spit, she’s put on her own spit surrounded by fire.  Quasi bursts through his chains to rescue her, swinging from the belltower, picking her up and someone managing to swing back UP to the cathedral, completely defying gravity.  He is one amazing hunchback.  Maybe they should get him on a superhero team or something.

Don't worry.  This totally worked in Star Wars.

Don’t worry. This totally worked in Star Wars.

Frollo breaks in, fights Quasi, and has one of those patented evil villain fall deaths.  Quasi accepts that Essy and Phoebus are an item, and when they lead him to the door of the cathedral,the crowd lifts him in their arms and cheer for him and wasn’t this the same crowd who wanted to kill him earlier and nevermind.  Quasi might not have the girl, but he has his freedom, so happy happy, the end.  And maybe they’ll get all those fires put out eventually.

Now for the story behind the, well, creepy Disney tale.  It’s even creepier and darker, of course, with pretty much everyone ending up dead at the end.  Phoebus is a worse creeper than Frollo, Esmerelda is hanged, and Quasi climbs in the grave with her.  Later they find their bones together.  Isn’t that charming?  So yeah, at this point, I’m gonna go with the Disney version, even if it does make old Victor Hugo roll in his own grave.

Man I'm bummed.  I think I'll write a depressing book.

Man I’m bummed. I think I’ll write a depressing book.

So did any of you see the Disney movie or read the original book?  If so, what did you think?  Come back for our next Behind the Fairy Tale: Mulan.  Nothing creepy here, just a little harmless cross dressing.  And genocide.  Stay tuned!

15 responses

  1. Ha! Pretty amazing isn’t it what our kids can understand without becoming arsonists. They have an itrinsic ability to know what is fantasy and what is reality. Up here in Canada I sometimes roll my eyes at the dialogues of the do-gooders: that’s too violent for kids, that sets a bad example for kids, that’s encouraging illeagal activity, and so on. In fact a few years ago there was a large debate (not really large per se, but big enought to make it to the media) about Sponge Bob Square Pants – the most benign character yet invented. Apparently (and I didn’t know this until the discussion) sponges have no fixed gender. They switch genders depending on the male/female ratio in the immediate environment. This evolutionary gift allows them to maximize the chance of reproduction and the continuation of their genetic line. Apparently a number of do-gooders decided that this set a bad example for small children and could cause gender confusion in later years. They lobbied to have poor Sponge Bob removed from the universe as a precautionary measure. When the laughter died down, the objectors slunk away never to be heard from again. I think the kids will be OK, but you should watch for gender confusion in,say, their thirties.

    1. I say, heck with gender confusion, just get rid of Spongebob because he’s an annoying little freak. But that’s me.

  2. I’ve read the original and seen the Disney movie (it’s one of my favorites) and I have to go with the Disney version here, I mean at least there’s some happy thrown in lol. I have always loved the movie, so a few years ago I picked up the book, foolishly thinking it would resemble the Disney version, and was a bit horrified to find that Phoebus was a disgusting pig and that basically things ended so very sad after all. I give the book credit for being such an incredibly moving story, but Disney is the one I always go back to 😀

    1. Definitely. Like the Little Mermaid. I don’t care if she’s a bit of a brat, at least she lives. Hans Christian Anderson was freaking depressing – just like Hugo.

  3. I gave up on Disney after Pocahontas. That damn raccoon should have talked!!!

    1. I can imagine what he’d say. “What shroom are you ON, Pokey? Mountains with voices? And who the heck can paint with all the colors of the wind?”

  4. Ah, the joys of Disney! I personally like the dark things, but then I’ve not actually managed to read Les Mis. Victor Hugo is a bit wordy – give me the film/musical/cartoon version any day!

    1. Oh I can just see it – Disney’s “Les Kinda Miserables” in a theater near you! And yes, I did like the dark stuff – I just always wondered how a little kid would see it. I saw it as an older teen the first time.

      1. I’ve not actually seen hunchback. I think I need to remedy that if I can. Maybe after reading the book.

        1. It make Disney’s version look like that “It’s a Small World” ride.

  5. Baby Dick Cheney. Lol. I love your reviews. 🙂

    1. Thanks! Can we lock him in a belltower along with Rush?

      1. Or throw him down a well. 😉

  6. Jesus, Disney must have been really hurting for stories. I’ve never seen that one, but I have read the book, and… It’s not on the kids shelf.

    1. Yeah, exactly. I get what they were trying to teach kids – to look beyond appearance but heck, didn’t Beauty and the Beast to that? And then comes the guy with the hellfire and whoa. Still, it made for a good movie – for older kids and adults. Can you believe it got a G rating while Tangled got PG?

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