If Achilles gets one of the most concentrated laughs in the movie, then Djali gets more laughs spread out through the movie. Djali is a mascot type of character for the film like other cute animal Disney side-kicks. The up side is that Djali was not created for the film but came out the source material.
Djali is Esmeralda’s pet goat. Djali helps her make money and reminds of her not to leave money when she about to run off.
Part of Djali’s function is to be Esmeralda’s double. In the book this meant that Djali was dainty, pretty, and talented with gilded hooves and horn and was white.
In the Disney movie Djali is grayish white with black hooves and an earring. The earring is meant to link Djali and Esmeralda. Like the book, I think Disney’s Djali is also a double for Esmeralda. In DVD commentary, they discussed that the reason why they cast Demi Moore as Esmeralda is because they wanted the heroine to have a rougher quality to the the voice, that sounded like (and I’m quoting this from commentary, I’m not making this up) like “she had been around.” Not saying that I think Djali has been “around” but Djali is not the dainty, delicate goat she is in the book. So I think Disney’s version fits Esmeralda’s aesthetic more in this movie.
Djali also has another functions than being Esmeralda’s better half. Djali is her security system.
Djali is distrustful of anyone Esmeralda meets (Phoebus and Quasimodo included). Djali also bleats when someone is approaching them (Frollo or guards).
Djali also aids Esmeralda in her old beggar disguise. This enables her to go undetected by Frollo and the stupid guards .
Djali also kicks ass in a fight. More than a few times Djali springs into action
So what makes Djali a great character? Djali provides levity without hindering the movie (like Achilles). Djali reacts to things in the movie and does not inject the movie with randomness to try to make a joke like the Gargoyles.
Another aspect of Djali that is charming which is a good attribute for a mascot character. All of Djali emotions and thoughts are always showed on his (her) face.
Djali started off in the Disney movie as a minor character but do to the animation done by Ron Husband (Commentary, got love them) the executives demanded more Djali and so the screen time was double.
Djali is called a “him” throughout the movie and Hugo has a thing for Djali (Hugo being gay is a sensitive issue with Disney). My guess is this is a case of male pronoun default. Djali’s sex mattered in the book because Hugo(the author) wanted to communicate that Djali is Esmeralda’s double, so Djali is a female goat. In the Disney’s version, it doesn’t really matter so the default male pronouns are used. (Remember this movie came out in 1996)
Next time – a little bit more on Achilles and Djali (there is something more alike about these two)