Esmeralda is the most divergent character in the Disney version from the book in both looks and personality. I already talked about her personality, now let’s look at her looks.
The Disney Esmeralda looks 100% a traveler*. She has a darker complexion, dark hair, and light green eyes (with no glint). Her eyes also do not change color pending on how much light is in the space, which kind of makes them look witchy. She keeps her hair pulled back which it creates volume. This bigger hair makes her look older. When her hair is down she looks younger. Her hair also has a slight curl. Though in the middle of the epic running away from Frollo, her hair looks straight but that could just be inconsistencies in animation or the wind, take your pick. But it does look straight. However it also fair to point out that this voluminous hairstyle was on trend in the late 90s.
Her age is very vague. Most of the Disney characters have a rough age range or they just say how old they are like Ariel and Jasmine. With this shift in Disney heroines being somewhat more independent and less dreamy, they appear to be older than the typical “Disney princess” (except Tiana, I would say she is like a compromise between the archetypal Princess and the confident independent heroine of the late 90s).
The question is how old is Disney’s Esmeralda? With the age inflation that Disney implements, I’d say she most likely 22 at the youngest, which is “old” for a Disney heroine. The long and short of it is, Esmeralda is meant to be older like “she’s been around.” This is not my phasing, watch the commentary, it’s the scene where Esmeralda is helping Quasimodo from the pillory. To listen to the commentary, The DVD.
One reason why this version made her older could have been to help establish her relationship with Quasimodo as more maternal, more like a big sister than romantic. This could have made her pairing with Phoebus appear more palatable for the audience, though given a lot of bad-faith internet discourse it didn’t really work that way.
Against the original novel by Victor Hugo, Esmeralda’s looks are very different. Esmeralda is never described in graphic detail but she’s described as very beautiful frequently by many characters. Disney Esmeralda is meant to be beautiful certainly but she is never called beautiful in the movie. The closest mention to her looks is Clopin saying she’s “The Finest Girl is France.”
Esmeralda in the book is not genetically a full traveler*. Her mother is a French women and while her Father could have been a traveler, it is never actually mentioned who was her father.
Esmeralda has a golden skin tone, black hair and black eyes. Part of Esmeralda’s charm in the book is her innocence and her total unawareness of her own beauty. Disney’s Esmeralda is the complete and utter opposite; she knows her appeal, exploits it and given that quote by the director Kirk Wise that I mention earlier, I’m not sure how innocent is in the movie. So it safe to say that Disney did not use Hugo for even a basis of Esmeralda’s design.
Looking at the concept art, Esmeralda started off looking more youthful and somehow along the way she lost the youthful look. My guess the vocal inspiration turned the tables on the character design. Alas Demi’s Moore doesn’t sound youthful, at least not when the film was recording the voices. For More Concept Art of Hunchback
It’s actually not Disney’s fault that Esmeralda’s looks/acts sexy whereas Hugo’s Esmeralda did not. The fault lies in the film history of Hunchback movies.
Esmeralda has long been depicted as sexy or at least no stranger to feminine charms. Esmeralda has also been depicted by actresses who are more known for their sex appeal. Such actresses have been Stacia Napierkowska, Theda Bara, Gina Lollobrigida and Salma Hayak. Also Disney models their characters after the voice actor playing them, so with the choice of Demi Moore it was inevitable that Disney Esmeralda was going to be sexy and follow the line of sexy Esmeraldas.
In a featurette of the movie, Moore said she could see herself in Esmeralda’s animation. While Disney took their cues from the 1939 version, I think Esmeralda’s look was based somewhat on Gina Lollobrigida’s Esmeralda as well as Demi Moore (maybe, I can’t really tell, I haven’t seen a ton of Moore’s films discern her mannerism and/or acting style in Esmeralda’s animation.)
*Since 2021 the blog has been using the words Travelers or Nomads to convey the group of people that Esmeralda is associated with while trying to be respectful. You can read that post here. I do tend to favor the travelers usage.
Next Time Phoebus
@ Wil Enriquez
Re what you said about Walt Disney World having no merchandise; I think that more depends on the recentness of the film and the film’s fame and popularity over time. I went to Disneyland in California about a year and a half after The Hunchback of Notre Dame was released and there was a Hunchback parade AND a live stage show. I don’t remember how much merchandise there was but I know I had a fair amount of merchandise at the time of the film’s release. So I don’t think it’s so much Disney alienating the film but more the fact that due to many years passing it’s not so famous and popular now so they focus on their renowned classics and recent releases instead. Other films such as Hercules and Mulan that people have also forgotten about have disappeared from Disney theme parks and those films were not complained about by parents, etc. Its just about the movie’s fame and popularity over time.
I feel like she is a bit older than Quasimodo because in the movie he is 20 years old but she calls him a boy or a kid so I think she is probably more around 27.
Shes nowhre near dark skinned..having pigment to you doesnt make u dark skinned! sheesh!
That is LITERALLY what it makes you.
In the book, Esmerelda was shown being at or around the age of sixteen.
Although marketed to children, not a children’s movie by any regards. One of my favorites, and I suspect that parent groups, as well as other groups had complained enough to not only alienate the movie from Disney but, every movie since has been more toonish, and less human element. I think Megara was the next female heroine and the drawing technique changed dramatically. I have tried to do detective work on it, but haven’t found any articles on it. I know that in 2012, when I visited disneyworld, there was little to none Hunchback souveneirs and no Esmeralda.
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Esmeralda and Belle are my favorite Disney heroines. ItÂ´s not the looks – even though Esmeralda is probably prettiest Disney heroine and I donÂ´t think she looks like Demi at all – but pure heart and moral backbone, instead of someone who is just young and sexy. Esme may not be virgin, she may have seen a lot, but she has not let it corrupt herself.
Great stuff Adam, so jealous you got to see it in psoern, my favorite scenes were actually the ones with genie and the shadow man from the princess and frog, because they stunned me the most visually, but i loved the whole show.
I just wanted to say that I love the website, and love EsmÃ©rellda. My name actually is EsmÃ©, and I see myself in her a lot (mentally not physically, I’m pale and blonde). It is my favourite Disney movie and one of my favourite stories, although I prefer her in the story than the book, that that is who I relate to. I was going to go to a fancy dress party as her since my friends call me “EsmÃ©rellda” as a joke sometimes a found this website when looking for costume ideas. Thank you!
Yeah and the fact that America has more money ploughed in. Me and my faimly have practically been to Disney Paris every year since I was born it’s sort of a tradition thing and getting to be a bit of a home. Can’t wait to see the show when I go later this year. PS.: You mention the Hunback section, I thought i saw a bit of pixelated animation for the jungle book bit which I did not like the look of at all maybe i was mistaken? like you, trying not to see as much as I can before seeing the actual thing!
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Yeah, I agree that Esmeralda Disney is pretty different with the Victor Hugo’s version. Also in Victor Hugo’s version, this Hunchback of Notre-Dame story has more “dark” plot and “adult” scene.
Here is another article about Esmeralda Disney : http://www.rapunzelfromtangled.com/esmeralda-disney
What a photo! :) I heard that The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a Michael Eisner’s favorite anaitmed feature! It is amazing how they tried to sell it. Solid movie anyway. I like it very much!Mark how it turned out that you went to Esmeralda unit?