Ah, the voice acting in Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. Some of it’s great, some it is just ok and some of the casting is off, which seems to weaken the believability of the characters. This is more or less in the order of rank, as I see it or hear it.. yeah.. I know lame joke.
The highlight of the voices in the movie is Tony Jay’s rendition of Judge Claude Frollo. Jay’s cold sounding baritone mixed with his british accent makes for the perfect bad guy voice. He gives Frollo’s voice an air calm control that at any second could explode into fevered anger. Also his voice is seductive, you can believe this guy is a charmer and yet he speaks with command and authority. Jay’s voice helps make Frollo a more interesting character.
Jay had been a veteran Disney voice actor and voice actor in general. He’s been in a number of Disney related films and television shows as well many other non disney films, television and recordings of broadway shows. On his IMDB page he has 150 credits but I think he most known for Frollo mainly because Frollo is a horrible person and his voice accentuates brilliantly.
Tony Jay was nominated for an Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Voice Acting.
Paul Kandel voiced Clopin and is a Broadway performer. He’s probably the best singer in the film (the crescendo at the end of Bells of Notre Dame gets me every single time) and that’s probably why he ended up with the most songs in the movie. In fact Clopin sings more than he actually speaks. Kandel gives Clopin a sense of fun and whimsy but he also gives him a flair for the dramatics which is a boon for the introductory scene since it’s not funny.
David Ogden Stiers voiced the Archdeacon. Stiers like Jay is a veteran voice actor and has been in many major Disney movies. He’s also primarily a television actor. Stiers runs the gambit of tones with the Archdeacon’s voice; tenderness, command, authority, concern and a little amusement (the Archdeacon sounded a little amused when he thinking about Esmeralda’s merry chase). Just because the Archdeacon is by all account a glorified extra Stiers’ voice helps makes the character more interesting.
Kevin Kline voiced Phoebus. Kline does well as Phoebus but I think he falls short of Jay and Kandel because I mean really, Phoebus isn’t a hard role to play. Phoebus has a dry wit but so Kline, I mean Kline is practically playing himself. I give Kline credit, he made Phoebus funnier than probably was originally intended which makes him more interesting as character. Because without the humor would Phoebus have been memorable? My guess is no. Kline is also partly responsible for Achilles’ name. He insistent that horse have a name, so they gave the Phoebus’ horse a name at Kline’s insistent.
Fun Fact about Kline’s process – to get into the character of playing a knight, Kline held a sword in hand during recording sessions. He even ruined some recordings because he would hit the microphone (accidently, I’m sure.)
Jason Alexander voiced Hugo. As much as I dislike the gargoyles, I think the voice acting is fine. Jason Alexander is best known as George Costanza on Seinfeld. George is uptight and neurotic, the total opposite of Hugo. Hugo is fun-loving and laid back. I think Alexander does very well in the role. But again, is a fun-loving partier a demanding role? No, not really.
Charles Kimbrough voiced Victor. Kimbrough has been in many types of media; film, TV and voice acting. Kimbrough does well enough as the prim, more serious-minded Victor, but it’s hard to lay out Victor’s personality compare to Hugo and Laverne. So it’s hard to identify how well Kimbrough did as Victor.
Mary Wickes voiced Laverne. Later in Wickes’ career she played cranky old ladies. Two of the movies I remember her in were Little Women (Aunt March) and Sister Act (Sister Mary Lazarus), both characters are tell-it-like-it-is, cranky old ladies much like Laverne. So while she does well in the role she definitely playing her type of role.
I want to mention Jane Withers briefly. Mary Wickes died as the film was being recorded and so Jane Withers stepped in to finish the recording and took over the role of Laverne. There are some lines where Wickes started and Withers finished, which is testament to Withers; acting to able to sound almost identical to Wickes.
Tom Hulce voiced of Quasimodo. Tom Hulce is most known for his role in Amadeus Mozart. I do not find any fault with Hulce’s acting, I think he does a good job giving Quasimodo tenderness, gentleness and a bit of pitiable emo-ness. I also think Hulce does well exhibiting both Quasimodo’s natural disposition and in contrast to his attitude when he’s with Frollo. So Why is Hulce’s performance second to the last on this Blog post? Well that is because I wonder what the directors were smoking in making Quasimodo a school boy that’s gentle and sweet. Quasimodo is suppose to be gentle but only to Esmeralda. He’s not suppose have a school boy. I can understand why Disney did this and I understand why Hulce’s voice is good for this type of role but just because I can understand it doesn’t mean I have to condone it. Honestly they made Quasimodo into a Disney Princess. Hulce has a clear voice which is a commonality to the Disney Princess trope. Think about, Quasimodo is a Disney princess, he just a male and not very pretty.
Demi Moore voiced of Esmeralda. Like Quasimodo, I think casting was way off. I get that they wanted something different. The directors liked Moore’s husky and rough tone of voice and they liked that she also had a tenderness to it, but Moore ages the character. It’s weird looking at the concept art, how youthful Esmeralda started and how mature she looks/acts in the movie. I understand that the decision to cast Moore was intentional and as part the process of animation is that Esmeralda took on Moore’s looks and mannerism but I don’t think the pay off was good in the long run. I think Esmeralda is too much like Moore and effectively Moore was playing herself (or at the most her type-cast role) so she didn’t exactly have to exert her acting prowess. Also I think Moore got the role due to sex appeal and popularity. And point Deductions for being the only one of the cast not able to sing her character’s song, though if can’t sing than she can’t sing, but they could have just had Heidi Mollenhauer do the role in it enitety, she is an singer/actress after all. They fact they they didn’t just mean that Moore was cast for her popularity and appeal.
Shout Outs/Kudos to:
-Shout out/Kudos to Gary Trousdale voice of Djali (that not a bleat) and the Old Heretic.
-Shout out/Kudos to Corey Burton and Bill Fagerbakke, Brutish and Oafish Guards these two made those characters hilarious.
Agree or Disagree, I’d love to know your opinions