While I have bashed the 1986 version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, calling it a lazy, uninspired mess with cheap knock-off characters set in tones of soul-crushing dullness, I didn’t hate it.
At best it’s watchable which is more than I can say for the Dingo version or the Enchanted tales version which one can only watch because they are so bad you can’t look away. The 1986 version isn’t so bad it’s good it’s just meh. Which considering the amount of laziness half-ass workmanship that went into this version, meh is high praise.
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Despite this cartoonâ€™s faults, I have to admit that I like the 1986 version by Burbank. It happens to be the very first version of the Notre Dame de Paris story I ever saw and it was what introduced me to this story when I was a pre-teen girl (though I read the novel several years later). After all, it was the first animated version of Hunchback of Notre Dame (though the honour of first full length animated version still goes to Disney). It is also the only animated version I am aware of that was NOT made as a mockbuster aiming to make some easy cash out of grandmothers mistaking it for the Disney movie when looking for a Christmas/birthday present for their little darlings (or parents who know the difference but buy this stuff anyway because it is cheaper and because they think that their kids will not care about the difference between the real Disney movie and what they got instead). As the 1986 version was made for TV/video, my standards for it are pretty low when it comes to production values but I have to say that I find a lot more charm and appeal into pretty much any aspect of it (including character designs) than what I do in the subsequently released direct to video mockbusters, including the Jetlag version which does stick to the novel as the 1986 version does but those Jetlag character are too repulsive for me to look at them. It also helps that Burbank produced lots of other childhood animated favourites of mine based on classic stories, such as Robin Hood, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Tale of Two Cities, Ivanhoe, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and King Solomonâ€™s Mines, all using the same animation style as Hunchback of Notre Dame. Certainly, it does not rank as one of the best versions around but, personally, I would never place it anywhere near the worst versions either. Interestingly, the 1986 does seem to be the first version ever to have Esmeralda going to burn instead of hanging and I did like the fact that she did not openly end up with anyone in the end (I assumed as a child that she and Phoebus got back together but it is not clear)
For future review ideas, might I recommend (not in a positive way) another Hunchback cartoon known as Timeless Tales: Hunchback of Notre Dame. This is yet another mockbuster along the same lines as The Secret of Quasimodo (by Schwartz & Company/UAV Corporation) and Enchanted Tales: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Golden Films). Unlike these two, there is hardly any online information about the Timeless Tales version as if the whole world is trying to conceal its existence but it cannot be any worse than the other two (at least the animation is considerably better than the Dingo version). Then again in the online trailer, which is one of the very few clips I can find for this version, there is this moments where a friendly dove drops a key to Esmeralda when she is locked up in a cell and this is not a good sign as it says a lot about what this version is like.
There is also another (Italian) animated version by Mondo TV which, I donâ€™t remember having seen mentioned on hunchblog so far. This is no surprise since this animated version is so obscure that the only written reference to it is on the Wikipedia page for, well, Mondo TV. This company also produced the TV shows â€œNew Adventures of Pocahontasâ€ and â€œSimba the Lion Kingâ€ shortly after of the release of the respective Disney movies (the latter somehow even brings Shere Khan from Jungle book fighting Simba in this plot). In fact the only reason why I found out about the existence of this Mondo TV Hunchback version is because I have a DVD copy which came for free with a newspaper. A search on youtube revealed that the entire cartoon is available on a video titled QUASIMODO – Il film completo di Mondo TV. This one seems to be based on the 1956 version as this animated Quasimodo looks a lot like Anthony Quinn in the role while this animated Frollo strongly resembles Alain Cuny playing the character. It even has the Porte-Rouge scene along the same lines as it was in the 1956 movie (merged with the dungeon scene, that is). I am not joking, this thing does exist. The ending is different of course (hint: nobody dies), but although this version is far from a masterpiece like the Disney version, it is more watchable and less sickening than any of the Hunchback mockbusters made following the Disney movieâ€™s release.
Honestly, of all the low rent cartoon version, I guess this one is the best. If only because, perhaps by daufault, it isn’t a sappy disney style knockoff. It’s not as cynical in its existence as Enchanted Tales or Dingo. It doesn’t hate me, so I can’t truly hate it. Meh.
The ’86 version is technically the first version I ever saw…about 5-6yrs. before Disney’s version came out. I hadn’t seen the ’86 version in about…20 some odd years and when I finally did I was disappointed at how dull it was! It’s not a terrible version, but I’d kind of prefer if it were.