Before you can understand the pain of the other Burbank version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, you need to experience the pain. So you can either suffer through the forty some odd minutes of hell or just read this plot summary. I’m sure more thought and effort were used to write this post than went into making the movie.
The story starts mind-numbingly on Year’s Eve 1599, a mere 117 later than the book for no real reason. Actually I got ahead of my self the movie actually starts with a wizard introducing this “wizard’s tale.” I can’t fathom what was being smoked at the studio when that idea was proposed and then accepted.
So, everything is going great in France as fake accent French people stroll about and pad out the 40+ minute runtime with weird animation and laugher. Esmeralda is shown awkwardly twirling around when she approaches Frollo. Frollo rejects giving her money for her dancing by putting up his palms. On his palms is a birthmark which scares Esmeralda as she says it’s “the mark of evil.” You know kind of what Esmeralda said in the 1939 version but instead of being something in lines of his hand it’s a big purple evil face, have fun with that and remember to put that on his hand animation team. Anyway Esmeralda walks off and Frollo doesn’t seem to like her.
Cut to Frollo chilling with King Henry IV, and to the version’s credit they got the proper monarch of France correct just not the correct year of the actual book, I mean to be fair it’s not like the first paragraph of the book or anything, it’s in the second, it’s very hard to miss… Moving on Frollo tells the king that he think Esmeralda is evil and Henry tells him to stop being narrow-minded and muses the Frollo probably still thinks the earth is still flat, which Frollo says it is. Hmm, this is reminding me a lot of the 1939 version…. Henry then gives Esmeralda a coin just like in the 1939 version, hmm I’m saying that a lot, WEIRD!
Esmeralda then spots an eye looking at her, you know like another version, I’m noticing a bit of a pattern here. Anyway it’s Quasimodo and his dove friends, Quasimodo have doves that follow him around, at least it’s original. The town people chase after Quasimodo and make him dance for their amusement and then name him Kind of the Clowns and for some reason the crown of “King of Clowns” is not a jester hat but a wreath of laurels. WHY? Frollo then reveals that he is the guardian of Quasimodo and how dare Quasimodo make a fool of Frollo in public again Again? What was the first time?. Less than ten minutes in and I’m so numb, hypothermia take me away.
Esmeralda the tries to go to the King to ask him for help for her people but the guard wants to arrest her because she is a gypsy and she runs away to Notre Dame. The Priest saves her and takes her in and introduces himself as Padre Jean-Paul. Why Spanish? I don’t get that, someone fill me in on why a Priest at Notre Dame de Paris would call him self “Padre?” Cut to Frollo talking to some important looking guy demanding Quasimodo be whipped for going out in public, to which the important looking guy says no. Then it’s happy New Year and they have fireworks amidst tons of repeat animation and then everyone just leave because who parties all night for a new century, it’s bedtime.
Padre Jean-Paul then teaches Esmeralda how to pray because the 1939 version did it. However Frollo comes in and yells that she can’t pray and then says she a witch who steals men’s heart and drives them mad. Literally it’s been two hours since Frollo first saw Esmeralda and he is already obsessed with destroying her. This Frollo makes book Frollo sane. Esmeralda then goes upstairs and sees Quasimodo and takes off running. Quasimodo pursues her because he want her to know he is her friend. Phoebus then saves Esmeralda and sends Quasimodo to the Bastille. Phoebus and Esmeralda share a moment, he is not a smug jerk in this version.
Just like in the 1939 version, Frollo orders all the Gypsy women by round up so he can find Esmeralda but she gives the guards the slip. Meanwhile, Quasimodo is found guilty and Frollo makes a plea that Esmeralda is a witch and should be punished. Quasimodo is in the stocks begging for water. While that is happening Padre Jean-Paul explains to Esmeralda that Quasimodo is the nicest person and wouldn’t have hurt her. Esmeralda then gives him water but runs off as a guard approaches.
The King holds a masked party and Esmeralda shows up to dance to see Phoebus, even though there is a warrant out for her and she knows it. Phoebus and Esmeralda dance and confess their love for each other but then Frollo ruins the party by arresting her.
At her trail she declared a menace to society because she just so darn pretty that poor men just can help themselves with her around and sentence her to death.While is jail, Phoebus tells he is trying to arrange an appeal for her but he also has a plan to save her which is the same plan that Gringoire used in the 1939 version which was printing pamphlets. However the night before her execution Quasimodo breaks her out of jail with the help of his dove pals. As Esmeralda and Quasimodo seek into Notre Dame, Frollo confesses to Padre Jean-Paul that Esmeralda is not a witch and he is in love with her and the padre says he can’t forgive Frollo if he does come clean. Frollo then finds out that she has escaped with Quasimodo help.
Now it’s the seventh of January, seven days! All this in seven days? Anyway Phoebus is getting the people on Esmeralda’s side and now know that she escaped jail. Phoebus, the Padre and Frollo all gather at the King’s to discuss Esmeralda. The Kings likes Phoebus’ approach but admits her can’t do anything without evidence. The Padre says Esmeralda is falsely accused then guilts Frollo to admit his lies which he does and the king pardons her. Frollo then rushes to Notre Dame to kill her. Frollo awkwardly attacks Quasimodo and then Quasimodo uses the bells to knock Frollo down the bell tower. Esmeralda and Phoebus reunite, people cheer, End of movie.