So last time we looked at the Disney characters on a board level, now lets look at them on a deeper level.

Let’s start with the titular character: Quasimodo!

Quasimodo  Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame  picture image

Quasimodo’s Reveal


Quasimodo may be told he is ugly and monstrous but if we compare him to his book counterpart, he is on the cute side of the monster spectrum. He’s a hunchback and he is shorter than most of the other characters, but that’ not enough to make him an isolated monster.  He has the over-the-eye  protrusion that Hugo described but it does not impair his’ vision to the point of being a cyclopes. Instead Quasimodo has big, friendly doe eyes. He has a red full head of head hair and wears a green tunic. Two of the more uglier factors  are his  big stub nose and his  teeth  (large teeth in the front of his mouth).


Quasimodo singing "Out There"  Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame  picture image

Quasimodo singing “Out There”

Unlike Hugo’s version, Quasimodo is not deaf, he sings and talks a lot but it being a musical it would have been a challenge for the directors to have a deaf hero who has to sing (Disney movie from the 90s, heros must sing), so it understandable why Quasimodo is not deaf.



Quasimodo’s personality in the Disney movie is completely different from the book. In the book Quasimodo is morose and angry. At the beginning of the book he only loves Notre Dame, the bells, and Frollo. He’s not interested  in being among the normal people of Paris nor is he forbidden from going out among them.  Disney’s Quasimodo is forbidden from going outside and all he wants is to spend one day of his life among the normal people.

Quasimodo gazing at Esmeralda  Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame  picture image

Quasimodo gazing at Esmeralda

As the story progresses he falls in love with Esmeralda. In the Book, he falls in love with her after she shows a little kinds and pity by giving him water when he is on the pillory for trying to kidnap her because Frollo ordered him. That simple act was what did it for him, not her dancing or her looks. In Disney again Esmeralda shows him kindness but when he first meets her, she was kind to him and complimented his ugly mask (really his face) and Quasimodo likes the positive attention. He see her dance and he likes it.

Quasimodo and Esmeralda on the pillory  Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame  image picture

Quasimodo and Esmeralda on the pillory

When Quasimodo is being tortured by the crowd at the  Festival of Fools, she does save him but he was already interested in her, but I guess maybe that sealed his “love for her”.  The Disney Quasimodo’s love is more manifested as a school boy crush than a deep connection and I don’t believe he would crawl into vault and to die next to her rather than live without her.



Quasimodo's figurines Esmeralda from "Heaven's Light"  Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame  picture image

Quasimodo’s figurines from “Heaven’s Light”

Quasimodo declares Sanctuary for Esmeralda  Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame  picture image

Quasimodo declares Sanctuary for Esmeralda

It’s sweet that he believes that she could love him whereas in the book Quasimodo doesn’t believe it, even if he wishes he could. Quasimodo is mostly depicted as kind and gentle.  He gets depressed but it never lasts too long. He’s also loyal which I think is the biggest similarity to Hugo’s original character.


Frollo and Quasimdo   Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame  picture image

Frollo and Quasimodo

Quasimodo is a dynamic character. He changes though the course of the movie, mainly in his attitude towards Frollo. At beginning he is nervous around Frollo even though he believes Frollo to be his defender. His nervousness around Frollo stems from Frollo’s abuse towards him. Frollo calls him ugly repeatedly and a  monster. When Frollo comes to visits him, Frollo gets a silver goblet and plate while Quasimodo get a wooden goblet and plate. Frollo keeps him locked up in bell tower of Notre Dame while Frollo dwells elsewhere, you’d think the Palace of Justice would be a better place to lock one up forever, it being a jail instead a public building. I would like to point out in the book,

Frollo and Quaismodo  Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame  picture image

Frollo and Quaismodo

Frollo keeping Quasimodo at Notre Dame made sense as Frollo himself lived in the cloister as he was a priest, Quasimodo didn’t move to the Bell Tower till he was 14 years old. He moved there to be the bell-ringer because he loved the bells, not as punishment for his deformity or as method for absolution for Frollo. Quasimodo calls Frollo master but Frollo insists that he raised Quasimodo as his son. Quasimodo would probably be fairly well adjusted if it wasn’t for Frollo.  Quasimodo then disobeys Frollo and goes to the Festival of Fools to fulfill his dream.  He continues to disobey Frollo as he gains real human interacts with Esmeralda and Phoebus.  At the end he stands up against Frollo and learns that people like Frollo are the cause for all the hate in world and once Frollo is dead he is finally accepted by the people.

Quasimodo accepted by the people   Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame  picture image

Quasimodo accepted by the people

Despite being in the Disney mold of hero/dreamer, Quasimodo is good character, he appeals the outsider in all of us. The film is good achiving  it’s overall theme though Quasimodo despite being thrust upon the audience, but at least he is likable and grows as character.

Next time we’ll look at Frollo.

Judge Claude Frollo  Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame  picture image

Judge Claude Frollo


Clopin Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Clopin Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Disney version starts off with Clopin (Paul Kandel) regaling small children with the tale of the mysterious bell ringer and how he came the position.  Though a song (The Bells of Notre Dame) and a flashback Clopin tells of a group of Gypsies entering Paris via the Seine, the notable Gypsy is a women with a child. After docking the Gypsies are caught by Judge Claude Frollo (Tony Jay). Frollo doesn’t care much for gypsies and orders their arrest but when he tries to take the baby from the women (he thinks it stolen goods) she runs toward Notre Dame. After the chase Frollo kills the women on the steps of Notre Dame and Frollo tries to drown the child who is deformed. Before Frollo can do it he’s stop by the Archdeacon (David Ogden Stiers) who guilts Frollo into taking care of child but Frollo  demands that the child must live in the bell-tower. Clopin then asks us to consider what the bells supposedly say “who is the monster and who is the man”

Frollo and Quasimodo Hunchback of Notre Dame Disney picture image

Frollo and Quasimodo

After a lovely crescendo and the title screen featuring those crazy bells we’re introduced to Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) who is urging a baby bird to fly away as no one wants to be cooped up in Notre Dame forever. After the bird flies away Quasimodo’s gargoyles friends come to life. Victor (Charles Kimbrough), Hugo (Jason Alexander), and Laverne (Mary Wickes(and Jane Withers)). The three urge Quasimodo to go the Festival of Fools but Quasimodo says he forbidden to ever leave the cathedral by his master Frollo. After some a little encouragement he decides to go but Frollo shows up and tries to persuades him out of ever leaving because of his ugliness he’ll only meet with hate. Frollo does with via song (Out There). After Frollo is done singing and leaves Quasimodo takes over the song (Out There), and sings about  a desire to have one day out among normal people.

Esmeralda Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Disney Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame dancing

The scene switches to Phoebus (Kevin Klein), Captain of the Guard, returning to Paris. He catches the eye of pretty Gypsy girl, Esmeralda (Demi Moore), dancing  for coins. After some other guards show up and accosted Esmeralda for stealing, Phoebus aids in her escape. Phoebus then makes the trouble-making, underling guards  guide him to  the Palace of Justice. He meets Frollo who explains that Paris must be rid of the Gypsies as they weaken the moral of the otherwise good Parisian and then they head out to the Festival of Fools.


Quasimodo Hunchback of Notre Dame Disney picture image

Quasimodo Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Festival begins as a clocked Quasimodo swing down from Notre Dame and gets caught up in the festivity of the party as Clopin serves as the master of ceremonies  by singing Topsy Turvy . While Quasimodo is getting thrown about he crashes into a tent where Esmeralda is changing. She asks Quasimodo if he is injured and compliments his mask, Quasimodo is instantly smitten with her. Frollo, Phoebus, and guards arrive on the scene and Esmerlada dances  for crowd and gets the attention of Quasimodo, Frollo and Phoebus. After that the King of Fools contest starts, as the ugly masses came on to the stage, Esmeralda pulls Quasimodo up on stage. Once it is reveal that Quasimodo “mask” is really his face he is crowned king of fools, much to Frollo’s disapproval.

Esmeralda and Quasimodo Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Esmeralda defying Frollo by helping Quasimodo Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame

After the song ends, the underling guards, throws a tomato at Quasimodo causing the crowd to pelt him with foodstuff and tie him down to the pillory. Phoebus wants to intervene but Frollo insists Quasimodo is learning a lesson. The barrage of food ceases when Esmeralda ascends the pillory, and apologizes to Quasimodo. Frollo orders her down and not to help. After a quip about justice and mistreat of people (especially her people) she free Quasimodo. Frollo orders her arrest and a merry chase ensues.


Frollo Hunchback of Notre Dame with Esmeralda Disney picture image

Frollo gropes Esmeralda Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame

After Esmerlada gives everyone the sip, Quasimodo apologizes to Frollo and returns to Notre dame. Phoebus sees an old man wander into Notre Dame and follows. The old man is Esmerlada who has chosen Notre Dame as hiding place. She senses a presence behind her (Phoebus) and she engages him in combat. As she fights, he flirts, which after a bit works but Frollo interferes demanding her arrest. Phoebus claims she claim sanctuary and he can’t do anything. Frollo demand that she be dragged out side but the good-old Archdeacon commands that Frollo can’t do anything. As Phoebus and the other guards leave, Frollo hides and grabs Esmeralda from the back and says he’ll wait for her to leave and then continues to grope her. He leaves and Esmeralda learns that guards are position all around the cathedral. Esmeralda sings a prayer for not just her people but for all outcast (Good help the Outcast {sung by Heidi Mollenhauer). As she sings Quasimodo hears it and follow it. When the song ends Quasimodo is told off and flee back up to the bell tower, as he flees Esmeralda pursues.


Frollo Hunchback of Notre Dame Hellfire Disney picture image

Frollo singing Hellfore Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame

The two becomes friends and learn more about each and how Frollo can be wrong about people. Quasimodo then decide to help Esmeralda escape but climbing down the building. Esmeralda ask Quasimodo to comes with her to The Court of Miracles (the Gypsy haven), but he refuses and she gives him a woven band to help if he needs sanctuary. Quasimodo returns to the tower and his gargoyle tease him about having a girlfriend. He sings a song about his feelings for Esmeralda and hope for love (Heaven’s light). Meanwhile, Frollo is also singing about his lust and obsession for Esmeralda (Hellfire). During the course of the song he learns that Esmeralda has escaped.


Disney Phoebus Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image hit by arrow

Phoebus being hit by an arrow Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame

The next day,  Frollo has order the capture of Esmeralda. He uses force, bribes, and attempted manslaughter. Frollo tries to kill an entire family for harboring Gypsies, he orders Phoebus to burn the house where the family is trap but Phoebus refuses and sentence to death, but a disguised Esmeralda intervenes via rock. Phoebus gets away but is shoot by an arrow and falls into river. Esmeralda saves him.



Phoebus and Esmeralda Kiss Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Phoebus and Esmeralda Kiss Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame

Meanwhile, Frollo has set Paris ablaze. Quasimodo is worried about Esmeralda’s safety  but the Gargoyle assure him that she’s fine and she’ll return to Quasimodo and convinces him that she is in love with (A Guy like you). The song ends with Esmeralda entering the tower and asks Quasimodo to hide Phoebus. As Esmeralda tends to Phoebus‘ wound it became clear that she not into Quasimodo in the romantic sense. Quasimodo hears Frollo coming and Quasimodo tries to cover. Frollo reveals that he knows where the Court of Miracles is and is going to attack. Quasimodo and Phoebus set out to warn the Gypsies. Quasimodo relies that the woven band is a map and they find the Court of Miracles. The pair is ambush by Clopin (Court of Miracles), since the Court of Miracles doesn’t like uninvited guest they going to hang them, but Esmeralda stops them. Phoebus warns them about the attack but Frollo followed them and arrest everyone.


Quasimodo declares Sanctuary for Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame Disney picture image

Quasimodo declares Sanctuary for Esmeralda Disney Hunchback of Notre

As Frollo prepare to execute Esmeralda, he asks her to chose him or the fire, she choses the later and the pyre is set aflame.  Quasimodo then swings down from Notre Dame frees Esmeralda swing back up and yells sanctuary. Frollo the attacks Notre Dame and Quasimodo defends. Everyone get in on the battle, Phoebus, Clopin, the gargoyles, random extra and birds. Quasimodo uses molten lead but Frollo sneaks in.



Esmeralda, Phoebus, and Quasimodo Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Quasimodo accepts Esmeralda and Phoebus as a couple Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame

Quasimodo tells Esmeralda to come see his victory but it seems like she dies of asphyxiation. Quasimodo cries as Frollo slips into the room and tries to kill him but Quasimodo fights back and Esmeralda regains consciences, and Frollo goes on murderous offense. After a bit of fight Frollo is about to win as Esmeralda clings to Quasimodo who is dangling over the edge of Notre Dame but Frollo support gives out and he falls to his death. Esmerlada strength gives out and Quasimodo falls but he caught by Phoebus. Quasimodo then gives the couple his blessing. Esmeralda and Phoebus emerge from the cathedral and are met with cheers. Esmeralda offers Quasimodo her hand and leads him outside where he is finally  accepted by the people. Clopin reprise “The Bells of Notre Dame” and asks us “what makes a monster and what makes a man”.

Next time – A Plot Review of Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame


Happy January 6 , this is the date that the novel begins, So I’ll start off by saying Happy Feast of Fools, (I know I’m Dork)

Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) alone at the end 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image
Quasimodo Charles Laughton, 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame

The first on the radar is the 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Why start with the 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame? It’s by no means the oldest or even the most well known. The oldest adaptation is from 1836 and the most well known is the Disney version. Which is exactly why I’m starting with the 1939 version. In classic Disney fashion, Disney took cues from this version. For instance if you have read the book but for whatever reason you have only seen the Disney version, you might wonder why is Frollo a Judge? Or why Esmeralda is even in Notre Dame midway the flick? The 1939 version is the first to make Frollo a Judge (to my knowledge) and it is the first in the Notre Dame  collection to have Esmeralda enter Notre Dame for either a prayer, safety, or both. (though in 1923 version, Esmeralda enters Notre dame to meet with Phoebus).

The film is well regarded as a fine movie with great performances especially by Charles Laughton as Quasimodo or as the Hunchback as he is credited. It garnered two academy awards nominations for Best Original Music Score and Best Sound  and given that 1939 was the year of Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of OZ, and other great movies this is nothing to sneeze at.

The film was produced by RKO Radio Pictures and was made as remake for the 1923 version starting Lon Chaney. As far the bare bone of the original plot ala Victor Hugo and the separation of Frollo’s characters by making the younger brother Jehan take on the Lustfulness and the elder Claude as the pious archdeacon of Notre Dame, there is very little similarity between the 1923 and 1939 version. Though the sets look very similar, expect the 1939 version was also meant to one up the 1923 version in lavishness and expansiveness of the mise-en-scene.

Next time we’ll dive into the plot of 1939 version.