This week’s featured Fan Art is by Ferrychick1 and it’s Looney Toons meets Hunchback.Follow thehunchblog
In all seriousness Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame really only has the basic premise of the original novel. All the characters differ in attitudes and backstorys. The way the story unfolds and comes to its conclusion is different because of the characters.
The biggest difference is the Characters;
In making Frollo a judge and not a priest we loss his turmoil which makes Frollo an interesting and complex character. I really don’t care as much about his lust and obsession for Esmeralda just because he hate Gypsies. Also in the book, his obsession occurs slowly. He sees her and is instantly taken by her youthful beauty. After that he begins stalking her and by kidnapping her he forces the the plot to take action. In the Disney movie, Quasimodo doesn’t have the some loyalty and Frollo abuses him by telling him he’s a monster and keeps him locked in the tower. In the book Frollo did no such thing and Quasimodo could leave Notre Dame if he wished.
Quasimodo in the Disney movie is very much like Ariel. He wants to live with the normal people. He is very naive, kind and gentle. In the book, Quasimodo is kind and loyal to those who have been kind to him i.e Frollo and Esmeralda. However, Quasimodo is also angry and doesn’t really like people. He would never want to leave Notre Dame as Notre Dame is his universe. He loves Notre Dame so much that he is very much a part of it and his lovers are bells. The relationship between Quasimodo and Notre Dame is destroyed in the Disney version as Notre Dame is not so much a sanctuary but a prison. Also in the movie Disney he briefly mentions the bell but you don’t get the sense that he loves the bells. I also don’t see this Quasimodo killing Frollo in fit of rage or lying down next to Esmeralda to die.
Esmeralda is the polar opposition between Disney movie and the book. In the book she is at least part French and is young, beautiful, naive, shallow, childish and kind of dumb. In the Disney movie, while she is beautiful, she has none of the other traits, though the youth is debatable. She is confident and is in control of her sexual appeal. In the Disney version she is a full Gypsy and we are never given any sense of her backstory. In the book she was unaware of her beauty and she lacks any worldliness. This naivety is what gets her into trouble in the book and ultimately is what kills her and not a passion for social justice.
Phoebus in the book is a jerk who is kind of dumb and just wants to sleep with pretty girls. Also he is two-timing cheat, who despite being engaged he tries sleeps with every good-looking girl he can. In the Disney version is he is noble, moral and likes to crack bad jokes. Not like book Phoebus at all.
Clopin in the book in the leader of the Court of Miracles, not the Gypsies. The Leader of the Gypsy in the book was the Duke of Egypt. Typically, the leader of the Court of Miracles and the Leader of the Gypsy get fused into one which is Clopin. That’s a minor issue. Compared to Frollo, Quasimodo, Esmeralda and Phoebus; Disney Clopin’s differences are not so bad. He tells stories like Gringoiore (a character in book) and is the leader of the Court of Miracles; he’s two characters in one, or three.
Djali in the Disney movie is a pretty minor character who doesn’t do anything other than add some charm and humor. In the book however Djali is pretty essential to the plot. Djali is the prime evidence for why Esmeralda is convicted of being a witch. Goats were considered to be representational of the devil and the tricks innocence tricks Djali performed like spelling and telling the time were thought to be the work of witchcraft by the judges in the book. Of course, since the plot veers so far the book it doesn’t really matter. Djali’s main function in the movie is a cute sidekick who sells toys to children.
The Gargoyles do not count, they’re not in the book.
It really does seems like someone early in production took the cliff notes of Hugo’s book, throw them into a blender, strained, added water and poured out the Disney Plot. Then that got re-written by those people who didn’t read. And the differences in the characters in proof that.
Next time – Minor Differences,Follow thehunchblog
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
Another Minor/major Characters is Quasimodo’s nameless mother (voiced by Mary Kay Bergman). She’s not in the film long but she’s quite important.
Very little is know about her other than she’s a Gypsy, she wants to live in Paris, and she tries to keep Quasimodo away from Frollo. In trying to protect Quasimodo from Frollo she brought them together. Frollo then uses her as a way to manipulate Quasimodo in to remaining loyal to him. Frollo would tell Quasimodo that his “heartless” mother abandoned him as a baby. This keeps Quasimodo grateful and loyal to Frollo. It’s not till Frollo tries to kill Quasimodo that Frollo tells him the truth.
Quasimodo’s mother raises a lot of question . We know she’s a gypsy and she’s a mother, but Quasimodo looks (coloration wise) nothing like her. Was she his biological mother or she did adopt him? Or maybe (like in the sequel) boy-children look like their fathers and nothing like their mothers? And would that mean that the man with Quasimodo’s mother was not her husband/lover? My guess given her looks and her interaction with the Gypsy guy is that he was her husband and that they did adopt Quasimodo.
Disney used the death of Quasimodo’s mother to reinforce the point that they read the book. Quasimodo’s mother dies the same way Esmeralda’s mother does in the novel. Spoiler’s— Esmeralda’s mother, Sister Gudule (Paquette Guybertaut a.k.a La Chantefleurie) dies trying to save Esmeralda from the gallows and is push to the pavement, hits her end and dies. In the book Sister Gudule prayed for 15 years to have her child returned to her if only for an instant, classic case of be careful what you wish for. She and Esmeralda were reunited for only a few hours.
So Quasimodo’s mother is a very important element to the story as she helps establishes Frollo and Quasimodo relationship and she reinforces it by Frollo being a lying and manipulate jerk (but he’s the best Disney villain so kudos to you Frollo on every terrible thing you do).
Next Time; Those guards, you know the onesFollow thehunchblog