MOVIE REVIEWS: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, 1996)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Disney’s Pocahontas wasn’t a failure by any means, but it did cause a bit of a shift in the Disney Renaissance. Although it and the other films after it were still hits, they were never as successful as the other films we saw earlier. People could argue that each of those films got better and better. Maybe the studio was trying to make a film better than Pocahontas. But how do you make a family friendly film that’s bound to be a commercial success?…By adding an old hypocritical man who lusts after a woman more than half his age, enslaves a deformed man, burns down people in their houses, and breaks other Commandments as well, of course! Here’s Disney! OK, as we all know, this is one of Disney’s darkest movies…if not the darkest movie from Disney. Personally, I love this film! I think it’s a great picture! Sure, it has it’s flaws, but I think it’s a strong and great movie!

ANIMATION: The animation in this film is unbelievable! It’s amazing! It’s regal! It’s so great to look at! I love how Paris looks in this film! While Beauty and the Beast looks like it could take place anywhere, this movie looks like Paris, France; not the fantasized Paris, but the real part of the city. I love how big and epic it looks. It has almost a religious look and quality to it, which fits the tone of the film anyhow. I just love looking at this film, it’s like a beautiful piece of moving art in front of you. It’s incredible!
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Animation

SONGS/MUSIC: Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz have returned to bring us the music and songs of the movie. Unlike the songs from Pocahontas, these songs are not weak, not even a little bit! I can’t think of one bad song in this movie! Let’s go through and discuss them!
1) The Bells of Notre Dame/(Reprise): I may love “Circle of Life,” but I must say that this is one of my favorite openings to a movie…EVER! It gives the exposition perfectly. It tells us who the gypsies and Frollo are excellently. We get Quasimodo’s back story wonderfully. We get an amazing set up to the movie, and the song helps tell the story in an amazing way! I love it! (This is the best version I could find.)
2) Out There: This is a good number for Quasimodo. It gives him a voice, and we learn what he wants. That’s really all I have to say about it, but that doesn’t mean the song is bad, bland, or forgettable. It does sound much different than your typical Disney “I Want” song. In my opinion, this song is a lot more sympathetic than the other “I Want” songs. This is a very good song.

3) Topsy Turvy: This becomes our fun and exciting song for the film. What I like about this song is that it fits within the style of the movie and the spirit of the gypsies. It’s not out of place or distracting. And, again, we see the story continuing and moving in a smart and entertaining way. I love that! This song is cool.

4) God Help the Outcasts: I think this is a wonderful song! Given the subject and heavy situations of this film, it would have been so easy for the movie to say Christians and Christianity are bad. Any other studio would have given that message. However, this song is one of the elements that lets audiences know that it’s not the faith in God that’s corrupt, but rather just one man. But that doesn’t keep our leading lady from finding God for herself. I love how pure, honest, and heartfelt this song is. You understand the heart of it, and it is just wonderful! I adore this song!

5) Heaven’s Light: This song is nice, but it’s not at all memorable…That’s pretty much all I have to say about it.
(The video is attached with the following song in the list below.)
6) Hellfire: This song KICKS BUTT!!! This is definitely one of the best villain songs – songs period Disney has ever produced! We can to literally see and hear the turmoil and battles Frollo is going through! It’s creepy, it’s scary, it’s disturbing, it’s uncomfortable…and that’s why we love this number so much! The songwriters and filmmakers went all out to tell this man’s story! They didn’t shy away from it, they didn’t pander it, and they weren’t afraid of it! This song – this struggle – is honest! It’s an incredible number! It’s one of Disney’s best villain songs sung by one of Disney’s best villains! It’s easily one of Disney’s best moments!

7) A Guy Like You: As a stand alone song, I think this is a good number. It’s entertaining. It’s got a nice melody. The lyrics can be fun. My problem with it, however, is that it completely breaks the tone of the film. It’s not in the same style as the other songs in the film. It’s way too lighthearted. It’s too cartoony and silly and goofy. If it were in another movie or in a cartoon, it’d have a better chance of working. In a dark film based on Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame book, this does not work…at all.

8) The Court of Miracles: This isn’t the most memorable songs in the film, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Actually, it’s really good. Maybe I’m just a sucker for dark elements. In this song, the gypsies are getting ready to hang Quasimodo and Phoebus for trespassing in their hideout. It’s a very dark moment, but the music is halfway lighthearted and whimsical. That’s fitting, seeing how the song is mainly sung by Clopin, the fun-loving leader of the gypsies. I love the music, I love the lyrics, I love the syncopation, I love how dark it is. There’s something about the spirit of the character and the moment combined that makes this song great.

ROMANCE: There’s not much to say about the romance here. Looking at it from the protagonist’s perspective, it’s actually nice to see the film doesn’t force the lead to get the woman. Actually, given how Disney is telling this story, it actually works in the film’s favor that Quasimodo doesn’t end up with Esmeralda. Rather than his self-esteem coming from how other people see him, or how Esmeralda see him, now his self-value comes from his feelings of himself. Does he think he’s great? Does he think he’s special? Does he think he’s beautiful? He doesn’t have Esmeralda to make him feel that he’s any of these things; he has to answer these questions for himself. Focusing on Esmeralda’s relationship with Phoebus, it’s pretty…dull. It’s just not anything special or interesting to look at. I’m glad it’s in the movie because, again, Quasimodo has to validate himself. But if Esmeralda and Phoebus’ relationship was the focus of the film, this movie would be very, very boring.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Romance

CHARACTERS: There are so many characters in this film, I’m not going to be able to get to them all. I’ll only focus on 5 of them. Since I already talked about Frollo in my Top 10 Favorite Disney Villains list, I won’t mention him here. Let’s get some other characters into the mix.
1) Quasimodo – This is not the most interesting character. Quasimodo isn’t that fun or exciting to watch. However, he is probably one of Disney’s most sympathetic characters ever! Oh my goodness, I feel so sorry for him! He is so kind, so loving, so endearing and thoughtful; and yet look at his back story! His mother was killed when was a baby, and he was almost drowned as well. He’s been confounded to a bell tower for his entire life. Everyone in the city believes he’s a monster simply because of how he looks. He finds himself attracted to a young woman, but he gets his heart broken when he learns she loves someone else. My gosh, how does he not have serious depression?!? I can’t help but love this guy! He has such a tragic life, and yet he still has a lot of joy, able to smile anyhow. That is fantastic! He is fantastic!
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Quasimodo
2) Esmeralda – She’s not that interesting either. She’s not a bad character – I really do like her. There’s just nothing that really makes her stand out that much. Like every other Disney female lead, she has a nice and attractive design. I’m trying to think if there’s anything about her I especially love…Not really. Again, she’s a likeable character; she’s good, kind, and helpful. She’s just not that interesting.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Esmeralda
3) Captain Phoebus – Apply what I said about Esmeralda to this guy. The only difference between these two is that Esmeralda isn’t bland. Phoebus is. He’s kind of like John Smith from Pocahontas, but more charming and less of a stereotypical pretty White guy. When I say he’s charming, I mean the script tries to give him some charm, but not enough to make him an interesting character. He’s OK. I like him. He’s just not interesting.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Phoebus
4) The Gargoyles – Annoying. As. Crud. That’s what they are, they’re annoying as crud. This movie has a lot of dark elements, which means it needs some comedy to balance out the serious and harsh moments. I get that, and I’m behind it. But these characters, who supply the comic relief, break the tone of the film. I think you can supply humor without breaking the tone, but that is not achieved here at all! They make references to pop culture, they make weird and stupid jokes, and they feel out of place. If this were a cartoon show, they would fit a lot better. But in this grand, regal, and epic animated film, they fail and hard. They get one or two chuckles, but as a whole I’m booing them off the stage.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Gargoyles
5) Archdeacon – I have to talk about this character because I love him so much! I know he’s only a supporting character, he’s not that memorable, and his role is not very big. But I love his support! I love how he is so quick to help people and protect their rights. He also helps lead people to God in their distress without shoving Him down their throats. I love it! Like I said earlier, it would have been so easy for this film to say Christians or Christianity is bad. However, the Archdeacon gives a nice balance to show that Christians aren’t evil and hypocritical. One man is corrupt, but that doesn’t mean every Christian is! We see that through this character! I love that!
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Archdeacon

STORY: I’m not going to draw connections between this and the original Victor Hugo novel since I haven’t read it before. The story as a whole, I think, is good. As I said earlier, it stops being good when it switches to something that breaks its dark tone. I’m not against lightheartedness or comedy, but it has to fit within the spirit of the film. When I see old men falling into traps, a goat that can understand its owner and her feelings, and annoying gargoyles, it takes me out of the movie. I get it, the filmmakers tried to make this film suitable for children; I understand. I just think there’s a better and smarter way of doing it. I might be biased, seeing as how I like dark material and content. Maybe this just isn’t the right story to share with children. I don’t know, I do think this is a good story and Disney tells the story in a very good way. I just think it could have been better if we didn’t have all those childish moments.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Story

CONCLUSION: I really love this movie! It’s got flaws and problems, but it is so well done! I love the songs and the animation! I love the theme and the message. The characters are good, the story is good, and all of these elements combined create a wonderful, impressive movie! It is regal! It’s dark! It’s epic! It’s just a great and wonderful movie! I don’t think it’ll scar kids for life, but this movie, like other Disney movies, is designed to be viewed with the entire family anyhow. It’s a really good film!
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Conclusion


Hello family!

In reading my past poems and journal entries, you saw I mentioned an organization called YEPAW (Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop). My family and I just got done participating in the 25th year of YEPAW last week! So, what is YEPAW? Is it really that great that I would keep mentioning it? Well, I’ll tell you…

Over twenty-five years ago, a wonderful woman, Minister Leslie Parker Barnes, became tired and frustrated hearing people tell her “The youth are a hopeless generation.” She knew this statement was false, and thus she set out to prove it. For one week in the summer of 1990, Min. Barnes gathered some teenagers in the basement of the Arlington Church of God (in Akron, Ohio) and taught them a number of songs that they’d perform in a concert at the end of the week. This group became known as the Youth Excellence Gospel Choir. The idea behind this was if young people can learn how to discipline themselves and learn a number of songs in a short amount of time, they could do anything they set their minds to. In 1998, the Youth Excellence Gospel Choir became the Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop, or YEPAW (pronounced “yee-paw”). They weren’t just limited to the basement of the Arlington Church of God anymore – they moved to the campus of the University of Akron. The young participants weren’t just learning songs anymore, either. Now there were classes being offered: drama, creative writing, vocal clinic, orchestra, mime, visual art, video, photography, standard and advanced dance, standard and advanced step, standard and advanced drumline, piano, newsletter, banner praise, extemporaneous speaking, song writing, etc. In 2005, YEPAW began recording all of their songs onto CDs. The young participants were given the challenge of learning 10-14 songs in 3 or 4 days, ready to record them on a CD in the middle of the week! Over the years, YEPAW received more and more participants; in 2006, over 500 young people had registered for YEPAW!

Oh, but it didn’t stop there! The participants voiced their thoughts and feelings about YEPAW lasting longer than a week. Because of this, YEPAW created it year-round leadership program, YEPAW 365, in the fall of 2007. This program, that accepts 50 young people from the 7th to the 12th grades, meets every Monday and listen to speakers talk to them about excellence and living out their dreams. YEPAW has held many fundraisers, hosting concerts and performances by the Dance Theater of Harlem, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, a production of God’s Trombones, and they performed The Wiz twice! In the fall of 2010, YEPAW launched a new program, the YEPAW Institute. The YEPAW Institute, which, sadly, I wasn’t able to be apart of, helps trains those who want to be artists. Singers, musicians, dancers, visual artists – it helps them all. And in the summer of 2013, YEPAW launched its new program, WEPAW, “YEPAW for the ‘wittle’ ones.” This program aids young people between the ages of 4-11. They take drum/rhythm class, choir, and dance class.

YEPAW wants young people to know that they can achieve anything and everything, no matter what it is. In 2003, YEPAW introduced the DREAM. YEPAW wanted young people to live out and apply the DREAM:
D – Dare to be your best. Anybody can be mediocre, but challenge yourself to be the best you can be in everything you do!
R – Respect others, Respect yourself. I can tell how much you respect yourself based on how well you respect other people.
E – Make Excellence the center of your character.
A – Attitude is everything. You can be the cutest, most talented person in the room, and your sorry attitude will close the doors of opportunities.
And finally,
M – It’s a Double M! Make sure you Master at least one thing. Maybe you can’t sing, but you are so quick to figure out a math problem. Master one thing, and do it so well that you can Minister it, give it away and teach it to someone else.
Since then, we’ve strived to live out the DREAM in so many ways: in 2004, we set out to BELIEVE the DREAM; in 2005 we wanted to PURSUE the DREAM. Then we had to CATCH the DREAM, CHERISH the DREAM, CHOOSE the DREAM, Live the DREAM, Know the DREAM, Experience the DREAM, Discover the DREAM, Capture the DREAM, and this year we wanted to Love the DREAM.

24- Closing Concert, July 2010
My older brother Bryon and I began YEPAW together in 2004, YEPAW’s 15th year. I was 12 years old. I had no idea what to expect – I didn’t know what YEPAW was or what it stood for. This organization taught me what excellence is, to outdo and surpass, to always be your best. I never thought about being excellent before. I had a dream, but I didn’t consider being excellent with it. YEPAW taught me what that meant and how to do it. YEPAW also taught me that I can do whatever I set my mind to. It let me know that I can make a difference; I can be excellent for God and give Him my everything; I can have a positive effect on the people around me; I can be a leader. YEPAW has poured so much into me and my family over the years, and it is so very special to me! If it weren’t for YEPAW, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. I would have stopped dreaming years ago. I’d be working just enough to get by, but I wouldn’t be working as hard as I could. My family and I owe a great debt to YEPAW, as do all of the participants, instructors, volunteers, guests, staff, and board members who have ever been apart of YEPAW.

If this seems interesting to you at all, even the slightest, I strongly encourage you to look up YEPAW. Log on to their website,, and get more information. If you know a young person between the ages of 12-21 who you think would benefit greatly from this incredible and life changing ministry, sign them up for next year! You don’t have to live in Akron, Ohio to participate in YEPAW – folks from Chicago, Milwaukee, Washington D.C., and even Texas have come to YEPAW. They can spend the week in the dorms at the University of Akron. Trust me, it is worth it! Min. Barnes has gone on the record of saying many times, “Send me your young people, and I’ll send them back to you better!” Why? Because YEPAW challenges young people. There are no games and tricks or tactics of deceit. YEPAW goes out of its way to prove, not only that it cares about all young people and it wants to celebrate them and save their lives, but also that they are not hopeless! Log on to the website, do a Google search of YEPAW, watch some videos on YouTube – make yourself aware of what it is! As time passes, YEPAW only gets bigger and better, and you and your young people need to be apart of it now! I guarantee you’ll be blessed! God bless you all, and I love you! BOOYIKA!
YEPAW Concert

I Haven’t Thanked You Yet!

Hello family!

I’m almost caught up posting my poems and creative writings onto this site, and so I wanted to stop for a moment and say thank you! There was a period earlier this summer when I began questioning my purpose and my talents. I was concerned about the future, and I didn’t think I was very good at my craft. My brother Bryon had experienced great success with his site and posts, and so I thought I’d create one to provide an outlet for me as well. Of course, it went very slow at first. No one was reading anything, and, again, I started wondering if I was a good writer and artist. I did get a bit discouraged. One day, however, the thought came to my mind, Upload your poems. I did, and suddenly I had an audience. The more I uploaded, the more my work was being read. I will admit, I am insecure, but this did give me hope.

I didn’t want to become cocky or prideful over this. My hope and prayer is that you not only enjoyed my works, but that you were blessed by them and God spoke to you through these pieces. I do have to thank you, though, for letting me know that my writings are being enjoyed. At the beginning of the month, I had maybe 2 people reading my work; now, I have over 50. I just want you all to know that I appreciate it – I appreciate you so very much! Thank you for reading, thank you for liking, thank you for commenting, and thank you for supporting. Thank you for letting me know that I can pursue this gift and talent God has given me. I can’t tell you how much it means to me!

Know that more posts and poems are coming, and I can’t wait for you all to see them. And know that I look forward to reading what you all have posted on your sites as well; I haven’t had time yet, but I will look at your work! We are family, and we will support one another. Thank you are two words I can never say enough. It’s not that I have a lot of people reading my work (although, that is nice) – it’s that you’re encouraging me to keep writing, and that I am good at this talent God gave me. Thank you for the encouragement and the support! I love you all so much, and you mean a lot to me! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

The Offering

***This was written on July 22, 2010***

I hear You calling:
“Benjamin Isaiah Black, Bro. B.I.B.
Come. I want you closer to Me.”
I see You reaching out:
“Don’t you understand?
You can’t make it on your own; take My Hand.”
I feel Your in my spirit:
“There is no need to fear.
You can’t chase Me away; I’m still here.”
Father, I can’t do it anymore.
I give up, God. I yield to You, Lord.
I can’t keep doing the same trash, this sin.
Satan’s working his plan and I don’t live to serve him.
So, Jesus,
My sweet, precious, wonderful Jesus,
I offer You an offering…one not in the form of cash
In fact, I apologize, because it may look like trash
But God, I offer You…me
Yeah, lil’ ol’ me.
I know it’s not much
I wouldn’t even be surprised if You were disgusted.
However, just in case You’re willing, I present myself to You.
Take me, have me do what You want me to do
Here are my eyes – let me see what You want me to see
Have my ears – nothing goes in them that You don’t want me to hear
You control my tongue – I will speak those things You want me to say
My hands will hold what You have for me
My heart,
Spirit, and
Soul all obey Your command
My entire body is Your temple
It is Your house, so come on in and take a load off.
Lord, I’m tired of trying to handle things on my own
There’s only One fighting my battles – YOU are the One
You are in charge
The enemy has no place here!
In YOUR Name, JESUS CHRIST THE LORD, Satan is destroyed, defeated, wiped out, and devoured!
So, please,
I know it’s not much, and it’s not the best
Nor is it deserving of Your acceptance
But Jesus, please, oh PLEASE, take me and change me.
This is the offering.


(c) July 2010, B.I.B. Productions
(P) BOOYIKA!, Inc.

Have You Ever…?

***This was written on March 29, 2009***

Have you ever seen the sight of the rainbow across the sky?
Have you seen a creature hit with a ray of God’s sun from up high?
Have you seen the moon’s reflection spread across the sea?
Whenever my eyes fall upon her, that is what I see!

Have you ever heard the gentle pitter-patter of the rain falling on the ground?
Or the angelic sound of a singer whose voice can be heard all around?
Have you heard the soft wind blowing, making sweet sounds in your ear?
Whenever she speaks, that is what I hear!

Have you ever smelled the sweet scent of a bouquet of flowers?
Have you smelled a gourmet meal that’s been cooking for hours?
Have you ever imagined of a gorgeous scent that only exists in your soul, where you and God dwell?
Whenever she enters a room, that is what I smell!

Have you ever tasted excellence? Brilliance? Victory?
Doesn’t it taste like honey, just as sweet as can be?
Do collard greens and yams remind you of the taste of a rewarded faith?
Whenever she and I talk, that is what I taste!

Have you ever felt the hand of doubt when you do something new?
Have you felt the spirit of fear try to take control of you?
Have you been wounded, but with one touch you were healed?
Whenever she and I are together, that is how I feel!

Have you ever seen or heard God’s glorious Face?
Have you smelled or tasted His amazing Grace?
Have you ever felt the touch of someone that you know Jesus Himself has blessed?
Whenever she is near, that is what I sense!

(c) March 2009, B.I.B. Productions
(P) BOOYIKA!, Inc.

B.I.B. the Dreamer

***This was written in September 2006***

I’m a dreamer. I dream about my life everyday
People ask me, “What do you wanna be?” And here’s what I say:

“I’ll be an author, a writer, director, poet, and actor.”
“A producer, entrepreneur, entertainer, musician, maybe even a rapper.”

I have so many talents that I must show the world
Hopefully when people see me, it’ll show boys and girls

That’s it’s OK to express themselves, and that there’s nothing wrong
With baking cookies, playing basketball, or even singing a song

I dream about acting in movies, plays, radio, cartoons, and TV
I want to write, direct, and produce things that feature me

I want to win awards for the first production I write
In my films I’ll speak on what is true and what is right

I’ll bring people up and have encouraging words to say
But I will not put them down in any way

My music will be an inspiration and a powerful thing
Giving the Glory and Honor to the Lord of lords and King of kings

I will put Jesus Christ first in all that I do
It won’t be about me; it won’t be about you

I’ll stand and I’ll teach on who I am
A Christian, African-American, male, teenage-going-to-be-man

I’ll go to college with a scholarship, and I’ll get Master’s Degrees
I’ll get the best grades, and I will succeed

I’ll have a loving wife who loves the Lord just like I do
We’ll have children to tell them about God to

I’ll be a lean, mean, fighting-for-Jesus-Christ-machine
And I’ll be very successful! That is my dream.

(c) September 2006, B.I.B. Productions
(P) BOOYIKA!, Inc.