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!
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!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8e8aKFY1VI (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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!