Making the Grades
"The Hunchback Decision" became a dinner table topic in many homes during this movie's theatrical release in 1996. Many parents pondered whether they should take the kids, while others vocally cried foul at the Disney Empire for creating a movie for children with unusually adult themes.
Loosely based on Victor Hugo's 1830 novel about the fictitious bell ringer named Quasimodo (voice of Tom Hulce) in the top of the famous Paris cathedral, Hunchback has been given the typical mouse-house treatment as Hugo's tragedy is molded into the patented happy ending formula with lots of singing and dancing, and many of the stock Disney characters that have adorned many of their animations.
Yet, for some reason, Disney's Hunchback really works for me. I went into it expecting Hugo's novel to be mere inspiration than script, and therefore wasn't disappointed by the modifications. Even with the alterations, the studio is still attempting to keep the novel's most complex elements. The confusing part for parents is that the story has more adult appeal than previous Disney flicks.
For children, the core plot of the movie may be difficult to grasp. They need to understand that lust is the entire reason for bad guy Frollo's (voice of Tony Jay) infatuation for the beautiful Esmeralda (voice of Demi Moore). That's a pretty grown-up subject to address to a five year old! And that may be a good enough reason for many families to choose to have their younger children wait a few years before seeing the movie. However, the script administers appropriate consequences for Frollo's bad choices, and in the culminating "Hellfire" scene, he admits in song to making a choice to follow the devil.
Still, I wish Hollywood would receive the same outcry from parents when far more violent films are released, then prompted with toys being pandered to children at hamburger outlets.
For older children and teens, this is a beautiful film with amazing artwork and inspiring music that even has a few portrayals of religion as being positive and beneficial. Just don't let the fact it is animated fool you into thinking this Disney masterpiece is "suitable for all ages."
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Hunchback of Notre Dame.