Please, Disney, Make Hunchback Of Notre Dame Your Next Live-Action Feature
Willie Grace | 4/10/2015, 2:02 p.m.
Before Disney’s live-action remakes of Maleficent and Cinderella, the prospect of remaking an animated classic into a flesh-and-blood update was an idea that was met with mixed, if not outright negative, reaction. Yet somehow, someway, these adaptations managed to turn children’s fairy tales into films that dazzled as much as they rekindled old memories of Disney magic.
So naturally, this means that the already in production Beauty And The Beast is more than safe, and throws open the doors to live action re-runs of Dumbo, Mulan, and most recently Pinocchio. Yet there’s one Disney film that took its time to find an audience, due to its darker source material and not so traditional flavor. This is a film that deserves the live action treatment more than any other Disney animated film, as the building blocks are already there for this project to take flight. Disney, it’s time to redeem The Hunchback Of Notre Dame once and for all.
First released in 1996, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame was part of the waning Golden Age at Disney’s animation studio. Coming off of the high of the legendarily successful release of The Lion King, Disney started to feel a bit of a back slide as Pocahontas and even Hunchback failed to bring in as much of a profit as Simba and his pride had managed to bag. While both films were criticized for their handling of their source material in a "Disney-fied" sense of story, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame still stands as a shockingly subversive Disney film that tackles religious zealotry, as well as a litany of other issues not so clearly spelt out in the subtext. The film does handicap itself by turning Frollo into a seething, rosary-twirling villain, and including the gargoyles that -- while charming -- really don’t belong in the film. But those elements aside, the film is a marvel to behold. Besides, any Disney movie that puts itself on the line to deliver a villain song as epic as "Hellfire" is something that deserves massive praise.
It wouldn’t be until 1999 that Disney would set the wheels of redemption in motion, as a live-action German production of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame premiered, and would go on to run for three straight years. With a story closer to the original Victor Hugo novel and songs straight from the Disney film, the story earned itself a new lease on life. In 2013, the project would pick up steam and head to the U.S. for a successful run that concluded just last weekend. Successful changes were put in place. The gargoyles became stone statues in Quasimodo’s imagination. Frollo’s motivations involving his charge were more personally fleshed out. And the original, bittersweet ending involving Esmeralda’s death was reinstated into the musical’s story. For a film that angered the family of Victor Hugo when it came out almost 20 years ago, you couldn’t imagine a better redemption than a possible shot at Broadway glory, similar to that of Mary Poppins before it.