mov: hunchback of notre dame

ok ok ok ok ok ok can I just have a quick lil moment of your time?

This shit.

So Hunchback is far and away my favorite movie from Disney’s Renaissance, and it always makes me so happy that yes, people seem to appreciate it, people seem to love it, but I’mma go into exactly WHY it’s my favorite, and WHY I think it’s so crucial, and WHY I think it should be required viewing for young boys specifically.

We all know that a huge bulk of the media we’ve grown up with consistently has that one frustrating message:  Being the hero means you’ll get the girl.  Many boys let this mentality bleed into reality.  We have “nice guys,” who feel that their niceness entitles them to romance, when obviously that discredits a female’s personal choice.  We all get this, we all know this, and a lot of us get that it’s a toxic message.

So check out our hero.

He’s an incredibly good person who isn’t conventionally attractive.

Check out our lady.

Super good person, conventionally attractive.

The movie so deliberately builds up Quasi’s hopes.  There’s a whole fucking song about it.

But Esmeralda, who is her own person with her own motivations and preferences, chooses another man, who is also good and also attractive.

A lot of people criticize this aspect of the movie, the fact that Quasi doesn’t get the girl BECAUSE of his appearance.  But my argument?  This is the best damn message a movie could ever send.

Because when things get dicey, when Esmeralda’s life in in danger, when Quasi would be putting his own life on the line, he knows that romance is no longer within the realm of possibility.  He knows he won’t be “getting the girl.”  He knows this, and he allows himself a moment of bitterness, he risks falling prey to the “nice guy” trope, and he almost succumbs.

“She already has her knight in shining armor, and it’s not me.”

BUT THEN HE DOES THE RIGHT THING.

He has NO ulterior motive for saving her life.  NO ulterior motive for opposing the man who raised him.  And he doesn’t know that he’ll get any reward, he knows he could straight up get killed for his actions, and yet he still acts.

And there’s no bitterness. There’s still so, so much love between him and Esmeralda, pure awesome platonic love, and love between him and Phoebus, and just fucking love all around, it’s amazing.

I’ve heard so many people express distaste at Quasi not ending up with Esmerelda.  Like he was cheated out of some kind of reward.  But have they watched the ending?

Does that look like a man cheated of his reward?  Does he look like he “lost” to Phoebus?  No dude, that’s a man who has everything he ever wanted, and that’s also a man who didn’t “get the girl.”

If that’s not an essential message for young boys to hear, I don’t know what is.

Realtalk: Beauty and the Beast

((Spoilers: DUH))

Okay, but jokes about bad CGI wolves aside, Disney’s latest live action remake just served to remind me what didn’t work in the last few films. Keep in mind this is all my opinion and you don’t have to agree to any of it.

I could appreciate the effort they took in better explaining the lore. The classic film implied Beast could be as young as 11 when the curse took effect for them to be wasting away for “ten years” (as stated in the original Be Our Guest), and a lot of people were left puzzling as to how exactly an entire town failed to notice the ominous castle sitting on their outskirts for all those years. But as with all the other remakes Disney also attempted to flesh out the characters, usually in the form of a heavy backstory, and this is where they always seem to fall flat for me.

This is the main problem I have with live action: they seem to struggle in deciding which tone they want to run with. Do they want to prove they can play with darker and more sombre themes? Those poignant backstories and frequent deaths in the families would suggest so. But then they turn right around and try to emulate the cartoon almost frame for frame. Suddenly the action sequences, one-liners, and visual gags look too hammy and out of place, especially when juxtaposed with the aforementioned Dark Subjects. This isn’t helped by the uncanny valley characters at all.

I’m sure some kids out there find all of this enjoyable and see no problem with the new films (though personally if I saw that CG Lumiere as a child I would have run screaming out of the theatre), but all I could think as I watched Beast tear through the tower pining and singing his heart out was:

“Holy shit Disney, you should remake Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Think about it: they could play with dark themes all they wanted and it wouldn’t feel out of place at all. The animated film was already one of Disney’s heaviest, in fact I feel it’s been swept under the rug as a result of its heavier tone. The characters themselves are some of Disney’s most subdued and wouldn’t be terribly difficult to translate into live action without changing too much, and they could go nuts with the special effects and locations all they want because it’s got everything.

Medieval city? Check. Tall, ominous towers? Check. Spectacular views for breaking out into song? Check. Political/social commentary still relevant today? Check. Vibrant/fictional locales to pour their CGI budget into? Check. They’ve got one of the best villains in that movie, whether you love to hate him or just … love … him … if you’re one of those weirdos.

But that brings up another point: if they did rework it, I want them to go really dark with it. I’m talking taking cues from their friends in Germany and Der Glöckner von Notre Dame, a musical that managed to preserve a majority of the film while also capturing the weight of the original novel.

Don’t try to redeem Frollo like you did with Maleficent. Preserve all the slimy, misguided, despicable facets of his personality. Don’t gloss over the political commentary of gypsies in Paris, and highlight Clopin’s juxtaposed sides as a result–willing to do whatever it takes to survive even if it means stealing and murdering. We already have one of the most badass women out there in Esmeralda, and finally one who isn’t a damned princess that needs her sparkly dress. Give Phoebus a bigger role, give us time to really see the conflict between his role in society and his moral compass. Focus on Quasimodo’s internal struggle, torn between his curiosity and love for the outside world, but also his blind loyalty and affection to the one man who raised him his entire life.

And for f**k’s sake those gargoyles better be hallucinations to illustrate the toll a lifetime of solitude has taken on the poor guy or I am going to flip some heavy Medieval tables.

And finally Esmeralda dies. No-one gets the girl. Phoebus fails at his job, people get hurt as a result, and he can’t even save the love of his life. And Quasimodo is left utterly broken hearted and alone, with neither his father figure or his friends by his side. The movie ends as the stage play did: with our hunchback carrying the gyspy in his arms in a sad nod to the iconic “Sanctuary!” scene, walking away into the dark unknown, presumably to die as he did in the novel, with Esmeralda in his arms. A sombre Clopin, knocked back down to a beggar (if not dead as well during the seige), narrates the closing scene.

Because life sucks and that’s what you get for attempting to turn a Victor Hugo Novel into anything less than a tragedy.

TL;DR: Disney remake HoND. I double-dog-dare you.

(Oh my god I have not drawn these guys in literal ages. It felt so weird!)

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Disney Aesthetic: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Morning in Paris, the city awakes
To the bells of Notre Dame
The fisherman fishes, the bakerman bakes
To the bells of Notre Dame
To the big bells as loud as the thunder
To the little bells soft as a psalm
And some say the soul of the city’s
The toll of the bells
The bells of Notre Dame

PSA:

Animated films that tackled issues of discrimination and bigotry successfully/respectfully:

  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (to an extent)
  • The Fox and the Hound
  • Mulan
  • Zootopia
  • The Prince of Egypt

Animated films that did NOT tackle these issues of discrimination and bigotry successfully/respectfully

  • POCAHONTAS