An epic, yet dark, chapter of Disney's second Golden Age!
The story opens with Alan Menken's grand opening number, The Bells of Notre Dame. We learn of a deformed man living in the bell tower of the Notre Dame Cathedral. This man, confined there by Judge Claude Frollo, is named Quasimodo whose only dream is to be free from his confines in the tower.
Another key character is a gypsy named Esmerelda. She looks past Quasimodo's deformities and sees a human. Quasimodo is touched, and is therefore determined to help her when Frollo, his master, tries to rid the town of the gypsy.
WARNING: The title of my review mentions that this movie is darker. That it is. It also has wierd elements in it that I would find inappropriate for kids. For example, Frollo sings a powerful song about how Esmerelda is burning up his soul with lust, a sin to his church career, and how he can't decide if he wants to be with her or if he wants to kill her. Awkward to explain to young ones. (This song, 'Heaven's Light/Hellfire,' however, is an AMAZING song that creates a masterful contrast) I would say this is a movie for 12 and ups, only because they would be the ones that would understand it. The movie isn't like other funny, cutesy Disney animated movies. It's deep, twisted, and dark.
Maybe that's why I love this movie. It breaks from the tedious norm of animation and boldly makes a name for itself. Each song has true depth to it. Each point of the plot is executed precisely and well-timed. There is just enough humor to make it enjoyable, and a deep enough plot to make you care and, most importantly, to make you think.
The only downfall in this movie is the characters. As you watch it, you may sympathize with Quasimodo, you may feel rage towards Frollo, but aside from those two exceptions, the supporting characters are dull, lifeless, and stereotypical of other Disney works. I wish that the true bold originality put into making this film was evident in the characters carrying it.
Other than that, this movie is a remarkable feat of grandeur, placed wonderfully amongst some of Disney's greatest. And that is where it rightfully belongs.