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Starlog Acrhives: Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The thing about a Renaissance is that its beginning and ending are only clear in retrospect.  In the mid-nineties, Disney animation was exiting a golden age of creative and commercial re-invigoration.  But at the time, they had no idea the good times were coming to an end.  Buoyed by the critical acclaim of Beauty and the Beast and the record-breaking box office of The Lion King, Disney was eager to outdo itself.  With the acrimonious departure of studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg, the studio took on its most ambitious project to date, adapting Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame into a family-friendly summer blockbuster.  The July 1996 issue of Starlog included a feature story covering one of Disney’s forgotten animated features.

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Movies of 1996 Bracket Game: The Hunchback of Notre Dame Vs. James and the Giant Peach

Hunchback Vs. James

Twenty years ago, the world of animation was going through a transitional period.  Toy Story, the first-ever feature film animated by computers, had been released the year before.  Jeffrey Katzenberg, the controversial head of Disney studios, had been chased out of the company by his former mentor, CEO Michael Eisner.  Katzenberg set up shop at Dreamworks where he formed his own animation studio to compete with his former employer.  It was a good time to be an animator.  Everyone was still chasing the box office success of The Lion King and rival studios were paying big money to poach talent from the Mouse House.

In today’s bracket, we’re taking a look at two slightly dark children’s films released by Disney a year of change.

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Disney Songs Poll Results! #10 – “Hellfire”

ummm…Wow. Almost 20 years later and “Hellfire” from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame is still stunning in a way Disney pretty much never is. Of course finding it so high on this list is pretty stunning in and of itself. Judge Frollo is one of the more sadistic and twisted villains in any Disney film, much less the animated ones. This got a “G” rating? The themes of forbidden lust, guilt, sexual possession, capital punishment, and damnation are indicative of the film’s greatest strengths and weaknesses, as Disney appears to be pulling against itself in opposite directions.
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Disney Songs Poll Results! #15 – “God Help the Outcasts”

You will hear two different voices for Esmerelda in the above video, but that wasn’t always the intent. It was believed that the streetwise gypsy dancer should have a less dainty voice than many of the famous Disney female leads, so they invited Demi Moore to come in and work with songwriters Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz on the required vocals. Unfortunately, they found after several attempts that she was not feeling like she could accomplish the singing appropriately. Moore herself asked them to find someone else, but was retained to voice the speaking parts for the role.
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