Disney’s ‘Hunchback’ hits Blu-ray with new dual pack set
Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hunchback of Notre Dame 2
Hunchback of Notre Dame directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Hunchback of Notre Dame 2 directed by Bradley Raymond
New this week from Disney is a handful of 3 disc Blu-ray Double Features, one of which is for the Disney classic Hunchback of Notre Dame and its direct to video sequel Hunchback of Notre Dame 2. The re-interpretation of the classic Victor Hugo novel ‘Notre Dame de Paris’, Disney’s Hunchback manages to make the sad and misshapen Quasimodo into a loveable hero. But will the double feature pack be worth a purchase when you include part 2?
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is set in 15th century Paris. Clopin the puppeteer tells the story of Quasimodo (Hulce), the misshapen gentle-souled bell ringer of Notre Dame, who was nearly killed as a baby by Claude Frollo (Jay), the Minister of Justice. But Frollo was forced by the Archdeacon of Notre Dame (Stiers) to raise Quasimodo as his own. Now a young man, Quasimodo is hidden from the world by Frollo in the bell tower of the cathedral. But during the Festival of Fools, Quasimodo, cheered on by his gargoyle friends Victor (Kimbrough), Hugo (Alexander), and Laverne (Wickes), decides to take part in the festivities, where he meets the lively gypsy girl Esmeralda (Moore) and the handsome soldier Phoebus (Kline). The three of them find themselves united against Frollo’s cruelty and his attempts to destroy the home of the gypsies, the Court of Miracles.
Now that Frollo is gone, the second Hunchback film starts years later with Quasimodo ringing the bells with the help of his new friend and Esmeralda’s and Phoebus’ little son, Zephyr (Osment). But when a traveling circus comes to town, owned by evil magician Sarousch (McKean), Quasimodo descends from the bell tower to see what tretas the circus has to show. While walking around he falls hard for Madellaine (Hewitt), Sarouch’s assistant. But greedy Sarousch has other sinister reasons for visiting Paris and forces Madellaine to help him steal the Cathedral’s most famous bell.
The first Hunchback is one of the more underrated of the Disney animated cannon. The film has a great heart to it and features some great vocal performances and excellent animation. Hulce is excellent as Quasimodo; his performance brings out the pain behind Quasimodo’s solitary existence as well as the unbridled hope of a child that Quasi clings to. Tony Jay voices Frollo, one of the more despicable villains Disney has animated, with an underlying growl, deceptively charming smile and smooth tongue Frollo often gets exactly what he wants. The make it or break it for most comes in the characters of the Gargoyle sidekicks. Perhaps some of the weaker concepts for a hero sidekick, that Gargoyles are goofy and silly but are at least animated fairly well and are used as a device to move the plot along. The crowd shots, in particular the last one, along with the siege on Notre Dame are beautifully animated and are pretty spectacular in Blu-ray HD.
Hunchback of Notre Dame 2 is sadly not nearly as charming as it predecessor. The animation here is really quite bad, most of the Disney direct to video titles are a step or two back in the animation where this is at least 5, which leads to an altered and different looking Quasimodo and some extremely bad looking Gargoyles. The story is pretty bad here too, trying to cram in a love story for Quasimodo in just over an hour while also delivering a crime caper does not work. The dialogue is sloppier and most of the favorite characters have different motivations in this follow up, not all for the better. The biggest problem though is the film feels flat and dull, like a television episode, losing a lot of the charm that the first film has in spades.
The Blu-ray comes with a small handful of special features, mainly concentrated on the original film. The disc features an audio commentary, a making of featurette and a feature on the Gargoyles. From the seco9nd film the disc has a behind the scenes feature hosted by Jennifer Love Hewitt.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame Double Feature Blu-ray contains one very excellent film and one poor film. The original Hunchback has not looked this good since its theatrical run and should be a part of every Disney collector’s collection. Owning the original on Blu-ray is enough to recommend the double feature, despite the package including the inferior sequel.
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