That noise you can hear? It’s the sound of many Disney execs riffling through the studio’s back catalog for more animated classics to be given the live-action treatment. Whilst some may sigh at the thought of even more reboots, Disney's commitment to rebooting dozens of their classic properties makes a lot of sense. After all, 2017 has already seen Beauty and the Beast snag the studio some staggering box-office sums, and The Lion King is winning audiences over even before it’s finished being made. And if a new report is to be believed, another (somewhat unexpected) Disney remake might be in the works.
Disney Is Considering A Live-Action Remake Of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
Many readers might not instantly recognize the name Alan Menken, but you’ll definitely be familiar with his work. From Captain America: The First Avenger’s song 'The Star Spangled Man' to the entire score of Little Shop of Horrors, Menken has enjoyed a long and prosperous musical career in Hollywood, with a particularly strong working relationship with the House of Mouse. Certainly, to quote Alex Wood from NME, “Name a famous Disney song from your childhood and, chances are, he probably wrote it.”
So when Menken sat down to promote the DVD release of #BeautyandtheBeast, he was asked about his cherished tunes for Disney, and a certain movie was specifically mentioned as a personal favorite of his:
“They’re all different and they all have their own place in my heart. I love ‘Friend Like Me’, ‘Under The Sea’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ [and] ‘Out There’ from Hunchback... I think Hunchback would make an amazing live action musical.”
Funnily enough, like Menken’s other work on #Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, Hunchback was adapted for a theater production some years ago, but it has yet to receive the green light on a modern remake like the other two movies. But all of that might be about to change. Indeed, things got very interesting when NME quizzed Menken over whether Hunchback — or his other hit Hercules — would be remade, and he gave a cryptic but telling response:
“Possibly, I can’t say anything yet...”
Menken may have evaded a definitive response in the interview, but it definitely sounds like Disney is at least considering a new version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. A cynic may say “of course they are,” considering the fact that Disney are turning their hands to Dumbo, The Little Mermaid and, potentially, a lot of their other older movies, but the situation isn’t as cleanly cut as that. Y’see, #TheHunchbackofNotreDame is a lesser-known Disney movie that’s quite unlike the rest of its output.
“It Is A Tale; A Tale Of A Man, And A Monster...”
Loosely based on Victor Hugo’s novel, Hunchback is set in 15th Century France, and sees the deformed bell-ringer of Notre Dame Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) struggle to make friends and gain acceptance in a society that his cruel adopted father, Judge Claude Frollo (Tony Jay), is attempting to change. If you’re not familiar with the tale, it echoes Beauty and the Beast’s central message about finding the beauty within, but with less enchantments and magic.
With such a good universal message, you might be wondering why Hunchback doesn’t get much recognition when we talk about Disney movies. After all, it isn’t often mentioned in the same breath as Beauty and the Beast, #TheLionKing or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, so where’s the love? Admittedly, Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale's 1996 release isn’t as lively or spontaneously quotable as the rest of the Disney canon, but there is a very good reason for that. As many nineties kids will tell you, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is undoubtedly one of Disney’s deepest and darkest movies.
Whilst managing to filter out a lot of the grimness of Hugo’s original novel, Hunchback still manages to explore Christian faith and social prejudice, along with a racial intolerance that errs towards genocide; and if that wasn’t enough, the film’s most famous song sees Frollo, a pious city official, torn and hallucinating over his lust for "the gypsy girl" Esmeralda (Demi Moore).
Though we can see why Hunchback hasn’t been received in the same way as its fellow films, this isn’t to say that the film is an unrelenting hour and a half of uncharacteristic grimdark from Disney. Intimate yet epic, it’s a sumptuous and uplifting experience with stunning #animation that famously depicts Quasimodo traversing the towers and gables of Notre Dame and surveying gorgeously rendered vistas of medieval Paris. The music is something else as well; Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken combine some sensitive lyrics, Latin chanting and soaring chorals, resulting in one of Disney’s grandest and atmospheric scores.
The bottom line is that Hunchback is a powerful and hugely undervalued film, so the fact that a remake could be on Disney's radar is great in itself. If any of their films is worthy of a revisit, its this touching and thought-provoking tale. Not to mention, it's sounds like Menken would be on board to give it a spectacular score once more. Menken already has a great track record for embellishing Disney favorites (Beauty and the Beast’s 'Evermore' anyone?), and with the right director handling those awe-inspiring visuals, Hunchback could really be something special. Overall, whilst we’re really hoping that Menken and Disney ignore the direct-to-video sequel, we couldn’t agree with Menken more — a live-action remake of The Hunchback of Notre Dame could be truly amazing.