Walt Disney Home Entertainment has gone from releasing one movie every couple of months on Blu-ray to pushing multiple ones out at the same time. One of this month’s high-definition treats is “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” 2-Movie Collection. The 3-Disc Special Edition contains the original 1996 film along with its inferior yet entertaining 2002 sequel. Both movies were restored and feature Disney’s enhanced high definition picture and sound.
Whenever someone asks what the greatest animated Disney film is, you’ll invariably get the same answers from everyone. People will exclaim titles like “The Lion King,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella,” or “Snow White.” You’ll never hear anyone campaigning for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Well, I mean to change that!
I know “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” doesn’t have a chance put up against a bunch of soft-spoken petite princesses, but it should. I would argue that it has more heart and reaches a whole new level of grandeur in visual scale. The gothic setting and massive background art casts a huge shadow over anything else the studio has ever done.
When you’re watching “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” the tragedy unfolding in front of you just sucks you in. I imagine it’s how audiences feel when they’re viewing a Broadway version of “The Phantom of the Opera” or “Les Miserables.” You truly feel as if you’re taking in an animated epic which could measure up to any Cecil B. DeMille live action production.
While the songs might not be as memorable as “Under the Sea” or “Beauty and the Beast,” they’re more dramatic than any of those combined. Alan Menken stepped outside of the box and composed operatic numbers for the tale of Quasimodo. To top it off, they’re filled with dark lyrical subjects I would imagine young children would be afraid of or just not understand.
Disney included “The Hunchback of Notre Dame II” in the Blu-ray edition as well. There’s a big difference in the quality of animation and storyline. It’s still entertaining and has a villain you quickly grow to dislike. However, it doesn’t measure up to the original at all. It’s much more child friendly, which is what Disney is known for.
The video and audio quality of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” Blu-ray edition leaves no room for complaints. The picture is clean, colorful, and as flawless as you’ve come to expect. The 5.1 surround sound immerses the viewer in several complex layers of dialogue, musical numbers, and noises of the bustling city of Paris.
There’s some nice bonus material for consumers to enjoy. “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” comes with audio commentary provided by Producer Don Hahn and directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale. There’s a 28-minute documentary entitled “The Making of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame.'” It also includes a multi-language reel for “A Guy Like You.” A featurette entitled “A Gargoyle’s Life” round out the special features. The only extra included for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame II” is the featurette “Behind the Scenes with Jennifer Love Hewitt.”
Of course my preference for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” comes from a love of period piece gothic horror films like “Frankenstein,” “Dracula,” and the likes. In reality, I know this sort of animated movie will never win over the beautiful sugary sweet tales featuring Prince Charming saving the helpless Princess from a fire-breathing dragon or wicked witch. I can dream though, can’t I?
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” 2-Movie Collection is available now in a Blu-ray + DVD 3-Disc Special Edition.
For more articles by Eric Shirey, check out:
Blu-ray Review: “Wreck-It Ralph”
Blu-ray Review: “Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon”
Blu-ray Review: “Peter Pan: Diamond Edition”