The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
By Joly Herman,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Touching but dark Disney tale cheers on the outcasts.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The idea that it's OK to be different and to stand out from the crowd is discussed.
Positive Role Models
Esmeralda fights for justice for her people. She stands up to tyranny and defends outcasts such as Quasimodo and her family of Gypsies. Quasimodo shows kindness and loyalty and is willing to do what it takes to help his friends.
Violence & Scariness
Cartoon violence and pratfalls. Prolonged battle scene features broken teeth and swordplay. Battles with swords, knives, and long candle holders. One of the lead characters is hit in the shoulder with an arrow. Some demonic imagery, flames, and fire-eyed statues. Some peril: Characters nearly burned at the stake. Physical bullying: Quasimodo gets tomatoes thrown at him by jeering guards and then jeering peasants. A house is set on fire, and the people inside must be rescued.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Esmeralda is dressed in a revealing manner, and she's punished by a man who desires her. Frollo makes reference to having "impure thoughts" for Esmeralda and sings about his "burning desire" for her. In one scene, Phoebus implies that he's interested in Esmeralda in a sexual manner.
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Frollo uses threats. Quasimodo is bullied because of his looks, called "hideous" and "ugly." Song lyrics include the word "hellfire."
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Products & Purchases
Disney spin-off items for sale in stores.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some swilling of grog during Festival of Fools scene. Frollo drinks what appears to be wine. Gargoyles open a bottle of champagne. Phoebus says that he "could use a drink" and mentions specific types of wine.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1996 Disney animated feature based on the Victor Hugo novel. There's animated violence and pratfalls: Characters fight with swords and knives, and one character is injured after getting hit in the shoulder by an arrow. There is some demonic imagery: orange-flamed backgrounds and fire-eyed panther statues. Frollo is a threatening villain who fights with swords and lusts over main female character Esmeralda; he sings a song of "burning desire" about her and asks for her destruction -- or possession. There are some moments of humor that may be inappropriate: The gargoyles, who provide comic relief, make reference to "cut[ting] the cheese" while making flatulent noises with their armpits, and a goat belches after eating. Natural deformities are addressed because the main character has a hunchback. Also, since this story does take place in Notre Dame Cathedral, religious symbols, icons, and religious themes abound. Esmeralda fights for justice for her people. She stands up to tyranny and defends outcasts such as Quasimodo and her family of Gypsies. Quasimodo shows kindness and loyalty and is willing to do what it takes to help his friends.
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Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Based on 42 parent reviews
A well delivered realistic story
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Good for children to teach them a lesson
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What's the Story?
When Judge Frollo (Tony Jay) discovers a group of Gypsy castaways, he attempts to imprison them and is left holding a baby in the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral. Noticing that the child is deformed, he starts to throw him down a well but is stopped by a priest and told to care for the child instead. So the child Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) is brought into a place of sanctuary and confinement, becoming the bell ringer of the great cathedral. As he grows, he longs to be in the world for one day, and he gets his wish suddenly, only to learn how cruel the world can be. Lucky for Quasimodo that he meets the Gypsy Esmeralda (Demi Moore), who befriends him and saves him from utter shame. Their paths become entwined, and their stories of surviving as outcasts serve as a touching theme.
Is It Any Good?
Disney's recreation of Victor Hugo's novel is rich in visual and musical sensation. But deeper beneath the rich production lie questions about normalcy, how sanctuary confines us as well as protects us, and what punishment is.
Some younger children might be frightened by Frollo's intensity. With his crusade against the Gypsies and simultaneous lecherous pursuit of Esmeralda, he is a formidable and contemptible villain. But Tom Hulce's performance is so lovely that it makes the darker aspects of this tale incredibly human. Along for comic relief, Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame leads a trio of gargoyles, whose quick banter is fun but can be a little grotesque.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about what it means to be different from the norm. Who were the Gypsies?
What is the overall attitude towards "outcasts" in this movie, and how does Esmeralda stand up to these beliefs?
In what ways does Esmeralda show courage in her words and actions?
What does "sanctuary" mean? Why do people seek sanctuary?
What other versions of this story do you know? Which one do you like best?
- In theaters: June 21, 1996
- On DVD or streaming: March 19, 2002
- Cast: Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, Tom Hulce
- Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
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