Hunchback of Notre Dame(Blu-ray)

Director - Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

Cast - Tom Hulce, Demi Moore

Country of Origin - U.S.

Discs - 3

Distributor - Disney

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

Date - 03/20/13

The Film (3.5/5)

   With certain animation studios like Disney, Pixar, Aardman, Ghibli, Gainax, etc I tend to view them as a creative entity. The reason I bring this up, is that even though not one single person is responsible for the creative output for Disney Animation (or in turn Pixar, Ghibli, etc) I tend to watch the the ups and downs of the studio, and weigh them as I would as a single entity. Disney Animation historically speaking has some of the greatest feature films in American animation history, but like any creator it has lost its way numerous times only to find itself on top once again.

   Disney throughout the 50's and 60's created quite a bit of classic animation, but in the 70's they had hit what is perceived as a slump, this was rectified in the 80's with a new Golden Period that lasted from The Little Mermaid to the Lion King. However, after that Disney was once again in a position of perceived mediocrity as far as many mainstream viewers were concerned. The thing about these downtimes in studio history is that they do tend to produce very good films during these periods. In the 70's and 80's they produced fine films like The Sword and the Stone, Robin Hood, and the Black Cauldron, but to name a few. During the late 90's and early 2000's they released quite a few minor goodies like the Emperors New Groove, and 2 films that were released on Blu-ray in double feature form this week the Mulan, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

   Disney has long maintained a tradition of tapping into fairy tales, history, and literary classics as the source material for it's animated films. The Hunchback of Notre Dame falls into the literary adaptation category, as it tackles in children’s animated from the 1831 Victor Hugo novel of the same name.  As an adaptation it plays loose with the material hitting up the major story elements, but of course adding in musical numbers, comedy, and modern pop references all in a nicely animated framework.

   The thing about Hunchback is that as a film it has so much potential. The animation in the film is wonderful, and the dramatic beats in the story work very well, but the film itself is very very uneven.  Which is sad, because when watching the film especially now in hindsight you can see the skeleton of the potential Disney masterpiece that is hidden within the film. The biggest problem in my eyes are (and if you have seen the film you know what I'm going to say) The Gargoyles.

   Now while I have no problem with gargoyles as creatures, I did like the Gargoyles animated series as a kid.  The Gargoyles in Hunchback of Notre Dame do nothing, but add bad comic interludes and pop culture references to a picture that tonally speaking did not require them. Outside of that, and a few other moments the film is an absolute blast. The musical moments throughout the film are actually a fine addition to the Disney musical catalog. The vocal performances from the cast across the board are excellent.  The animation and direction are top notch.

   The Hunchback of Notre Dame will never be considered a Disney animated classic by any stretch of the imagination.  It is, however, a fun, but uneven film.

 

Audio/Video (4/5)

   Disney has presented the Hunchback of Notre Dame in a very nice 1080p AVC encoded transfer.  The original aspect ratio of the feature has been preserved, and overall this transfer is impeccable.  The colors on this transfer are tonally very warm and pop nicely, and fine detail is quite excellent.  I did notice some minor banding issues in spots, but not too often to detract much from the transfer.

   The audio has been presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 transfer in English. The audio like the video has been restored nicely.  The dialogue comes through nice and clean.  The musical moments, are loud, and clear, and everything is mixed well with no elements drowning out others, or anything being too low in the mix.  I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.

 

Extras (3.5/5)

     Very few sequels made to Disney animated films appear to be given much thought by the studio. In fact off the top of my head the only one that seems to have been given a proper theatrical release was The Rescuers Down Under in the early 90's. The rest of them seem to be bad direct to video cash in's on popular properties. As such I tend to treat the back half of these Disney double features as an extra feature on the set, because let's be honest. You don't buy the Fox and the Hound to get the Fox and the Hound 2, and you aren't buying Hunchback of Notre Dame to get this sequel.

   So this set kicks off with Hunchback of Notre Dame II. The extras on Hunchback II include a 5 minute making of, and a 3 minute short called A Gargoyle's Life.

   The extras on the original Hunchback (aka the reason you bought this Blu-ray) kick off with a commentary with the producer and directors of the film. This is followed up by a 28 minute making of. The disc is rounded off by a Multi-Language Reel, and trailers.

 

Overall

   Not a Disney Classic by any means, the Hunchback of Notre Dame is still a fun little film from the Mouse House.  The A/V restoration is quite nice, and the disc comes with a decent slate of extras. Recommended.