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The Hunchback of Notre Dame: 2 Movie Collection Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted March 01 2013 - 12:00 PM

Taking a serious classic like Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and giving it the Disney treatment was a tremendous challenge for the studio, one which the studio’s artisans pulled off magnificently in a film as majestically animated and beautifully scored as any film in their celebrated canon. While it didn’t meet with the same kind of critical and audience hosannas as Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King (and was the first of the studio’s animated titles in the 1990s not to win Oscars for its music), that doesn’t diminish for an instant the very real brilliance of this touching and exciting animated feature. Its 2002 made-for-video sequel is naturally of considerably lesser quality, but it, too, has some entertainment value and features many of the voice cast that distinguished the original movie.







The Hunchback of Notre Dame: 2 Movie Collection  (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise/Bradley Raymond

Studio: Disney
Year: 1996/2002
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/1.66:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 91/66 minutes
Rating: G
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Dolby Digital 2.0 surround English, 5.1 French, Spanish, others
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish, others


Region: A-B-C
MSRP: $ 39.99



Release Date: Match 12, 2013

Review Date: March 1, 2013




The Films


The Hunchback of Notre Dame – 4.5/5


Quasimodo (Tom Hulce), the ugly, misshapen bell ringer of Notre Dame cathedral, has a beautiful soul and an overwhelming desire to be loved. Brought up devoid of any understanding presence and indifferently treated by his brutish master Frollo (Tony Jay), Paris’ city magistrate, the hunchback has only stone gargoyles (voiced by Charles Kimbrough, Jason Alexander, and Mary Wickes) and his own carved wooden dolls as playmates. He meets and falls for a gypsy dancer Esmeralda (Demi Moore, singing voice by Heidi Mollenhauer) who likewise stirs the blood of his master and also the captain of the guard Phoebus (Kevin Kline). As Frollo has a loathing for all gypsies, he makes it his sworn duty to rid Paris of them starting with the woman who has so enraptured him making it a necessity for Quasimodo and Phoebus to work together to save her from certain death.


Never will you see an animated movie with more intricate animation in it. Virtually every person in the foreground and background shows movement. Confetti that flies through the air from all directions lands visibly on the ground and piles up, and blistering snow does likewise. In fact, so real is the animation throughout that at times one forgets he’s watching an animated film. Aerial views of Paris astound, and Quasimodo’s journeys through the labyrinthine bell towers surpass the bell tower finale of The Great Mouse Detective. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz who had won dual Oscars for song and score for their last venture together Pocahontas deliver a quasi-operetta score here, and while none of the songs took on a life outside the movie, they’re stupendously used to advance plot (“The Bells of Notre Dame” gets exposition out of the way brilliantly to start the movie), establish character (“Quasi’s triumphant song of longing “Out There” or Frollo’s creepy song of subversive obsession “Like Fire”) or provide a laugh or two (the gargoyles’ “A Guy Like You”). And the voice cast is sublime. Tom Hulce not only injects real humanity into Quasimodo, but his singing voice is outstanding. Tony Jay establishes himself instantly as one of the most memorable of Disney’s villains spitting evil as Frollo, and Demi Moore shows lots of pluck as Esmeralda. Oddly, Tony-winning musical actor Kevin Kline isn’t given any singing to do as the casually virile Phoebus.



The Hunchback of Notre Dame II – 2.5/5


When scheming and dishonest magician Sarousch (Michael McKean) arrives in Paris with his lovely assistant Madellaine (Jennifer Love Hewitt) by his side, his primary goal is to steal the very valuable bell La Fidel from Notre Dame. So, he sends Madellaine to distract bell ringer Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) so he and his henchmen can take it. The lovesick Quasi falls madly for Madellaine, and while she’s initially repulsed by his looks, she grows to know his kind heart and spirit. But she can’t bring herself to confess what the magician is up to, and when Quasi’s pal Zephyr (Haley Joel Osment), the son of Esmeralda (Demi Moore) and Phoebus (Kevin Kline), gets taken hostage by the greedy Sariousch so he can escape after lifting the bell, Quasi feels doubly betrayed by his love.


Don’t make the mistake of watching this sequel immediately after watching the original movie since the animation is crude and garish compared to the magnificent original. The five songs (mostly written by Walter Edgar Kennon) that have been inserted to pad the running time to barely an hour (plus about six minutes of closing credits) don’t do much for the story in the way that the songs served in the first film. It’s great to have the main cast return to voice their characters again (Jane Withers takes over Laverne after the death of Mary Wickes; she had added some lines to the original already) even if the story they’re saddled with isn’t worthy of their talents. And Jennifer Love Hewitt, Michael McKean, and Haley Joel Osment all do first-rate voice work with the new characters (McKean especially gets into his plumy, dastardly character), but the slight story just isn’t very exciting or especially satisfying even if a happy ending for all is inevitably achieved.



Video Quality


The Hunchback of Notre Dame – 4/5


The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. It doesn’t appear that Disney has done much to enhance the Blu-ray release of this underrated film. The image simply doesn’t sparkle to the same extent as other Blu-ray efforts though certainly the image is clean and color is decently saturated (the reds and oranges are particularly good). Sometimes contrast seems a bit heavy in shadowy scenes, and there is some light banding to be noted from time to time. The film has been divided into 30 chapters.


The Hunchback of Notre Dame II – 4.5/5


The movie is framed at 1.66:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. While the animation can’t hold a candle to the other loftier achievement, the image quality is very sharp and color is very deeply saturated (sometimes a bit too much as some rich salmon and peach hues nearly bloom). While there didn’t appear to be any banding, there were one or two instances of some line twitter. Otherwise, it’s a beautiful picture. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.



Audio Quality


The Hunchback of Notre Dame – 4/5


The disc offers two English soundtracks: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround track. Frankly, I preferred the lossy audio mix. The balance between singers and orchestra seems much better (voices seem a bit overwhelmed by the accompaniment in the lossless encode), and the entire Dolby Digital track seems a bit brighter and clearer and overall more dynamic. Others may find the lossless track more to their liking.


The Hunchback of Notre Dame II – 4/5


As with the previous mix, both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround mixes are offered. The disparity that existed between the two in the previous film isn’t nearly as evident here as the DTS-HD MA track offers very fine fidelity and an excellent balance between the singers and the orchestra. With this being a made-for-home video effort, the soundtrack doesn’t have the sophisticated mix of a theatrical feature film, so the rear channels don’t have a lot to do when music isn’t playing.



Special Features

3/5


The audio commentary for the original film is by its directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise and its producer Don Hahn. The three men are justifiably proud of the three year journey to get the film to market and relate continual stories about the production, casting, and changes made over the course of years. Fans of the film will want to hear what they have to say about it.


“The Making of The Hunchback of Notre Dameis a 28-minute featurette featuring host Jason Alexander and with tongue-in-cheek appearances by Wise, Trousdale, and Hahn along with voice cast Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, and Tony Jay among others as well as the movie’s art director, special effects supervisor, background art coordinator, and musicians Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz all talking about their work on the film. It’s in 480i.


The song “A Guy Like You” is performed piecemeal in sixteen of the thirty-one languages the movie was translated into. This runs 3 ¼ minutes in 480i.


The disc features promo trailers in 1080p for The Little Mermaid 3D, Monsters University, and Planes.


“Behind the Scenes with Jennifer Love Hewitt” is a 4 ¾-minute interview with the actress who fulfilled a lifelong dream of appearing as the voice in a Disney cartoon feature. The featurette also allows her to sing the song she wrote especially for the movie which is sung over the closing credits. It’s in 480i.


“A Gargoyle’s Life” finds Jason Alexander’s Hugo reciting a poem about life as a statue using clips from the original film. It runs 2 ¾ minutes in 480i.


The other two discs in the set are the individual DVDs of the original film and its sequel.



In Conclusion

3.5/5 (not an average)


It’s not generally given the respect it deserves, but Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame is every bit as worthy as some other films in the Disney catalog. While the Blu-ray release is an adequate upgrade to the original DVD release, purists may not be completely satisfied with this effort. The 2002 made-for-home video sequel is along for the ride in this new special edition release.




Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC



#2 of 6 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted March 01 2013 - 03:48 PM

Lucky you to get this a couple of weeks before release.


One of my all-time favorite Disney Animated films.

I am curious about the audio mixes.  And am eager to see the video.  As you note, the reds and oranges had been problematic with some of the DVD releases of these films and its nice that the high-def releases are fixing that (see Beauty and the Beast).

A truly great score and songs...and a lot of those fun touches by the animation team--including cameos by Belle and Pumbaa.  They should be much easier to spot---in high def--during the Festival of Fools.  Posted Image


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#3 of 6 ONLINE   Mark Walker

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Posted March 01 2013 - 06:57 PM

Another great review, Matt! Those reading this thread are all probably going to agree that this film is underrated, myself included.

Paramount, please release DRAGONSLAYER on Blu-ray

Dragonslayer_1981HTF_zps4e370848.jpg

 

 

Vermithrax Pejorative deserves to be seen in high-def.


#4 of 6 OFFLINE   GlennH

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Posted March 04 2013 - 05:15 AM

I like the theatrical film, and my DVD version quit working - wouldn't load or play on any player. So I'll be getting this at some point. Now, the sequel, on the other hand, is one of the worst Disney has done. Very poorly done. Would never waste my time on that ever again.

#5 of 6 OFFLINE   Ethan Riley

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Posted March 04 2013 - 07:29 AM

I bought the sequel the day it came out....never got past the first five minutes, unfortunately. I'll try again this time.
 

 


#6 of 6 OFFLINE   philip*eric

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Posted March 06 2013 - 09:41 AM

I agree that this is a very underrated Disney cartoon of a classic tale -- it just misses classic status I think -- I was particularly disppointed in the "talking " gargoyles which seem to dumb down the original intent of Hugo's story. Thankfully there area lot of wonderful aspects - great voice talent , some gorgeous songs and beautiful animation . I guess that the original ending was out of the question for a family film - but an ending such as the 1939 version could have worked in an animated version - Quasimodo saying "Why was I not made of stone like thee ?" -- what do you think?





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