The Hunchback of Notre Dame: 2 Movie Collection (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise/Bradley Raymond
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/1.66:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 91/66 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Dolby Digital 2.0 surround English, 5.1 French, Spanish, others
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: Match 12, 2013
Review Date: March 1, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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 Dame” is 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.
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.