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on March 22, 2013
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?
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on March 15, 2013
The sweeping music. The beautiful animation. The emotion-charged story. This is The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a Walt Disney Pictures film, a gorgeous experience. Especially on blu-ray.

This film has always been a personal favorite of mine. Its my favorite musical. Its my favorite Disney film. It takes it's place on my Top 10 List. It is a timeless film, one that has aged with grace and style. I remember seeing it in theaters back in the 90s. The opening music alone was enough to fill me with awe. I was 5 or 6 years old. Old enough to enjoy the colorful animation...not old enough to completely grasp everything else.

Fast forward. Now I'm 22. And I see The Hunchback of Notre Dame for what it truly is: a masterpiece. Disney hasn't made a film like it since. Perhaps they never will.

This is the only animated film that brings me to tears. It's messages are timely and universal, a wake-up call to the monsters of humanity and a gentle embrace to the outcasts. No, I am not deformed. Yet I relate to Quasimodo entirely, his fear of being hurt, his desire to experience freedom, his pain from being cooped up and made to live under fear. I'm gay, and I come from a Mormon/LDS family, one who's religion often times shows its ugly side without reprieve. I can relate to the central character because I understand what he's going through. Deformation causes some people to feel uncomfortable or uninitiated in interacting with the deformed person. Same goes for gay people. Many people I know are uncomfortable with my sexuality. This film's message of acceptance towards those who are different is timely.

The villain in this film is the scariest, most realistic villain in any Disney film. He exists. There are people out there who share his hatred for anything different. His actions in this film are terrifying.

Though this film is rated G, it is anything but a mindless, forgettable flick for young children. Quite the opposite, it is Disney's most mature film. Yes, there are added comic figures to help lighten the mood and keep the kiddies amused, but this film is truly for adults, and adults with open minds.

In one scene the hunchback is tied to a spinning platform and publicly humiliated, crying for help from his master (the villain) who turns his face, ignoring the plea. Why? Because he is different.

This scene is heart-wrenching. And transcends its G rating, becoming emotionally draining and easily standing as the symbol for what the film is trying to say.

Moments after, a gypsy woman is compassionate and frees the poor young man, exclaiming "Justice!". Her cry for justice is a cry for equality. For compassion. For understanding. For those who deem themselves higher to stop, come down, and show love to those in need. Her passionate desire is also expressed wonderfully through the song "God help the outcasts".

For anyone who has seen this film and walked away from it with negative feelings, to you I say: this film wasn't made for you.

This film is for the outcast. The hunchbacks. The gays. The misunderstood. Anyone who feels different. It's message is one of acceptance. It speaks, softly, saying: Don't be afraid to live your life with those you find who love you for who you are.

One of the greatest motion pictures ever made. Film: 5/5 STARS

The picture quality on the blu-ray disk is fantastic. It is a completely different film in 1080p High Definition, with lines crisp and colors vivid. The background art is gorgeous, and the motion of the film is fluid and nearly flawless. The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio (it fills the entire screen). Is it perfect? No. But I'll be shocked if there is ever a version released that looks better than this one. Video: 4.5/5 STARS

The stunning musical score pleases with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. This is my favorite musical for many reasons, one of them of course being the music. The epic, chilling music sounds fantastic on the blu-ray, and the songs burst to life with audible lyrics. I couldn't be more pleased. Sound: 5/5 STARS

Extras include The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2 on the blu-ray disk, a DVD copy of both films (3 disks total), and all the special features from those past DVDs. There aren't any new features here. The Audio Commentary track on the first film is still a highlight. Extras: 2.5/5 STARS

Overall: 5/5 STARS. I don't give the honor of 5 stars to just any film. This one deserves it, with a blu-ray treatment sure to please old fans and new ones too. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an emotionally epic film and it is thrilling on blu-ray.

Rating: G. This film should have been rated PG for Thematic Material including Brief Thematic Language, and Some Intense Peril. Young children might not understand the adult-oriented story and might be frightened by some of the intense drama. There is some sexual material, but only the adults will pick up on it. The words Hell and Damn/Damnation are used in Religious context (Brief Thematic Language). One character is tied and publicly abused, this might upset some viewers. A character is tied and surrounded by fire as they inhale smoke, this will upset some viewers. One character is shot with an arrow, mild blood. A small family is locked inside their house while the villain sets fire to it, this will upset some viewers. Most of this film takes itself seriously, it really should have been rated PG. Ages 8 and up.
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VINE VOICEon March 25, 2013
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
The Voices of Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, Paul Kandel, Tony Jay, Mary Wickes,
Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough
Original Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Making an animated film as ambitious as The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a bold move when you consider that the film leaves less opportunity for Disney to enrich its other divisions than say, another princess movie. Hunchback might have made a great Broadway show (and still would, as it was very successful on stage in Germany), but it's more adult than perhaps any Disney feature since Fantasia and less conducive to plush toys (though there were a few). But Disney Animation was riding so high at the time, there seemed to be no limit to how high they could reach, and are to be admired for pushing the boundaries given the chance.

And push it does. Hunchback has some highly electrifying scenes, especially for a mass-market animated film. The human animation is downright astonishing, especially considering that, according to the commentary, while there was some modeling done, this is not that watery rotoscope stuff.

Frollo is the most purely evil of all Disney human villains, with no redeemable features and a creepy depravity that is brought to a boiling intensity in the set piece, "Hellfire." Animator Kathy Zielinski, again according to the commentary, dressed as the villain to get the details of the outfit right. I suspect that there was also a strong influence from the animation of Maleficent and Lady Tremaine as well. You could almost imagine Eleanor Audley's voice coming out of Frollo!

This score is perhaps the pinnacle in Alan Menken's already spectacular music career. Few songs reach into your heart and soul like "God Help the Outcasts," sung to perfection by Heidi Mollenhauer as the singing voice of Esmeralda (Demi Moore delivers a superb speaking performance as well.)

This is a film, which, like the novel, explores heady material about life, death, religion and politics, thus perhaps too pithy for everyone who saw it back then. Hunchback wasn't the hit that Lion King was, though it would have been somewhat unrealistic to expect so much. I do think that of all Disney features produced during this period, Hunchback may be much more revered in the future than it ever was in its own time.

2013 Blu-ray Bonus Features:
- Audio Commentary with Producer Don Hahn, and Directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale
- The Making of The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- "A Guy Like You" Multi-Language Reel

2013 & 2002 DVD Bonus Features:
- Audio Commentary with Producer Don Hahn, and directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale
- The Making of The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- "A Guy Like You" Multi-Language Reel
- Topsy Turvy Underground Game
- Topsy Turvy Sing-Along song

The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002)

The Voices of Tom Hulce, Jennifer Love-Hewitt, Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, Paul Kandel,
Michael McKean, Jane Withers Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough
Music by Carl Johnson
Songs by Jennifer Love-Hewitt, Chris Canute, Randy Peterson, Kevin Quinn, Walter Edgar Kennon

How do you follow the eye-filling spectacle and tireless detail of the original Disney Hunchback, perhaps the most elaborate feature since Pinocchio? First, you make the script strong to overcome the time and budget restrictions on a made-for-video sequel. You also get a skillful director, in this case Bradley Raymond, who has done miracles since with his second Tinker Bell movie and Return to Never Land.

Retaining the original voice cast, albeit relegating Esmeralda and Phoebus to cameos, what would seem to be unthinkable actually works. It takes on the task of following up on a Disney epic as well a Hugo classic. Instead of taking a somber, pompous approach, this film tells a more intimate story in a remarkably convincing way. You start out thinking, "Oh come on! Quasimodo gets a girlfriend? Please!" but Jennifer Love-Hewitt's character is just enough of a non-conformist to make it plausible.

The songs are pleasant but not as memorable as the ones in the original. That was one tall order that was just too insurmountable. And even though the sequel repeats some of the same elements as the first film, particularly having yet another festival, the result is very entertaining.

2013 Blu-ray Bonus Features:
- Behind the Scenes with Jennifer Love-Hewitt
- A Gargoyles Life: It's Not Easy Being a Gargoyle

2002 & 2013 DVD Bonus Features:
- Behind the Scenes with Jennifer Love-Hewitt
- A Gargoyles Life: It's Not Easy Being a Gargoyle
- Festival of Fun Activity
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on June 19, 2013
Growing up in the 1990's I experienced a lot of memorable animated films some that I still appreciate and LOVE to this day 20 years later. This is one of the most memorable to me for several reasons: The entertaining songs, the well crafted story and lovable characters. Though I think what makes so incredible to me is the gorgeous animation. Truly, there are some of the most breath-taking pieces of art in this with the nice blend of traditional animation and CGI effects.
Moving on, watching this film for the first time in a few years I was absolutely stunned at what an incredible job that Disney digitally restoring the film. IMO, you couldn't even tell that this movie is 17 years old. The colors were so viberant, and the animation so sharp you would have thought that it was shot yesterday. The Audio was very well done as well I thought. The Special Features on The Hunchback of Notre Dame is decent, nothing too special but still has a nice set of options for fans of the film to enjoy. :) I definitely recommend this film to anyone is a fan of the "old school" animated Disney films.
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on April 17, 2013
One of the best Disney films ever made is finally available on Blu-Ray. The picture is crisp, clear and bright. The audio is spectacular. Oh and you get the sequel included (though that's kind of a waste so whatever).

Overall, highly recommended.
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on April 10, 2014
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME: in my opinion, is pure Disney magic. If you ask me, Frollo (voice of Tony Jay) was truly diabolical. On the other hand, Quasimodo (voice of Tom Hulce) and Esmeralda (voice of Demi Moore) were truly meant to be friends. I really enjoyed the music, especially "Someday," by All-4-One. "Out There" was good, too. In my opinion, Tom Hulce can really sing. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed Hugo's (voice of Jason Alexander) and Quasimodo's singing. Before I wrap this up, I'd like to say that everyone involved in this film did very well. Now, in conclusion, I highly recommend this film that's pure Disney magic to all of you who haven't seen it.

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME 2: Quasimodo, Hugo, Victor, Phoebus, Laverne and Esmeralda are back after a 6 year absentee. Esmeralda has married Phoebus and are raising a young son. Quasimodo still lives in the bell tower, and an upcoming even is about to happen and doesn't have a name of a girl to shout her name that he loves. That is until a circus comes to town, and a evil circus ring master (Michael McKean) wants one of the bells in Quasimodo's bell tower. And he sends a young woman named Madellaine (Jennifer Love Hewitt) to get information on the bell. Where she meets Quasimodo (Tom Hulce), Esmeralda (Demi Moore) has married Phoebus (Kevin Kline) and has a young son named Zephyr (Haley Joel Osment). Come on do yourself a favor and if you have never seen the first movie or if you had watch this great movie! 5/5
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on April 27, 2013
Sadly, the timing of Hunchback was all wrong. When Disney's classic, Beauty and the Beast, was released, the love of Disney's animated features hit an all time high. Complicated with Hunchback following on the heels of 1995's disappointing Pocahontas, the result is one of the most underrated, unjustly passed-over films in a long time -- because, frankly, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is among the best work Disney has done in the last fifty years. It is foolhardy to compare Hunchback with the early classics, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, or Bambi, and I will not attempt to do so. But Disney's recent films -- classics nearly every one, don't get me wrong -- have all been outdone.

Hunchback's one valid accusation is that it is not particularly faithful to its source material. It's a strong argument, which I nimbly parry by pointing out that many of Shakespeare's works were frightfully inaccurate with regard to actual history let alone a prior fictional work, yet few would quibble with the greatness of those. Similarly, Disney has taken a masterpiece of literature and used it to inspire a masterpiece of animation, and no matter how different they are, they are still both classics in their own right -- just don't go in to Disney's Hunchback expecting an undistorted incarnation of your favorite novel. Without beating around the bush any longer, what makes Disney's film so magnificent?

For starters, it's got an extremely solid story, arguably surpassing even that of Beauty and the Beast, which had admirably solid plot, but which was nevertheless (nitpick alert) marred by Beauty being the story's pawn rather than its maker. Quasimodo, the hunchback, is never carried by the plot, but is active in its creation, as are his co-stars. The characters make the story, and there is not a single second of screen time where they are not in character, believable in their actions, or sound in their logic. Quasimodo is torn between a desire to see and participate in the world and the cruel, restrictive upbringing of Frollo, a local judiciary, which has made him insecure to the point of self-abasement. Indeed, one of Hunchback's most horrific moments come not from some fearsome monster of evil, but when Frollo sings of how much a monster Quasimodo is, and Quasimodo, so much under Frollo's influence and direction, starts to sing along.

Frollo, incidentally, is no ordinary Disney villain. He's as well rounded a character as they come, not just a selfish evil guardian for Quasimodo, but a ravaged soul, acting on his prejudice and hatred for the local gypsies but struggling with his desire to possess one, by the name of Esmeralda. He's also devilishly clever and manipulative, an unnervingly powerful combination. Esmeralda enters the story when Quasimodo first ventures out in to the world, becoming his first real friend. The fourth character, pleasantly voiced by Kevin Kline, is the soldier Phoebus, the final corner to the love square.

Which brings us to the gargoyles, often lampooned as the product of Disney studios adding needlessly cute, loony co-stars for the sake of the kids in the audience. Not so. The gargoyles, we discover, are active when only Quasimodo is around; when others enter the scene, they become rigid and lifeless. I won't presume to give a definitive statement on their real existence any more than I'd do so for Hobbes, from Bill Watterson's famous comic strip. But I will say that it is easier to believe an individual isolated from the world but permitted to observe it would have a company of imaginary friends than to believe he wouldn't (the scene where Quasimodo introduces Esmeralda to the bells is touching). The gargoyles just may represent those sides of Quasimodo's personality he is scared to bring out through himself.

The story is a complex one, involving a complicated array of relationships, emotions, and internal struggles, and it is all done with style, insight, and inspiration. The animation in Hunchback takes the art to new heights...literally. The exhilaration one feels watching Quasimodo romp about the top of the cathedral are breathtaking and will make many -- especially those afraid of heights -- a little giddy. The crowd scenes are also noteworthy pieces of animation, for each person in the crowd is an individual, distinguishable from the masses. Alan Menken's gothic music, while a modern Broadway-style score, recalls the operatic themes of the era and is alternately tender and haunting as the story dictates. It is not his most memorable score, but it's one of his best.

All things considered, there is no legitimate reason why The Hunchback of Notre Dame should not be universally accepted as not only a classic but a masterpiece. It's almost there now, and I predict, with a little time, it one day will. Should you take your kids to see this film? Honestly, it isn't really aimed at the younger generation. Think twice before taking young kids, for there are several horrifying scenes that may frighten them. Other kids will be fine, but they aren't going to pick up on all the intricacies of the story -- the ideal audience for Hunchback is a more mature one than for most other Disney animated features.
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on May 2, 2016
This is one of my favorite movies because of the three gargoyles! The songs are also awesome. I purchased this movie years ago when it came out on VHS. So, I decided to order the Blu-ray so my nieces and nephews could enjoy this classic.
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on April 25, 2013
This film is beautifully represented in hi-definition on blu-ray. The package is quality and there were no problems with the disc. I'm not one for extras, so I can't tell you how good those are, but the actual film translates very well. I highly recommend both this movie and this format.
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on April 27, 2014
I mainly got this for the first movie. To be honest, I didn't even notice that there was a second one on it until after I had ordered it.

Hunchback I ... The movie is just as I remembered it (but better quality) from back when I owned a VCR. I have always had a pet peeve with this film in that at the end Quasimodo (the homely guy) steps aside to let the handsome Phoebus have Esmeralda. I think it sends an inappropriate message that physical beauty is all-important, and that people who are less perfect don't deserve someone more physically perfect than they are ... Having said that, I really do like this film.

Hunchback II ... I didn't know that they had released this ... I am just as happy that I didn't ... The animation and sound quality were, at best, sub-par. It is only an hour long, not feature-length. Almost like a TV special.
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