Disney Movies Based On Seriously Dark Stories

Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a family film about singing gargoyles and how Hollywood can’t let an ugly dude get the girl even in his own movie. Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris is a weighty 19th-century French tome about how monsters can lurk inside us all. If that sentence is making you wonder how anyone could make a feel-good animation from it, you’re not the only one. Disney jettisoned most of the novel when they brought it to screen in 1996. Good job, too. Hugo’s book is nightmarish.

Let’s start with Esmeralda. In Disney’s take, she’s the strong-willed ethnic stereotype who steals Quasimodo’s heart before marrying another man. In the novel, she’s the poor gypsy girl who Quasimodo attacks, and who ends the story being publicly hanged for a murder she didn’t commit. Wow, that’s … different? Okay, so how about Captain Phoebus, who starts the film as a morally ambiguous character before becoming a full-fledged hero. Well, he starts the book as a morally ambiguous womanizer and ends it by refusing to save Esmeralda from the gallows because her death means he’ll be able to start screwing his cousin.

Finally there’s Quasimodo, who ends the film accepted by Parisian society despite his ugliness. In the book, he vanishes after killing his surrogate father, only for his corpse to be dug up decades later, pathetically clinging to that of Esmeralda. Oh, and he gets tortured on the rack for two hours earlier in the story, because of course he does.

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