Disney turned to the oft-filmed 1831 Victor Hugo classic, about a deformed church-bell ringer struggling for acceptance, to continue its so-called animation renaissance in the ’90s. It’s a pretty dark story for a children’s musical, dealing with bigotry, oppression and mass hysteria, but Disney’s Hunchback centered its message on tolerance. The filmmakers softened the story’s edges, relied on strong visuals that blended hand-drawn and computer animation, and assembled a largely charming cast of voice actors (especially Tom Hulce’s youthful Quasimodo and Demi Moore’s strong Esmerelda). It helps that the ever-inventive composer Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid) and lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pocahontas) worked their magic with numbers like The Bells of Notre Dame and Quasimodo’s Out There. The Mouse’s hot streak continued with Hunchback, even if it hasn’t had the afterlife of some of its Disney contemporaries.
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