First, let's get this out of the way: Esmerelda has been robbed of her rightful place amongst the Disney Princesses and it's a damn shame. It's like Kida in Atlantis all over again. 🤔
Merchandising aside, I really enjoyed Hunchback. It's a lot darker (a lot darker) than I had anticipated and there are moments which feel almost like the animators/scriptwriters at Disney were going through some things, but it pulls it off nicely. The story is interesting, well-paced, and very entertaining, keeping you on your toes to what will happen next. The world of Paris is beautifully crafted and colour, in particular, is used really well I felt. Of course, the animation of Notredame itself is beautiful and the movie is almost worth watching for that alone. The music, script, and acting are all great as well.
I was surprised by how the movie never really confirms or denies the gargoyles' existence, particularly because I know this film gave rise to the excellent Gargoyles TV show (which is pretty clear that they exist). It definitely feels like Quasimodo is imagining them, which again is a surprisingly mature take for Disney sidekicks, and almost depressing. But then surprisingly mature and depressing are probably the core themes of Hunchback 😂
Even the main character swings wildly between "loveably misunderstood" to "jealousy-driven monster", with moments where I almost didn't want to root for him and others where the blossoming romance between Phoebus and Esmerelda felt like a betrayal. Which probably means that the director nailed it, honestly, but (again) it's surprisingly bold for a Disney movie. It also feels a little eerily predictive of the modern "manosphere"; whilst Quasimodo ultimately accepts his position as a friend and nothing more, you get a strong vibe of betrayal and it almost feels understandable. It's similar to the ethos of those toxic movements, except Quasimodo actually matures and grows, instead of internalising that betrayal and lashing out at society. All of which is definitely a projection onto the film from a modern perspective, but it's still interesting to me that it's there.
Definitely deserves Classic status.