The Hunchback of Notre-Dame: the scene that almost posed a problem

According to an article in the New York Times, the directors of the “Hunchback of Notre-Dame” had to play on the sound effects of the Disney film in order to be able to obtain the “all audiences” rating.

How to transform a famous tragic novel by Victor Hugo into a family feature film for Disney studios? In the early 90s, when giving life to their Hunchback of Notre-Dame, this is the question posed by directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, supported by screenwriter Tab Murphy.

After making Beauty and the Beast in 1991, they are ready to take on a whole new challenge as they begin the escalation of a vertiginous monument of French literature, known for its dramatic plot and for its terrible conclusion, to leagues from the happy ending that traditionally ends the productions of the enchanted studio.

If the directors finally decide to swap the lugubrious attire of the original novel for funny gargoyles and a colorful festival, also choosing to spare Quasimodo and Esmeralda (supposed to die at the end of the book), they have one detail left. importance to be adjusted to obtain the mention “all audiences” and to avoid the famous “PG-13” (implying that some images may not be suitable for children under 13).

The hunchback of notre-dame: the scene that almost posed a problem

Walt Disney Animation Studios

As Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise and Tab Murphy recently said in an interview for the New York Times, the most problematic character to get the precious family sesame was obviously the villainous Frollo. After having made him a judge (and no longer an archdeacon as in Victor Hugo’s novel), they then had to evoke his burning passion for Esmeralda without going too far.

Indeed, the song “Infernal” (in original version, “Hellfire”), in which the character confessed his torments and his desire for the heroine while evoking his own damnation, had much to deprive The Hunchback of Notre Dame of its “all audiences” release.

The hunchback of notre-dame: the scene that almost posed a problem

Walt Disney Animation Studios

“I promise you all the jaws slowly started to drop”, thus told the screenwriter Tab murphy to New York Times, reminiscent of the day the team first heard the song. “At the end, Kirk [Wise] reached out, turned off the cassette player, sat down, folded his arms and said, ‘Okay, this song is never going to get in the movie.’ And she passed! “

As unbelievable as it may sound, it was by altering the sound effects of the sequence in question that the film crew were able to keep it as it is. Indeed, in order to cover the word “peach” which was problematic in the reply “This burning desire turns me into sin” uttered by Frollo, the technicians simply increased the sound produced by the hooded figures surrounding the judge, so that the last word of his sentence seemed muffled.

The hunchback of notre-dame: the scene that almost posed a problem

Walt Disney Animation Studios

Likewise, earlier in the film, when Frollo perversely sniffs Esmeralda’s hair, the sound of the scene has been reduced to lessen the impact.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a real special case among the Disney classics, offering its viewers the opportunity to explore themes that are much more complex and profound than usual, was able to retain its G mention (all audiences) when it was released in theaters in 1996.

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