I saw this for the first time in many years about a year ago, and I wasn’t as impressed as I once was. It may have been the lessened appreciation for it that made me have a complete change of heart this time around, but all I know is that I liked it much more. Sure, I have some of the same complaints, but I was more invested in the story this time around. And had it not been for some of these flaws, as well as some additions that could have been made, this could have been one of Disney’s greats.
The lesser of these problems is the over-relaiance on CGI. Much like with Aladdin, the extreme use of it makes the movie look much older than it actually is. Then there is the moral of the story. Yes, they are trying to convey a possitive message of “no matter who you are or what you look like you can be a hero.” That is fine and all, but what about the subliminal message of “you may be a hero, but if you are not a handsome and normal-looking guy, you will never get the girl”? I know I shouldn’t expect any less from Disney, but come on. And the worst thing about the movie is the inclusion of the fucking gargoyles. They are annoying and come in at the worst times. For example, after a bunch of dark scenes, and with Paris burning beneath them, they break out into song and sing a happy love song.
Besides that, everything is just peachy. The rest of the animation is pretty great, the music is Alan Menke’s best so far, and the performances, while not outstanding, are pretty good. I’m of course excluding Tony Jay as Frollo, who is actually outstanding and gives life to the scariest, most repulsive villains in Disney history. Hell, make that cinema history.
Some may complain that this was not good material for an animated Disney musical. I agree to some extent in that this being a Disney movie there are certain limitation as to how dark it could be. But they do push the studio’s limits, and it is their darkest movie ever. Had the gargoyles be gone, it would have almost reached the appropriate darkness levels. As for the music, the Les Miserables musical shows that you can make a successful musical out of a Victor Hugo novel. Menke’s music is further proof of this.
All in all, the flaws keep the movie from being great, but it is still very good, and continues to prove that with animation you can tell just about any story properly.