Recent Developments Push Disney’s Christian Epic

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Esmerelda sings God Help the Outcast

Credit: Disney

Despite what some conservative media outlets might have you believe, several of Disney’s animated features have utilized Christian and religious imagery in a positive light. With recent developments bringing such powerful programs as The Chosen onto Disney+, such a reaction might push the House of Mouse to embrace one of its most beloved hidden gems.

(L-R) Disney Characters: Mabel, Moana, Elsa and Belle, Disney Brand Image with logo in the middle; Discover which Disney Character represents your theme park personality
Credit: Inside the Magic

There are many out there who would say that Disney has strayed too far from traditional family values and the morals and messages seen in the productions from Walt’s day. While there’s some truth in that, it’s more likely that Disney has become unfocused and let current cultural trends guide creative choices. That’s not to say things still can’t change for the better.

Related: Disney Made ‘Bluey’ Remove a Reference to Jesus

Disney CEO Bob Iger has publicly acknowledged that the studio is struggling to satisfy its audience and will no longer pursue projects it doesn’t believe in. However, one potential project might still rise from the ashes.

Disney’s Christian Contribution

Quasimodo frees a baby bird in Hunchback of Notre Dame movie
Credit: Disney

Recently, it was announced that The Chosen, a historical drama depicting the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, would be available on the magical streaming service with the Hulu bundle. As much of a draw as that might be, it’s not the only Christianity-inspired project Disney is interested in. While we might not see an animated Jesus anytime soon, one openly Christian film continues to circle the fanbase.

Related: Modern Villains Are Killing Disney Movies

Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) was truly a triumph for Walt Disney Animation Studios, and it remains an underrated classic to this day. Many animation enthusiasts cite it as one of the few Disney films primarily made with an adult audience in mind, and it continues to age like a fine wine with that sentiment in mind.

Many are quick to cite how dark, mature, gothic, and purely epic it is compared to other films of the Disney Renaissance, but it might also be Disney’s biggest Christian film, predating the studio’s adaptation of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Moreover, the use of religious imagery, themes, and subtext might be the film’s biggest strengths. Could this be the boost it needs to come back to theatres as a re-release or remake?

A Religious Experience

1996 quasimodo hunchback of notre dame
Credit: Disney

While a loose adaptation of the original novel by Victor Hugo, the Disney variant does highlight a few of the key points of the original book.

Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) is depicted as a suffering Christlike figure who puts his own life on the line after the citizens of Paris scorned him, Esmerelda (Demi Moore) sings “God Help the Outcast” as a prayer put to music, and Judge Frollo (Tony Jay) represents religious corruption and how it can be wielded by people in positions of power, political or otherwise.

Related: Adopt a Gargoyle to Save Quasimodo’s Home

Unlike the Stephen Schwartz stage adaptation, it’s certainly not as graphic or violent as the book that inspired it, but it’s still a powerful piece of cinema with the look and scale of a classic biblical epic from Charleton Heston’s days. When many fans say Disney “doesn’t make movies like it used to,” there’s a good chance this is what they are talking about.

Frollo confronts his demons
Credit: Disney

Believe it or not, there was a time in Disney history when the studio wasn’t afraid to “go there” and tackle some seriously complex and taboo subjects. In Hunchback of Notre Dame alone, the film addresses prejudice, racism, religion, persecution, lust, and even genocide all under the name of the mouse.

Related: Disney Addresses Christianity in Multiple Projects

Because the film took so many risks in its storytelling and content, fans are clamoring for it to be the next Disney live-action remake. Although rumors persist that one is in the works with Josh Gad at the helm, it’s improbable that lightning will strike twice. That said, the push for religious content like The Chosen might be the first step on a long-expected journey.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a powerful story, and it’s also one that surprised audiences both then and now. Disney didn’t do this just for shock and awe but to tell a story that resonated with a larger group than the typical family-friendly demographic. While it’s true that the film is one of the studio’s darker entries, it’s still one of the most hard-hitting creations to come from the House of Mouse.

Will Quasimodo swing from the bell tower again? Tell Inside the Magic what you think in the comments below!

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