The sequel to Disney’s modern classic, The Hunchback of Notre Dame has hardly been one of the most accepted of sequels from Disney’s canon. While it has been largely rejected by fans and critics alike, perhaps the reason for this is that much like Mulan II, it has been improperly marketed. The Hunchback of Notre Dame II is, much like Mulan II, less a sequel than a stand-alone story. Hunchback of Notre Dame II picks up years after the events of the first movie. Esmerelda and Phoebus have a young son who it would seem is at least six or seven years old. And having originally brought the pair together, Quasimodo is now looking for his own special woman. It just so happens that said woman enters his life when a circus comes to town. The circus is led by a less than honorable man, thus audiences get the story’s central conflict, thus pushing Quasimodo’s romance plot to a secondary role.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame II—as noted–has almost no link to its predecessor. Its only link to the previous film in this franchise is the inclusion once again of Quasimodo’s gargoyle friends, as well as Esmerelda and Phoebus (both voiced once again by Demi Moore and Kevin Kline). Jason Alexander also returns as the gargoyle, Hugo. Other than the return of these characters and a couple other returning cast members, this sequel really is not a sequel at all. But because it was titled as a sequel, expectations by audiences and critics alike were high to say the least, and thus dashed when it turned out that it was not so much a sequel, but more a stand-alone story. Here’s where things get interesting. Should The Hunchback of Notre Dame II been marketed directly as a sequel? Probably not. However, that doesn’t mean exactly that it’s a bad story. When viewed as the stand-alone story that it is, it actually has its merits. The first of those merits would have to be its animation. One must absolutely remove this movie from its predecessor in order to fully appreciate this. Audiences must also keep in mind in watching this movie that a certain amount of time has passed. So there should be no expectation of this movie having direct relationship to the first of the franchise’s films. Doing so will make suspension of disbelief easier and thus will make the movie more enjoyable.
One of the biggest qualms that audiences and critics have had with The Hunchback of Notre Dame II is the movie’s animation. This is a full on hand drawn movie. Most audiences might compare it to Disney’s most recent anime brand of movies. However, older audiences will appreciate the animation as it throws back to the hand drawn animation of certain 80s TV shows. One of the most notable of those shows would be a little animated cartoon called The Littles. Just knowing this reference and comparing the cartoon in question to this movie will surely generate a certain sense of nostalgia among older audiences. And it serves as a reminder that cartoons made in the twenty-first century still can be made in the “old school” style. For that matter, it proves that audiences still need the style of animation in question, considering that so many movie studios and TV companies rely so heavily on digital animation today. So while many audiences have panned this movie for having used classic hand drawn animation, odds are those people that did so are those who have grown up knowing only digital animation rather than the joy and identity that comes with hand drawn animation. It proves too, that Disney can and should at least try more often to use hand drawn animation versus digital for its big theatrical animated features.
It was nice to see Disney return to actual animation with The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Being able to enjoy the animation allows one to focus on the story itself. The story behind this “sequel” is only slightly tied to that of the original movie at best. It takes place years after the original. The ability of audiences to keep this in mind helps to separate this movie from the original, in Disney’s defense. On the other hand, had this movie been given a different title, instead of being simply titled, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, it might have been better received by viewers. That aside, the story itself is simple enough for any viewer to follow. Quasimodo is forced to make a very important choice when the woman for whom he falls turns out to not be entirely everything that she seems. In the end, audiences get a happy ending that proves love truly does conquer all. It will leave viewers whose minds are open enough with enough of a warm feeling that they will hopefully be able to overlook their past view of the movie and see it for its value as another enjoyable stand-alone story from Disney. It’s available now on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack alongside The Hunchback of Notre Dame in stores and online. The new combo pack is available in stores and online. It can be ordered online in the Disney Store at http://www.disneystore.com/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1331583/1000316/ and at the Disney DVD store at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-two-movie-collection.html.
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