No! You listen! All my life, you have told me that the world is a dark, cruel place. But now I see that the only thing dark and cruel about it is people like you.
Quasimodo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame stood out for me as a kid and as a young adult. Like many Disney movies, it has a villain, a love interest, a hero, an underdog as well as drama, suspense and no shortage of Disney magic. However, it has dark undertones that, as an undergraduate and a Journalist, I found and keep finding interesting. There are ideas of toxic religion contrasted against charitable religion, as well as the idea of misinformation used in widespread forms as well as in specific situations. The interactions between the characters highlight issues of emotionally abusive relationships, unwanted sexual and romantic attentions, unrequited love and so so much more. There are so many contrasts to show not only that the world itself is complicated but that there is a fine line between good and bad. Essentially, watch for a paper that I will undoubtedly write about this film.
Disney, this is really pretty dark. Though there are some other dark and chilling movies that Disney has created including The Fox and the Hound, Bambi, Old Yeller, and The Black Cauldron. To be honest, The Black Cauldron still makes me tear up. Regardless, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is up there on the list of dark Disney films that seem a bit more realistic than whimsical. According to IMDB, This film, “due to its dark and sexual themes, nearly became the first animated Disney film to receive a PG rating from the MPAA in the U.S. since The Black Cauldron (1985)”.
Well enough about the deep tangent analyzing a children’s film for it’s dark and not so subtle undertones. The audience is here for the music. But if you are interested in reading more of my musings that aren’t regarding music, feel free to check out my website.
Since this is a musically inclined blog, let’s discuss the soundtrack (which also has seriously dark undertones, but that’s a topic for later on).
The soundtrack includes rather emotionally deep songs including The Bells Of Notre Dame, Out There, Topsy Turvy, Humiliation, God Help The Outcasts, The Bell Tower, Heaven’s Light, Hellfire, A Guy Like You, Paris Burning, The Court Of Miracles, Sanctuary, And He Shall Smite the Wicked, Into The Sunlight, and Someday. Many of the songs within this soundtrack are rather different than those of other Disney films mainly because of the topic and feel but the Gregorian chanting in some of its songs stands out. These Latin chants are actually adapted from real Gregorian chants. One example is a portion of Dies Irae used during the scene where Quasimodo’s mother is murdered by Frollo.
This movie and it’s resulting music is rather dark with some seriously real undertones. Thus this article will focus on one of the darker songs. “The song “Hellfire” is considered one of the darkest songs written for a Disney film, and was nearly cut from the film,” quotes the trivia section on IMDB. Now for the list of damning covers.
We’re going to start with a cover by Mariah Rose Faith and that beautifully exemplifies my point from before. Heaven’s Light and Hellfire are songs about love in one way or another for the same women but from a very different position.
Cover by Jake Turner-Clarkson
Cover by Joel Maroon
Cover by Elsie Lovelock
Acappella Cover by Peter Hollens
Cover by Julia Koep
Cover by Florenza
I hope these weren’t too dark for you. There are some additional renditions of Hellfire to somewhat cleanse your palette and give a bit of a laugh.