Why Did Disney Cancel It’s Live-Action ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’?

Why did Disney cancel live-action Hunchback
Credit: Disney

In 1996, Disney brought one of the most famous novels to life with the release of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The film was based on the novel by Victor Hugo, and told the story of Quasimodo, the bell-ringer at Notre Dame Cathedral. Quasimodo sneaks out to experience life among the people of Paris and ends up risking his life to help Esmeralda escape the clutches of the evil Judge Claude Frollo.

Hunchback of Notre Dame

Credit: Disney

Currently, Disney is fully invested in creating live-action remakes of many of its animated films. At one point, this was supposed to include The Hunchback of Notre Dame. However, last August, it was reported that Disney had scrapped its plans for a live-action Hunchback remake.

We don’t know all the reasons why Disney decided to cancel the Hunchback remake, but there are definitely some reasons we can think of.


If you are unfamiliar with Notre Dame, it is a large cathedral located in the heart of Paris. Because of this, religion plays a large role in the film. Even the villain — Judge Claude Frollo — is based in religion as a Justice Minister. There is an entire scene outside Notre Dame where they sing about God watching and judging what happens.

Hunchback of Notre Dame

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame Fan Theory CONFIRMED

The current political climate is largely focused on religion and the debate about religion’s role in society. So, it is possible that Disney decided to steer away from a film with a heavy focus on religion.

A Weirdly Inappropriate Song

If you have seen the animated Hunchback of Notre Dame, then you may remember Frollo’s song, “Hellfire”. But do you remember how strange and inappropriate it was?

In the song, Frollo sings about the “gypsy girl” Esmeralda and how beautiful she is. He says that her beauty is making him want to sin. He asks God to make Esmeralda his. And while a love song is right up Disney’s avenue, the song doesn’t stop there. It takes an incredibly dark turn.

Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame

Credit: Disney

Frollo wants Esmeralda for himself. However, if she does not choose him, then she will face deadly consequences. Frollo asks God to make Esmeralda his, and if she can’t be his, then she needs to burn in “hellfire.”

Dark fire
Now gypsy, it’s your turn
Choose me or
Your pyre
Be mine or you will burn!

Esmeralda and Frollo Hunchback of Notre Dame

Credit: Disney

The Movie Is Very Dark

One of the great things about Disney movies is their ability to talk about adult subject matter, like death, on a level children can understand. That means there are some very dark scenes in many of its films. Audiences saw Mufasa get trampled to death in front of his son in The Lion King (1994), and saw the sea witch Ursula get stabbed to death with the mast of a ship in The Little Mermaid (1989).

But The Hunchback of Notre Dame may have just been too dark overall for Disney to make into a live-action.

Hunchback of Notre Dame

Credit: Disney

In addition to Frollo’s creepy song, we also see him try to burn down a house with a family still inside. Then, there is the abuse that Quasimodo suffers at the hands of the residents of Paris and Frollo himself. Then you have the city of Paris looking like it is on fire, while Frollo falls from the top of the cathedral.

There are plenty of fun moments in the movie, but it is almost outweighed by the darkness.

Making Fun of Someone Different

In recent years, Disney has been making a concerted effort to make movies about people who are different. They want everyone to be able to see themselves reflected on-screen. So, the story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame might not fit that well into the more modern storytelling that Disney wants to do.

randy fullmer walt disney animation studios producers dies at age 73 hunchback of notre dame

Credit: Disney

Quasimodo is physically different from anyone else, with a large hump on his back, and his face is also slightly disfigured. Because he looks different, Judge Frollo wants to kill him, but agrees to lock him away in the bell tower.

Then, when Quasimodo finally gets the courage to venture out into Paris, he is crowned the king at the Feast of Fools, but it is because he considered the ugliest person there. The people think that he is wearing a mask, but when they discover that he is not, they throw food at him, tie him down, and then spin him around while they hurl more food and insults.

Hunchback of Notre Dame

Credit: Disney

Before it was canceled, Disney had reportedly moved pretty far along in its live-action Hunchback of Notre Dame. Frozen star Josh Gad was even signed onto the project.

It was rumored that the movie was canceled because Disney CEO Bob Iger personally doesn’t like the animated film. However, those are just rumors.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame starred Tom Hulce as the voice of Quasimodo. Demi Moore voiced Esmeralda, Tony Jay played Judge Frollo, and Kevin Kline provided the voice of Phoebus.

Would you have liked to see a live-action Hunchback of Notre Dame? Let us know in the comments!

About Krysten Swensen

A born and bred New England girl living the Disney life in Southern California. I love to read, to watch The Golden Girls, and love everything to do with Disney and Universal. I also love to share daily doses of Disney on my Disney Instagram @BrazzleDazzleDisney!

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