Toon Talk: Hunchback of Notre Dame
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
DVD - 2002 Edition
Several weeks ago, the controversy began: for only a few hours, on the official Disney Home Video website, a complete description of a deluxe, 2-disc DVD edition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame appeared. This listing, which included such exciting features as the history of the Notre Dame de Paris, an alternate opening and three deleted songs, had fans of the often unjustly overlooked 34th animated classic swinging from the bell towers with anticipation.
But just as quickly as it appeared, the information for the elusive second disc vanished. Online message boards and fan sites buzzed as the rumors flew. Apparently, only the first disc, featuring the movie and a few extras, would be released, and without a "collector's edition" banner attached as well. Merely a standard edition, the disc went on sale last week, the same day as it's direct to video sequel The Hunchback of Notre Dame II debuted. So it appears like this truncated version of the original film was unfortunately rushed into stores to coincide with the release of this vastly inferior follow-up. (Click here for the Toon Talk review of Hunchback II.)
Which is an incredible shame. The original Hunchback displays the type of artistic quality and commitment to excellence that such featured pack sets are made for, as obvious by the list of extras that appeared on Disney.com that fateful day. But, like the masterpiece Pinocchio, it is relegated to spartan DVD treatment, while such lesser works as The Emperor's New Groove and Dinosaur get the whole shebang.
Alas, there is a silver lining: what little there is on this disc (as compared to original expectations) is of exceptional quality. With Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and digitally remastered in widescreen, the ol' bellringer never looked or sounded better. Just freeze a frame anytime during the film and see how beautifully designed and crafted it is, from the colors to the composition to the gorgeous background paintings. Add to that a hilarious, yet still highly informative, audio commentary from the team behind the similarly enjoyable track on the Atlantis: The Lost Empire DVD, plus some extras that are actually fun to watch, and one can't help but be entertained by this disc.