It's finished! Here's the paper you've been waiting for, minus the Works Cited page. I earned a B, but tell me what you think about it. For those that don't know, it discusses Disney's conversion of folk tales and such into movies and how that reflects a Postmodern attitude...
(NOTE: This is adressed to Quest only because he wanted to see it, but anyone can feel free to read it and tell me what you think)...
Victor Hugo's dark and tragic tale, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, emerged in France in 1830, a time of political unrest and revolutionary fervor. Taking place in fifteenth century Paris, this novel was set during a time in which the call for rebellion was tantamount to that of Hugo's, with the Notre Dame cathedral at Paris' heart a symbol of great revolutionary zeal. Hugo aptly captures the passion and emotion of both time periods in his novel. Over one hundred and sixty years later, Disney released its animated version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Laden with humor and a much more delicate tone than the original novel, the cartoon is erroneously lacking in the lust, death, and pathos exuding from Hugo's novel in an attempt to appeal to its audience. A kingdom of pastiche, Disney has shown through the sugarcoating of a classic tale that its audience, which includes more than just children, prefers lighthearted movies to their original stories. In doing so, it has become clear that the conversion characteristic of most Disney cartoons, specifically that of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, reflects a postmodern attitude in present day society.
Various facets of postmodernism are notably exhibited through the very Disneyfication of classic tales. Disney's reconstruction of a classic novel such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame shows the exhibition of pastiche, a common device used by postmodern artists. Pastiche is the molding of another's art into a different form, something Disney has become famous for. Its parodies of classic works, of which most of its movies are, The Hunchback of Notre Dame being no exception, precisely defines pastiche. Similarly, postmodernism is marked by an acknowledgement of a discontinuous world, where something from the past is not analogous with something in the present or future. This is exhibited by Disney, as "the perversion of… histories in the creation of its products… is the entire basis of the Disney Company's corporate production" (Schaffer, Scott). However, the aspect of postmodernism exhibited the best through the sugarcoating of a dark and tragic tale is the notion of carnival. As a postmodernist might say, "The world is meaningless? Let's not pretend that art can make meaning then, let's just play with nonsense," (Klages, Dr. Mary). Indeed, that is what Disney does. It disregards the scary or grotesque images presented in the texts it bases its movies on, introduces nonsensical characters and show tunes, and, in doing so, has created a mollified medium for people of all ages to enjoy a classic tale, though it is not actually that classic tale.
Through such a process, our culture has become one of blatant Disneyfication. Few have read, and even fewer actually know of, the stories on which Disney has based its movies. Even though one has the opportunity to read Hugo's tragic novel, many choose instead to enjoy the movie that Disney molded after the original tale. The two are similar in structure; most of the important characters are present in both, and generally retain the same names. The setting is identical, as is the central theme, which is to show compassion for others, even if one is an outcast. However, if one is willing to look beyond these outward similarities, one will see that Disney's sojourn of softening has led to major differences between the two works. The disparity between each work's depiction of Quasimodo, the compassionate yet deformed protagonist, is a prime example. In the book, he is supposed to be seriously deformed, to the point where he appears to be a "human gargoyle" (Mckay, John P, 773) dwelling in the bell tower of the mighty cathedral. He is described as having a large hump on his back, a wart covering his eye, and a protrusion on his chest, among other less harsh deformities. Also, the forced profession of bellringer has caused him to lose his hearing (Hugo). However, in its movie, Disney offers a very sweetened version of the grotesque hunchback. Aside from the expected hunch, Disney portrays Quasimodo as having an abnormally large eye, though no wart, and an even larger heart, perhaps Disney's answer to the protrusion on his chest, but nonetheless a feature that makes all of the children watching want to give him a big hug. Such is a reaction that would not be elicited by the Quasimodo from the book, but is actually demonstrated by a young girl at the end of the movie, who lovingly strokes the hunchback's face (Disney). This softened depiction of Quasimodo in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an example of Disney's use of pastiche, as it molded Hugo's original depiction of the hunchback into a new one, one that will appeal to its audience, and marks an obvious difference between the movie and Hugo's classic novel.
Another such difference between the two works is Disney's introduction of the hunchback's gargoyle companions, who seem to offer comic relief to the movie, and further dishonor the original tale. In Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo is isolated within the bell tower, an integral aspect of the novel. He is assigned the job of ringing the bells of the cathedral, and denied contact with everyone, save his adoptive father, Archdeacon Claude Frollo. Thus, the hunchback, overcome with loneliness, eventually feels compelled to venture out into the world, leading to his encounter with the beautiful gypsy, La Esmerelda, and the unfolding of the novel's plot (Hugo). However, when deciding how to portray Quasimodo's living conditions, Disney thought it best to avoid this isolation, and designed for him a trio of anthropomorphized statues, who apparently serve to make the dark tale easier to swallow, for Quasimodo and the audience alike. "Victor" and "Hugo," the two male gargoyles cleverly named after the author, spend a good deal of the movie bickering. The wise-cracking Hugo is a constant annoyance to the uptight Victor, in addition to the third gargoyle, Laverne, who is modeled after a cranky old woman. They provide such humor as armpit farts, repeatedly lost poker games, and infatuation with goats, crude humor added only to make children laugh, which is an honorable enough aim (Disney). However, despite Disney's intentions, the addition of these three characters marks a prodigious disagreement with the original text. As previously stated, Quasimodo longs to experience the real world due to years of isolation within Notre Dame. However, with friends already in the cathedral, he should have little reason to venture outside. Disney's addition of comic relief to an originally humorless story is an example of postmodernism's notion of carnival; Disney tries to make its movies playful rather than upsetting, understandably. Thus, the addition of Victor, Hugo, and Laverne into the cast of its movie is a major difference, and a significant error on many levels.
But, the most egregious of differences between Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the cartoon version of it is manifested in Disney's avoidance of tragedy. True, some critics claim that the movie is "startlingly adult and with an oppressive dark tone" (MrBrown). True, the movie opens with the murder of Quasimodo's mother, and is accompanied by both physical and mental abuse directed towards the poor hunchback. But this is not enough. One startling scene present in the novel, yet conspicuously absent from the Disney movie, is the attempted murder of Phoebus de Chateaupers, a charming libertine and captain of the King's Archers. La Esmerelda has fallen for Phoebus, and, due to this, refuses to recognize Frollo's insatiable attraction for her. Frollo tries to eliminate Phoebus, leaves him for dead, and frames La Esmerelda for it, giving her an ultimatum: either profess her love for him, or suffer execution. She chooses the latter, and her wish is granted, even though a living Phoebus, who knows she did not kill him, is present at her execution. When Quasimodo, who has also developed a love for the gypsy girl, discovers this, he hurls his father from the roof of the cathedral to his death, and then takes his own life (Hugo). In the movie, however, Frollo accuses Esmeralda instead of being a witch. This eliminates many important and depressing aspects of the original novel, such as Frollo's willingness to blackmail the woman he loves, and Phoebus' loss of attraction towards her after his attempted murder, despite the fact that he knows she is innocent, not to mention the attempted murder itself (Disney). Another example of the movie's avoidance of tragedy is the absence of several character conflicts. Disney only focuses on Quasimodo's hardships, whereas the suffering of the other main characters, which occurs very much in Hugo's novel, is downplayed significantly. In the book, a large contributor to the plot is La Esmerelda's quest to find her parents. She was stolen from her mother, Lady Gudule, as a baby by a band of gypsies, who then raised the infant as their own. Lady Gudule becomes a miserable recluse, and just as La Esmerelda realizes that the cantankerous hag is her mother, she is executed (Hugo). This emotional quest is not mentioned at all in the movie. Also, from the beginning of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frollo is depicted as an evil, malicious man, the one responsible for the murder of Quasimodo's mother. However, this is not the case in the novel. At the beginning of Hugo's tale, Frollo is a compassionate, civilized man who adopts a young Quasimodo, hoping to eliminate his image as a social misfit. But, as this effort develops, he is unable to cure the hunchback's status, and sees himself as a failure. This notion returns when his continual attempts to woo La Esmerelda are also destroyed. The stench of failure lingering over Frollo causes him to renounce his faith and turn to the dark arts, allowing his evilness to come forth. Such character conflicts, which are present in the original novel, are not present in Disney's movie.
But the most obvious aspect of Disney's avoidance of tragedy and drama is the lack of death present in its movie. Indeed, the only character that dies in the movie is Frollo, the bad guy, and the death of the bad guy seems to be a favorable trend for movies. Perhaps this is because the death of the villain offers a happier ending than the death of the hero. On that note, because Esmeralda is not executed in the movie, Quasimodo has no reason to take his own life. And, though Esmeralda ends up with Phoebus at the end of the movie rather than Quasimodo, it is still an offensively happy ending (Disney). Though Disney may have used its depiction of the hunchback and addition of comedy to appease its audience, the avoidance of tragedy and death, and, in turn, the inaccurate happy endings like that of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, seem to be Disney's main tool to do so. The corporation is known for cartoons that appeal to children, and movies laden with death do not exactly fit this criteria. It seems that it is due to the audience's reaction to Disney movies that forces it to change classic tales, further marking a postmodern attitude in present-day society.
Years ago, people entertained themselves with stories and legends full of fantastic characters, settings, and conflicts, conflicts that were often marked by tragedy. Today, though Disney adopts such tales, like Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and molds them into movies, this characteristic tragedy is avoided, and the stories sugarcoated. In doing so, Disney creates an art form that will appeal to its audience, who expects such lighthearted tales from the widely loved corporation, hereby causing our favorite forms of entertainment to have evolved over time. This change in society, this very Disneyfication of our culture, marks a postmodern attitude present in our ever-evolving world.