These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
This happens the most to Quasimodo and Frollo. In the book, Quasimodo is rather mean and hates most people. In the films, he is usually put in a more sympathetic light. The exact opposite usually happens to Frollo. In his book form, he is, for the most part, benevolent but sexually frustrated, and his transformation into a villain is tragic. However, in the films he is made into an all-out evil, sexually depraved monster from the start.
Phoebus gets this treatment as well. In the 1923 and Disney adaptation he is put in the role of a pure love interest for Esmeralda. However, in the book he was kind of a jerk, who was just interested in her for sex.
In the novel, Gringoire is a pompous coward who abandons Esmeralda to her fate. In the film versions, he genuinely cares about Esmeralda and does everything he can to secure her release.
Die for Our Ship: Frollo/Esmeralda fans of any of the adaptations are eager to kill off Phoebus for the sake of this ship. Then again, even if you don't support this ship, almost every Hunchback of Notre Dame fan would gladly see Phoebus die.
Sexual obsession in a priest? Bad, wrong, dangerous. Sexual obsession of a man in his thirties for a 16-year-old girl? No prob.
Also, this is not an anti-racist story. The Parisians' mistreatment of Esmeralda is treated as literary irony: they're wrong to treat her as they do, because she's really one of them. Their treatment of real "Gypsies" is completely excusable; it's clearly established that "Gypsies" really are dangerous — thieves and con artists who will readily kidnap children. If you think Victor Hugo loved gypsies and was protesting their mistreatment, go and read The Man Who Laughs.
The 1939 film:
Crazy Awesome/Creepy Awesome: Quasimodo. He's deformed, socially inept, and possibly afflicted with a mental disorder, but he fiercely defends Esmeralda and thwarts a mob of rioters who were attacking Notre Dame.
Nightmare Fuel: Dead and dying rioters lying on the ground, covered in molten metal.
Judge Claude Frollo gets this too. Do we see flashes of guilt and torment in him that make him more sympathetic? Did he really feel nothing for killing Quasimodo's mother or did he take seriously the Archdeacon's plea to adopt Quasimodo out of guilt and a genuine fear of God. Do we see signs of him suffering and desiring to become a better person in his villain song, or is it more important that the experience makes him act even more evil than before?
Clopin—he seems very happy and nice, but he does call Quasi the ugliest person in Paris in a way that even the context can't completely excuse, doesn't let him hide in the "Feast Of Fools" sequence, apparently bugs out the second everything goes pear-shaped (as Frollo would likely want to arrest him for the confusion), and then expresses complete delight in hanging Quasi and Phoebus. Without giving them the chance to defend themselves in any way. He's also protecting his home, friends, and family from the most monstrous person in the country by silencing what he believes to be the man's most loyal subordinates... In fairness to Clopin, the only time he vanishes is during the "Feast of Fools" when the crowd turns on Quasimodo, but when the fighting outside Notre Dame happens he's shown jumping into the fray with the other gypsies. He's their leader, so getting himself arrested at the Feast of Fools would have been bad for the Gypsies.
It's a great score, but "Hellfire" and the instrumental track "Sanctuary" take the cake. "Made of Stone" from the stage version certainly counts as well.
"Out There". The combination of the gorgeous music, beautiful lyrics and Tom Hulce's spectacular performance makes it one of the most magnificent songs of the Disney Animated Canon (or any Disney film, for that matter).
Sing the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, BELLS OF NOTRE DAME!!!
Pay attention, dear listener, to Clopin's voice toward the end of that song (particularly in its first iteration). God knows why they decided to practically drown it out with the chorus, but actor/singer Paul Kandel holds an absurdly high note (a high D, a very impressive note for a male singer to hit) perfectly for an absurdly long time.
While "Sanctuary" is about four different kinds of incredible (it's a four part piece), and "Hellfire" is without a doubt, the best villain song ever included in a Disney movie (if not any film), the real crowner here is without a doubt, "God Help The Outcasts". The music is incredible, but the lyrics deserve special mention, as they are a deconstruction of the typical Disney "I Want" Song, in that a Gypsy who doesn't even believe, or doubts, in God ("I don't know if you can hear me, or if you're even there") is offering to God a more humble prayer than the Catholics there who are asking for money, fame, and glory, whereas Esmeralda simply says "I ask for nothing; I can get by. But I know so many less lucky than I."
Equally heartwarming in the original movie the animated film was based on when Esmeralda gives the same prayer when she is introduced to Mary and Jesus.
"Heaven's Light" is the sweetest, most perfect love song ever written. Anyone who has ever been unpopular or different knows that feeling when someone notices you, even for a moment, and this song perfectly captures that feeling: knowing that they'll probably never love you back, but for the moment, you can hope, just a little.
I dare to dream that she/Might even care for me/And as I ring these bells tonight/My cold dark tower seems so bright,/I swear it must be heaven's light!
Even better is how it's a perfect counterpoint to "Hellfire", which follows immediately after. From gentle hope and love to fiery rage and passion.
Crosses the Line Twice: When Frollo is reviewing the alphabet with Quasimodo, this exchange happens. The censors probably let it pass because of Tom Hulce's harmless, innocent delivery of the lines and the happy gesture Quasimodo makes when he gets it right.
Cry for the Devil: "Hellfire". Behind closed doors, Frollo prays to the Virgin Mary for protection from Esmeralda's "witchcraft", which he convinces himself is driving him to sin through lustful, burning desire. He begs Mary to either burn Esmeralda in Hell or deliver her to him as his love to free him from his sin. He may be a vicious Knight Templar or at best a Well-Intentioned Extremist gone too far, but he's also very human and very conflicted, two qualities that generate sympathy and may make it at least more understandable.
Frollo: God have mercy on her...God have mercy on me...
Die for Our Ship: The Phoebus from the movie is much, MUCH nicer than the one from the novel, and he comes to sincerely like Esmeralda. And yet the Quasi/Esmeralda fans still hate him for "stealing her away from the one who DESERVES her better".
Esmeralda's "God Help The Outcasts" and Frollo's "Hellfire", when taken together, sound much like the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
Quasimodo tied with chains to the cathedral pillars with his arms outstretched brings to mind both Christ's crucifixion and Samson being put on display for the Philistines. When he breaks free and the pillars crumble, it is reminiscent of how Samson met his end, pushing down the pillars and bringing the roof down on himself and everyone else in the hall.
Elements of the Notre Dame architecture are used to convey different moods: for example, the statues foreboding and ominous, the stained glass beautiful and hopeful.
At the end of "Hellfire" in the DVD Commentary:
DVD Commentary: Here's some more of our ham-fisted symbolism—Frollo falls down in the shape of a crucifix!
Pay very close attention to the scene where Frollo destroys Quasimodo's model of Paris. As he does so he picks up a wooden figure of Esmeralda and throws it, knocking over a figure of himself in the process.
Quasimodo's mother running away from Frollo and his soldiers with a baby draped in a white cloth, looks very similar to the scene in The Bible were Moses' mother tries to hide him when Pharaoh ordered that all boys of Israelitic origin shall be thrown into the Nile. The difference here is that she succeeds by putting him in a braided basket and has him float by the river, and never getting killed.
The French Love Quasimodo: The movie was (perhaps, naturally) a huge hit in France. The filmmakers were especially worried about offending the French people by taking an iconic symbol of French literature and culture and giving it the so-called "Disney Treatment".
Frollo is well-known for being the most sexual Disney villain. Now, consider that this is the 34thDisney Animated Canon entry...
Ho Yay: Djali is referred to as a male. Hugo makes no secret of his attraction to him.
Just Here For Clopin/Frollo: The 2 most well-known types of fangirls in the fanbase, "Frollophiles" and "Clopinphiles", are often known for watching the movie merely to see Frollo and/or Clopin. Clopin's side often has many fans complaining about how he "doesn't have enough screentime".
Magnificent Bastard: For all his hatefulness, Frollo has one moment of being this when he tricks Quasimodo into thinking that he knows where the Court of Miracles is located, causing Quasimodo and Phoebus to go their in order to warn the gypsies, thus leading Frollo straight to them.
"Hellfire" is becoming an increasingly popular subject for YouTube Poop.
Also, statements to the likes of "most dramatic reaction to a boner ever."
The scene where Frollo attempts to throw baby Quasimodo down the well has also become a popular YouTube Poop source. People commonly edit things like bad movie posters or unpopular celebrities like Justin Bieber over Quasimodo.
This◊ screencap of Phoebus, usually attached to posts of a confusing or mind-bending nature.
Also, the most prevalent shipping in the fanbase is Esmeralda x Frollo, AKA "Fresme". Go ahead, look. You'll be VERY hard-pressed to find any artwork depicting her with Phoebus or even Quasimodo.
Moral Event Horizon: Frollo crossed it when he killed Quasimodo's mother merely for believing her to be a thief, and almost killed him too as a baby for being deformed. And he only goes downhill from there.
Narm Charm: The entire ending teeters on this, especially the unprovoked hug by a random kid (who also shows up at Clopin's puppet show...)
The gargoyles are Rescued from the Scrappy Heap in the German musical version. They are portrayed as figments of Quasi's imagination and their humor is toned down, which many feel is how they should have been done in the actual movie.
Sarousch in the DTV sequel is considered one of the worst Disney villains of all time, especially in comparison to his predecessor, Frollo, who is considered one of the best.
Frollo grabbing Esmeralda in the church and smelling her hair.
During "Hellfire", he rubs one of her scarves against his face.
Keeping on the "Hellfire" point: no matter how glorious the song is, it's still Frollo singing about how if Esmeralda doesn't submit to his desire, "she will buuuuuuuuuurn." Once again, how did they manage to get this past the censors?
While it's played for laughs, Hugo the Gargoyle's attraction towards Djali the goat is fairly disturbing.
Technology Marches On: When the film was being promoted, these CGI people were touted as a huge technological advancement. They were the logical next step after the CGI stampede scene from The Lion King. Instead of using CGI to reproduce the same model making the same movements over and over again, the crowds of Hunchback were randomized, with different elements such as clothing, body types, and behaviors being mixed and matched to create these gigantic Ben Hur crowd scenes that would, otherwise, either be much too expensive to animate, or have to be static parts of the matte. It's more noticeable now (especially if you remember watching "Behind the Scenes" featurettes which showcased the various behaviors back on the '90s Disney Channel), but at the time, especially on a first-time viewing, they were pretty impressive and evocative towards the party atmosphere in "Topsy Turvy" especially.
Tastes Like Diabetes: The Hunchback of Notre Dame II. The entire movie is animated with bright colors that are somewhat hard on the owing to the lower quality of the animation, and the entire plot of the film, on top of Quasimodo's quest for love revolves around the cast's respective couples professing their love for each other before the entire city in a huge festival; to say that this was jarring for those who appreciated the original's unusually dark tone would be an understatement.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Many fans liked the idea of Quasimodo gaining his own Love Interest, and feel Madelline herself is a fairly interesting character who provides a nice contrast to him (as someone who is beautiful on the outside but feels she is ugly on the inside), so much about the sequel is just so poorly executed it almost ruins the whole concept.
Not to mention the fact that the concept was much better executed in Hugo's original work, where kind and gentle Quasimodo is contrasted with Captain Phoebus, who only wants to get in Esmeralda's pants.
Ugly Cute: Quasimodo, who's Ugly Adorable. Word of God states that he was specifically designed this way (taking inspiration from, among other things, pugs) so it's much easier for the audience to identify and sympathize with him early on. If he's too ugly it takes too long and the moment is lost, and there are even some people who will never empathize with him no matter how good of a person he is if he's too ugly.
Visual Effects of Awesome: Notre Dame, and the image of Esmeralda dancing Frollo sees in the flames in "Hellfire". It is mentioned in the commentary that the special effects team gave their best in that scene.
What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: Endlessly marketed to kids with cute dolls and toys and such... and then Frollo sings "Hellfire", which is all about his lust for Esmeralda. There is no ambiguity about the nature of his feelings for her. And he "accidentally" kills Quasimodo's mother and then tries to outright murder him as an infant, flat out saying he's going to send him to Hell. That happens just minutes into the film.
Esmeralda counts as well, given all the persecution the gypsies go through, the fact that Frollo is after her specifically, and she still manages to be willing to pray for everybody else in "God Help the Outcasts".