This happens the most to Quasimodo and Frollo. In the book, Quasimodo is rather reclusive, and generally shuns the outside world. In the films, he is usually put in a more sympathetic light, and desires to be accepted by society. 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, the Burbank Films Australia version, and the Disney film, he is put in the role of a heroic love interest for Esmeralda. However, in the book, he was 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 novel!Phoebus die.
A more literal example for people who grew up with the Disney adaptation - the first fifty or so pages of the novel feature virtually no characters or scenes from the film (the only terms recognizable to a Disney film viewer going into the novel blind would most likely be 'Festival of Fools' and 'Frollo', although Claude Frollo himself does not appear until around 60 pages in), instead focusing on a random poet named Pierre Gringoire.
Sexual obsession in a priest? Bad, wrong, dangerous. Sexual obsession of a man in his thirties for a 16-year-old girl? No prob.
The depiction of the Gypsies in the book has not aged well. While Esmeralda’s persecution as a witch is portrayed as wrong, near the end of the novel, it's revealed by birth she was French, and was exchanged with Quasimodo (who is actually Romani by birth). The other Gypsies in the novel are portrayed as part of the lower class in the Cour des Miracles (Slums), who survive by begging, and pickpocketing. Clopin, their leader, is depicted as an Anti-Hero, who while possessing a heroic side, is hostile towards the Middle class, and threatens to hang Gringoire for trespassing in the Cour des Miracles. At several points, they are referred to as the "Egyptians."
The Woobie: Bizarrely for fans of the Disney film, Claude Frollo, who, unlike in the Disney adaptation, where he's a sociopath from the beginning and only gets worse from there, is an educated and enlightened man who grows darker out of his self-inflicted disappointment in himself for not raising his brother Jehan to be as faithful or hardworking as himself and his later uncontrollable lust for Esmeralda, which is based more clearly in his sexual frustration as a priest than in later adaptations.
The 1939 film:
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. 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? Part of this alternate interpretation is due to his Adaptational Villainy, since he was a conflicted character in the original source material.
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.
The Archdeacon doesn't even acknowledge Quasimodo's existence after the opening scene, despite them both living in the same building. So, that raises the question: is he really the benevolent arbiter of justice in Notre Dame, or a callous hypocrite, willfully blind to Frollo's abuse of Quasimodo? Or is he too scared of Frollo to do anything about it?
Are all of Frollo's soldiers — aside from Phoebus — jerks who follow any of Frollo's orders just for an excuse to abuse their authority, or are they for the most part just Loyal to the Position? When Frollo gives the Brutish Guard the order to seize the cathedral, do the three background Elite Mooks become tense in preparation of carrying out the order, or is it a silent gesture of disapproval?
Anvilicious: The film repeatedly points out Frollo's hypocrisy, in case you missed it. A few examples below.
Clopin: Judge Claude Frollo longed to purge the world of vice and sin / And he saw corruption everywhere except within.
Esmeralda: You mistreat this poor boy the same way you mistreat my people. You speak of justice, yet you are cruel to those most in need of your help!
Quasimodo: All my life, you've told me the world is a dark, cruel place. But now I see that the only thing dark and cruel about it is people like you.
The Bette Midler version of God Help The Outcasts has harsher lyrics than the movie version, taking the religious hypocrisy message even further as the singer accuses God of favouring certain people that discriminate against those down on their luck and being responsible for making the outcasts in the first place.
At the beginning of the film, Clopin asks the viewer a "riddle" regarding Quasimodo and Frollo: "Who is the monster, and who is the man?" This comes directly after Frollo murders an innocent woman and attempts to drown her baby. Hmm, just who could the monster be?
Base-Breaking Character: Scrappy they may be, but the gargoyles do contribute a lot of genuinely Funny Moments. Which side of the Broken Base a fans falls into often depends on the age of that fan. With people who were teens or adults when the film came out hating them and people who were children loving them. Then there are those who don't think they're unequivocally awful, but don't like them much either. And then there are those that think they're cute and funny characters, but they're completely misplaced in this movie and would fit better in either Aladdin or Hercules. Base truly broken.
Broken Base: Quasimodo not winning Esmeralda's love in the end is a major point of contention, as it's one of the few times Disney subverted the true love ending between the leading man and woman. Either it sends a wrong message about ugly people not deserving true love, or a refreshing change of pace for demonstrating Esmeralda's right to choose (Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped explains that argument further).
The film itself, particularly when first released. Many viewed it as a wildly-misconceived bastardization of Hugo's novel, to the point that the screenplay received a Razzie nomination. Its reputation has, however, improved since then.
The reasons why some don't like the movie are varied. Either they're turned off by the whole fandom treating it as a sacred cow, and find the uneven mood, unfaithfulness to the source material, or weird combo of cutesy Disney morals and jokes combined with such a dark story of sexual perversion and racism to be rather jarring.
Catharsis Factor: Well, not like anyone wasn't hoping for it, but after seeing Frollo murder Quasimodo's mother in cold blood, torture one of his men, burn Paris out of genocidal hatred for gypsies, seeing him fall into a molten mass is rather fulfilling.
Creepy Awesome: Frollo, according to some people's opinions. Especially in the finale.
Critical Dissonance: Despite being moderately well-received (scoring somewhere in the 70s on Rotten Tomatoes), this is the ONLY Disney Animated Canon film to EVER get nominated for a Razzie note It was a one-off category called "Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 million", and actually included three other films (Independence Day, the original Mission: Impossible film, and A Time to Kill) that were deemed fresh on Rotten Tomatoes; the film that won this Razzie, Warner Bros.'s Twister, was the only "Rotten" nominee in this category, which hasn't aged well and has never been used since, although ID has had some snark thrown at it in the 20 years since these movies hit theaters. which is ESPECIALLY baffling considering that Disney has released moredeservingfilms. It's considered (by those who remember it, anyway) better than its direct predecessor, Pocahontas (or at least a worthy successor).
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.
Crossover Ship: It's become somewhat popular to pair Clopin with Harley Quinn from the Batman-franchise (the pairing is even called "JesterBells"). In many cases, they're essentially the male and female versions of each other (especially now that Harley's being portrayed as more of an anti-heroine by DC Comics), and many people have pointed out that Clopin would treat Harley way better than the Joker treats her.
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...
Cult Classic: While it isn't as popular as other Disney animated films, it seems to have had grown a following thanks on the Internet, perhaps because of Tony Jay's performance as Frollo.
Designated Hero: Clopin and the other gypsies are treated as heroic figures, despite capturing Quasimodo and Phoebus and trying to hang them without hearing their explanations for coming.
The townspeople of Paris are also meant to be seen as innocent people that are persecuted unjustly by Frollo, despite the fact that all of them get away with cruelly humiliating Quasimodo at the Feast Of Fools (though this was more the fault of Frollo's soldiers for goading them, as they were literally cheering for him moments before). They got better by the end, though.
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".
Gargoyles were carved for medieval churches for two reasons. The first being to divert water (namely rain) from the church, thus preventing the mortar from getting worn down and the second to protect against evil. Which makes Frollo's death scene even scarier if you understand medieval architecture.
The actual, present day Notre Dame has two pillars missing, a damaged gargoyle, and a broken doorknob. Not only does this damage happen in the climax, it's all significant in some way.
Also, the background singing in Frollo's scenes throughout the film has several layers of meaning:
'Kyrie Eleison', a refrain which is repeated throughout the film, means 'Lord have Mercy'...appropriate.
The chanting when Frollo is chasing Quasimodo's mother through Paris comes from a Gregorian chant called the Dies Irae - Day of Wrath - and includes a phrase that roughly means 'Beware the coming of the judge.' Again, appropriate.
And, during "Hellfire", the shadowy figures that torment Frollo in his madness chant 'Mea Culpa' - 'Through my Fault' - something which Frollo constantly denies.
The Latin in this scene is the culmination of the Latin singing of the Confiteor, the prayer used during the Sacrament of Confession in the Catholic Church. The three other lines are translated as "I have sinned against the father", "In my thoughts", "words and deeds". Each line is placed to counter a claim of Frollo's in the song (that he's purer than others, that he doesn't want to think about Esmerelda, and that what he's saying and doing are beyond his control). This is significant as the Catholic Church believes that sin can only exist if you willing commit the act. As a man of faith, Frollo would be aware of this prayer, the significance of Confession, and that even when he is trying to confess, he's doing it wrong. In addition, the purpose of confessing to a priest is an act of humility. By telling another living person, you are willing to open yourself. By doing this alone, Frollo's is not correctly performing the sacrament.
Quasimodo's climatic scene (being chained to the pillars of the church, then tearing them down in rebellion) is lifted directly from the story of Samson in the Bible.
The original ending where Quasimodo is stabbed by Frollo only for Frollo to die later and Quasimodo's wish to ring the bells one last time bears some similarities to the 1997 version, which came out a year later.
For that matter, said guard's partner is voiced by Corey Burton, who, years later, would end up voicing Frollo himself. That's quite a promotion!
Frollo is well-known for being the most sexual Disney villain. Now, consider that this is the 34thDisney Animated Canon entry...
The jester in the Steadfast Tin Soldier number in Fantasia 2000 looks quite a bit like Frollo. And dies like him too!
In the stage show, as pointed out by the actors themselves on Twitter. Patrick Page plays Frollo, Quasimodo (Michael Arden)'s father figure. Come the Spring Awakening revival, directed by Michael Arden, Page plays the Adult Man - a composite of multiple characters, one of which is Herr Rilow, Hänschen Rilow's father. Hänschen is played by Andy Mientus, Michael Arden's husband.
Frollo's dark, flowing robe and massive sword that can cut through stone gargoyles during the climax can make him look like a sith lord. Jumping to 2012...
In the Norwegian dub, Frollo's speaking voice is done by Even Stormoen while Quasimodo's voice is done by Ola Fjellvikås, the voices of Scar and Kovu, respectively.
Ho Yay: Djali is referred to as a male. Hugo makes no secret of his attraction to him.
Just Here for Godzilla: 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".
He is, first of all, realistically scary. He's an example of the many times throughout history that bigotry and persecution has been self-righteously excused as justice.
He is voiced by Tony Jay which automatically gives him a badass voice.
He is Faux Affably Evil in where he generally appears pretty polite but yet there is a glint of madness and zealotry underneath, and you know it. See the episode with the ants and the torture chamber.
Despite spending all its time kicking dogs, his Hidden Depths are hinted at once in the movie: the Villain Song. Is he Necessarily Evil and hates himself for it, does he actually hate himself for lusting towards Esmeralda or is he just a deluded Knight Templar ? Is it a real epiphany that throws him more into madness or an Ignored Epiphany ? No one knows, so it adds a layer of depth to the character.
He shows himself quite competent in his endeavors in general, if evil.
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" or "the boner that burned down Paris."
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.
Frollo's final line, "And he shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit!'', followed by posters adding a nonchalant response from God such as "As you wish", or "That's not a bad idea." Somehow it may soften the creepiness of the scene.
Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales: The movie was 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". This is possibly why Disney was shocked later, when Hercules was met with A LOT of hate in Greece.
Frollo was often thought of as cool despite having much less reason to be thought of as such (and much more NOT to) than other Disney villains. Instead of being a muscular macho-man like Gaston or a powerful sorcerer like Jafar, he is a genocidal self-righteous old religious fanatic; an intent to avoid Evil Is Cool is apparent here, yet it apparently did not work either.
The movie portrays Esmeralda and Phoebus's romance in a fully positive light, and though Quasimodo is heartbroken and jealous at first, he eventually fully accepts their love and is content as their friend. But you wouldn't know this from the Quasi/Esmeralda shippers either calling Esmeralda a "stupid whore" for choosing Phoebus or depicting Phoebus as anything from a brainless, dullard pretty-boy to an abusive monster just so Esmeralda can dump him and be with Quasimodo (granted, it helps that Phoebus really is an absolute bastard in the original novel).
In his very first scene, Frollo is willing to kill Quasimodo as a baby for being deformed. Later he sends his soldiers to attack innocent people.
Hell, this moment was so bad, Frollo himself feared divine retribution FOR THE FIRST AND ONLY TIME IN HIS LIFE! Granted this was because of the Archdeacon's warning but still.
Frollo's guards when they burn down the miller's house with his family in it (children included). Being orders doesn't excuse such act.
If there ever was any doubt that he crosses it, the point at which Frollo throws the Archdeacon down the stairs, something you just don't do, cements his leap over the event horizon, since it shows he is no longer bound by the Morality Chain of religion.
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...)
Frollo being a judge instead of the Archdeacon of Notre Dame first occurred in the 1939 film, due to the Hayes Code prohibiting negative depictions of the church.
Padding: "A Guy Like You" seems to be in the movie just to give the gargoyles something to do. It doesn't advance the plot in any meaningful way, and merely retreads Quasimodo's hopes that Esmeralda loves him, which were already covered in "Heaven's Light". It also hurts that the song is a jarring Mood Whiplash and borderline Big-Lipped Alligator Moment.
We all have gaped at some Adonis But then we crave a meal more nourishing to chew And since you're shaped like a croissant is No question of, she's gotta love a guy like you!
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Not fully, mind you, but some people are now more open to Hugo due to his attraction to Djali, making him possibly LGBT.
Ron the Death Eater: Esmeralda is often depicted as an ungrateful bitch who rejects Quasimodo due to his ugliness, and stops caring for him. Esmeralda consistently did care for Quasi as a friend... just not as a lover. In fact, she didn't even know that he was in love with her.
Rooting for the Empire: One reason Disney made Frollo such a monster was because they saw this happening in previous movies and wanted to create a villain that everyone would hate. It didn't work.
Signature Scene: "Hellfire" is the most famous scene in the film but "Out There" is another strong contender as is "God help The Outcasts". Perhaps all of them are dwarfed by the "Sanctuary" scene.
So Okay, It's Average: Quite a few people feel this way about the film, especially at the time of its release. It doesn't help that's not too similar to the original novel, frustrating many of its fans.
The Anvilicious Aesops aside, the film does raise a very real and still very relevant issue regarding Frollo and his treatment of the gypsies: it shows someone who shouldn't have political power using it to abuse others, especially minorities. Persecution due to racism and their harmful stereotypes is still going on in this day and age.
Hiding behind religion and dogma does not automatically make you a good person.
No one is obligated to love you, even if you're a good person and really deserve a loving partner. The object of your affections is still a person and it's their right to choose. Basically, it's wrong to feel entitled to romantic love since only the other person can decide if you're right for them.
The scene where Quasimodo is publicly tortured shows with brutal honesty that anyone can turn out to be a downright vicious bully, especially to those who are different, even with the slightest provocation.
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.
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.
Values Resonance: As Lindsay Ellis noted, the themes of justice for the oppressed, social exclusion, the demonization of ethnic groups, and Frollo's attitude to women can be considered more relevant and poignant today than they were in the nineties.
The gargoyle Laverne has no Tertiary Sexual Characteristics and a voice actress (Mary Wickes) with a husky voice. Although she has a mostly feminine name, it's only mentioned once in the film. Averted in other languages where either her voice is unmistakably female, the language itself has grammar rules that indicates gender (like in Spanish or French) or both.
Djali the goat is female in the novel, but male in this movie – which doesn't stop male gargoyle Hugo from flirting with him.
Vindicated by History: When it was released, it was a moderate hit with both critics and audiences - the consensus was "Hey, it was better than Pocahontas, but nowhere near as good as The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast". However, in the years since the film's release it's now far more common to see people praising the movie as not only the best movie of the Disney Renaissance, but one of Disney's most ambitious films ever, thanks to its dark storyline and heavy themes of prejudice, social injustice, lust, eternal damnation, and powerful religious imagery. Frollo is frequently brought up as one of Disney's most frightening and memorable villains because the of the relative realism of his monstrous beliefs and actions, which only makes them more horrifying.
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. Also, 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.
Quasimodo's life from start through adulthood is one long story of isolation and abuse.
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".