Completely Different Title: Victor Hugo titled his novel Notre-Dame de Paris, meaning "Notre-Dame of Paris" (or, translated further, "Our Lady of Paris") in French. It was Frederic Shoberl, author of the first English translation, who decided to call it The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, a title that Hugo hated. The title change has had the effect of coloring English-language adaptations, which invariably make Quasimodo the protagonist. In fact, Esmeralda is the protagonist of the novel, to the extent that its Ensemble Cast even has one. If you could ask Hugo, he'd probably say that the cathedral itself is the main character.
Incidentally, the Disney film was released in France with the title Le Bossu de Notre-Dame ("The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" in French) rather than Hugo's original title. The 1939 version was released in France with the title Quasimodo. The 1956 film (a French and Italian production) was released in France with the title Notre-Dame de Paris and in the English-speaking world with the title The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
Newbie Boom: The book became number 1 on Amazon after the real Notre Dame was nearly destroyed by a fire in April 2019.
Adaptational Context Change: Here, Quasimodo's pillory scene occurs during the Feast of Fools, a result of the fickle mob suddenly turning against him. In the original novel, this scene took place the next day, and it was Quasimodo's punishment for having attempted to kidnap Esmeralda on Frollo's orders.
Author Existence Failure: Poor, poor Mary Wickes, Laverne's voice actress. This was her final film role as she died of cancer during production and had to be replaced by a stand in, although thankfully only for a few lines. Fortunately, that stand-in is sound-alike Jane Withers, who took over the role in the much-maligned DTV sequel.
In the Swedish dub, Mikael Grahn sings the last note of "Bells of Notre Dame" using his chest voice and is the only actor playing Clopin to do so.
In the European Spanish dub, Constantino Romero (Frollo), Jesús Castejón (Clopin), Salvador Aldeguer (Hugo), Carmen Contreras and Miguel Ángel Jenner (The Archdeacon) did their own songs. This was one of Romero's few dubbing works where he shows his singing talents, Jesús Castejón was a stage veteran and he already performed singing for Disney as Oogie Boogie; and Jenner performed songs in previousDisney Renaissancefilms.
Celebrity Voice Actor: Demi Moore at the time became the highest paid voice actor in Hollywood, receiving $1 million for lending her voice to Esmeralda. Also Kevin Kline as Phoebus and Jason Alexander as Hugo. The sequel casts Jennifer Love Hewitt as Madellaine.
Disowned Adaptation: The descendants of Victor Hugo bashed Disney in an open letter to the Libération newspaper for their ancestor getting no mention on the advertisement posters for the film, and they harsly criticized the film itself as a vulgar commercialization and disneyfication of Hugo's story.
Flip-Flop of God: The movie's directors have hinted that the gargoyles may all be figments of Quasimodo's imagination (a popular fan theory), but certain events in the film - namely Hugo startling Esmeralda's goat and them all taking part in the final battle - suggest they are real.
Tony Jay, who was Jewish in real life, voices the evangelical Catholic Judge Frollo.
The US stage Frollo, Patrick Page, was actually an award-winning stage magician back in his teenage years.
International Coproduction: The Latin American Spanish dub was recorded at Cinema Digital S.C., which was located in Los Angeles in the United States, as well as Mexico City and Monterrey in Mexico. While most of the cast who recorded the dialogue were from Mexico City at the time, Fernando Escandón (Frollo), Renée Victor (Laverne) and Fabiola Stevenson (Quasimodo's mother) recorded their lines in L.A., and Julio Sosa (Clopin) recorded his dialogue in his native Monterrey.
Newbie Boom: The film saw a large amount of interest when the real Notre Dame was nearly destroyed by fire in April 2019.
Non-Singing Voice: Averted; with the exception of Esmeralda, every actor does their own singing. Tom Hulce, Quasimodo's voice actor, wanted to be a singer when he was younger.
Jane Withers recorded Laverne's remaining lines as Mary Wickes died of cancer and returned to voice the character in the sequel.
In the European Spanish dub, the teaser for the film had Ernesto Aura — who had a fitting voice as Constantino Romero to voice the character — voicing Frollo. The role went at the end to Constantino Romero.
Real-Life Relative: Carlos Pontón, who directed the Latin American Spanish dub and played Quasimodo's father, is the brother of Javier Pontón, who was the creative supervisor for the dub.
Talking to Himself: During the flashback in the opening number, Jim Cummings voices about three or four characters in quick succession (one or two of the gypsy men, the boatman, and Frollo's guard). While Cummings does have an impressive vocal range, he unfortunately uses the same voice for all of these characters, making it very noticeable.
Technology Marches On: When the film was being promoted, the 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.
Phoebus's speech rallying citizens to rebel against Frollo during the climax of the movie was originally said by Clopin, but the directors/producers felt that Phoebus needed to be more involved in the uprising.
Instead of Victor, Hugo and Laverne the gargoyles would have been named Chaney, Laughton and Quinn as homage to actors Lon Chaney, Charles Laughton and Anthony Quinn who had played the title character in previous adaptations. This idea was brought back into the German musical only named Charles, Antoine, and Loni.
The prologue was originally going to be a straightforward narration. After a couple of read-throughs, the filmmakers found it too slow and plodding. So they rewrote it as a musical number - "The Bells of Notre Dame".
A much more tragic ending was considered. Frollo would have fatally stabbed Quasimodo before being killed by Esmeralda. Phoebus would have then found them and Quasimodo's last wish would have been to ring the bells one last time.
Mandy Patinkin was originally cast as Quasimodo but left early into production because he felt the film was too different from the source material and he 'wanted to play Quasimodo for real.' He eventually did play the character in a 1997 adaptation with Salma Hayek as Esmeralda and Richard Harris as Frollo.
Cut Song: "Court of Miracles" was cut from Der Glöckner. The U.S.A. production scrapped "A Guy Like You" due to the absence of the gargoyles, but revived "Court of Miracles" (with a completely different melody and somewhat different lyrics) as a solo piece for Clopin.
Twenty year old Quasimodo is often played by men much older than he is: Forty year old Lon Chaney, forty year old Charles Laughton, forty-one year old Anthony Quinn, forty-five year old Anthony Hopkins and forty-five year old Mandy Patinkin.
Sixteen year old Esmerelda has been played by twenty-nine year old Gina Lollobrigida, twenty-eight year old Lesley-Anne Down and thirty-one year old Salma Hayek.
A rare justification in the case of thirty-six year old Claude Frollo being played by actors older than the character due to him being Younger Than He Looks. Actors such as forty-six year old Nigel De Bruiler, sixty year old Walter Hampden, forty-eight year old Alain Cuny, forty-six year old Kenneth Haigh, forty-four year old Derek Jacobi and sixty-seven year old Richard Harris have all played the role.
Twenty-Six year old Pierre Gringoire has been played by thirty-six year old Raymond Hatton and thirty-five year old Edward Atterton.
Fake Nationality: In the 1939 version, the French characters are played by British and American actors. In the 1956 version, most actors are French, but Esmeralda is played by the Italian Gina Lollobrigida and Quasimodo by the Mexican American Anthony Quinn.
Recursive Import: English movie —> German stage show —> English stageshow —> Revamped German stage show.