Disturbing Disney #20: Quasimodo is crowned ‘King of Fools’ (1996)

It’s a trope that’s almost guaranteed to appear in any Disney film: the young hero/heroine is admonished by an authority figure NOT to do something; they do it anyway and as a result they end up in big trouble. Such is the case in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). The sweet Quasimodo is compelled to live in the bell tower of the cathedral by his reluctant guardian Frollo on the grounds that the outside world is evil and dangerous (a similar argument is used by Mother Gothel years later on Rapunzel). Quasimodo wants more than anything to go out among the people, so when the annual ‘Feast of Fools’ comes around, the bell ringer can’t take it anymore and sneaks out to join in the festivities.

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From the moment I watched this film in the theater, I knew something bad was going to happen at some point. Either Quasimodo was going to get caught, locked up, or something. And when Frollo arrived in his carriage, I thought the moment was imminent. But then…nothing seemed to happen. True, Quasimodo was found out, but instead of being rejected, he’s crowned ‘King of Fools’ by the audience and paraded around the city (much to Frollo’s displeasure, though it seems he can’t do anything about it for the moment). For a brief moment, I actually believed that things were going to be okay…and then the real trouble started.

Quasimodo humiliated: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Suddenly, two guards lob tomatoes at Quasimodo, prompting the rest of the crowd to join in (I’m not sure if this is an annual thing or if this is just a case of mob mentality). So far the scene has just turned cruel; what makes it disturbing is when the crowd ties Quasimodo down to the platform when he tries to run away, spinning him around so everyone can get a good shot at him. Even the colors turn darker (starting when Quasimodo is tied down and his hump is exposed), highlighting how wrong and terrible this situation is.

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As someone who suffered from a lot of bullying in school, this scene has never failed to trigger me. Quasimodo’s perspective of viewing these people who were cheering him minutes ago and are now hurting him and laughing while they do it is just heartbreaking. It gets even worse when Frollo forbids Phoebus from intervening, stating that “a lesson needs to be learned here.” I don’t know why I felt surprised at Frollo’s actions; on further consideration, it’s likely he felt the crowd’s treatment was far worse than any punishment he could have devised for Quasimodo.

While it’s true that Esmeralda steps in to stop the abuse, the damage has already been done. The Quasimodo that stumbles back into the cathedral is broken now in a way that he wasn’t when the film started. Before, he at least had his dream of someday going out among the people, now he doesn’t even have that.

This scene is a classic example of why I started the Disturbing Disney series and it makes for a fitting entry (the 20th in the series!)

What do you think of this scene? Does it disturb you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a good day!

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Disturbing Disney #1: The Coachman in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #2: The truth of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #3: Escaping Monstro from Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #4: Dumbo loses his mother (1941)

Disturbing Disney #5 The death of Bambi’s Mother

Disturbing Disney #6: Faline vs. the dogs (1942)

Disturbing Disney #7: Cruella wants to do WHAT??

Disturbing Disney #8: The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met (from Make Mine Music, 1946)

Disturbing Disney #9: Dr. Facilier’s Fate (The Princess and the Frog, 2009)

Disturbing Disney #10: The rat in Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Disturbing Disney #11: Clayton’s Death in Tarzan (1999)

Disturbing Disney #12: The Bear from The Fox and the Hound (1981)

Disturbing Disney #13: “Smoking them out” in The Fox and the Hound (1981)

Disturbing Disney #14: The Salt Trap in The Jungle Book (1994)

Disturbing Disney #15: Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia (1940)

Disturbing Disney #16: King Triton destroys Ariel’s grotto

Disturbing Disney #17: Ratigan becomes a monster in The Great Mouse Detective

Disturbing Disney #18: The Queen’s assignment for her Huntsman

Disturbing Disney #19: Cinderella’s dress is destroyed (1950)

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21 thoughts on “Disturbing Disney #20: Quasimodo is crowned ‘King of Fools’ (1996)

  1. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #19: Cinderella’s dress is destroyed (1950) | Film Music Central

  2. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #18: The Queen’s assignment for her Huntsman | Film Music Central

  3. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #17: Ratigan becomes a monster in The Great Mouse Detective | Film Music Central

  4. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #17: Ratigan becomes a monster in The Great Mouse Detective | Film Music Central

  5. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #16: King Triton destroys Ariel’s grotto | Film Music Central

  6. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #15: Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia (1940) | Film Music Central

  7. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #14: The Salt Trap in The Jungle Book (1994) | Film Music Central

  8. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #13: “Smoking them out” in The Fox and the Hound (1981) | Film Music Central

  9. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #12: The Bear from The Fox and the Hound (1981) | Film Music Central

  10. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #11: Clayton’s Death in Tarzan (1999) | Film Music Central

  11. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #10: The rat in Lady and the Tramp (1955) | Film Music Central

  12. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #9: Dr. Facilier’s Fate (The Princess and the Frog, 2009) | Film Music Central

  13. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #8: The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met (from Make Mine Music, 1946) | Film Music Central

  14. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #7: Cruella wants to do WHAT?? | Film Music Central

  15. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #6: Faline vs. the dogs (1942) | Film Music Central

  16. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #5: The death of Bambi’s Mother (1942) | Film Music Central

  17. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #4: Dumbo loses his mother (1941) | Film Music Central

  18. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #3: Escaping Monstro from Pinocchio (1940) | Film Music Central

  19. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #2: The truth of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio (1940) | Film Music Central

  20. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #1: The Coachman in Pinocchio (1940) | Film Music Central

  21. Pingback: The Hunchback of Notre Dame “Topsy Turvy” (1996) | Film Music Central

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