The Hunchback of Notre Dame “Topsy Turvy” (1996)

I have mixed feelings about “Topsy Turvy.” While it’s a funny song to be sure, I can’t really get into it because I know what’s going to happen to Quasimodo at the end. Nevertheless, I should still look it over.

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame “Topsy Turvy” (1996)

The song takes place during the Feast of Fools, based on a real-life yearly celebration held once a year during the Middle Ages (particularly in France). The Feast of Fools was held on around the Feast of the Circumcision (January 1st) and in fact the song lyrics even mention that the day of the feast is January 6th (“On the 6th of January”). Quasimodo has wanted to attend this event for years but of course Frollo, being the cruel man he is, won’t let him as he’s raised his ward to believe he’s nothing more than a monster who doesn’t belong among people (and letting him attend the celebration might reveal the lie). Now 20 years old, Quasimodo lets his gargoyle friends talk him into sneaking out to attend anyway just as the celebration is getting underway.

The festival starts with a seemingly solemn procession inviting all to attend:

Come one, come all
Leave your looms and milking stools, 
Coop the hens and pen the mules
Come one, come all
Close the churches and the schools 
It’s the day for breaking rules
Come and join the Feast of…FOOLS!!!

With the arrival of Clopin (the same Clopin we meet at the start of the film), the song goes from semi-serious to very silly and stays there for the rest of the song. Having never been around so many people in all his life, Quasimodo is immediately overwhelmed and unfortunately his discomfort draws the mischievous attention of Clopin (I don’t think there’s anything malicious in his behavior, he just wants to have some fun at Quasimodo’s expense).

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Once a year, we throw a party here in town
Once a year, we turn all Paris upside down
Every man’s a king and every king’s a clown 
Once again it’s Topsy Turvy Day

It’s the day the devil in us gets released (Good is bad and best is worst and west is east)
It’s the day we mock the prig and shock the priest (On the day we think the most of those with least)
Everything is topsy turvy
At the Feast of Fools

Topsy Turvy; Everything is upsy-daisy

Topsy Turvy; Everyone is acting crazy

Dross is gold and weeds are a bouquet
That’s the way on Topsy Turvy Day!

It’s while trying to get away from Clopin’s unwanted attention that Quasimodo accidentally stumbles into Esmeralda’s tent while she’s getting ready for her dance. Expecting to be reviled, Quasimodo is stunned when the beautiful gypsy simply shoos him away with a “No harm done” and a smile (and also complimenting his “mask” as she doesn’t realize that’s how he really looks).

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Just before Esmeralda begins her dance, Frollo arrives in the most ominous looking carriage I’ve ever seen. Up until this point, you can almost enjoy the song but once he arrives that’s when you remember, oh yea, Quasimodo isn’t supposed to be out here, if Frollo catches him there’s going to be big trouble! But for now, Quasimodo is safely hidden and Clopin draws attention to the stage:

Come one, come all
Hurry, hurry; here’s your chance
See the mystery and romance 
Come one, come all
See the finest girl in France 
Make an entrance to entrance
Dance la Esmeralda…
Dance!

I have always loved this part of the scene when Esmeralda appears to dance in her beautiful red dress. Everyone is entranced with her, especially Quasimodo, Phoebus (who answers with an enthusiastic “Yes sir!” when Frollo mutters “Look at that disgusting display) and, though he hides it well, Frollo himself (ewwwww).

Technically the song continues after Esmeralda’s dance into the search for the new King of Fools but I’ve always regarded that scene as separate from the rest of the song (and I’ve already covered what happens in Disturbing Disney #20).

In conclusion, “Topsy Turvy” is a fun little song that serves to relax the audience before things get really twisted with the King of Fools incident. What do you think about this song? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

The Hunchback of Notre Dame “The Bells of Notre Dame” (1996)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame “Heaven’s Light/Hellfire” (1996)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame “The Court of Miracles” (1996)

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