The Hunchback of Notre Dame is the next beloved Disney animated staple to get the live-action treatment.
The live-action musical, simply titled Hunchback, will adapt not only 1996 Disney film but the 1831 Victor Hugo novel upon which it was based. And if you’re wondering exactly how they’re going to turn this surprisingly dark Disney animated movie into a family-friendly live-action film, the House of Mouse is reportedly eyeing its favorite comedic bit player, Josh Gad, for the lead.
Deadline reports that Disney has tapped Tony-winning M. Butterfly playwright David Henry Hwang to pen Hunchback, which is being described as a “live action musical adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel.” That suggests that this live-action film won’t be a direct adaptation of the 1996 animated film, though Hunchback will reportedly “pull from the ’96 animated film.”
Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the songs for the 1996 film and went on to collaboration on a decidedly more Gothic stage production that ran in Berlin from 1999 to 2002, will write the music for Hunchback.
Though no director has yet been named, Mandeville (the banner behind Disney’s mega-hit Beauty and the Beast) is producing along with Josh Gad. According to Deadline, Gad is currently being considered for the lead role of Quasimodo, the tragic titular hunchback, but no casting is solid at this point.
That leaves us with the big, dangling question: How are they going to pull this off? The 1996 animated film was surprisingly dark fare for Disney, featuring implied genocide, sexual content, and violent, fiery almost-deaths. The villain Frollo has a song where he lusts after Esmerelda for god’s sake! And don’t get me started on how exoticized Esmerelda — as is the case with many of Disney’s female characters of color — is. But that doesn’t even get to the depths of the bleak Victor Hugo novel, from which the live-action musical will allegedly draw most of its inspiration.
All of these dark elements fly in the face of the potential casting of Gad, whose jovial appearances in Frozen and Beauty and the Beast made him a fan-favorite amongst kids but don’t suggest the potential for the emotional heavy-lifting that Hunchback would require. Or maybe I’m just mislead in thinking that they’ll stick to Hugo’s tragic, Gothic tale and will give it the lighthearted makeover that we’ve seen with so many Disney live-action adaptations.
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