Why Disney Edited THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME to Achieve a G Rating

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Why Disney Edited THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME to Achieve a G Rating

By Movieguide® Staff

In a recent interview, the creative team behind the 1966 Disney classic THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME told The New York Times that they made several audio edits to help achieve a G rating from the MPAA.  

Two of the significant changes included decreasing volume when the movie’s villain Judge Claude Frollo, sniffs the hair of Esmeralda and increasing the sounds of moving robes to mask the word “sin.”

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, based on Victor Hugo’s 1831 French Gothic novel, is notably darker than Disney’s other classics, such as CINDERELLA.  

However, many older fairytales were based on adult stories and transcribed to work for younger audiences. 

Co-director Gary Trousdale added: “We never thought we’d get away with the term ‘hellfire,'” referencing a musical number where Frollo sings about the battle between his faith, lust for Esmeralda, and hate of the Romani.

The Hollywood Reporter noted

One major note the team received on the musical number — which features a choir singing in Latin, swirling smokey images of Esmeralda and red-hooded figures enveloping Frollo amid some other fiery religious imagery — was about the character’s use of the word “sin.”

Trousdale said that the MPAA was “uncomfortable” with Frollo singing, “This burning desire is turning me to sin,” according to the Times. But the soundtrack was finished recording and the sequence already animated, so the team used a solution suggested by producer Don Hahn.

As that group of hooded figures rush up from the floor, the team made the “whoosh” sound of their robes louder, effectively drowning out Jay saying “sin” — and earning the approval of the MPAA.

Disney recognized that the G-rating would mean greater success at the box office. 

“The studio felt anything above a G would threaten the film’s box office,” director Kirk Wise said. “This was before Shrek, or movies that made a PG rating in animation commonplace.”

Disney’s desire for a lower MPAA rating supports Movieguide®’s data that moral content performs better in theaters and movies with immoral content.  

Movieguide®’s review of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME reads: 

THE HUNCH BACK OF NOTRE DAME is a masterpiece extolling God’s Grace — a spectacular animation adaptation by Walt Disney Pictures based on the famous Victor Hugo novel. In this version, Quasimodo and the Captain of the Guard, Phoebus, team up with mutual love interest Esmeralda to fight the cruel terror of Judge Frollo. Although it has a strong, pro-Christian worldview, it may be too mature for small children. However, it is a “must see” for older children and adults.

While Movieguide® noted the adult elements, the powerful biblical imagery and themes helped solidify the movie as classic Disney. 

Despite the G-rating, Movieguide®’s founder Dr. Ted Baehr also notes the importance of media wisdom and how the MPAA often cuts corners to bring down the rating of a movie. 

Movieguide® previously reported

The ratings system by the Motion Picture Association of America just celebrated its 40th Anniversary, but the system remains a horrible enticement to teenagers and young children. It’s also still full of holes.

The movie ratings applied by the Motion Picture Association of America (G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17), a cartel owned by the six major movie studios in Hollywood, are designed to attract children and teenagers to adult content. Such content includes softcore pornography like SEX AND THE CITY or MISS MARCH and images of disturbing violence like WATCHMEN or the SAW movies. Consequently, some studio executives in Hollywood, especially the sleazier ones, use the ratings to make as much money as they can with such fare.

For years, MOVIEGUIDE® has led the battle against this terrible state of affairs, and our efforts are really starting to pay off in a big way.

The best way to get around this dastardly scheme is to know before your children go. And, you can do that best by checking the latest reviews…

Writer Tab Murphy noted in the interview with NYT: “Disney was willing to take some chances in that movie that I don’t think they’d take today. That’s a PG-13 in my book.”


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