Esmeralda and her pet goat in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
(Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

Disney Is Still Remaking ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ And I Have Concerns

Remember how back in 2019 we got news of Disney’s plans to eventually remake The Hunchback of Notre Dame, one of their most beloved classics? It seemed like a dubious decision then and it still seems like one now. This week we finally got an update on it and well, nothing has happened to alleviate my fears. But let’s debunk a bit of misinformation first.

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame fancast that started it all

Earlier this week, Beauty and the Beast star Josh Gad—who is also producing this remake—shared what appeared to be a teaser/announcement poster to Instagram, with big-name stars listed as the cast.

This poster isn’t real, it’s fan-made, but reposted by Josh Gad.

It appears that Gad changed the caption on the image after posting it, and what it originally said has been lost to the internet void.

Currently, the caption reads: “Wow. This spread quickly. Lol. Okay, for the record, this is not real. This is a Fancast! I was just responding to it. Love that you guys all want this. We do to! The script is one of the best I have read and hopefully the powers that be will see this love and let us make the live action adaptation the original animated film deserves. But for now, again, this is just a fan cast!!!”

Trouble is … it’s a questionable fancast. In fact, it pretty neatly highlights all the already-existing concerns for the movie.

Casting a live-action Hunchback movie

Let’s take a look at those names on top of the poster. I would assume Peter Capaldi, who excels at playing horrible people despite being a very nice man, is the fancast for Judge Claude Frollo? That I have no problem with whatsoever. Can he sing? He released an album a couple of years ago so probably! But you know what, I don’t even care if he can sing. He would act the hell (no pun intended) out of the “Hellfire” sequence.

I also have no issue with Chris Evans being there, assuming he’s the fancast for Phoebus! He’s actually always been my fancast for Phoebus as well, despite my lack of interest in a live-action movie, I just reckon he’d do a good job. (Also I want to see all the inevitable Captain America/France memes.) Imelda Staunton, Kelsey Grammar, and Jack Black I assume are the three gargoyles? Also fine!

But Josh Gad, Gal Gadot, and Sacha Baron Cohen? Well, there are only three characters left that they could play in this fancast: Quasimodo, Esmeralda, and Clopin respectively. And there’s the problem—all those characters are of Romani descent and the actors are not. (Yes, Quasimodo is too! Remember the beginning of the movie?) And while none of the original voice actors matched the ethnicity of their characters either, it’s 2023 now and we’re finally getting into the idea that hey, characters of color and those depicting otherwise historically marginalized and persecuted communities should be accurately represented on screen. Disney is improving with this, but as always they’ve got a way to go.

Gal Gadot may not be playing Esmeralda but Gad—a producer on the film—appears not to have foreseen the many critical comments that idea was met with, and that’s a huge problem. It does not give us hope that Disney plans to cast an actual Romani actress in the role or sees the issue in not doing so.

Similarly, the prospect of Gad playing Quasimodo brings up a further problem, which is that Quasimodo is disabled and Gad is not. In fact, in the book, he is Deaf! The movie is just fundamentally going to miss a huge point of the story if a non-disabled person gets the role.

When is The Hunchback of Notre Dame coming out?

This is the first update we’ve had about this film for a while but now we know there’s a script in some stage of development. Last we heard, that script was coming from Tony-winning writer David Henry Hwang.

But we don’t know yet if this really will be “the live action adaptation the original animated film deserves,” as Gad says. After all, for every good live-action remake Disney has pulled off, there’s a middling one to match it. Who knows, maybe it will be cast thoughtfully after all and maybe the script really is as good as Gad says! But in the meantime … why not just watch the original instead?

(featured image: Disney)


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Author
Sarah Barrett
Sarah Barrett (she/her) is a freelance writer with The Mary Sue who has been working in journalism since 2014. She loves to write about movies, even the bad ones. (Especially the bad ones.) The Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and the Star Wars prequels changed her life in many interesting ways. She lives in one of the very, very few good parts of England.