After the critical and commercial success of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, the Walt Disney Pictures animation studio embarked on their most serious and ambitious animated feature to date with this adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel Notre Dame de Paris.
Quasimodo (voice of Tom Hulce) is a grotesquely deformed but kind-hearted young man who was abandoned by his parents as an infant and thrown down a well; he was rescued by the priests of Notre Dame, the massive cathedral in the heart of Paris, and he lives there, earning his keep as a bell ringer.
Quasimodo has become the ward of Judge Frollo (voice of Tony Jay), an outwardly pious but deeply hateful man who treats Quasimodio with indifference and violently loathes the Gypsies who spend their days in the cathedral's courtyard.
Frollo hopes to clear the Gypsies out of Paris with the help of Phoebus (voice of Kevin Kline), leader of the troops under Frollo's command. However, Phoebus does not share Frollo's racist views and harbors no ill will against the Gypsies.
When Quasimodo is crowned King of the Fools after leaving Notre Dame during the annual festival of Topsy Turvy Day, the hunchback is ordered beaten by the guards as punishment, but Esmerelda (voice of Demi Moore), a hot-blooded but compassionate gypsy beauty, shows pity on him and helps free him from his chains.
The lovely Esmerelda is the first woman to show kindness to the unfortunate Quasimodo, and the hunchback soon falls in love with her. However, the dashing Phoebus is also infatuated with her, and Esmerelda is attracted to Phoebus as well, though she feels a motherly affection for the hunchback.
Judge Frollo finds that he also desires Esmerelda, which only inflames his hatred for the Gypsies when she refuses his proposals.
Darker and less outwardly comic than most of Disney's features, The Hunchback of Notre Dame does feature comic relief in the form of Victor (voice of Charles Kimbrough) and Hugo (voice of Jason Alexander), a pair of gargoyles who befriend Quasimodo, as well as several songs from Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz.