WHAMO! Sometimes I Can Still Hear Her Bells…

WHAMO LogoHello, beautiful people! Will Scarlet, here. And it’s time for another edition of “WHAMO!” (which is basically “WWMHO!” – the acronym for “Will Watches Movies, Has Opinions” – but visually catchier).

Today’s pick owes itself to two things.

First: The fact that, up until about a month ago, Tirzah had not yet seen this Disney Renaissance classic in full – (tragedy!) – so Danielle and I totally nabbed it from the library to rectify the situation, to the betterment of all.

Second: I don’t know if you’ve heard, but a certain gorgeous French landmark that’s approximately as old as Robin Hood suffered some considerable fire damage, about a week-and-a-half back. Both Tirzah and Danielle were hit hard by the news, having visited the iconic cathedral for the first (and, so far, only) time just a few years before, and loved it, if not as deeply as a Parisian, then the unique way only their soft little author hearts can.

So, here’s looking at you, Our Lady, with a film animated in your honor:

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”

Hunchback of Notre Dame poster

The IMDb-official description:

A deformed bell-ringer must assert his independence from a vicious government minister in order to help his friend, a gypsy dancer.

From Disney; directed by Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise; starring Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Tony Jay.

Stream of Impressions (the highlights):

“ALAJSLKDJF, THIS OPENING NUMBER! There is no – see: NONE – other opening song number on the same level as ‘The Bells of Notre Dame’! Not in Disney, anyway. ‘Deliver Us’ from Dreamworks’ ‘The Prince of Egypt’, sure. Oh, and the ‘Wicked’ musical’s ‘No One Mourns the Wicked’. …Wait… *looks it up* OH MY BARD, Stephen Schwarz was the lyricist behind all three! Genius will out! Hats off to you, sir!”

“So, what, he’s planning to drown a baby in a public drinking well? Like that won’t affect the water quality, at all?”

“Ironic how Frollo claims to be so into God but his horse looks like the actual devil.”

Hit that note and gimme life, Clopin!”

“I dunno how it was in 1996, but I’ve gotten the gist that ‘gypsy’ is considered an offensive term, these days, so we’re gonna have to come up with something else to call the people group this movie is basically centered around. How ‘bout… the Miracle Court? Yeah, we’ll be going with that.”

“I haven’t yet thought to rank the quality of Disney’s ‘I want’ songs, but ‘Out There’ is definitely a top contender. And not just because it’s a huge release after feeling the need to tear off my own skin to get away from Frollo singing to stay in the tower. (Yeah, hi, I spent decades locked up in an immortal Renaissance Faire by an inflexible geezer and I get TRIGGERED.)”

“Question: If Quasimodo’s mom was a— pardon, was one of the Miracle Court… why is he white? Like, not just kind of white. Red-headed white. Did that poor woman die trying to save a baby she adopted when some white family who thought he was too ugly to love kicked him to the Parisian curb?? Does her heroism go even deeper than the script chose to pursue???”

“Bold animating choice to give Esmeralda smaller pupils and dem mega green irises, vs. the huge ‘n’ dewy pupils seen in the average Disney Princess and, say, Quasimodo. Big pupils hold big dreams and a measure of naïveté. Our girl Esmeralda knows too much of the world for that.”

“Can we all agree that Clopin is an actual Faerie or trickster god or some such not-quite-human entity? Because he’s barely trying to blend in, here.”

“All that talk from Frollo about how the outside world would reject Quasi’s face, but the first ones at the Feast of Fools to throw rotten fruit at him were Frollo’s own troublemaking guards. Just. Go figure.”

“Interesting how Esmeralda is the only one in Notre Dame today trying to have a selfless heart-to-heart with God. Tell me again, Frollo, why we have such a vendetta against the Miracle Court? What’s that? – because you’re just using religion as an excuse to feel powerful and superior to your fellow man? Somebody hand me the world’s heaviest Bible; I’ve got a poser to smack down.”

“Obviously, if ever I decide to force my friends to join me in staging a production of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, I’m playing Phoebus. That goes without saying. And Allyn’s too flawless to pass for Quasimodo, but that’s what makeup’s for. As for Clopin, have said it before and will say it again: Gant-o’-the-Lute, all day.”

Frollo: “Then tell me, Maria,

Why I see her dancing there,

Why her smold’ring eyes still scorch my soul…”

Will Scarlet: “Because she’s an 11.”

“So, either Frollo legitimately believes that Esmeralda is a wicked, heathen sorceress, or he knows full well she’s just a woman trying to exist in spite of prejudice and patriarchy… and regardless, he’s over here like, ‘She makes me feel things. I must own her or kill her’?!!!!?!??!? Even he knows that’s messed up! And if he really wanted to play the righteous card, now would be the time to pray hard for resistance to temptation. Or, y’know, burn down the homes of the village folk. That works just as well.”

“I have not yet had anything to say about the wacky gargoyle trio, and I still don’t.”

“And now for the Miracle Court’s theme song! In which Clopin’s Fey/trickster/what-have-you status is on fuller display than ever.”

“Frollo did us the bamboozle! The Court of Miracles is compromised! Notre Dame is on fire, but more in a wrathful Te-Kā from ‘Moana’ way, less like the incident in real-life Paris, the other week!”

“Never a more satisfying Disney Villain Death-Fall in the history of ever. Good riddance to hell’s rubbish.”

‘Three cheers for the guy at whom we threw rotten produce, the other day! He saved the pretty girl and stuck it to The Man! Our fickle crowd love is his!’ That’s how you sound, townsfolk. But whatever. Quasi’s happy, we’re happy. Play us out with that sweetly chilling and triumphant ‘Bells of Notre Dame’ reprise.”

More Coherently Summarized:

Though not a particular favorite of Danielle’s childhood – (because it’s a total adult movie masquerading as a kids’ cartoon, yo) – she would in retrospect be the first to tell you that HoND is a masterpiece among masterpieces. The music, top tier. The animation, superb. The message, ever timely. It gets dark, it goes deep, and while Danielle tends to cringe when religion gets vilified, that’s not actually what this movie does. The bad guy isn’t the church itself, it’s the kind of people who would use it to further their own selfish, loveless ends. There are Frollos in the world, alas (and canonically, Robin Hood would rob them blind with a merry ‘ha-ha’). There are also Archdeacon characters who sometimes stand up against evil, though one could argue that they should be fighting harder. And there are Phoebuses who rebel when the orders they’re given cross moral lines, and Esmeraldas who seek to show God’s love despite how little they’ve been shown. For all I know, there are even talking gargoyles. It’s a world of impossibilities, out there.

Where are the POC?

#MiracleCourt. I don’t have the first idea how to grade the movie’s representation of any kind of Romany culture. But they were there, they were integral to the story, and between the two named Miracle Court characters (Clopin and Esmeralda), we got quite the range in personality. Lord only knows what a live-action remake would look like, in this day and age. (Please tell me they’ll nix the word ‘gypsy’…) But since live-action remakes (*cough* or CGI-action remakes, “The Lion King” *cough*) are all the rage at Disney, right now, I guess we’ll find out in – *checks online* – 2021.

Bonus Photo Gallery!

Just a little throwback to the Notre Dame my author once knew in person. Rebuild as you’re able, Paris.

<<<>>>

And that’s today’s review! How about you guys? Which is your favorite Disney ‘I want’ song? (Don’t even try to tell me there’s a better opening song; I won’t stand for it.) Where were you when you heard of the recent Notre Dame fire? On a scale of 1 (super skeptical) to 10 (crazy excited), how are you feeling about a live-action HoND remake? Discuss in the comments below!

‘Til next time, babes ~

A Song of Steel (Scarlet’s Fairytale Spin, Act 14)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every Saturday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon ’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘A Song of Steel’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on Allyn-a-Dale, Will Scarlet, and Marion and Robin Hood, in their respective roles as Jack Snow, Peter “The Woodsman” Pan, Wendy Darling-Pan, and Simian, the winged monkey formerly in the employ of the Antichristmas Beast. Two lanterns, one each borne by Will and Allyn, provide the only light. The party of four stands stage right on a circular platform, on which a prop wall stands before them at an angle ideal for maximum audience visibility. In the wall’s center is a door that looks like it’s been constructed from a hay bale.]

Allyn/Jack: Behold, the first of the doors into the vault of the forest’s wild pigs, as referenced previously in our serial fairy tale skit. Have you got your skeleton key, Mother?

Marion/Wendy [holding the key made of bone up to the lantern light ]: Present! Let me at that lock of straw.

[With the insertion and twist of the key, the straw door swings open. As the players step through single-file, the circular platform beneath them rotates so that, by the time they’ve all reached the other side, another wall and door stands before them – this time, a door made of wood.]

Will/Woodsman: Now, see, this door makes so much more sense than the first. Straw? Really? Who’s that going to keep out?

Robin/Simian: People with severe allergies?

Will/Woodsman: Eh. Maybe.

[Marion inserts and twists her key once again, opening the wooden door and restarting the platform’s rotation. When all the threshold crossing and platform spinning has ceased, the audience gets its view of the third wall and its door made of brick.]

Allyn/Jack: The final door. After this, we’re in, and the treasure is ours to wield against the Antichristmas Beast! …erm, I don’t suppose any of us know exactly what this treasure is?

Will/Woodsman: No idea.

Marion/Wendy: Not for long!

[In, twist, everybody through. Beyond the platform of doors, the stage brightens from pitch black to merely gloomy. Solemn, pig-faced statues line the backdrop curtain, and a boxy stone shape dominates the vault space.]

Robin/Simian [nervously wringing his tail ]: Is it just me, or does this place come off as rather like a tomb?

Eerie, Echoing Voice: Whooo’s ooout theeere?

Robin/Simian [jumping into Will’s arms ]: Eeeeek!

Will/Woodsman: Those wings of yours, monkey… they wouldn’t happen to have been grafted on from a chicken, would they?

Eerie, Echoing Voice: Who’s OOOUT there? Living in the su-u-un… Give me one DAY ooout there! All I ask is o-o-one…!

Marion/Wendy: Wait. That’s from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. What kind of ghost sings Disney showtunes?

Eerie, Echoing Voice: Ghost? Who’s a ghost? Not me. You’d see, if you just let me out of the casket!

Robin/Simian [whimpering ]: You promise you’re not dead?

Eerie, Echoing Voice: Far from it, my friend. A livelier one of my kind you never shall know! …if only because, of my kind, there’s only one. Only me. Only Songsteel, singing sword of the forest!

Singing Sword

Allyn/Jack: A singing sword! That must be the weapon we’ve come for! Somebody lend me a hand.

[Marion takes responsibility for the lanterns while Will and Allyn remove the casket’s stone lid. Reaching down, Allyn pulls out the slender silver sword – the voice of which is, without the casket’s echo effect, much more easily discerned as that of Gant-o’-the-Lute (star of soon-to-be-launched fairytale novella “The Song Caster”!).]

Lute/Songsteel: Free from my confinement at last! I’d feared I’d be left here to rust ‘til time’s end, curse the dwarves who built my crypt of a prison!

Allyn/Jack: Now, now, speak none too ill of the dwarves. ‘Til I joined up with The Woodsman and Wendy, they were my only family.

Lute/Songsteel: As you like it, then. Sing hey for the dwarves! If naught else, they’ve some decent music to their name. Far over the Misty Mountains cooold… to dungeons dee-ee-eep—

Will/Woodsman: Yes, lovely. So, how does a singing sword best the Beast? I tried a sword on him once before, and he just pulled a vanishing trick. Why should this blade have any better luck?

Lute/Songsteel [insulted ]: Why should—?? You sylvan slow-wit, have you know idea who I am?!

Allyn/Jack: We mean to learn. Come, all. Let us—

[Another eerie echo of a voice cuts Allyn short, this time the sound like a cross between a windstorm and a great wolf’s howl.]

Robin/Simian: Oh, NO! It can’t be!

Marion/Wendy: Can’t be what?

Howling Windstorm Voice: Little prey, little prey, let me come in!

Will/Woodsman [defiant ]: Not by the beard of a monkey chicken!

Howling Windstorm Voice: Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow these doors in!

[With a gust and a crash, the straw door flies out into the orchestra pit (currently clear of orchestra members and instruments, never fear). With another, louder gust and crash, the wooden door does the same.]

Will/Woodsman: Nobody panic! The brick door will surely hold.

Robin/Simian: But it won’t! Don’t you see? This is neither mere windstorm nor regular forest beast. The Antichristmas has summoned the Puffwolf! He can huff and puff anything in!

[Gust! Crash! The brick door blasts past the players and off into the wings.]

Everyone Onstage [in 4-part harmony (a diminished 7th chord, for you musical types in the audience) ]: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Miranda McNeff and Chelsea de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with inspirational lines from the songs ‘Out There’ and ‘Misty Mountains’.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes!”

“Now, before we go,” says Allyn, “hearty congratulations to (oh, hello again) Miranda McNeff, winner of the signed Benedeck bookmark in this week’s ‘Song Caster’ mini-giveaway!”

“Way to go, Miranda!” Will cheers. “And look alive, everyone, for opportunities to win big as we hit June 24th, the start of Launch Week for ‘The Song Caster (Book Four of The Wilderhark Tales)’. ‘Til next time, friends:  Will and Allyn out!”