On this day in pop culture history: Disney’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ opened in theaters
Has it really been 20 years since Hunchback of Notre Dame hit theaters? Oui, c'est vrai!
The 34th animated feature from the House of Mouse, Hunchback has a place among the Disney Renaissance movies of the 1990s, though it tends to be less remembered and celebrated than the likes of The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Mulan. Adapted from Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, it’s darker than many Disney pics, and the only animated movie from the studio that’s had a major focus on themes of religion and faith. Though the filmmakers “were told to not make the movie too religious — a pretty daunting task when you consider how much of this story takes place inside of a big church,” animator Floyd Norman said. Hunchback of Notre Dame also had an outcast hero that didn’t look like dashing princes of Disney films past. And it delved into some issues tackled in the novel, from classism to racism to oppression. All that made for a challenging adaptation process and a challenging G-rating offering for family audiences.
Ultimately, Hunchback was a bit of an outcast itself that wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms by ticket-buyers. It was by no means a bomb but did have underwhelming box office receipts. Come awards season it did get some attention: Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz’s moving music that told the tale of Quasimodo was nominated for an Oscar.
Other notable June 21 happenings in pop culture history:
• 1948: Live reports from a political convention were broadcast for the first time when television networks covered the Republican convention in Philadelphia.
• 1955: Johnny Cash’s first successful song, “Cry! Cry! Cry!” was released.
• 1969: Patrick Troughton ended his tenure as the Second Doctor on Doctor Who. That final episode with Troughton as a regular was also the last episode produced in black and white. Troughton did return for guest appearances in 10th and 20th anniversary specials “The Three Doctors” and “The Five Doctors” and also finally in 1985 episode “The Two Doctors.”
• 1978: Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita premiered in London. It had originated as a rock opera concept album released two years prior.
• 1985: Ron Howard film Cocoon opened in theaters.
• 1990: Little Richard was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
• 2002: Minority Report and Lilo & Stitch opened in theaters.
• 2003: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth novel in the series, was released. At the time, it was the largest distribution day ever for a single item in e-commerce history, as Amazon.com shipped out over a million copies of the new book about the Boy Who Lived.