The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Alan Menken)

Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, Disney's animated retelling of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was released in 1996. The film heavily abridges the plot of Victor Hugo's classic novel, changing and removing some characters, and providing a happy ending--though the film nonetheless maintains a dark, gothic tone with provocative themes that still makes it somewhat unique in the Disney canon (despite the obligatory, and much derided, comic relief gargoyle additions). The film has always been a personal favorite of mine, featuring a stunning visual style, combining classic hand-drawn and early 3D animation, with some of the most gorgeous background paintings in animated history. Adding to the mix would be American composer Alan Menken (joined by lyricist Stephen Schwartz), a Broadway legend who arguably defined Disney's "renaissance" period and set the template for modern film musicals. Menken's score and songs are feature some of his most mature symphonic work, complete with haunting Latin choir. Though perhaps never reaching the same pop culture level as some of his other animated musicals, "Hunchback" is one of Menken's proudest accomplishments, and one that he would expand on years later into an excellent full stage musical.

Walt Disney Records released the original soundtrack album at the time of film's release, featuring all the songs and about 20 minutes of score. For the film's 25th anniversary, WDR released an expanded album as part of their "Legacy Collection", on two discs, featuring the expanded score and demos. Some fans however were upset by some poor mixing issues and a few score selections that were oddly cut from their respective cues. Nevertheless, in any form you can find the music, it remains a monumental achievement, and one that will always have a very special place in my heart. For this project, I wanted to do justice to the music and the art of the film itself. I generally dislike the modern aesthetic to the Legacy Collection albums, so I wanted to draw from the plethora of jaw-dropping original concept and marketing art, as well as the fantastically painted background arts, with incredibly-researched details of the cathedral itself, that form the backdrop of the film itself. Also, I decided to simplify the credits, combining Menken's score and music credits into one, to save space and avoid redundancy. I also ended up avoiding the modern font and labelling of the Legacy version, to go with a more consistent look. But if people want to commission alternate version for their personal collection, message me using the button on the side of this page. 

Covers 1 and 3 feature the film's central marketing teasers, painted by the incredible John Henry Alvin. The first poster is one of my favorite film posters ever, just a stunning and dynamic design. Though as with almost all of the images from this collection, due to their age and available size, I had to apply a AI enhancer and heavy cleanup to try to make the images crisper. 

Cover 2 features on the "Art of" book, though I composited in the darker sky as featured in the film itself. 

Covers 4 - 6 all feature background paintings and concept art of the film, featuring the cathedral from various angles. I don't have the art book on hand, so sadly can't attribute the pieces to all the individual artist and painters who created them at the moment, but if anyone has that info, please pass it along so I can properly tag these.

Covers 7 - 9 feature screenshots from the film itself that highlight a variety of the film's stunning images. 

Covers 10 - 12 I'll call the "Hellfire" collection, featuring one of the most sinister and tortured villains, Judge Claude Frollo, in his most epic moment. The first of the set is a piece of fan art, featuring a slightly more risqué version of Esmeralda taunting Frollo's nightmares, as originally envisioned by the concept artists. The other two images are screenshots from the film itself, though in Cover 11, I had to edit things to accommodate the text (shrinking Frollo down a bit in relation to his ghostly witnesses, and extending the bottom of his body a bit to fit the bottom credit). 

Covers 13 - 15 all feature original concept art for the film, clearly in a much rougher and looser style here, but you can get the level of drama scope that they were aiming from the very earliest drafts. For Cover 15, I had to cut out Quasimodo and to move him toward the center of frame and paint back around him. 

Covers 16 - 18 again feature another set of background paintings. I don't remember if the first piece made it into the final film, but the second two pieces are featuring during one of my favorite numbers, "Out There", during Quasi's incredible tour of his beloved home. 

Covers 19 and 20 feature more work by John Henry Alvin. In a book that features a collection of his work across his career, he features a number of samples of early explorations he did for the film's poster, all of them are gorgeous, and mostly end up very different from his final paintings. Unfortunately the size of those images is incredibly small, and so even upscaled and enhanced dramatically, the images still suffer a bit in detail. Nevertheless I picked two of my favorites, and I think they make a nice addition to the collection. 

Finally, the 21st and final cover uses the final theatrical print, which has a more modern style, but I still quite like the final effect, and it gave a chance to showcase the actual cartoon characters as featured in the film. I up-rezzed and cleaned up a textless version of the poster, and added my own text. The trick here was cropping, as the image is much taller vertically, so I had to brainstorm how to significantly compress the bottom third of the image. This meant shifting Esmeralda up, and significantly shrinking down Clopin and moving him up as well. I then, had to use the existing bits of background crowd to paint back in over all the missing gaps that my edit created. In the end, I hope the overall image is fairly seamless and that all my edits go by mostly unnoticed.

I ended up spending probably about two months working on this, off and on, between other projects, and I hope you enjoy the results. Honestly, there's just was just so much incredible artwork to use, I easily could have made another dozen covers... but at some point I had to call it quits. Let me know your favorites from amongst the collection, and which you feel best does justice to the music and story of the film. 

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