PARIS — Walt Disney’s cartoon pic “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” has wowed audiences in France, tak-ing in excess of $36 million at the box office, but not everybody is happy with the success.
This week, descendants of the French writer Victor Hugo, who penned the original story, savaged Walt Disney in an open letter to the Liberation newspaper.
No mention on poster
Charles, Jeanne, Sophie, Adele and Leopoldine Hugo, the great-great-grandchildren of the hugely respected author, are clearly distressed that their famous ancestor gets no mention on the pic’s ad posters.
In their letter to Liberation, the not-so-famous five noted, “the story used in this film is borrowed from the work of Victor Hugo, but his name is not even mentioned on the posters that cover the planet.” They went on to describe the highly lucrative merchandising campaign as being “commercial debauchery,” concluding, “we find this bazaar scandalous and obscene.”
Hugo’s descendants, clearly chagrined by Disney’s loose adaptation of the 19th century original and by the fact that France’s kids are more likely to associate Quasimodo with the cute toy that accompanies their McDonald’s burger than with Hugo’s physically challenged subject, described the Disney “Hunchback” operation as “vulgar commercialization by unscrupulous salesmen.”
Exactly what Victor Hugo would have made of the pic is a matter for conjecture. No shrinking violet when it came to putting his name about, he might have appreciated the fact that the toon version of his classic has prompted a resurgence of sales of his writings.