How they made Quasimodo into apple pie

Click to follow
PL Travers reportedly wept when she saw what Disney had done to her creation, Mary Poppins. Victor Hugo may be turning the odd somersault in his grave with the opening of the latest Disney blockbuster, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.

The pounds 32m movie has been described as the darkest animated feature to come out of the Disney studios. It is also the sexiest. Esmeralda, voice by Demi Moore, breasts and cleavage unknown but unprecedentedly evident, has been accused of being too seductive. Judge Frollo has a depraved lust for her, sniffing her hair with what one magazine called "fetishistic hunger". The film has also been accused of having homosexual undertones.

Even the gargoyles are revolting. Jason Alexander, the actor whose voice springs from the mouth of one of Notre Dame's animated gargoyles, said he would not be allowing his four-year-old son to see the picture.

They accused Aladdin of political correctness when the title song was altered so as not to offend Muslims, and The Lion King of political incorrectness when the wicked uncle was of a darker hue than his relatives.

This time the controversy is over cultural correctness. The all-pervading apple-pie effect of anaesthetising the classics of world literature is bringing critical acrimony down on the studio.

The apple-pieing of Hugo has sparked cultural indignation. The reduction of Quasimodo from what one reviewer termed a "grotesquely tragic figure to anguished gonk in need of corrective surgery" could be an animation too far.

Peter Goldberger in the New York Times bewailed the debasement of high culture for high profits and claimed Disney was rotting the minds of children who would grow up believing that dancing hippos in tutus were de rigueur for classics of literature and music.

His article opened up a criticism of the Disneyfication of culture that had been notably dormant in American society.

Disney has been stung by the criticism, but is not about to change the lucrative habit of a lifetime. A spokesman for Disney's distributors, Buena Vista International said: "Disney stick very closely to the original story. In adapting a classic, the point of it is to make it fun and bring it across to a mainstream audience... [The stories] are maybe slightly expanded upon."