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Hunchback of Notre Dame

Friday, June 26, 2009

In 2008, Disney enclosed the Backlot Theater to create a multi-purpose venue for various attractions at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Before the theater was enclosed and before it was used to store Osborne Lights, the theater was home to one of the most celebrated and loved stage shows on Walt Disney World property, the Hunchback of Notre Dame - A Musical Adventure. Based on the Disney animated film that was based on the classic Victor Hugo book, the stage show brough the film's story to life daily inside the Studios and was a real treat to enjoy.

The attraction was one of the best stage shows to come to Walt Disney World and despite the film not being the box office success that the Little Mermaid or Beauty and The Beast were, the stage show of Hunchback was one of the best shows to appear at the Disney-MGM Studios in terms of sets, script and performances.  The show began regular showings on June 21, 1996 in the Backlot Theater.

The 32 minute stage show was performed in the Backlot Theater on what was then called New York Street.  Before the show even started, a favorite streetmosphere character known as "Matt the Juggler" would enterain the crowd with his juggling ability as well as his quick wit.  The main show started out with a gypsy campsite where Clopin, the storyteller, tells the story of Quasimodo. In it, fifteenth centry France is brought to the stage with the colorful characters.  
The cast of medieval puppets along with 21 live performers, helped to tell the tale from the film, where you have the three-foot-tall puppets transform into humans and again back to puppets during the show.  Each scene is introduced by Clopin and his gypsy colleagues and the stage featured a a runway that extended 40 feet from the stage into the audience so that guests feel as if they're part of the show.
The climax of the show features Quasimodo confronting Frollo and Frollo sets fire to Paris.  The burning of Paris was one of the more intriguing aspects of the show for it's amazing pyrotechnic special-effects.
It's last performance was on Sept. 28, 2002.  Interestingly enough, some of the original Hunchback cast members moved to shows in the Animal Kingdom when that park opened.   If you never got a chance to see it or you'd like to recall how good it was, you can view a video of the performance here.