Michael Jackson Asked To Be Part Of ‘Hunchback Of Notre Dame,” But Disney Declined
Disney is well-known for its critically acclaimed animated films. To this day, The Hunchback of Notre Dame stands as one of the most unique and unforgettable animated movies they’ve debuted to date. The company relied solely on its vision for the film, one that could have included Michael Jackson’s participation had they approved it.
The film, based on Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, was released at the height of Disney’s “Renaissance” period, marking a departure from the Princess archetype films produced by the company. In a new oral history of the film by SlashFilm, the directors, animators, actors, and other filmmakers discuss the making of the film, revealing that Disney had rejected Michael Jackson’s proposal for involvement in the film.
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Composer Alan Menken revealed in the film that Jackson had displayed a strong interest in the film. Films like Aladdin had experienced chart success for its score with pop star covers of their songs, and Jackson wanted to do the same with Hunchback.
“I get a call out of nowhere from Michael’s assistant, when Michael was at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York,” Menken told SlashFilm. “He had to [deal with] allegations about inappropriate behavior with underage kids, and the breakup with Lisa Marie Presley. He’s looking to change the subject. And he obviously loves Disney so much. So I mentioned Hunchback. He said he’d love to come to my studio, watch the movie, and talk about it. So we got in touch with Disney Animation. They said, ‘Meet with him! If he likes it…well, see what he says.'”
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Menken showed Jackson three songs, “Out There,” “God Help the Outcasts,” and “Someday.” Menken then went on to run it by Disney, who allegedly told him “‘Uh, we’ll get back to you about that.'”
He continued, “finally, predictably, the word came back, ‘Disney doesn’t want to do this with Michael Jackson.’ I go, ‘OK, could someone tell him this?’ You can hear a pin drop, no response, and nobody did [tell him]. It fell to my late manager, Scott Shukat, to tell Michael or Michael’s attorney. In retrospect, it was the right decision. [But] Quasimodo is a character… if you look at his relationships with his family and his father, I would think there’s a lot of identification there.” Check out the full oral history here.
Jackson has apparently always been a huge fan of Hunchback of Notre Dame, expressing interest in playing Quasimodo in a possible remake of the 1939 film adaption before the Disney animated version materialized. Neither Disney nor Jackson’s estate have commented on the newly surfaced details.