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Quasi-rudo!; Disney takes a risque with sexy scenes.

Throbbing sex, dancing gargoyles, a happy ending...the French would never recognise this as the Victor Hugo classic.

Which is perhaps why the Disney version of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame was launched, not in Paris, but in New Orleans.

There's no Notre Dame cathedral in America's home of jazz. But, hey, it's got a French Quarter, so there's the connection.

Rumour has it that, in any case, the French refused to get involved. But, whatever the truth, Paris could not have given the group's latest animated feature a bigger or better send-off.

Famous Disney characters marched triumphantly through town in a two-mile long parade. Music blared out from umpteen high school bands.

And that was outside the Superdome, a concrete monstrosity as ugly as the Hunchback himself.

Inside, 65,000 people from around the globe - most ticket winners in a free lottery - were entertained in best, over-the-top Hollywood style.

Flying mermaids, stupendous fireworks, a 75-piece orchestra, a 500-strong gospel choir - and all on a stage measuring a third of an acre.

The premiere was in danger of seeming an afterthought, until six giant screens, 40ft by 74ft, were lowered from the roof and the film began.

Hot and steamy New Orleans quickly emerged as a highly appropriate venue. For this is the most risque cartoon Disney has ever made.

Murder - and there's lots of that - is un-Disney-like enough. But the blood is as nothing to the lust.

Sexual obsession runs throughout. It reaches a climax in the song Hellfire, in which the villainous Frollo imagines the curvaceous form of the gypsy Esmerelda (voice of Demi Moore) in his fire.

Mouths were agape as he sang to her flaming image: "Choose me or your pyre, Be mine or you will burn."

Hot stuff indeed, considering that it was only four years ago, in Aladdin, that a Disney cartoon first showed a belly button.

Such explicit sexual desire in a Disney cartoon may not, however, surprise America's 16 million Southern Baptists.

They had already urged members to shun Hunchback, indeed to boycott everything to do with Disney for the way the organisation "disparages Christian values".

Disney, they complain, is more interested in promoting homosexuality than family values.

They cite the studio's intention to provide health benefits to partners of gay employees, though not to unmarried partners of heterosexuals. They also point to Growing Up Gay, a book published by a Disney subsidiary, and to the group's links with such films as Kids and the British movie Priest.

Latest whispers say that the song Out There in Hunchback, is secretly a call to come out of the closet.

Such adult carping is unlikely to trouble the world's biggest entertainment group.

Its target is kids - and they are unlikely to care.

There's no taking the Mickey out of Disney, as the young at the premiere showed.

The appearance of the great mouse himself, fireworks shooting from his arms, sent them wild with excitement.

Mickey Mouse may be 68 years old but he still has the world's children in the palm of his hand.
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Rose, Simon
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 11, 1996
Words:510
Previous Article:VIDEO REVIEWS.
Next Article:Victor's a loser; The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (U, 90mins) ROSE'S VERDICT.
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