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Vintage Walt Disney World: A Festival of Fools

Nate Rasmussen

by , Librarian, Walt Disney Archives

'The Hunchback of Notre Dame – A Musical Adventure' at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Fifteen years ago at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM Studios), the city of Paris came to life at the Backlot Theater as Quasimodo and friends took the stage for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame – A Musical Adventure.” This 32-minute show opened June 21, 1996 – the same day as the film did in theaters – and entertained guests until it closed on Sept. 28, 2002.

'The Hunchback of Notre Dame – A Musical Adventure' at Disney's Hollywood Studios

The show told the story of Quasimodo’s struggle against the villain Frollo and his feelings for gypsy Esmeralda, accompanied by a musical score recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra. Traveling from the Bell Tower of Notre Dame Cathedral to the streets of Paris for the Festival of Fools, the show featured all of the characters made famous by the movie throughout its seven scenes. During the show’s climax, pyrotechnic special effects were used onstage when Frollo set the city afire.

'The Hunchback of Notre Dame – A Musical Adventure at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Even though I can’t experience this spectacular show any more, I can always join Clopin via DVD as he brings Quasimodo’s story to life.


  • I loved this show. Still have tons of pictures from it. I worked as a CP in Fall of 96 and Summer of 97, and worked at the cart outside the show. I heard the show everyday seven times a day for the entire summer, and miss it greatly when I return to visit. Thanks for the memories.

  • While I love the Nemo musical, this was probably my all-time favorite live show in the park. Still miss it and wish you would bring it back!!!

  • Nate, do you happen to know when the first picture was taken? I have a sneaking suspicion I am looking at the back of my head on house left…

  • This and the Alladin show in Disneyland are still my all time favorite theme park shows.

  • I must be getting old when things like this have become “vintage” Disney! I miss this show more than most. And does anyone else use the word “esoteric” in their daily lives…all thanks to Matt the Juggler? LOL. “Don’t get a degree in the Humanities”

    • Edward, you (and a lot of other people) had me thinking about the word vintage. I know we all associate it with the word “old,” so I looked it up online in the Merriam-Webster Dictonary and it has this as the definition, “of old, recognized, and enduring interest, importance, or quality : classic.” So let’s think more in the terms of “classic” instead of “old.” I think we’ll all feel younger that way. :)

  • Loved the show at Disneyland so much that I took my first trip to disneyworld to see their version.

  • I loved this show so much! In fact one summer I worked it selling sodas to thirsty show goers up and down the bleachers. I miss the preshow juggler (Matt?) and his diablo.

  • Ha! Just showed those photos to my now seventeen year old and she got so excited – she thought it was back. Thanks for sharing these!

  • This was one of my favorite shows…I think it was better than the movie!

  • I agree with everyone. A top rate show with excellent talent. It had to be a cost decision. It was our favorite. My daughter spent a year as “Essie ” I was quasimommy and my husband got to be Phebus (sp). We were looking at photos the other day and tucked away with them was a half of the playing card they would tear in half during the show. One of my daughters mementos from the show. I can still remember how they would walk out on the end or runway portion of the stage and shake hands at the end – that would make her year. Obviously this show brings back lots of great memories. Too bad it’s no longer there creating new memories. Matt was awesome!!!

  • I loved this show. This was one of my first Disney Parks shows and it remains very dear to my heart. I wish that something like this could come back to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

  • This show needs to be brought back, in California as well. Especially since it’s the 15th anniversary. It was a lot of fun, very entertaining, it was like going to a renaissance fair, but even better….it had Judge Claude Frollo! XD

  • I remember seeing this show in 1997. Does anyone remember where the theater was located within the park? I can’t recall, for the life of me, where it was. It probably has another use now.

    • Joanne, the theater was off of a side street in the Streets of America. I’m not sure how familiar you are with the park, but if you were walking out of Mama Melrose’s it would eventually be on your left. There is a new enclosed theater there now called Premiere Theater.

  • This was DisneyWorld’s best stage show ever. I saw it sometimes twice each trip to WDW. I really miss it!!!!!

  • I also miss this fantastic show. Saw it many times. And I also wish they would consider bringing it back. There was always a long line to see this show, and I’m sure it would be a hit again. And, I miss Matt the juggler, too.

  • I can’t tell you how much I miss this show!!! My whole family usually laments its departure whenever we’re at Studios. It truly does rank among the best that the parks have ever produced. Just fabulous, quality entertainment!
    I you would consider bringing it back….

  • I agree! This was the best Disney show ever! I was so sad when it ended and would love to see it come back. I liked this better than the movie. I am sad that my children never got to see it.

  • Oh my gosh! We loved that show! We saw it in 1997. It was so sweet watching my 2 1/2 year old little girl pointing and trying to say Esmeralda! She was so excited!

  • Hands down this was the best show ever!! I saw it at Disneyland, and was just blown away. I was heartbroken when it closed. PLEASE bring it back to California!!!!

  • This is so great to see this blog! Hunchback was not one of my favorite movies, this however was the best theatrical stage show WDW has EVER had!! I was so saddened when they took it away. I did not understand why – I wouldn’t think due to lack of popularity. The music from it is so amazing that it made for the perfect stage show. The stage is still at Hollywood Studios and I keep wishing and wishing that they will bring it back (or at least put something in it’s place)!!

    I also miss Matt the Juggler. I keep hoping they would have him at Fantasmik! but I never see him.

  • I miss this show and Tarzan Rocks! Nemo is good, but these were better.

  • I had memories of this show floating around in my head for many years, but on return visits to Disney, since it had been removed, I was seriously starting to think that I made it up! I remembered the bleachers in the building very well, but I couldn’t place the building in context – I couldn’t figure out *where* I saw it. I finally found some old park maps and realized that I wasn’t crazy and didn’t dream it up – it really did exist at MGM!
    I’ve developed a new appreciation for Hunchback as I’ve gotten older, and I love Love LOVE the music! Sad that I can’t see the live show anymore, and I gave in and bought the non-fancy edition DVD last year (since my video tape has become a travesty, lol.) I hope Hunchback gets released on Special Edition soon!

  • Absolutely the best show ever put on. What a treat to get a Broadway quality show in the parks like that! The cast was excellent, and the show was so well done. Why you removed it will never be understood! It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about those memories. It should be brought back for a new generation to enjoy!

  • I wish they still had this show. I remember seeing it when I was little. Bring it back!

  • I’m with Letita….BRING IT BACK!!!! Best show ever!!

  • They had this at Disneyland too! I saw it there in 1996. I was very excited because we had been to see the movie a few days before we saw the show. I was only 8 but I remember it was very exciting.

  • This was the best show I think I’ve ever seen at Disney, I was so upset when it ended. I wonder if Disney has video footage from these shows…I would think that they would have to, and I would absolutely love to have copies of some of them on DVD!

  • Ohh how I miss this show too. Miss swooning over Clopin and his voice too! To this day I wish they sold a Djali goat marionette like they used in the show.

    Now that the show’s old theatre in enclosed, I would love to see a new show go into it. Or even an old show, like Twas the Night from Magic Kingdom would look great in there next to Spectacle of Lights, hint hint hint hint! =)

  • This was THE BEST stage show!! I miss it so much – I always talk about it when we get to that area of the park. Makes me sad, but great memories!

  • Overall still the BEST Disney Stage Show EVER!!!!!!!!!

  • BRING IT BACK! It makes me weep a little inside every time I pass that building. Heck I use to tear up the first three notes upon entrance!

  • I agree with the above comments – it was a great show. I just recently watched the movie again on a day home sick, and really enjoyed the music and messages of the movie. If I remember, it also had puppets and marionettes – wasn’t Jali the goat a marionette in this show?

    • Jeffrey, you are remembering right. Djali the goat was a marionette.

  • Everyone’s right – one of my favourite animated features created one of the best shows in any Disney theme park. Only to be topped by the Mulan Show at Disneyland Paris…now THAT was a show!

  • What a wonderful treat to see this on the blog this morning. This was, hands down, the best theatrical show that Walt Disney World has put on. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was instantly my favorite Disney movie (I was 11 when the movie premiered). I have to admit that I had a bit of an obssesion with this show… I would see it and then instantly jump back in line to see it again. Across my trips when this show was running, I must have easily seen it 30+ times. The cast of the show was amazing, and the Disney cast members who ran it made a strong impression on me. It was my first time learning what a “stage manager” was (thanks, Patti!), and it later influenced what I studied in college. Thanks for sharing this!

    • You’re welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • I remember watching this show as a kid, I miss it so much! The singing and acting were wonderful!!!

  • I adored this show! I have great photos from it during our honeymoon in 2000. It was amazing. I miss it.

  • I LOVED THIS SHOW!! Why won’t they produce more shows like this? The Pocahontas show was quite amazing too!

  • I loved this show, but I loved Matt the Juggler even more. That guy is fantastic! The last I heard, he was now working on the Boardwalk. is that still the case?

  • Family and I love this show and of course Matt the pre-show! I think the most times in a day to see the show was three our average was two! love the cast and performance. Still watching it at home on video…. Thanks for sharing this today!

  • I never saw this show in Florida, but I saw the Hunchback show at Disneyland and I’m assuming they were similar because I agree with the above comments that it was one of the best shows ever.

    Wish they would bring it back.

  • Plus one! I loved the music and songs in this show. Oddly enough, I was just reminiscing about the show with my son 2 days ago.

  • Oh how I miss this show!!! The best WDW has ever offered! I got to see the very last performance – I still get misty eyed. And who didn’t love Matt the Juggler?! Can’t believe they took it away.

  • This is my all-time favorite Walt Disney World show, ever ever ever. I still miss it. I’m lucky enough to have some recordings of it. The performances were always stellar. I also adored the preshow with Matt the Juggler! Happy memories!

  • I LOVED this show!!!! Wish it was still around.

  • Our family still misses the Hunchback show! There was always a pre-show – a funny juggler who would interact with the audience. Also, the most talented cast!

  • Hunchback has some of the most memorable and moving music of any Disney animated film and this attraction showcased that perfectly. It was one of my favorites, as was its successor, the Pocahontas show. I miss them both! Thanks for sharing this!

  • This was one of my favorite shows, and I miss it on every trip. The performances were always top-notch and I believe this would make a great addition to Broadway at some point.

    Thanks for bringing back the memories!

  • That was a great show – I still miss it!

  • Oh I miss that show. Saw it in 1996 or 1999 I think. Thanks for the images this morning :)

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