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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Disney's 'Hunchback' a Hit in Native Land

PARIS -- Never mind the happy ending and historical inaccuracies. Never mind that Quasimodo, created by Victor Hugo as a grotesque monstrosity, is transformed into a funny-looking fellow with a heart of gold.

In the land where it all began, Disney's "Hunchback of Notre Dame'' is a hit.

Some film critics have taken issue with the movie, but that hasn't stopped 5.2 million viewers from pouring into cinemas since its Nov. 27 opening, making it the country's second-most popular film last year.

Some are impressed by its adventure scenes, others by its lessons on morality and others by its relevance to today's world.

Riding the film's popularity, Hugo's house in Paris is displaying the novelist's own drawings of medieval Paris, boat tours on the Seine linger at the 11th-century Notre Dame cathedral and the movie's merchandising is doing a brisk business.

"The film is doing better here than anywhere else in Europe, because of French cultural and literary traditions,'' said Philippe Ravanas, director of corporate communications at Disneyland Paris.

"People are familiar with Hugo's epic, but they don't criticize Disney for making an animated feature film inspired by it.''

While the respected Le Monde underscored Disney's manipulation of historical truth -- baguettes didn't exist in medieval times -- it presented the film as a serious take on timely themes.

The leftist daily Liberation compared Esmeralda's life-saving request for asylum in Notre Dame and an incident last summer in which French police bashed down the doors of a Paris church to roust nearly 200 illegal African immigrants.

Unfortunately, the message of church-as-sanctuary may have been lost on the kids.

Only a handful of children interviewed said they had picked up on the concept.

"I didn't get it until the end, and only when my mother explained it,'' said 10-year-old Anais Davezac. "For me, 'Hunchback' was an adventure movie.''

But the weightier points have not hampered sales of "Hunchback''-related items.

Clothing, umbrellas, gloves and tote bags adorned with Esmeralda's green eyes and sexy curves were among the pre-Christmas best-sellers at The Disney Store on the Champs-Elysees. Now reduced 30 percent, they're being snatched up by bargain-hunting movie fans.

Disneyland Paris and American Express also have dreamed up a "Hunchback'' package tour featuring a four-night, five-day hotel stay at the park and a visit to Notre Dame and its picturesque belfry.