Walt Disney Pictures has seen a renaissance in its output of animated adaptations of classic fairytales (once the studio’s bread and butter) in recent years thanks to the popularity of hits like Tangled and Frozen, and expects similarly solid returns out of the Polynesian legend-inspired Moana and the Jack & The Beanstalk retelling Gigantic in the near future. The studio has also focused its attention on giving its older animated classics new life as big-budget live-action remakes, most recently with director Jon Favreau’s box office success, The Jungle Book.
There are at least 15 such live-action remakes are currently known to be planned by Disney, most of them based on the studio’s films that have now achieved “classic” status. However, based on a quote by a star of the Disney-owned Marvel Cinematic Universe, a surprising title could be among the live-action remakes currently in the pipeline.
One of the noteworthy entertainment stories of 2015 was original Avengers helmer Joss Whedon not only declining to make more Marvel films (at least not in the immediate future) but voicing what at the time sounded like a surprising amount of discontent with certain aspects of the production on Avengers: Age of Ultron – a sign that things were not well between the filmmaker and the Disney-owned Marvel Studios. Whedon indicated that his views on that period have softened during a recent Tribeca Film Festival sit down with Avengers star Mark Ruffalo, where the Hulk actor indicated that at the time Whedon had staunchly refused his own pleas for him to stay with the franchise. Said Ruffalo (per Deadline):
“I begged him to do Avengers 3 and 4, Hulk 3, Thor 3 and Quasimodo, and he said, I’ll never do it again.”
That last name/title stands out from the rest, and not simply because it’s the only one that’s not the name of an established (or planned) Marvel franchise. While there is, in fact, a Marvel Universe character named “Quasimodo” (a living-computer henchman of The Mad Thinker with a robot body and malformed human-like face whose full name was “Quasi-Motivational Destruct Organism”) the name originally belongs to the eponymous character of Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. Of particular (potential) interest is that Hugo’s book was previously adapted by Disney into an animated film in 1996.
Is it possible that Mark Ruffalo could have unintentionally revealed that, at least one point, a live-action update of the Disney Hunchback was on the studio’s slate of potential projects, and that Joss Whedon was considered to direct? It’s not entirely outside the realm of plausibility, though it should be noted that while (as previously noted) Disney currently has over a dozen animation-to-live-action adaptations in some stage of development – including Winnie The Pooh and The Sword in The Stone – Hunchback of Notre Dame has not been reported before now – though Disney did at one point consider a TV series based on the story, Esmeralda, as a potential ABC TV show in 2013. A live-action Hunchback movie titled Esmeralda was also put into development by producer Peter Chernin in 2015, but through his own production company, not Disney. Amusingly, Ruffalo’s Marvel character, The Incredible Hulk, once battled an evil version of the “real” Quasimodo in a Paris-set episode of of the 1982 Hulk animated series, “When Monsters Meet”, which was turned into a special collectible comic that same year.
While it’s just as (if not more) likely that Ruffalo was just spitballing titles, that the idea sounds plausible at all is a testament to the status of Disney’s “in-house” live-action slate. It’s odd that the studio even attempted to make a kid-friendly animated film based on Hugo’s rather dark novel in 1996, but nowadays Disney’s “revisionist” approach to its live action remakes has taken several properties in unexpectedly dark directions. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was a darkly-offbeat and action-oriented take on Lewis Carroll’s story, while Maleficent (starring Angelina Jolie) revised the Sleeping Beauty narrative into a surprisingly-upfront sexual-assault survival allegory. None of that necessarily suggests the studio would be too eager to revisit its adaptation of Hugo’s source material (which is so rife with violent themes and sexual undercurrents that it was a surprise Hunchback didn’t become the first Disney animated film to receive a PG rating since The Black Cauldron).
If Quasimodo is on Disney’s list of planned animated-fairy tale remakes, its release is likely several years off. The next two films in the cycle are the Alice sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass in May and the Emma Watson-starring Beauty and the Beast in March of 2017. Disney has tentatively set dates for four more live-action fairy tale movies thereafter, but has yet to announce exactly which films will be taking those dates.