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- NOTE: This about Judge Claude Frollo in the 1996 Disney animated film. For the original literary version, see Claude Frollo.
|“||Judge Claude Frollo longed to purge the world of vice and sin. And he saw corruption everywhere, except within.||„|
|~ Clopin Trouillefou on Judge Claude Frollo.|
|“||And He shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit!||„|
|~ Judge Claude Frollo's most famous quote as well as his final words and blasphemy before his very ironic demise.|
Judge Claude Frollo (also simply known as Frollo) is the main antagonist of Disney's 34th full-length animated feature film The Hunchback of Notre Dame and a posthumous antagonist in its 2002 direct-to-video sequel The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, which is based on the 1831 French novel of the same name by the late Victor Hugo.
He is a religious fanatic who uses his position as the Minister of Justice in the city of Paris to enrich himself and persecute those he considers inferior, especially the city's Gypsies. He is the ex-foster father of Quasimodo as well as his arch-nemesis and the murderer of his mother. This version of Frollo is noticeably more evil than his literary version.
He was voiced by the late Tony Jay, who also played Shere Khan in The Jungle Book 2 and TaleSpin, Monsieur D'Arque in Beauty and the Beast, Megabyte in ReBoot, Mr. Toplofty in An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island, Galactus in the 1994 Fantastic Four TV series, the Transcendent One in the videogame Planescape Torment and Lickboot in Tom and Jerry: The Movie. In Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, he was voiced by Shouzou Sasaki in the Japanese version, and by Corey Burton in the English dubbed version. In the musical, he was portrayed by Norbert Lamla.
|“||You can lie to yourself and your minions. You can claim that you haven't a qualm. But you never can run from nor hide what you've done from the eyes… The very eyes of Notre Dame.||„|
|~ The Archdeacon highlighting the fallacies of Frollo's self-righteousness.|
A deeply devout character, he reigns over the streets of Paris where he tries to enforce order and virtue. This is how he fights in particular against the gypsies whom he accuses of perverting the population of the capital, comparing them to insects during his first meeting with Phœbus. The words Victor Hugo used to describe him may well illustrate the character of the Disney villain. "Austere", "Calm", "Dark", "Imposing", "Majestic", "Threatening", "Imperious", "Serious", "Gloomy". Frollo is all of these at the same time. He is also sadistic, ordering one of his executioners to space out the lashes so that the victim suffers even more. He eliminates countless lives for minimal plight without batting an eyelid, and only shows contrived politeness. His treatment of his men is no better. At best, he acts like a polite, if overly stern leader. At worst, he punishes them for not performing their duty by having them killed or tortured.
At the beginning of the film, Frollo has two central constructs in his mind: his ruthless and brutal pursuit of enforcing the laws of Paris and his apparent devotion to Catholicism. Because of these things and having lived a life of "power and control", Frollo expresses a sort of pride that comes from a feeling of moral superiority - as he is the enforcer of justice. In the "Bells of Notre Dame", the film mentions that the only time the minister felt any sort of guilt or contrition is when the Archdeacon addresses Frollo's manslaughter of Quasimodo's mother and his attempted infanticide of Quasimodo. This moment reveals Frollo's deepest flaw: his lack of a self-critical conscience. Above all, Frollo believes what he is doing is right to the point where he twists the intentions of others to seem to him as evil or delusional, using psychological projection. Frollo does not perceive his dark nature and instead, he blames others for his misdeeds. It must be said that unlike other minions, he does not seek glory and power. He already has them. For him, he is in no way mean. Indeed, Frollo thinks, throughout the film, to act for the common good. The imprisonment of Quasimodo is only desirable to protect the hunchback from the mockery of the populace. The genocide of the gypsies is only one way to obtain a safe capital. Esmeralda's execution is only organized to rid him of this witch who bewitched him. The conflagration of Paris is only the result of the search for gypsy criminals. It is therefore not responsible for its actions. His actions are, for him, innocent. Frollo convinced himself to be a righteous man of integrity. He considers his soul as pure, his purity as pride. He exposes the fact that righteousness places him well above other misery trollers. This results on him even turning on the Archdeacon during the climax.
Due to his Catholic faith and supremacism, Frollo rejects the spiritualist customs of the gypsies and believes they are scandalizing the people of Paris - thus interfering with his goal of a more morally pure Paris. He focuses much of his efforts on locating and punishing the gypsies. Frollo is a feared and respected authority. When he arrives at the Feast of the Fools, the population seems to give way, the pout of some passersby clearly showing their feelings vis-à-vis the dreaded judge. The family of the baker who implores him testifies to the terror inspired by the character. Frollo is not afraid of anything except God. It is his love of virtue and his fear of the flames of Hell that drives him to take Quasimodo under his wing. It is his faith that forces him to destroy Esmeralda with fire. However, he does not respect the asylum right of the cathedral when the gypsy is about to escape him.
In interacting with others, Frollo is typically serious-minded, critical, patronizing, superficially kind and generally negative. He is skilled at reading the motives of others, assisting in his lies and manipulations to the protagonists throughout the film. His influence on Quasimodo is obvious. He manages to convince the young man that the outside world is bad and that he will necessarily be rejected (although he may have a point here because at this era, physical and mental handicap were much more stigmatized). The hunchback only discovers the opposite when he meets Esmeralda. He succeeds in persuading Phoebus that gypsies are criminals, which the Captain of the Guard readily accepts at the beginning of the film. He perfectly controls the Paris guard who accepts without answering to break down the doors of the cathedral. He has a little sense of humor, aside from a few morbid jokes and sarcasm. As opposed to the Archdeacon, Frollo focuses on the more negative aspects of his religion such as sin and eternal damnation rather than virtues of forgiveness and mercy. Due to his defective conscience, Frollo persistently believes he’s a morally better person than almost everyone else. Frollo is so narcissist that he is his own patron saint.
Towards the middle of the film, Frollo develops a lust for Esmeralda which contributes to a failing image of his own moral perfection. He clearly expresses that it is his body that responds to his impulses, instead of genuine love. It's never about romance. The obscene withering evoked by him reveals that it is only about a sexual attraction. Unwilling to accept or mend this, he accuses Esmeralda, Satan, and even God for this dilemma. Then Frollo begins to enter a much more bellicose and persecutory state in his search for this woman. Later, he tries to make the gypsy his mistress under the guise of converting her to his religion when she’s caught at last.
His relationship with Quasimodo is marked by psychological abuse. This stems from the fact that he reluctantly takes the young one, agreeing to raise Quasimodo out of fear of damnation to have killed his mother. The abuse manifests itself when the judge categorically refuses the hunchback to leave the church. Frollo then becomes a torturer, who holds Quasimodo captive in his tower with orders of never going out into this world which he presents as cruel and wicked. He keeps reminding Quasimodo of his difference, his deformity, his handicap. And the alphabet recitation shows just how sinister the judge is with his adopted son crumpling the letters by associating them with negative religious words. When he learns Quasimodo have received affection from Esmeralda, he promply explodes in rage, jealous of his own adoptive son because of his growing lust towards her. Towards the very end of the film, when Esmeralda denies Frollo's advances for the last time, he no longer feels the need to make penance with Quasimodo and impudently rejects his feelings of guilt for slaughtering his mother, even trying to kill him. After being saved by Quasimodo one time, instead of being thankful, he tried to kill both him and Esmeralda, demonstrating an ungrateful nature. His last words emphasize his delusion of moral perfection as he attempts to slaughter Quasimodo and Esmeralda: "And he shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit.".
Overall, Frollo is nothing but a purely evil character, completely devoid of the fun quirks that made other Disney villains endearing despite their crimes. This is all the darker since he's a normal human one can meet anywhere, instead of a stereotypical villain. He is the "monster" of the introductory song " The bells of Notre-Dame" (normal in appearance and respected but inhuman); in stark contrast to the "man" represented by Quasimodo (hideous and shunned but altruistic). Also, Frollo doesn't seem to have any human feelings, no love for anyone but himself.
Frollo is an aging man defined by his wrinkled and careworn face. He has pale skin, gray eyes, and thinning white hair. As the Minister of Justice and a high-ranking public official, Frollo is most frequently dressed in a black robe, a purple and black striped hat with a red ribbon attached to the bottom, and shoulder pads with red and black stripes. He also wears three rings on his fingers, two on the right and one on the left, with the jewels colored red, green, and blue.
Frollo has left a lasting impact on audiences, being remembered as one of the darkest Disney villains (if not the darkest), as his crimes include attempted infanticide on Quasimodo when he was a baby simply for being ugly, expressing clear genocidal intentions in regards to the gypsy population in Paris, and trying to burn an innocent family alive just to set an example. Also, the sexual element of his character is otherwise almost unheard of for an animated Disney character. It is also heavily implied that he is responsible for the deaths of countless numbers of gypsies and other innocent citizens.
At the same time, however, Frollo is arguably the most complex and human Disney villain as he does have an internal conflict, as well as a distinct fear for his soul, which he fails to listen to due to his delusional denial of his own sins. Some even find him sympathetic and wish he had redeemed himself or even ended up with Esmeralda. This may have something to do with the book, where he is significantly less malevolent and legitimately is sympathetic.
In addition, Frollo's conflict with the Archdeacon of Notre Dame (who is meant to embody the good aspects of Frollo's character in the novel) has been regarded as mirroring the conflict between pure religion (loving, welcoming and generous) and fanaticism (hateful, oppressive and violent).
An official poll of the Top 30 Disney Villains placed him on the #10 spot, and the Nostalgia Critic gave him the #4 spot on his personal Top 11 list. Also, his villain song, "Hellfire" is widely praised as one of the very best, greatly contributing to his popularity. Oddly enough, some people even overlook his villainy due to having enjoyed the song so much and because they do think that he had good intentions despite his crimes.
Despite (and, given the absurd nature of the phenomenon, likely because of) being such a dark character, Frollo is the second most popular Disney character in the YouTube Poop community, next to Gaston. The "Hellfire" scene, in particular, is a very popular source, again despite and perhaps because of being so dark. The most notable YTP work starring Frollo is "The Frollo Show" by YouTuber Chincherrinas where he is portrayed as the main protagonist and is best friends with Gaston.
- He has the most screentime of any major Disney villain; Frollo is shown for roughly a third of the movie's total runtime.
- In the original book by Victor Hugo, Claude Frollo is the Archdeacon of Notre Dame (who is a separate character in the film). He is actually caring towards Quasimodo, whom he adopted out of genuine mercy, and his good-for-nothing brother Jehan. But when Esmeralda comes along, Frollo's lust for her results in a slow descent into villainy. The filmmakers decided to change the character to judge as they believed it would make him more sinister to have control of the city and therefore would not be called into question in his attempts to exterminate the Gypsies. There were also concerns that religious groups would be shocked by a voyeur priest, consumed by his amorous impulses.
- Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Alan Rickman were all considered for the role of Frollo.
- Ironically, despite being a flat-out delusional villain who believes himself to be the most righteous person, he has committed the seven deadly sins.
- Pride - He shows an arrogant and condescending attitude towards anybody, believing he is above the common crowd. He also thinks that he is the only one worthy of enforcing God's will despite his sins.
- Lust - He has an intense sexual desire towards Esmeralda.
- Envy - He resents Quasimodo who gains the affection of her.
- Greed - He sees Esmeralda as nothing more than an object to possess even if he doesn't need her in his life.
- Wrath - He gets really angry when Quasimodo helps Esmeralda to escape. He also sheds his affable facade whenever someone disrespects/challenges him.
- Sloth - He doesn't make the slightest effort to repent for his sins.
- Gluttony, as sometimes it's interpreted as Selfishness - He burns all of Paris, endangering many innocent people only to get Esmeralda for himself.
- When Frollo crushes the insect nest to show his solution to the "Gypsy problem", he uses the stone tablet upside down and leaves it to attend the Festival. Not only does this indicate Frollo's twisted sense of justice, but also his complete disregard for the law since the act was done in the Palace of Justice, the very source of the law.
- The filmmakers briefly considered having Quasimodo killed off, since that is his fate in the original novel. He was originally supposed to be stabbed by Frollo, then Esmeralda regains consciousness and tries to save him by killing Frollo. Phoebus was then supposed to meet up with them, and Quasimodo's last wish was to ring the bells one last time. They take him to the bells, then Esmeralda and Phoebus help him ring the bells as he dies. The final shot was going to include Esmeralda and Phoebus crying over their best friend as the people of Paris cheer for their success, unaware of Quasimodo's death. Luckily, this is not the ending that was used because even hardcore fans of the novel agree that the ending they used instead was a more suitable conclusion for the theme of this film.
- The filmmakers originally wanted Esmeralda to kill Judge Frollo in order to save Quasimodo. Esmeralda would've jumped onto the ledge and kicked Judge Frollo off the cathedral causing him to fall to his death. This idea was ultimately abandoned, as having a heroine kill the villain was considered improper in a family film and may have gotten the film a PG-13 rating.
- Even if Frollo succeed in killing Quasimodo and Esmeralda, he would be executed by the King of France for committing the ultimately blasphemous action of attacking the church itself along with burning half of Paris.
- Frollo's death can be interpreted as divine intervention: The gargoyle being the symbol of God, "judging" Frollo as "the wicked" and therefore casting him into the "fiery pit" of Hell, symbolized in the form of the molten lead. Alternatively, it might be the doing of Notre Dame itself, who is implied to be sentient throughout the movie and have been observing Frollo for 2 decades and it finally had enough of him for attempting to commit another murder and this was obvious that Frollo was too dangerous and blasphemous to remain alive. The irony is he quoted the passage of the Bible describing the event just before into a lake of fire. In the end, Frollo finally suffers the fate that he had feared so greatly and was the driving force for all his actions in the film—the damnation of his very soul.
- Tony Jay has declared the role of Frollo has made him immortal.