Disney Declined Michael Jackson’s Pitch to Provide Songs for the Hunchback of Notre Dame Soundtrack

Disney Declined Michael Jackson’s Pitch to Provide Songs for the Hunchback of Notre Dame Soundtrack

Walt Disney Studios reportedly rejected Michael Jackson’s pitch to provide songs for the soundtrack for it animated musical film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The news was revealed during a recent oral history about the Academy Award-nominated family drama conducted by Slash Film, in celebration of the feature’s 25th anniversary this year.

The Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter’s attempt to provide songs for the classic 1996 adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel of the same name were rebuffed by Disney, due to his controversial public profile at the time. The child sexual abuse allegations that were brought against Jackson in 1993 led the studio to turn down his offer, frequent Disney composer Alan Menken shared during the oral history.

“I get a call out of nowhere from Michael’s assistant, when Michael was at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York,” Menken, who won Oscars for his work on such acclaimed Disney animated movies as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas, said. “He had to [deal with] allegations about inappropriate behavior with underage kids, and the breakup with Lisa Marie Presley. He’s looking to change the subject. And he obviously loves Disney so much.

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So I mentioned Hunchback. He said he’d love to come to my studio, watch the movie and talk about it. So we got in touch with Disney Animation. They said, ‘Meet with him! If he likes it…well, see what he says.'”

But the studio’s executives later changed their minds about collaborating with Jackson on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Menken added that “There [were] three songs. One was Out There, one was God Help the Outcasts, one was Someday. Michael said, ‘I would like to produce the songs and record some of them.

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‘” After the musician left his meeting with the composer, the latter “got in touch with Disney. It was like somebody dropped a hot poker into a fragile bowl with explosives. [They said] ‘Uh, we’ll get back to you about that.'”

The composer added, “Finally, predictably, the word came back, ‘Disney doesn’t want to do this with Michael Jackson.’ I go, ‘OK, could someone tell him this?’ You can hear a pin drop, no response, and nobody did [tell him]. It fell to my late manager, Scott Shukat, to tell Michael or Michael’s attorney.”

Menken added that he ultimately felt that Disney made the right decision. But he also noted that his fellow musician might have felt that he could relate to the film’s title character. “In retrospect, it was the right decision. [But] if you look at [Quasimodo’s] relationships with his family and his father, I would think there’s a lot of identification there.”

Jackson’s fondness for The Hunchback of Notre Dame‘s story has been well documented. In a 2012 biography about the late singer, writer Randall Sullivan reported that the singer had a particular appreciation for the 1939 film, which starred Charles Laughton as Quasimodo, and was directed by William Dieterle.

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Sullivan also wrote that Jackson regularly watched Dieterle’s screen adaptation with a friend of his who was a screenwriter. The musician also reportedly discussed his desire to portray Quasimodo himself.

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