Judge Claude Frollo is the main antagonist of Disney's 1996 animated feature film The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He is a ruthless Parisian justice minister who, after a series of sensitive circumstances, becomes the begrudged caretaker of the deformed Quasimodo.
With a majority of the film's heavy thematic elements being directly tied to Frollo's story arc — such as lust and genocide — he is widely considered to be amongst the darkest Disney villains of all time.
Claude Frollo is a deeply religious man who tries to convince the people of Paris that his evil deeds are justified because they are God's will, though he is an atrocious, cruel, prejudiced, sinister, vicious, and cold government official who uses his place in power to meet his own extreme ends, even employing common thugs to enforce his interpretation of God's will while posing as "soldiers." This makes him feared and reviled throughout the city. Frollo is especially determined to eliminate the gypsies scattered throughout Paris as their indulgence in "witchcraft and sorcery" is infectious to those around them, according to him, which therefore makes him genocidal. He also is shown to have sadism, as other than his desire to persecute sinners, he also briefly smiles when the previous Captain of the Guard prior to his promoting Phoebus to the rank was heard being whipped for having failed him. However, despite being highly religious, he turns out to be unwillingly blasphemous calling religious people such as the Archdeacon "fools" (likely because, amid his pride, he thinks himself superior and even more religious than the Archdeacon himself), and once attempting to commit murder within the city's beloved cathedral (because he thought the said murder was God's will and that it was thus completely justified to execute God's will inside His house). His deep religion also prompts him to teach Quasimodo a rather depressing religious alphabet, which allowed one to see that, despite his dark methods, he is at least familiar with the belief of "forgiveness," presumably because of his faith. This was evident in including Forgiveness as the representing word for the letter "F."
Interestingly, while most Disney villains know that what they do is wrong (and either do not care or take pride from this), Frollo actually believes that he is a good person, making him something of a complex character as well. He repeatedly refuses to find fault within himself and is quite self-righteous, declaring himself much purer than "the common vulgar, weak, licentious crowd" and to be above the biblical doctrine that all men are equally sinful. He believes that everything he does is in the name of God, even as he attacks the cathedral of Notre Dame for the sake of catching, arresting, and executing one gypsy woman. However, at the end of "Hellfire", he does beg God for mercy on Esmeralda for what he plans to do with her and mercy on him for his plans, and part of his sparing Quasimodo was as penance for his killing his mother, so he is capable of some form of guilt in his own twisted way. On a similar note, the "mea culpa" chorus of Hellfire implies that he does to some level recognize that he was at fault, and implies a more self-loathing aspect to his nature.
Apparently, Frollo used to be celibate. However, he comes to lust for the beautiful Esmeralda, but after a moment of indecision ends up blaming his own lust for her on witchcraft and the devil rather than accept that he himself is prone to sin as everyone else. His lust drives him murderously insane, which ultimately proves to be his downfall when he pushes Quasimodo too far by almost killing Esmeralda. When he believes his lust for Esmeralda to be turning him to sin he is partially right because it's this that makes him murderous and unfair towards the other people, arresting two families and attempting to kill one just because they wouldn't give him Esmeralda.
He is also very cruel to Quasimodo. He refuses to allow the hunchback any happiness or freedom by keeping him locked up in Notre Dame, forces the young man to call him "master", and allows him to be humiliated in public without even bothering to help him, as punishment for disobeying him. He also shows no love or compassion towards Quasimodo (except for bringing him food, clothing him, and educating him, which are Frollo's only traces of humanity), and only uses him as a tool for his personal gain. As such, he only allowed Quasimodo to live out of fear for his eternal soul after he unjustly (though, to his credit, half unwillingly) kills his mother on the steps of Notre Dame. He also seems to be somewhat down-to-earth, believing that stone cannot talk and attempt to get Quasimodo to believe this as well and making fun of him for believing it could:
- Frollo: Dear boy... whomever are you talking to?
Quasimodo: My... friends.
Frollo: I see. And what are your friends made of, Quasimodo?
Frollo: Can stone talk?
Quasimodo: No, it can't.
Frollo: That's right. You're a smart lad.
- Frollo: Dear boy... whomever are you talking to?
Furthermore, Frollo appears to be a rather stoic man, always appearing cool and collected, and only shows fear when Quasimodo overpowers him after he prepares to kill him and when he is about to fall to his death; he also shows visible fear when the many eyes of Notre Dame glare at him for murdering an innocent woman upon the cathedral steps. He rarely exhibits humor, and whenever he does, it's dry and black.
Despite his single-mindedness, Frollo's true weakness was that he couldn't feel or understand love for another person except himself. It was this cruelty and abusiveness that drove Quasimodo to have very little loyalty towards his master and protected the only person who ever showed the hunchback kindness from him.
Frollo also appears to have little to no sense of personalization, despite Quasimodo being the only person he refers to by name as he refers to his soldiers as "You men!" as they prepare to attack the cathedral and always refers to Esmeralda as "the gypsy girl".
Frollo is an aging man defined by his wrinkled, care-worn face and thinning white hair. As the Minister of Justice and a high-ranking public official, Frollo is most frequently dressed in a black and purple robe, a purple jumpsuit, a purple and black striped hat with a red tassel attached to the bottom, and black shoulder pads with red stripes. He also wears rings on his fingers, two on the right and one on the left, with the jewels colored blue, red, and green.
Despite his frail appearance, Frollo possesses a considerable amount of strength, shown by the muscle in his arms and how he is able to hold his own against Quasimodo, who despite being smaller than Frollo in terms of stature is larger in terms of built and has displayed signs of superhuman strength.
At the film's beginning, Frollo ambushes a group of gypsies entering Paris illegally and upon seeing one of them with what he thought to be a bundle hiding stolen goods, he chases the panicked latter to Notre Dame where he kills her by kicking her down the steps of the cathedral, thus breaking her skull. However, he discovers that her "stolen goods" were actually her deformed baby son. Believing the child to be an unholy demon, Frollo prepares to drop him down a nearby well, but stops at the intervention of the Archdeacon, who reprimands Frollo for killing an innocent woman. Frollo tried to justify his act but the Archdeacon rejected his explanation and Frollo became scared after realizing he was watched by the eyes of Notre Dame. The Archdemon tells him that the only way to atone for his sin is to raise the boy as his own son, to which he begrudgingly agrees after seeing the stone statues of saints decorating Notre Dame apparently turn their eyes on him. However, he only agrees to save what is left of his soul and because the child may come in handy someday. Frollo names him "Quasimodo" (literally "Half-formed"), and raises him in the cathedral, hidden from the outside world, constantly teaching him that he would be considered an ugly and hideous monster by the cruel outside world.
Twenty years later, Frollo summons the gallant soldier Phoebus from the war to be his new Captain of the Guard, since the last one was "a bit of a disappointment" to him and was being tortured to death in the Palace of Justice. He hopes to clear the gypsies out of Paris with Phoebus' help and go to Heaven when he dies. While attending the annual Festival of Fools, Frollo discovers a gypsy dancer named Esmeralda, who attracts him with her beauty. Shortly afterwards, he learns that Quasimodo left the bell tower against his orders, entered the Festival and was crowned the King of Fools. Frollo refuses to help Quasimodo when the latter is being publicly assaulted and humiliated by the crowd in order to teach him a lesson, even when the hunchback implores for his help; he even delays Phoebus' request to stop it. He is enraged when Esmeralda openly defies him for his cruelty and frees Quasimodo, and in retaliation, he orders her arrested. After witnessing the gypsy vanish in a cloud, he rashly concludes her to be a witch and immediately orders Phoebus to bring her in alive. With the crowd's help, she escapes into the Cathedral, where he finds her speaking with Phoebus and orders them to force her out of the Cathedral, but is rebuffed by the Archdeacon, who orders them all out. Frollo pretends to leave before catching Esmerelda by surprise and laying hands on her; this reveals to her that he has lustful feelings for her. He then confronts her and tells her that he will arrest her if she dares to leave. However, she ventures up to the bell tower and is reunited with Quasimodo, who helps her escape.
That evening in the Palace of Justice, Frollo is disturbed by his attraction to Esmeralda which he believes is turning him to sin and pleads the Virgin Mary to protect him from her "spell" and to let Esmeralda taste the fires of Hell if she will not be his. Upon learning from a Brutish Guard that she has escaped the cathedral, he is enraged and, with his guards the next day, begins a ruthless manhunt to find her, burning down the houses of anyone suspected of sheltering gypsies and interrogating gypsies who were captured. He later attempts to execute an innocent family whom he suspects of interacting with gypsies by burning down their house with them still inside, but an appalled Phoebus finally rebels against him and rescues the family. Frollo declared Phoebus a traitor and attempts to execute him, but a disguised Esmeralda slings a stone at his horse, throwing him off and buying Phoebus time to escape. The guards fire arrows at Phoebus, resulting in him being wounded and falling into a lake, and continue firing until Frollo stops them. They proceed across a bridge to finish the manhunt. Once they leave, the wounded Phoebus is quickly rescued by Esmeralda after being left for dead.
Returning to the smoldering city, Frollo is informed that Esmeralda is still at large. He goes to the bell tower, thinking Quasimodo may be responsible for assisting Esmeralda. Upon deducing this is true, Frollo angrily lashes out at his charge, then calmly claims that the Court of Miracles has been found and will be attacked at dawn with one thousand men. A misled Quasimodo accompanies Phoebus to the Court, and Frollo and his henchmen follow and arrest the gypsies. Frollo notices that Phoebus has survived and remarks that he intends to "remedy it". Seeing this, Quasimodo begs him to call off the guards. Frollo refuses and tells them to take the hunchback to the bell tower, making sure he "stays there." In the square, Frollo sentences Esmeralda to death but offers to save her from immolation if she chooses him. She refuses to become Frollo's mistress, spitting in his face in disgust, and is prepared to be burned at the stake, but Quasimodo rescues her after she passes out and brings her to the cathedral. Frollo orders his soldiers to pick up a large beam, which was dropped from the cathedral and nearly crushed him, and to use it to break down Notre Dame's doors. Enraged at this defilement and attack on the beloved cathedral, as well as tired of Frollo's tyranny and rallied by Phoebus, the citizens of Paris arm themselves, free the gypsies, and rebel against Frollo's guards. Though Notre Dame's ancient doors manage to hold for a while, they eventually break down. Frollo gains entry to into the cathedral, directly defying the Archdeacon when he claims he will not tolerate murder in the church. Before proceeding, Frollo throws him down a flight of stairs and locks him out of the bell tower so he could not follow and interfere.
He then confronts Quasimodo in the bell tower, falsely consoles him for Esmeralda's apparent death, and attempts to kill him with a dagger, resulting in a brief yet violent struggle in which Quasimodo overpowers Frollo, wrenching the dagger from his grip and throwing him to the floor. Quasimodo then hovers over Frollo, who momentarily abandons his pride and begs Quasimodo to listen to him, but Quasimodo refuses and then angrily yells out that all his life Frollo has told that the world is a dark, cruel place, and that he now sees that people who are just like Frollo are the only reason why. Just then, Esmeralda awakens, alive, and Quasimodo rushes her to safety. Infuriated, Frollo draws his sword and chases them onto a balcony overlooking the city, slashing at them with his sword with Quasimodo unable to fight back due to protecting Esmeralda.
In his rage, Frollo finally admits that he killed Quasimodo's mother when she attempted to save her baby, much to Quasimodo's shock and horror. As such, Frollo decides to kill Quasimodo himself like he "should have done" 20 years ago. Frollo attempts to use his cape to throw Quasimodo off the balcony, but the hunchback manages to hold on and ends up pulling Frollo along with him, unwilling to let him fall. Frollo dangles momentarily for his life, but he is soon able to swing and grab onto a gargoyle attached to the wall. Rather than escaping to safety, he instead raises himself in a perfect position to kill Esmeralda (who is attempting to save Quasimodo), his eyes and teeth are shown in a fire-like color, laughing wickedly as he delivers his last blasphemy ("And He shall smite the wicked, and plunge them into the fiery pit!"). However, just as Frollo raises his sword, the gargoyle starts to break off (possibly due to an act of divine intervention and/or earlier damage from Frollo's sword) and he falls, clinging on for dear life and dropping his sword. In his last moments, the gargoyle's face comes to life and demonically roars at him, terrifying the latter. This was a very clear sign that Frollo was both too dangerous and too blasphemous to remain alive (which clearly indicates that this was actaully a divine intervention). The gargoyle breaks off completely and angrily sends the screaming Frollo falling into a vast lake of molten metal that had been created by Quasimodo and the gargoyles, where he meets his death after coming into physical contact, resulting in a fiery explosion, symbolically sending him to hell for his sins.
With Frollo gone, his tyranny has finally ended and his soldiers are defeated and surrender to the French army.
Frollo makes a few cameos in the series. In "Everybody Loves Mickey", he was seen sitting with Grumpy and Grimsby, with all three giving their trademark dry expressions in response to the comedy of Mortimer Mouse.
In "Dining Goofy", he showed to be unamused with the fact that he was seated with the Mad Hatter, calling him Frumpy during the time that Goofy lets Daisy know that he changed the seating chart so that the audience could make new friends, which did not work out.
He also appears in Mickey's House of Villains, but not as one of the villains that take over. Instead, he only appears in a crowd shot in between the cartoons shorts, taking place before the takeover. During Jafar's reign as host, however, Frollo is nowhere to be seen whatsoever, implying that he possibly left the club before Jafar's plan started.
In the fifth book, he is seen boarding the Disney Dream along with some other villains. He was also mentioned, but not seen, in the seventh book.
In the Disney Adventures comic based off of the movie, Frollo's personality generally stays the same. During the scene where Esmeralda is being sentenced to death, he states to her "your time has come" but says immediately afterward that even though her fate has been sealed, "it's still not too late" to change her mind and become his mistress. Like in the film, though, he falls to his death in the molten copper.
Frollo is one of the villains who was brought back from death to be imprisoned on the Isle of the Lost. He has a daughter named Claudine Frollo who works as the bell ringer at Dragon Hall.
Frollo appears in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance as a villain trapped in his sleeping world of La Cité des Cloches.
When Sora first arrived in La Cité des Cloches, he came face-to-face with Frollo in the town outside Notre Dame. The judge examined Sora, believing him to be a gypsy due to his "disgusting attire", but his interrogation of the young Keyblade wielder was interrupted by Captain Phoebus. Phoebus told Frollo that "monsters" have appeared in the square, and he rushed off after Sora who went to defeat them.
Soon afterward, Frollo arrived in the square with Phoebus, where he is furious to see Sora standing before Quasimodo, who is riding a Zolephant. The severity of Frollo's anger only increases when he witnessed Quasimodo flee into the Notre Dame cathedral with help from the "gypsy witch", Esmeralda.
When Riku first arrived, he crossed paths with Esmeralda, who was chased by Phoebus and Frollo. Phoebus asked Riku if he has "seen a gypsy woman", but the Keyblade wielder covered for her and said that he had not, Phoebus reports this to Frollo, after which the judge questions his abilities. Later, after escaping from the Wargoyle that attacked him on the bridge, Riku found Phoebus disobeying and betraying Frollo, who then summoned the fire-breathing Wargoyle that he claimed to be "righteous judgment". Intending to use the power of darkness to "smite the gypsies now and forever", the judge headed to Notre Dame cathedral along with the Wargoyle with Riku in pursuit.
Some time later, Sora, Phoebus, and Quasimodo traveled to the Court of Miracles to warn Esmeralda that Frollo is on his way and intends to capture her. As Phoebus ordered Esmeralda to take what she can with her and leave, the judge appeared and surrounded the group with an army of Nightmares. Frollo took Esmeralda to the square for a "bonfire" despite Quasimodo's pleas and rendered Sora unconscious.
With the combined efforts of Sora and Quasimodo, Esmeralda was rescued from her execution. Enraged, Frollo chased them toward Notre Dame. When Sora attempts to stop him, he is stopped in his tracks by the Wargoyle that fell from the sky above. Frollo cornered Quasimodo and Esmeralda and revealed the truth about how Quasimodo's mother died trying to save him twenty years ago. Frollo attempted to kill him with his sword but after a series of tussles, he loses his footing and grabs the gargoyle by the neck, saving himself, but the creature comes to life and roars at him. At that moment, the gargoyle breaks off of Notre Dame, and the terrified Frollo plummets to his own doom in the flames below the cathedral, a sight only seen on Sora's side of the story.
Frollo was a priest in his youth and decided that Paris needed to be safe so he became a judge. He hated Gypsies and believed that they were the sole problem with Paris. He took care of Quasimodo as an act of contrition for killing Quasimodo’s mother. He hoped that Quasimodo would think like him and his emotional abuse was something that he was unaware of. Frollo became consumed with lust for Esmeralda which drove him insane. He thought the cure was either to possess her or to destroy her. He seemed to have intensity than he had in the movie.
His fate is changed between the versions of the play are changed. In the German version of the play, he is thrown off of the cathedral to his death by Quasimodo, rather than falling off of the crumbling gargoyle fixture. In the English version of the play, when Esmeralda awakens, Frollo draws his sword and prepares to kill both of them, but then stops, drops the sword, and leaves. This was most likely included in this version of the play to give Frollo a chance at redemption, though whether or not he took that chance is unknown.
In the North American version of the play, Frollo and his younger brother, Jehan, were raised in Notre Dame after they are orphaned. While Frollo studied to become a priest, Jehan constantly found himself in trouble and was eventually expelled from the church. Years later after becoming the Archdeacon, Frollo learned from a dying Jehan that the latter fathered a deformed child and needed to be looked after, the child being Quasimodo. As penance for the sins of his brother and seeing it as a test of faith, Frollo vows to raise the child to be devout as him. Years later, Frollo sees Esmeralda dance at the Festival of Fools and how she defends her actions in assisting Quasimodo. He offers for her to stay at Notre Dame and learn from him the ways of the church, and indicates his attraction to her which disgusts her. He obsesses over Esmeralda and receives permission from the king to use military power to find her and make her his own.
As in the movie, Frollo offers her his ultimatum to her at the stake before she is rescued by Quasimodo. However, Esmeralda later dies from smoke inhalation and Quasimodo is overcome by grief and blames Frollo for her demise. In his anger over his former master’s actions, Quasimodo throws Frollo over the edge of the cathedral to his death.
Frollo appears occasionally as a meetable character but isn't particularly common and extremely rare. Ironically, he is nowadays the most common character from The Hunchback of Notre Dame to be found at the parks as a walk-around character. Fittingly, he is most commonly found in Disneyland Paris of all the parks around the world.
In World of Color, Frollo makes a small cameo in the opening of the "Colors of Fear" segment, which showcases the darkness of Disney via Disney villains.
In the Disney's Hollywood Studios version of Fantasmic!, Frollo is one of the leading villains who assists The Evil Queen in her plan to do away with Mickey. He is killed in the end with the rest of the villains.
In Tokyo Disneyland, Frollo is featured in the villains segment of the show One Man's Dream II: The Magic Lives On!, alongside Maleficent and The Evil Queen. He is accompanied by the mysterious red-hooded men seen during "Hellfire".
Frollo first encountered Quasimodo as a baby, after he killed his mother. For the murder, he had to take Quasimodo and raise him as his own. Frollo genuinely poses as an intimidating, yet oddly influential, father figure, for the next twenty years. However, when Quasimodo is twenty years old, Frollo allows him to be tortured after he attempts to sneak out of the bell tower for which he is forbidden to leave. He is also enraged when Quasimodo helps Esmeralda escape him and sneaks down to the Court of Miracles, where the gypsies are hiding. Frollo applauds him for finally proving useful to him before forcing him back to the bell tower. At this point, Quasimodo has come to hate Frollo and will help anyone who helps him, such as Esmeralda. After Quasimodo goes against him in a battle, Frollo's hatred for him reaches its limits and Frollo attempts to kill him like he "should have done" twenty years ago. However, this ultimately leads to Frollo's own demise.
- “Frollo: "I was just imagining a rope around that beautiful neck."
Esmeralda: "I know what you were imagining!”
- ―Frollo and Esmeralda
Frollo is Esmeralda's archenemy and was a serious threat to her life. Despite his power and authority, she was not afraid of him and rebelled against his rules. Not only was she even brave enough to publicly humiliate and insult him at the Festival of Fools (also intriguing him a bit as well), she even had the courage to spit in his face before he attempted to execute her. Of note, when Esmeralda and Frollo first meet, she playfully brings his face close to hers and kisses the tip of his nose before pulling his hat down, as well as performing a seductive dance. This, however, leads to Frollo becoming unhealthily obsessed with her, becoming the first link in the chain that leads to Paris' destruction and Frollo's ultimate demise. While hating Esmeralda for being a gypsy and humiliating and evading him, Frollo had a powerful feeling of lust for her, so powerful he was desperate to find her and have her to himself, even if that meant burning Paris to the ground.
- “This time, you will not interfere.”
- ―Frollo, to the Archdeacon
Although Frollo and the Archdeacon worked together in the church, their hatred for each other was obvious. It was the Archdeacon who insisted that Frollo raises Quasimodo to atone for the murder of the latter's mother. Twenty years later, the Archdeacon also prevented him from capturing Esmeralda. Finally, Frollo became tired of the Archdeacon's meddling and threw him down a flight of stairs when he attempted to order Frollo to call off the assault on Notre Dame.
- Frollo is considered as one of the (if not the) darkest and most evil of all of Disney´s villains, even more than his original counterpart. In fact, Frollo was meant by the company to be as evil and as vile as possible, in an attempt to avert the trope "Evil is Cool," common to many Disney villains.
- When Frollo falls to his death, it clearly meant to symbolize that his soul is now trapped in eternal damnation in the satanic fires of Hell for all eternity as punishment for his actions and ending his tyranny once and for all. Ironically, his final words in life were "And He shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit."
- In fact, Frollo has committed many crimes in the film, and they include the following:
- Assault (Archdeacon)
- Attempted sexual assault (Esmeralda)
- Attempted murder (Phoebus, Esmeralda, Quasimodo, a family of four people)
- Arson (Paris)
- Murder (Quasimodo's mother)
- Torture (His previous Captain of the Guard and Quasimodo)
- Although he also technically was guilty of attempted genocide and searching homes without a warrant, those did not count as crimes back in the time period of the movie (the 15th century), as the concept of human rights, including warranted searches of homes, did not occur until the enlightenment movement in the 17th-18th century and genocide did not formally become a punishable crime until the aftermath of World War II due to the actions of Nazi Germany.
- In fact, Frollo has committed many crimes in the film, and they include the following:
- Frollo was voiced by Tony Jay, who also voiced Monsieur D'Arque in Beauty and the Beast. Tony Jay's performance as Monsieur D'Arque is what led the directors of both films to cast him as Frollo.
- Frollo's behavior strongly suggests that he is a pyromaniac.
- Based on his mannerisms, it is implied that Frollo is ambidextrous.
- Frollo represents the deadly sin of lust, as he lusted after Esmeralda. He also represents pride, as he considered himself above all humans and completely flawless (although Hellfire shows him begging God for mercy on both their souls, so he is at least somewhat aware of what he plans is sin). His desire to punish others also represents wrath.
- In the novel, Frollo was kind and willingly took Quasimodo in when no one else would and turned into a villain when Esmeralda came into the story.
- He seemingly felt guilty for two of his sins: killing Quasimodo's mother and his lust for Esmeralda, though considering his self-righteous personality, he tries without totally believing himself to blame them on external forces such as the Devil, Esmeralda, or even God himself (whom he blames for having made Man weaker than the Devil). As already said, he doesn't fully convince himself with those lies and he still fears for his soul because of those sins, asking the Lord of mercy numerous times.
Differences from the source material
- Frollo in Victor Hugo's original The Hunchback of Notre Dame novel was far more compassionate, caring, and tragic, as well as considerably less villainous, and significantly younger in age (about 36 in most of the story).
- As the archdeacon of Notre Dame in the original novel, he took Quasimodo in willingly as his own son when his mother abandoned him in the book (instead of Frollo unwillingly killing her himself like in the Disney film).
- He named him after Quasimodo Sunday instead of his disfigurement.
- He helped Quasimodo develop some sort of sign language after the latter became deaf from being the bell ringer.
- Frollo in the novel only becomes the villain when Esmeralda enters the picture. His lust drives him insane much like in the Disney version. The only difference at this point was that Frollo actually succeeded at killing Esmeralda just before Quasimodo throws him off of Notre Dame, killing him.