Always wondered about that, Magilla.
'The Hunchback' is only lesser Disney in the sense that its box office was modest at best (domestically, mind you; overseas it was a phenomenon in what is the first true year of the Summer Blockbuster), critical reaction was somewhat mixed, and the film scared the shit out of children. The latter of which I love, and is indicative of everything that works in the film. It's a scary piece of work. "Hellfire" especially is astonishing and I don't expect to see another musical sequence like it to come our way in an animated film any time soon.
I hate 'The Lion King'. Even as a kid. 'Aladdin' is enjoyable but a truly racist film, and fairly uneven. 'Pocahontas' is soporific. 'Beauty and the Beast' really is the gold standard, and although I understand Damien's condemnation of animated films, ye gods, if he hasn't seen 'Beauty and the Beast' I don't know how much I can back what he has to say.
Disney's 'The Hunchback' does a lot of things I don't like. The gargoyles are extremely annoying. Extremely annoying. Everything I found uneven about the anthropomorfic servants in 'Beauty and the Beast' fighting back the hordes, I find extra-double-shitty in this one. Whether or not it "works" (which it doesn't), it exemplifies everything tarnished in corporate thinking. "Fine, you can have your rich Parisian epic, but you'd damn well better have some goofy sidekicks no matter how asinine." If Quasimodo is going to have figments of his imagination come to life, they'd better be a whole lot weirder and darker.
That being said, Alan Menken's score for 'The Hunchback' is second only to 'B&B' in my estimation. The opening sequence to this day stands my hairs on end, the use of light and design makes the film just a joy to look at, and the way the Parisians are animated en masse is still pretty outstanding. The character designs are all distinct and singular, and the voice work is deceptively spot on. I don't really approve of Tom Hulce making Quasimodo sound like a pussy in lieu of a genuinely deranged individual, but, well, it's a Disney film. Kevin Kline is especially fun, and Tony Jay's Frollo is still a whacked out walking polemic that I'm fairly astonished they tackled head-on. Again: "Hellfire" is a contemporary "Elephants on Parade".
A shame the songs are so drippy and the gargoyles were so cutesy, or it'd be something I could embrace without caveat. To this day, I miss Howard Ashman. You can even tell what songs in 'Aladdin' are graced with his genius and what are destined for Celine Dion/Peabo Bryson infamy.
A word though: 'Hercules' is a lot of fun.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver