The Archdeacon is a supporting character in Disney's 1996 feature film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and is also one of the minor protagonists in Disney's 2002 feature film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, who serves as the clergyman at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Dave Burgess served as the supervising animator for the Archdeacon, and Kathleen M. Bailey served as the lead key. He is voiced by David Ogden Stiers.
The Archdeacon is almost the complete opposite of Claude Frollo; the one thing they have in common is that they worship God, and even then their methods differ. The Archdeacon is kind to everyone, including gypsies, standing up for Esmeralda when she claims sanctuary in his church, and while he has little actual interaction with Quasimodo during the film, he saves his life as a baby by reminding Frollo that he has sinned and is about to do so again. He is also the only person shown to have any kind of authority over Frollo, and apart from Esmeralda and Phoebus, he is the only character brave enough to protest against Frollo's evil deeds. As such, the Archdeacon seems to represent the positive side of a spiritual lifestyle, while Frollo represents how it can corrupt.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
On a snowy, winter night, the Archdeacon was apparently roused to answer someone desperately pounding on the door of Notre Dame. While he was not quick enough to save the life of Quasimodo's mother, the woman who had knocked, he managed to stop Frollo from dropping her son down a well and admonished the judge for spilling innocent blood on the sacred steps. When Frollo is unmoved, the Archdeacon proclaims that while Frollo can lie to himself, he cannot blind the eyes of Notre Dame which glare at the evil judge as if to reinforce the old priest's words. He then tells a fearful Frollo that he must care for and raise the child or be damned to hell for his actions; he agrees to let the boy live in the cathedrals bell tower and takes the body of his mother for burial. Later, he defends Esmeralda when she claims sanctuary in Notre Dame from Frollo, reminding him of what happened years prior when he tried to circumvent the authority of the Church, and escorts Phoebus from the cathedral. When Esmeralda is complaining about the sorry state that gypsies are in and how no one outside will help, he subtly advises her that perhaps someone in Notre Dame can help instead. He and the other priests provide some of the dialogue in the song "Hellfire".
During the time when Esmeralda was going to be burned at the stake, the Archdeacon steps forward to protest against Esmeralda's execution, but is halted by the guards.
His final appearance is when Frollo breaks into the cathedral to kill Esmeralda and Quasimodo, actually smashing the ancient doors to bits in the process, and the Archdeacon demands that he call off the attack on Notre Dame and stay away from the two, to which Frollo responds by shoving the startled Archdeacon down a flight of stairs, injuring his ankle, and locking the Archdeacon out of the belltower so he cannot interfere. He survives and is last seen cheering with the crowd who are celebrating Frollo's defeat and the defeat of his soldiers who surrendered to the French army when Phoebus and Esmeralda emerge safely from the church.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame II
In the second film, the Archdeacon looks nothing like the way he does in the first film, except for his clothes; in this film, he only appears once, which is just after Laverne, trapped under a bell with Victor and Hugo, gongs on it really loudly with her head near the end when Sarousch and his minions are raiding the cathedral. He is seen coming out the door and yelling, "La Fidèle! It's gone! The bell has been stolen!"
The Archdeacon was most likely created as a placeholder for Frollo, as Frollo functioned as the Archdeacon in the Victor Hugo novel. This was probably done by Disney's part as a means of damage control with the Roman Catholic Church, which played a large role in the film and the book, especially seeing that the Archdeacon functions as a good character in the film.
However, even though Frollo was depicted as the Minister of Justice in the film, he still seemed to hold more power over the Archdeacon himself while outside Notre Dame. This probably stems from his role in the book, but it remains unexplained how Frollo, as a mere Judge, could commit such terrible crimes without having to answer to the King of France.
- In the novel, Frollo was the archdeacon but the villain as well, so this character did not exist, which means the Archdeacon is an original character created solely for this film by Disney.
- Although the Archdeacon was the one who originally saved Quasimodo's life, the two are never seen together.
- Though the Archdeacon does not appear physically in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, he was briefly mentioned by Quasimodo to Riku inside the cathedral.
- In the first film, the Archdeacon is plump, but in the second, he is skinny. This implies that he changed significantly in the time between the first and second film, that he has a substitute for his place or that he died before the second film.
- Although he is a mentor character, his role in the film is small.