Mobile game Disney Twisted Wonderland sparked controversy when it revealed a new character this weekend. The character is based on Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Fans have called him racist as Frollo was extremely racist in the original Disney movie. Here’s the complicated part: Twisted Wonderland characters aren’t actually the same as their original inspirations. It’s all very messy, but we’ll get through this. I promise.
Twisted Wonderland is a gacha rhythm game where players spend gems to roll for student characters based on Disney villains such as Maleficent, Jafar, and Ursula. These students aren’t actually the villains themselves, but they take inspiration from the villains’ visual designs, movie dialogue, and narrative themes. So you get a Kingdom Hearts-looking anime boy acting like a controlling jerk and yelling “OFF WITH YOUR HEAD” whenever someone displeases him. Rollo is an event character, but he’s also a dorm leader. So it’s not apparent yet whether or not players will be able to roll for him in the gacha.
According to Twisted Wonderland lore, the villains did exist at some point in the past (Frollo is portrayed as a heroic statue on the academy grounds), though they’re known for positive qualities rather than the crimes they may have committed in the movies. So there’s some narrative distance between Rollo and Frollo.
But there’s concern among some that Frollo is prejudiced in ways that are hard for some players to ignore. While the Queen of Hearts has comparatively very milquetoast lines, Claude Frollo is known for calling a Romani character a racial slur and claiming that her people are “not capable of real love.” Yikes. All Disney villains have terrible qualities. But some of their storylines approach real-life bigotries closer than others.
While one fan translator claimed Rollo’s personality is “nice” rather than genocidal, others didn’t think that his canonical personality mattered. They were concerned that Frollo was too bigoted to be used in a game where everyone is a beautiful anime boy. Although the original Disney movie contextualizes the extent of Claude Frollo’s villainy, the characters in Twisted Wonderland are portrayed as soft, misunderstood, and sympathetic.
While the overall reception to the character seems positive, there are also many quote retweets expressing disgust that Twisted Wonderland players are simping for Rollo. I’m going to remind everyone that The Hunchback of Notre Dame came out in 1996. Many young people have never seen that movie, which is part of the problem. Media is recycled over time. It retains some context and loses others, so people have totally different exposure levels to Notre Dame even if it’s still easy to assume that everyone has had the same experience.
In the meantime, some Twisted Wonderland players are just trying to head off the horny simps: