The Good: Good story, Generally decent animation
The Bad: Very much a children’s version of the classic story, Sexist
The Basics: Disney’s Robin Hood is less-memorable than it is actually bad (or good).
Today as I hung out, hoping to watch a movie with my wife, we both realized that with all of my many movie reviews, I had never reviewed any incarnation of Robin Hood. My wife, being a big fan of Disney films, opted for us to watch Disney’s 1973 animated fable Robin Hood to get me into the swing of it. Like most Disney animated films, Robin Hood has fairly frequent musical numbers and replaces human characters with various animals in order to tell an occasionally subversive story in a family-friendly way. In the case of Robin Hood, the manipulations of the ruthless snake Sir Hiss and the homicidal tendencies of Prince John are muted by the anthropomorphic snake and lion that embody the characters in this version.
As eager as I was to watch Robin Hood, the film surprised me for a decent number of aspects external to the film. First and foremost, having grown up in the 1980s and 1990s, where Disney films traded on the celebrity of the participants, Robin Hood surprised me by lacking any big, recognizable names for the actors involved. Despite having gained a pretty healthy respect for older movies, I was surprised as the credits for Robin Hood rolled, I did not immediately recognize any of the names. Making up for the lack of celebrity is a strongly familiar story. Outside utilizing animals for the characters, which makes Robin Hood a fable, there is nothing truly unique or compelling about the 1973 Disney animated version of Robin Hood.
While King Richard is out searching for the Holy Grail, Prince John takes over his kingdom. Under the advice of Sir Hiss, John taxes almost all of the citizens of Nottingham to impossible levels. With many of the citizens in the stockade for tax evasion and the few homes in the forest getting special visits from the Sheriff, who brutally collects tax money the citizens do not truly have to pay, the fox Robin Hood and his friend Little John con Prince John and outwit the Sheriff. Enraged at being outright robbed when Robin Hood and Little John impersonate soothsayers, Prince John puts a bounty on Robin Hood’s head.
Robin Hood’s mission to save the poor citizens of the Nottingham Forest is challenged when his upper class love Maid Marian motivates him to enter an archery contest that is an obvious trap for him. Like Maid Marian, Robin Hood still pines for his lost love and that love inspires him to risk everything to stop Prince John. But when Prince John’s trap leads to Robin Hood’s capture and the hero’s death sentence, Robin Hood will need all of his friends to survive.
Robin Hood is a classic story of class warfare told in metaphor. Robin Hood leads an uprising of economically-oppressed animals who have been oppressed and abused by Prince John. The story is familiar and the whole concept of harnessing the powers of the oppressed majority is presented well through the fable.
Robin Hood is a decent character. Inspired to marshal popular support by entering an archery tournament (where Maid Marian’s kiss is his prize), Robin Hood does the “wrong” thing for all of the right reasons. Selflessly risking his life to rob the rich, Robin Hood is still motivated by more base desires, like love and lust for Maid Marian. Still, Robin Hood is given the most character depth in the film, which makes sense. Prince John is given a classic revenge story with his only real motivations being jealousy for his kingly brother and manipulations from Hiss. Neither of the two main characters in Robin Hood are particularly complex. The film still flows fairly well with its simplified characters engaged in an obvious, epic conflict.
The voice actors in Robin Hood are all adequate, but given the lack of complexity for the story or the characters, there is little they can do to truly embellish the roles. Phil Harris’s Little John notable falls flat on a few goofy jokes during the climactic action sequence, but the rest of the film features at least competent performances by the voice cast.
As for the look, Robin Hood features classic Disney animation. Most of the film looks good, though they use very cartoony physics. In fact, outside some rough lines on the rhinos, Robin Hood looks smooth and well-animated. None of the songs in Robin Hood are particularly memorable, though the film’s few songs are not as intrusive as in some Disney films.
Ultimately, Disney’s take on the Robin Hood story is very average. The classic story makes for a decent fable; though the film lacks real spark or greatness, it does not have any severe detractions, either.
For other Disney animated films, please visit my reviews of:
Toy Story 3
A Christmas Carol
The Princess And The Frog
Lilo & Stitch
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
The Lion King
Beauty And The Beast
The Little Mermaid
Lady And The Tramp
The Sword In The Stone
For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.