After a week’s vacation and technical difficulties, we now return you to your
regularly erratically scheduled blog post.
Somewhere, on some astral plane unknown to mortal man, some form of cosmic scorekeeper is chronicling every single adaptation of the legend of Robin Hood. Let us raise a glass to that poor creature now, for it must be a most taxing task.
But let’s not dwell on that right now. Released in 1973, the Walt Disney animation house’s version of Robin Hood was given a tepid reception upon release. Having just recently watched it, I can see why. It’s not a terrible movie in any respect, no…But it is an oddly middle of the road production for a company with the prestige of the Disney corporation.
There’s really not that much to recap for the story, since said story is already burned into the cultural psyche. But, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about: Robin Hood (a fox voiced by the recently departed Brian Bedford) lives in Sherwood forest during the Third crusade, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor with the aid of his best friend Little John (Phil Harris yet again giving voice to a bear). They particularly love robbing Prince John (a meek lion voiced by Peter Ustinov), hated ruler of England while Richard the Lionheart is off killing Saracens and Moors and other family friendly things.
From there we get the usual: romance with Maid Marian (a vixen voiced by Monica Evans), a shooting contest that’s actually a trap for Robin Hood, singing of merry tunes, fighting the Sheriff of Nottingham (Pat Buttram with the southern drawl turned up to eleven). It all ends with a prison break and a wedding between Marian and Robin.
One of the things I noticed during this, my first ever viewing of the movie(other than the large amount of Southern accents present in Medieval England), was just how oddly cheap everything feels. Robin, Little John Alan-a-Dale and Friar Tuck are there, but the rest of the Merry Men don’t even get a mention, probably because it would cost too much to animate them. Walking animations seem to be reused (the most glaring of which is a walking animation that was used for the sheriff during two different scenes). The whole thing feels like a small affair as well, with a cast of probably only twenty or so characters, with only half getting speaking roles.
Oddly, this kind of smallness also works in the film’s favor. It makes the whole affair feel like very good made-for-TV movie…which, given the fact that this was a theatrical release in ’73, sounds a lot like damning with faint praise, really. The voice cast are strong enough personalities to carry the film, with Little John, The Prince and Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas) being the MVPs of the entire thing. And the ending is actually engaging, with the prison break/burning castle set providing some tension, at the very least.
For what it’s worth, Robin Hood works. Yes, it’s quite deeply flawed and somewhat generic in execution, but I can safely say that A. you won’t feel you time extremely wasted by watching it, and B. it’s a better Robin Hood movie than Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. That’s something at least.
Crap, now I just feel like I’m being an asshole to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I don’t hate that movie, I just think that the Disney version work better.