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One of the weaker Disney adaptations, Robin Hood is cute and colorful but lacks the majesty and excitement of the studio's earlier efforts.
All Critics (27)
| Top Critics (6)
| Fresh (14)
| Rotten (13)
| DVD (9)
The washed-out, muted colors are a mistake, and if Robin Hood is sometimes hilarious, it has little memorable magic.
Even at its best, Robin Hood is only mildly diverting.
What sinks this one is the utter lack of the childhood insight and sympathy that really give the Disney films their staying power.
Compared with modern Disney films, which are dominated by the self-absorption and eventual self-discovery of their main characters, Robin Hood offers surprisingly stark and interesting social questions.
No one makes cultural appropriation as much fun as Walt Disney.
The visual style is charmingly conventional, as gently reassuring as that of a Donald Duck cartoon, sometimes as romantically pretty as an old Silly Symphony.
Disney's Robin Hoodholds up quite well...
Of all the animated Disney movies from the '70s, Robin Hood had perhaps the most potential, but suffers from a mild case of "averageitis."
One of the worst animated films ever produced by Disney...
...owes much of its charm to its precise anthropomorphization.
A dull and disjointed retelling that spends more time on the buffoonish antics of Prince John and Sir Hiss than on the outlaw archer.
Blatantly caters to a juvenile audience, without making even the slightest attempt to entertain the grown-ups unless it happens that they like Saturday morning cartoon-level hijinks.
This is a Disney Film that gets a lot of hate nowadays and almost no one brings it up anymore, and to be honest, I still don't see why. In my tastes, this is one of the most entertaining animated films I've ever seen. True that a lot of the animation in the film is recycled character models from past Disney films such as Jungle book and Aristocats. Robin is one of my favorite Disney leads, making him very faithful to the original way that Robin hood was described, cocky, arrogant, but also fun loving and free spirited. And a lot of the side characters are pretty fun too, mainly the Sheriff of Nottingham for being such a bastard and Prince John who's played by Peter Ustinov. While they do make Prince John a whiny kind of villain they do give him some threatening scenes at times which make him a fun and diabolical villain. Also for a Disney film from the 60s, the action in this film is pretty good I'd say its the best from Disney's early years. Though i'm not surprised seeing how the animation in this film was lead by Don Bluth, the animator and director for Anastasia, Land Before time, and American Tail.
A perfunctory, lazy and unremarkable Disney animation that takes the well-known legend and does very little with it, while, despite some great voicing - mainly Peter Ustinov and Terry-Thomas -, it is a ridiculous thing to have Southern American accents in medieval England.
In my review of Avatar, I spoke about how American filmmakers have historically struggled to do justice to certain kinds of stories, namely "stories about American settlers encountering natives, and stories about Man destroying the environment." American filmmakers have also traditionally struggled when it comes to tackling distinctly British stories, of which the legend of Robin Hood is a prime example.
Ridley Scott's Robin Hood made a good fist of medieval English politics but was let down by a lack of focus and Russell Crowe's wandering accent. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is at turns tedious and over-the-top hilarious, depending on whether Kevin Costner or Alan Rickman is on screen. Even the classic versions with Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn come up short in some capacity. The Disney version of Robin Hood is like many of its companions: it realises some of the story's potential, but there are plenty of missed opportunities along the way.
Before we begin examining the narrative merits of Robin Hood, it's worth remembering that the mythos of this famous outlaw is rather fluid. Most of the 20th century versions of Robin Hood are derived in some way from Howard Pyle's The Many Adventures of Robin Hood, a Victorian children's book which cemented our hero as a localised philanthropist. But the earliest versions of his story date back to 1450, with the only vaguely consistent elements being the Nottingham setting and the Sheriff - frankly, everything else is up for grabs.
The point here is that all the usual arguments about Disney being economical with the truth are perhaps not as valid here, given that the truth is so elusive to begin with. This is complicated further by the knowledge that Robin Hood was not originally intended to be about the character at all. Ken Anderson originally wanted to make a film about Reynard the fox, an anthropomorphic trickster prominent in medieval European literature. But Walt Disney overruled Anderson early in production, believing that a fox would not make an appealing protagonist unless he was fighting for a good cause.
Disney's version does include many of the most familiar and much-loved plot elements of the Robin Hood legend. The story is still set in Nottingham, our heroes are still reacting against King John's punitive taxation, Richard the Lionheart is still off fighting the Crusades, and John himself is still a pitiful coward. For those only familiar with the basics of the story, it earns a pass on this level, just as any version of The Hound of the Baskervilles might be praised so long as it's set on Dartmoor and has a lot of fog.
The film also possesses one really funny set-piece, which occurs during the archery tournament. There is something inherently funny about a chicken with a Scottish accent beating up half a dozen rhinos and then running off into the woods. Even if this doesn't appeal to you, the scene is well-paced and well-structured, with physical humour and slapstick that builds and escalates to a series of fitting punchlines, mostly at the expense of John or Sir Hiss.
Unfortunately, that's largely where the plaudits end with Robin Hood. Like most of the films Disney produced in the 1960s and 1970s, it is riddled with compromises, cost-cutting measures and a general lack of creative energy. I've talked to death in my reviews about the negative influence that Wolfgang Reitherman had on Disney's output, and his fingerprints are all over this both as a director and a storyteller.
For starters, the animation is very mediocre. Even if we make allowances for the more pastoral, understated environments that the story of Robin Hood demands, the backgrounds are very plain and lacking in detail. The colours look pale and faded, and as always with Reitherman there is a blatant recycling of footage from previous films.
Many of the character designs are derived in some way from The Jungle Book, with Little John being a straight copy of Baloo in body and in voice (both characters are voiced by Phil Harris). 'The Phony King of England' musical number is similar to both 'Bare Necessities' and 'I Wanna Be Like You', both in its orchestration and in the dancing of its characters. Likewise Hiss is a poor man's Ka, the young turtle is a lift from Snow White, and there are big hints of Dumbo in the title sequence.
The film is also tonally unsure of itself, something which is reflected in the voice acting. Some of the cast are in full-on pantomime mode, with Peter Ustinov hamming it for all his worth as King John and Terry-Thomas providing a fitting foil as Hiss. Others are earnest to the point of being bland, such as Brian Belford as Robin or Monica Evans as Maid Marian. Others still are behaving like the whole thing is a Western: the conflict between Pat Buttram (the Sheriff) and Andy Devine (Friar Tuck) is like a watered-down version of the banter before a bar-room brawl.
These points reflect the apathy that surrounded much of Disney's output in the 1960s and 1970s. Because the budget for Robin Hood was relatively low, at $1.5m, Reitherman stuck to what he knew, and in doing so removed many of the genuinely creative aspects that would have made the film more distinctive. While Anderson wanted to make the Sheriff a goat, Reitherman settled on the tried-and-tested wolf, missing an opportunity to move the Disney brand on a bit and experiment with different kinds of characters.
This apathy also manifests itself on a narrative level. While many of the familiar plot elements are there, the plot as a whole is a series of bits which don't really lead on from each other. The narrative is less episodic than The Jungle Book, but the film does feel like it has been thrown together quickly without due care and attention. Roger Miller's narrator is completely surplus to requirement, being included to plug the gaps between set-pieces (and provide a more American sensibility).
In spite of all this, it is possible to enjoy Robin Hood as a vaguely passible distraction. Like The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, it is pretty innoucous fare, and its flaws are not so striking that they will offend the target audience. The more pantomime elements are amusing, the set-pieces are well-constructed, and while the score is repetitive it is also deeply forgettable. Like Pooh, it is the kind of film you show on a rainy afternoon, when nothing else is available to take your mind off things.
Robin Hood is an indifferent and innocuous effort from Disney which epitomises many of the company's flaws in this time period. It has its moments of fun and contains very little that could offend, but it's also a big missed opportunity which puts cutting corners above encouraging creativity. It's not Reitherman's worst outing as a director, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement.
Maybe the most underrated of all Disney's films. Great characters and great music.
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