The Disney Marathon: ‘Robin Hood’


For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 30s blogger), my son Josh (stoic 9 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 7 year old princess wannabe) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

After a couple of new experiences things have been flipped this week. We have one of my children favourites! Let’s find out if it holds up.

Film: Robin Hood

Released: 1973

Director: Wolfgang Reitherman

Cast: Brian Bedford, Monica Evans, Phil Harris, Roger Miller, Andy Devine, Peter Ustinov

Plot: In medieval England, under rule of the greedy Prince John, outlaw bandit Robin Hood steals from the rich to give to the poor.

Review: Coming out of one of Disney Animation’s less successful periods of time, Robin Hood has maintained a familiarity with audiences and is largely fondly remembered. There’s a number of reasons it’s not put on the same pedestal as the earliest Princess movies, or the films of the 1990s, mostly due to the lower budget animation used.

Right off the bat you can see one of the most glaring issues that separates Robin Hood from other Disney efforts. This is the short walking cycles that get repeated throughout the story. We get dozens of identical rhinos marching side by side, all using a perfectly synchronised march. We see them in the opening credits, we see them in the opening scene and we see them in almost every scene that follows. We have flat backgrounds, with scratchy looking, poorly integrated figures moving in front of them. It’s not the technical marvel we generally expect from these animators.

With that in mind, I was 7 years old when I was admitted to hospital to have my tonsils removed. It was going to be a couple of days and the main focus of entertainment was a single TV in a room of four kids, and a selection of only three or so movies that were cycled through again and again, if the staff had their hands free long enough to switch the VHS tapes. One of the movies was the stop-motion oddity Mad Monster Party? and another was Robin Hood. This was one I requested a number of times and never grew tired of it.

The story is relayed to us by a rooster bard (oh yeah, everyone is an animal…that’s important) who was allegedly pitched to Johnny Cash for casting. We learn of Robin Hood and Little John, a pair of care-free rogues who spend their days kicking back in the forest and taking every opportunity to rob the rich. The rich, in this case, is represented by Prince John, keeping the throne warm while his brother Richard is fighting in the crusades. John has been funding his lavish and decadent lifestyle by imposing heavy taxes on the population and jailing any who can’t comply. Eventually Robin much launch a final assault on John’s castle to reclaim the people’s money and free them from jail.

The charm of the characters shine past the lower grade animation with ease. Robin and Little John are such fun characters that they never get boring. Robin has such an easy-going spirit and acts so completely invincible that it’s easy to buy into his scheme. They’re well supported by a village of colourful characters the barmy Lady Kluck of the royal court down to the band of mischievous children who idolise Robin. The film-makers have done a solid job of creating this small world of anthropomorphic animals, and even the side characters are unique and memorable.

There’s a simple story at the core of this film. We get set-up with the characters, Robin shamelessly walks into a trap to get the chance to be close to Maid Marian, Prince John pushes Robin by imprisoning the town and there’s a big heist to round things out. It’s easily accessible to kids while still being fun for adults. It does slow down in the third act, however, as sneaking around the castle goes for too long before things start catching fire and the sense of danger is ramped up.

One aspect of the movie that stood out as is the characterisation of the villainous Prince John, delightfully played by Peter Ustinov. There’s a lot to unpack with this guy. He is motivated by greed and greed alone, wanting to horde the kingdoms treasures for the sake of having it, and has zero empathy for the lives he’s destroyed. His ego is as fragile as it is swollen, and he’s quick to anger and lashes out of those close to him. Most strange is his fixation on his mother, and any suggestion that he has upset her (her being presumed to be dead at this point) he breaks down into a regressive fit and sucks his thumb. Of all the Disney characters this one has the most in common with Norman Bates.

Before we go, we feel compelled to mention the fan theory that Robin Hood exists earlier in the timeline that leads to Zootopia. It’s easy to imagine that Robin is distantly related to Nick Wilde. If that, however, is the case then I would like to know what happened to Lady Kluck, Alan-a-Dale, Toby the Turtle and Sir Hiss. Only anthropomorphised mammals exist in Zootopia, not reptiles or birds. And those carnivores need to be eating something…

Best Song: I wouldn’t call it a great song, but ‘Oo-De-Lally’ is going to be stuck in your head for ever and ever.

Weirdest Trivia: This barely counts as trivia as videos demonstrating the technique have gone viral online, but Robin Hood borrows animation from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, The Jungle Book and The Aristocats. Time and money was saved by tracing new characters over the old, particularly during the forest dance sequence.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN

THE RANKING

ME

Click on the titles if you want to see what we said about these films!

The ranking on this list doesn’t reflect the scores in the past reviews because those scores don’t account for nostalgia. These lists do, and I have many fond memories of this movie.

  1. Robin Hood
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  4. Emperor’s New Groove
  5. Fantasia
  6. Treasure Planet
  7. Chicken Little

AMELIA

I was surprised that Amelia was so charmed by this one that she put it on the top of her list. I expect something more princess focused with eventually oust it from the top spot, as this is her usual favourite, but they haven’t turned up on the wheel yet.

  1. Robin Hood
  2. Emperor’s New Groove
  3. Treasure Planet
  4. Big Hero 6
  5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  6. Chicken Little
  7. Fantasia

JOSHUA

Whilst Josh certainly enjoyed Robin Hood, it’s older style and slower pace meant that it didn’t grab him in the same way as the top three of his rankings.

  1. Big Hero 6
  2. Emperor’s New Groove
  3. Treasure Planet
  4. Robin Hood
  5. Fantasia
  6. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  7. Chicken Little