Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Review: Walt Disney's "ROBIN HOOD" is the Non-Classic Disney Classic

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 44 of 2023 (No. 1933) by Leroy Douresseaux

Robin Hood (1973) – animation
Running time:  83 minutes (1 hour, 23 minutes)
PRODUCER/DIRECTOR:  Wolfgang Reitherman
WRITERS:  Larry Clemons; based on story and character concepts by Ken Anderson
EDITORS:  Tom Acosta and Jim Melton
COMPOSER:  George Bruns
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  (voices) Brian Bedford, Phil Harris, Roger Miller, Peter Ustinov, Terry-Thomas, Monica Evans, Andy Devine, Carole Shelley, Pat Buttram, George Lindsey, and Ken Curtis

Robin Hood is a 1973 animated musical-comedy and fantasy-adventure film produced and directed by Wolfgang Reitherman.  It is also the twenty-first feature-length animated film from Walt Disney Productions, part of a line also known as the “Disney Classics.”  The film is based on the English folklore character, Robin Hood, and the stories that have grown around the character.  Disney's 1953 Robin Hood film depicts the legendary outlaw and the cast of characters around his legend as anthropomorphic animals (animals that talk and act like humans)

Robin Hood opens with the story's narrator, Alan-a-Dale – The Rooster (Roger Miller), saying that there are many stories of Robin Hood, but that the one he is about to tell takes place in the world of animals.  He introduces Robin Hood – A Fox (Brian Bedford) and Little John – A Brown Bear (Phil Harris).  They are outlaws and live in Sherwood Forest.  They rob from the rich in order to give gold coins to the overtaxed citizens of the town of Nottingham.

The Sheriff of Nottingham – A Wolf (Pat Buttram) tries to catch the two, but he fails every time.  The sheriff's failure to capture the outlaws irritates Prince John – A Lion (Peter Ustinov).  John is the “Prince Regent” of England while his older brother, King Richard – A Lion (Peter Ustinov), is out of the country fighting in the Third Crusade.  Prince John and his advisor, Sir Hiss – A Snake (Terry-Thomas), plot to end the nuisance of Robin Hood.  Prince John also demands that the Sheriff tax the poor townsfolk of Nottingham excessively, driving many to abject poverty.

Meanwhile, Robin's attention is not entirely focused on robbing the rich.  He wishes to reunite with his love interest, Maid Marian – A Vixen (Monica Evans), who is also the niece of King Richard.  And Prince John's latest plot to catch Robin Hood may just reunite Robin and Marian.  Can their love survive an increasingly enraged Prince John?

As “DVD Netflix” prepares to shutdown, I've been racing to catch up on certain films that I have never seen or have not seen in a long time.  I recently decided to sample some films in which 2023 is the fiftieth anniversary of their original theatrical releases.  That includes such films as Woody Allen's Sleeper, George Lucas' American Graffiti, and the Bruce Lee classic, Enter the Dragon.

Walt Disney's Robin Hood is one of those films celebrating a 50th anniversary, and it is one of the Disney animated classics that I had never seen prior to now.  I am a fan of Robin Hood films, especially the 1991 Kevin Costner vehicle, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  I also like Ridley Scott's 2010 film, Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe in the title role.  I found some enjoyment in Tom and Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse, a 2012 direct-to-DVD film.  [Robin Hood makes a small appearance in director Richard Thorpe's “Best Picture” Oscar nominee, Ivanhoe (1952), which I have seen a few times on Turner Classic Movies.]

Disney's Robin Hood is an odd film.  First, it isn't an origin story, and takes place, apparently, well into Robin's career as an outlaw.  While Alan-o-Dale mentions “the Merry Men,” Robin's legendary band of outlaws, Little John is the only one that appears in this film.  Friar Tuck – A Badger (Andy Devine) does appear, but he seems to be purely the priest of Nottingham – more a beneficiary of Robin's outlaw activities than a participant.  For me, this makes the film seem under-developed, as if it we are getting half of the intended story.

Apparently, using the the American “Deep South” as a setting for this film was considered, but ultimately the chosen locale was Robin Hood's traditional English setting.  However, Roger Miller, who provides the talking and singing voice of Alan-o-Dale, is best known for his honky-tonk inflected country music and novelty songs, so much of Miller's performance here seems out of place.  Miller's Alan-o-Dale has the flavors of America's rural South, which somewhat clashes with the English setting.  Still, I tend to like Miller's narrating and singing in Robin Hood, although this film's best song is the Oscar-nominated “Love,” written by George Bruns and Floyd Huddleston.

To begin, Robin Hood feels muddled, and it really does not find its narrative flow until about 37 minutes into the film.  At that point, the characters really emerge as they take their places within the story.  The action turns lively, and the animation and animation effects start to stand out.  The voice performances overall are good, but not great – nothing that I would call memorable in the context of the great performances in other Disney animated classics.  Walt Disney's Robin Hood does not exactly miss the mark, but it does not hit the bullseye, either.

6 of 10
★★★ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

1974 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Music, Original Song” (George Bruns-music and Floyd Huddleston-lyrics for the song “Love”)

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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