Robin Hood finally shoots its way onto Blu-ray, but sadly the titular character does not steal the screen in the best way. It’s no Disney classic, at least for those of us who did not grow up with Maid Marian and friends, but the 1973 movie deserves a viewing if you go into it with reasonable expectations.
Fair warning. I did not have any sentimental feelings in watching Robin Hood, namely because I did not watch this film repeatedly during childhood. Thus I found it harder to connect with the oddball assortment of characters and collection of ideas that somehow never seem cohesive. The personalities are cute. The forceful underdog story moves even the most cynical. The humor recalls the tongue-in-cheek intelligence found in many of Disney’s finest. Yet Robin Hood appears to try too hard in representing something remarkable when at its core the film is straightforward minimalism.
The sheepish lion Prince John. The unlucky assistant Sir Hiss. The greedy Sheriff of Nottingham. The selfless outlaw Robin Hood. These are among the generic characters found in the 1973 feature. Though none of the anthropomorphic animals are annoying nor exaggerated, not one stands out as particularly memorable. Well, except for the fact that almost all of them are dressed in clothing and some don glasses. You don’t see that in Winnie the Pooh. Then again, Owl sports specs. These touches fail to take away from the film, but they do not add much either. Just oddities. Perhaps too many characters appear on screen that we cannot appreciate any of them individually. Many of Robin Hood‘s components feel odd without offering much meaning, be it the quirky gags or senseless dialogue.
Each scene gives off the impression that it could successfully fit as a distinct comedy skit, but not as an actual unified story that can carry 80 minutes. I think entertainment targeted to children suffered from that issue more prominently decades ago – though a handful of modern-day kids’ movies also possess those some problems. Yes, an overarching – no pun intended – storyline exists, focused on Robin Hood stealing from the rich to support the poor. He experiences unconventional scenarios, which inspire craziness and mayhem galore.
I leave watching this 1970s flick feeling disappointed by it never accomplishing anything special. On the other hand, I would not view this as a poor film either. Robin Hood‘s mediocrity lies in its inability to deliver something new to the table. I compare this to other Disney animated entries of the 60s and 70s, including 101 Dalmatians and even the middling Aristocats, and I do not see as much originality in the storytelling. Additionally, the few songs inserted are sadly rather forgettable. Now don’t get me wrong. Robin Hood has its positives. The animation looks solid, some of the supporting characters provoke mild laughter, and even the movie moves at a brisk pace. It simply cannot achieve specialty status in the Disney canon due to lacking novelty. But charm is charm, and Robin Hood fits that bill a plenty.
“Deleted Storyline: Love Letters” imparts another piece of storytelling to the Robin Hood story, with fast-moving storyboard visuals and enthusiastic voice acting.
“Alternate Ending” offers a different approach to the film’s conclusion, complete with both colored and black-and-white storyboards and narration. This take shows Robin Hood recovering after jumping off of the castle, with Prince John discovering his location. Oh the suspense.
“Disney Song Selection” allows viewers to watch each of the individual tunes.
“Robin Hood Art Gallery” presents a narrated journey of how Disney arts developed the film’s look.
“Robin Hood Storybook” shares a standard and abridged read-the-words-on-the-screen version of the tale.
“Sing Along with the Movie” lets the kiddos croon alongside the rooster.
“Oo-De-Lally Disney Sing-Along Song” continues the singing theme, but via the vintage version of the defunct 90s-era Sing Along Songs.
“Ye Olden Days Bonus Short” gives Mickey Mouse a chance to enter the scene. Watch the big cheese in black-and-white glory. Among the cast is Dippy Dawg, otherwise known as Goofy’s “predecessor.”
While the colors do not look muted by any means, the picture quality does not stand up to some of Disney’s best-looking animated Blu-ray releases of late. Many of the characters have a sharp look, with bright colors, but the backgrounds possess soft tones that lack vibrancy. The audio lacks the robust clarity and resonance one would expect in a Disney animated feature – only because the best have raised the standard in sound quality. Unfortunately that works against Robin Hood. It’s not weak or even muffled by any means, but it does not radiate brilliance.
Bonus Features: C
Overall Grade: C+
Maybe the studio should not have heroes with an archery talent, if Robin Hood and Merida are any indication. But all negativity and cynicism aside, the medieval-set tale hosts some endearing characters and flavorful skits – it just never travels anywhere substantial. Robin Hood is no Pinocchio – or even an Alice in Wonderland for that matter – but it does not warrant overlooking. Whether you remember it, or forget the characters’ names two hours later, may be determined by your willingness to view it as more than ordinary animated fare.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth on Geeks of Doom!