Disney’s Robin Hood (1973)

Image: Disney, Wikipedia

Oo-de-lally, golly what a film!

PLOT –

The plot is easy to follow, and ups the stakes with every scene. The characters are cleanly introduced, and their motivations and roles in the story clear within seconds. A good 90% of the scenes are memorable, and the film is mostly character driven, with the story keeping good pace. There are a lot of exciting scenes in the film towards the middle and end, and this film has more of a focus on dialogue and character than the rest, rather than several action or chase scene set-pieces, letting the audience get to know the cast. The plot is also an emotional one, touching on injustice and poverty, and some scenes can be hard to watch without feeling a sense of being wronged. It’s a classic story of the ‘big guy’ versus ‘the little guy’, and Robin Hood does this masterfully.

My PLOT RATING is 5 / 5.

CHARACTERS –

Robin Hood (Brian Bedford) is our protagonist. He’s chivalrous, caring, crafty, and fun, he’s fallible in that he daydreams about love and overestimates his invulnerability, and he’s a great archer and swordsman. He’s a wonderful person in general and he has a lot of heart for his friends and his fellow townspeople. He’s just trying to do what’s right amongst so much wrong.

Little John (Phil Harris) is Harris’ best role. Yes, better than Baloo. He’s smart and a true friend, really caring about Robin’s life. He’s a little more loud and showy than Robin, who prefers quiet and stealth, while John noisily hides in plain sight, shouting all the way. He has a lot of funny one-liners in the film and has a song as well.

Maid Marian (Monica Evans) and Lady Kluck (Carole Shelley) are similar to Little John and Robin Hood. Marian is kind and gentle to others, and has a few funny lines. The relationship between her and Hood is shown really well here, and it doesn’t seem like it’s too quick, as they have history already. Kluck is hysterical. Her thick Scottish accent and boisterous attitude make her one of the most memorable characters. Her actions in the archery chase scene are a hi-light of the film.

Prince John (Peter Ustinov) is mostly a comedic villain with his foppish delivery, but he can be threatening. The thumb-sucking bit gets me every time, and his reactions to events onscreen are always a blast to watch. His costume changes in the film are also fun, from regal reds and teals to his plain grey pajamas.

Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas) is Prince John’s Yes Man. Thomas does an excellent job with him, and his line delivery is on point, dragging those ‘S’s out and accentuating his lisp. The different ways they have him move around and interact with the world are always a delight, from flying in a balloon (using his tail as a propeller) to flipping through coins with his tail (I personally like the animation of this part).

Interesting to note is that several main character pairs all have a louder (Little, Kluck, and Prince) and softer (Robin, Marian, and Hiss) member. Nutsy (loud) and Trigger (soft) also count as well. It’s an interesting parallel that comes up in later Disney films at times.

The Sheriff of Nottingham (Pat Buttram) is another antagonist in the film. He’s a despicable villain that really gets under your skin as the film goes on. His Southern American accent grates against his actions in the film, but it accentuates his character. Buttram plays his character with an air of obliviousness that perfectly shows off his character’s power: he’s untouchable. He acts as if nothing is wrong with what he is doing, and that is the ‘worst’ part about his character.

Friar Tuck (Andy Devine) is played with a nice balance of soft and loud lines. His raspy voice and kind demeanor clashes perfectly with his love for the people when he gets riled up, and it’s awesome to see him turn a full 180. He has a lot of fun scenes and is a great supporting cast member.

The rest of the supporting cast is also very memorable, from narrator Allan-a-Dale (Roger Miller, who is fantastic in this and shows up in-story out of the blue) jail guards Nutsy (Ken Curtis, having one of the most memorable lines in the film) and Trigger (George Lindsey, who makes his one bit work for him), to the the rabbit family, to the crocodile announcer (Candy Candido again!), to the owl couple, to the kids (Billy Whitaker, Dori Whitaker, Richie Sanders, and Dana Laurita, who all do great jobs), to the several different types of guards and royal procession members, to all of the townspeople. This film goes out of its way in having the audience care about its characters, and it shows here.

My CHARACTERS RATING is 5 / 5.

DIALOGUE –

The film is mostly dialogue-driven. The characters have several memorable lines and the delivery is spot-on and sticks in your head for days after. The dialogue goes into a lot of topics that aren’t really discussed at length in animated films: love, poverty, patriotism, and even God, and it’s brilliant. Each character is given the right cadence of dialogue with lines that no other character would have. Everyone’s written perfectly.

My DIALOGUE RATING is 5 / 5.

EFFECTS –

This is Xerox animation at its most useful. The amount of characters and movement onscreen at one time is astounding at times. Fire, fur, water, and rock particle effects are all animated very well. A particular church bell late in the film had me question if it was computer generated or not. The backgrounds here are beautiful, with each leaf and blade of grass accounted for. The character animation and choreography also deserves a mention, with the middle and ending action scenes involving several moving parts that required a lot of planning to pull off effectively. However, a lot of animation is reused in some scenes, and the animation can be a bit scratchy at times.

My EFFECTS RATING is 4 / 5.

MUSIC –

The music is done really well in this film. George Bruns once again does a great job. There are a lot of identifiable themes for characters and locations such as the royal procession theme or the main theme that Allan-a-Dale whistles.

“Whistle-Stop” – One of my favorite Disney songs. Really chill and fun to whistle on your own, and even has a light instrumental section as well.

“Oo-de-lally” – Another great one. Perfectly sets up the setting, situation, and characters, all backed with light acoustic guitar.

“Love” – Really romantic and beautiful. Sentimental, yet not overtly so.

“The Phony King of England” – A fun romp and crowd song. Also could count as a ‘villain song’ in the same vein as “Cruella De Vil”. Gets a reprise with Pat Buttram and Terry-Thomas that I actually like more than the original.

“Not in Nottingham” – Depressing, but still good. Similar to “Oo-de-lally”, but flipped towards negativity. The acoustic guitar is still awesome in this one.

“Love / Oo-de-lally Reprise” – A nice wrap-up to the film that ties two great songs together.

My MUSIC RATING is 5 / 5.

OVERALL –

One of the all-time great Disney films, and one of my personal favorites. 21 films in and I feel like this one is where Disney seriously hits its stride. This is truly a character-driven film. It lives and dies by the casting and character animation and it delivers ten-fold. The dialogue is insanely good here, and the lines are delivered with the utmost precision, flair, and care that the good actors and actresses can give them. The music is awesome, featuring more greatness from George Bruns, and a heaping helping of acoustic guitar for Allan-a-Dale with the traditional orchestra for other songs. The story moves at a solid pace throughout, heightening the tension with each scene, and the animation, while sometimes scratchy and sometimes reused, is gorgeous, colorful, vibrant, and simply magical.

The magic is back in the Disney Animated Canon.

Image: Disney, Disneyparks.disney.go.com

My OVERALL RATING for Disney’s Robin Hood is 96%.

Next time, we’ll move from the forest…

To the Hundred Acre Wood.

Stay tuned!

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