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Disney Canon Countdown 21: ‘Robin Hood’

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21-Robin-Hood

So, we are still in the Bronze Age of Disney Animation. The torch was passed from Walt to Donn Tatum and Card Walker who gave us Robin Hood in 1973. Does the death of Walt Disney mean the death of good Disney movies? Luckily, this is not the case with this movie.

The budget of Robin Hood was low thanks to the introduction of the new Xerox copying technology. This, however, shows sketch lines and makes the animation look rough. Some may say this makes it look cheap; others may say it looks charming. Whatever your opinion, if it stopped WDAS from becoming bankrupt, then I’m certainly happy with it.

When I was younger, I thought the dance celebration scenes in Robin Hood was a homage to other Disney movies like Snow WhiteThe Jungle Book, and The Aristocats. It was only later did I find out that it was necessary to recycle the animation for these movies to keep the budget low. Robin Hood is in fact the lowest-budgeted Disney movie to ever be produced, with an estimate of $1.5 million. It’s also the perfect example of why Disney has some of the best movies in animation not because of its big budget, but because the story and the characters are always well done.

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We all know the story of the outlaw Robin Hood who robs from the rich to feed the poor. There have been many adaptations even before the release of the Disney version, most notably the 1938 movie The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn and Disney’s live-action movie The Story of Robin Hood and His Merry Men in 1952. These movies were certainly light-hearted, but they lacked the fun and silliness of Disney’s animated version.

Fun and silliness is exactly what this age-old story needed. There’s almost a joke around every corner, some visual and some verbal. Perhaps this is the reason why it’s one of the most quotable Disney movies around. Everything Robin says once disguised as a stork is a personal favorite, mainly because it gives me the opportunity to do a bad cockney accent with lines like, “Meetin’ ya face-to-face is a real treat.” Humor aside, there’s still a lot of heart as well. The quote, “Keep your chin up, someday there will be happiness again”, is a popular uplifting quote too.

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Robin Hood was actually the first Disney movie to have anthropomorphic animals without any human characters. Something you don’t even realize since the characters are so well animated with human characteristics. Maybe this is why Robin, himself, is so likeable. I’m just going to say it. I loved Robin as a child, and I still do now. His charisma and heroism isn’t forced, and he’s never insincere. This is what happens when animators, writers, and voice actors (in this case Brian Bedford) are all so talented: you create a believable and appealing character that could challenge any live-action portrayal. There’s clearly more than a little influence for con-artist Nick Wilde from Disney’s latest animated fox in Zootopia.

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All the characters and voice actors are remarkable in this movie. Many actors from previous Disney movies are reused, giving the movie a familiar and flowing feel. There is also the wonderful addition of Peter Ustinov as Prince John and Terry-Thomas as Sir Hiss, both popular English actors at the time of the movie’s release. Terry-Thomas himself even had a gap between his teeth like Sir Hiss does (if you’re unaware of the actor, think Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the Mad Hatter with a lot of class). How can I forget Phil Harris as the voice of Little John? Giving us as much heart as he did as Baloo from The Jungle Book. I can’t decide who has a better bromance, Robin and Little John or Prince John and Sir Hiss? That’s how good these performances are.

Music is also a big part of this movie. Roger Miller (who gave us the song “King of the Road”) voices Alan-a-Dale, a rooster who narrates and sings half of the soundtrack. You couldn’t have anything more fitting since in legend, he was a member of Robin’s Merry Men who was known for singing. He guides us through the story in song. If slow romantic songs aren’t your thing then you may find “Love” not to be your favorite of the bunch, but no one can deny that “Oo De Lally” is a catchy tune.

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The movie perfectly balances its humor with the more intense moments too. There’s an early action sequence when the guards chase Robin after the archery contest that’s riddled with visual gags. Then there’s an action sequence near the end of the film that feels more serious. I still find myself getting really invested and tense when Robin’s stealing gold and chased to the top of the castle. The last sequence should be shown as a “how-to” of how to get your audience gripping their seats. Let’s just say trapping your protagonist between armed guards and a fire is a great climax to any movie.

If you’re a fan of Disney movies and this one past you by, it is a must-see, and if you’re not the biggest fan of the Bronze Age of Disney movies, then I still say it’s worth your time. You’ll be missing out on too much fun and giggles if you don’t.

What do you think of Robin Hood? Where does it rank on your list of favorite Disney movies?

Edited by: Kelly Conley

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About MJ Edwards

MJ is a writing and film graduate who loves to relax with scented candles and herbal teas. She is a dog-walker by day and a pie-maker by night. She loves movies starring Christopher Reeve and her favorite animated film is Meet the Robinsons. MJ also loves anything that LAIKA and Tim Burton come out with.