During the reign of Prince John (regent while his brother the King is off fighting a Crusade) taxes have risen to such a height that the peasantry can no longer afford to pay them. Enter Robin Hood and Little John, two buddies who rob from the rich and give to the poor. But Prince John cannot forgive such brazen thievery, and creates a trap for Robin Hood: an archery contest with the Maid Marian presenting the prize to the winner. Robin, who has been in love with Marian for years, can't resist such a temptation, and all hell breaks loose at the contest...
This is one of the first Disney movies I can remember seeing when I was a small child. What little I know of the Robin Hood legend stems from the Disney film. But it has easily been ten or fifteen years since I last watched Robin Hood, so I was curious to see how it would measure up now that I'm an adult.
The first thing I noticed when watching the movie was how much of the animation is recycled. A scene that shows Maid Marian dancing was traced from the dance sequence in Snow White. Many of Little John's movements are taken from Baloo's performance in The Jungle Book. Even when a few seconds of animation were created specifically for Robin Hood, they might get used multiple times in the film - such as when the rhino-guards charge across the screen or the child-animals are laughing uproariously. The animation also looks extremely scratchy. As noted back when I watched 101 Dalmatians, the Disney studios were using a Xerox process during production, and the resulting animation often had a slightly sloppy look from extraneous traced lines. Well, whatever. Maybe they were working with an extra-small budget or something. How's the story?
Well, the story is predictable. Really, really predictable. I mean, when Maid Marian's talking to her chicken friend about how worried she is that Robin doesn't like her anymore, I wanted to shout "FOX LADY. YOU'RE IN A DISNEY FILM. HE STILL LIKES YOU JUST FINE." But again, I can't be sure whether the predictability is a story-telling flaw or is simply the effect of having watched the movie so often as a child. The story moves along fairly quickly, and it's certainly fun to watch, because there's plenty of action.
The choice to tell the story with animals is an interesting one. I wonder why it was decided to do Robin Hood this way? It certainly gave the animators a lot of creative license, and it shows - the characters are well-designed and interesting to look at. A lot of the time, though, it seemed like the voice actors were only about 50% into their roles. I mean, Robin Hood never sounded like he was fully present in his scenes...but maybe that's just me. Am I the only one who also found it odd that characters like the Sheriff and Friar Tuck had strong Southern accents, while Marion and Robin still have proper English accents? *shrug* That wouldn't have gone over very well with people, but you can kinda get away with it when your characters are animals.
Even though I find the songs pretty forgettable, overall, I like that the producers went with a folksy-country sound. It seems more appropriate to the story of an outlaw in medieval England than, say, Broadway power ballads.
All in all, I'd give this 7/10 for a Disney film.
I mean, it's not a bad movie at all, but compared to the other Disney classics, I think Robin Hood tends to fall on the weaker end of the spectrum.