robinhoodcoverGrade:  C+
Entire family:  Yes (though it might bore older ones)
1973, 83 min., Color
Rated G
Disney
Aspect ratio:  1.66:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA 5.1
Bonus features:  C+
Includes:  Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Trailer

Of all the animated Disney movies from the ‘70s, Robin Hood had perhaps the most potential, but suffers from a mild case of “averageitis.” For me it just didn’t hold up as well as some of the other Disney entries—though the kids thought it comparable to other Disney features.

Although Wolfgang Reitherman, one of Disney’s fabled Nine Old Men, directed Disney’s 1973 animated adaptation of the Robin Hood legend—one which hovers close in plot to the Errol Flynn Adventures of Robin Hood classic—the music isn’t as well integrated, and the story seems flat in spots.

There’s a hint of limitation in the title sequence, which simply features a parade of characters marching across the screen to a folk-pop song by Roger Miller, then running back the other direction, chased by another group of uniformed animals. At times, the animators seemed satisfied to be going for “cute” instead of clever, and there just isn’t the same give-and-take robust energy to the characters of Robin Hood (a fox, voiced by Brian Bedford) and Little John (a bear, voiced by Phil Harris) as there was with Flynn and his partner in live-action convivial crime, Alan Hale. Other characters also seem too nice, or too nondescript.

The most memorable ones are Prince John (Peter Ustinov), whose demeanor vacillates between delusions of grandeur and infantile withdrawal, and his advisor, Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas), a snake whose schtick comes closest to what passes for snappy patter in this film. 

The story will be familiar to most readers:  While King Richard is off fighting on the Crusades, his conniving brother, Prince John, has seized the throne and is taxing the people of Britain into starvation. In one memorable scene, his henchman, the Sheriff of Nottingham (voiced by Pat Buttram), even crashes a boy rabbit’s birthday party and confiscates the single coin his family had wrapped as a present for him.

RobinHoodscreenAs in the Flynn version, Robin can’t resist showing up in disguise in order to win a kiss from the vixen Maid Marian (Monica Evans), but rather than Robin trying to save Marian from hanging (as in the live-action version), Disney decided it was better to put a minor character’s neck halfway in the noose. That’s probably a good call, but it’s surprising how little creative energy this film has, or how little chemistry the voice actors have with each other.

That said, there are some very fun scenes, and just enough of them to keep this passel of bears and foxes and such from turning into a complete disappointment.  Robin Hood  isn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination; it’s just surprisingly flat and by-the-numbers, compared to other Disney animated features. Kids will still like it, but the older family members will wish for more of the playfulness and cleverness of the Errol Flynn version.

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