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Robin Hood (1973)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Release: 8/6/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/18/2013
In the past few years, with movies like Wreck-It-Ralph and Bolt, Disney's animation branch has made some theatrical films which are based on original stories. (It's no leap to assume that they have been inspired by the success of Pixar and the like.) However, for decades the vast majority of Disney films were taken from fairy tales, classic novels, or popular legends. The company became known for putting their specific twist on familiar stories, usually through anthropomorphism. Having animals play historical or well-known figures made the films family-friendly and also helped to excuse any liberties taken with the stories. 1973ís Robin Hood is a prime example of this.
Robin Hood is set in medieval England, during a time when the benevolent King Richard has gone off to the Crusades. In his place, the cruel Prince John (voiced by Peter Ustinov) has taken the throne, where he is counseled by Sir Hiss (voiced by Terry-Thomas). The Prince has raised the taxes on the poor citizens, so much so that many canít eat. Robin Hood (voiced by Brian Bedford) and his sidekick, Little John (voiced by Phil Harris), has taken it upon himself to rob Prince John and give the gold back to the poor. The Sheriff of Nottingham (voiced by Pat Buttram) has been charged with catching Robin Hood, but even his best tricks donít work. While working on his projects, Robin learns that his childhood sweetheart, Maid Marian (voiced by Monica Evans), has returned to the area and he makes plans to woo her. However, Prince John increases the taxation even further, forcing Robin Hood and Little John to mount a desperate plan.
OK, first things first. What is up with the fact that most of the characters in this movie sound as if they've just escaped from a Western? Who was the genius who said, "Hey, you how this is set in Britain? Why don't we have at least four of the main characters sound as if they are from Texas?!" It's so weird! You have the actors playing Robin Hood and Prince John (the esteemed Peter Ustinov) feeling right at home with their British accents, performing along side Roger Miller, Phil Harris, Brian Bedford, and Pat Buttram, not to mention a small role from George "Goober" Lindsey and it sounds as if half of the cast should be sitting around the campfire in Blazing Saddles. I don't know about others, but it certainly pulled me out of the film at times.
That aside, Robin Hood has all of the makings of a classic Disney film. As noted above, it's based on a classic tale. The hero is dashing and fun without being arrogant and flashy. The villain is evil, although never scary, and, most importantly, he has a funny sidekick. Every Disney movie needs some comic relief and Sir Hiss certainly supplies it, from his reactions to Prince John's ignorance to the absurdity of his outfits. (Snakes don't have shoulders. How is he wearing a cloak?) This isn't a standard Disney musical, but it does have a memorable song. There is a nice balance of action, humor, and heart.
So, why doesn't this movie get mentioned amongst the usual suspects of Disney animated classics? I'm not sure. It was originally released at a time when Disney was focusing more on live-action films, so perhaps it was overlooked. The tale of Robin Hood is very familiar and has been brought to the screen many times, so maybe the public simply forgets about this one. Whatever the case, this movie deserves to be re-discovered. My children had never seen it and I honestly didn't expect them to sit still for it, but they both watched it and my youngest, who hates everything, proclaimed that she "really liked it." If nothing else, people should acknowledge the clever notion that Robin Hood, who steals, is a fox. Come on! My only knocks against Robin Hood is that it does drag in a few spots and the some of the character designs look like copies from other movies (one of the rabbits looks (and sounds) just like Marie from The Aristocats), otherwise this is a fun movie which I think my kids will want to watch again.
Robin Hood really loves costumes on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, free from any distracting grain or defects from the source materials. The colors look good, although they are slightly dull when compared to other recent Disney releases from "The Vault". The level of detail is good, as is the depth. No issues with the animation are present. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track is "rich", for lack of a better word, and it's presence is demonstrated in the opening songs. However, we are treated to an abundance of dynamic effects here. For the most part, the sound sticks to the front and rear channels, with little surround or subwoofer action occurring.
The Robin Hood Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extras. "Deleted Storyline 'Love Letters'" (8 minutes) offers storyboards which show unused scenes in which Prince John attempted to trick Robin Hood with fake love letters. Storyboards are utilized again in "Alternate Ending" (5 minutes), which offers a slightly different fate for Robin Hood. "Disney Song Selection" takes the viewer to one of four songs from the film. "Robin Hood Art Gallery" (9 minutes) delivers an abundance of concept art from the film, showing how the characters evolved. "Robin Hood Storybook" (14 minutes) is simply a basic retelling of the movie, told in book form. We get a Sing-Along Song for "Oo-De-Lally". "Ye Olden Days" (8 minutes) is a bonus black-and-white short featuring Mickey Mouse.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.