Saturday, March 12, 2011

DAF #34 - Robin Hood (1973)

Lady Kluck: "Remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder."
Maid Marian: "Or forgetful."

Title: Robin Hood
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes

Brian Bedford as Robin Hood
Phil Harris as Little John
Peter Ustinov as Prince John/King Richard
Monica Evans as Maid Marian
Pat Buttram as Sheriff of Nottingham
Terry-Thomas as Sir Hiss
Andy Devine as Friar Tuck
Carole Shelley as Lady Kluck
Roger Miller as Allan-a-Dale

Plot: The legend of England's hero who steals from the rich to give to the poor is given an animal flair.
Based on: The English legend of Robin Hood 
Setting: England, the 1190's.

Tagline: Join the MERRIEST MENagerie the world's best-loved legend!

First Viewing:
Early 90's at my grandma's house.

Out of all the Disney Animated Features, I can safely say that Robin Hood is the laziest of them all. Now, I myself am quite lazy so this isn't as big of an insult as it may seem. Yes, Robin Hood reuses animation. Yes, it doesn't have much in the way or plot or character. But dammit, I'm quite fond of it still.

Since the Tale of Robin Hood is based on poems and legends and not an actual specific text, there isn't a steadfast plot, per se. Robin Hood is an outlaw who steals from the rich to give to the poor. His friend is Little John. Prince John is a bastard. Maid Marian is the token female. In every rendition of Robin Hood, you will find these characters and roughly the same order of events. Disney's version is no exception, although it puts animals in place of the humans.

Robin Hood is narrated by the minstrel named Allan-a-Dale, a rooster voiced by some semi-famous country singer. He tells of Robin Hood (a fox) and his best friend Little John (a bear) who are constantly on the run from the Sheriff of Nottingham (a wolf). As you probably know, Prince John (a lion, but not a king. Haha!) is squatting on his brother Richard's throne until he returns from the "noble" Crusades.

One day, Prince John and his toadie, Sir Hiss (not a toad, but a snake) are traveling through Sherwood Forest to collect taxes from the poor and oppressed. Robin Hood and Little John take this opportunity to disguise themselves as female gypsies and swindle the Prince out of many a coin and his solid gold hub caps.

Prince John realizes he was grifted by the notorious Robin Hood and puts a bounty on his head. Meanwhile Robin disguises himself as a blind man and attends the birthday party of Skippy the Rabbit and gives him his bow and arrow and snazzy cap. This is where we're introduced to our annoying child voiced characters: other than Skippy, his sister "Sis", their baby sister literally named "Tagalong" (!), and cowardly Toby Turtle.

Skippy and co. go out to play and end up at the castle of Prince John, where Maid Marian (a fox, but still somehow related to the royal family) and her maid Lady Kluck are playing badminton. The characters interact and Maid Marian realizes she still loves her childhood sweetheart Robin Hood. At the same time, Robin finds himself thinking of Marian, and oh, my, oh if only they could be together.

To snare Robin, Prince John creates an archery contest with the prize being a kiss from Marian. Robin's pride and lascivious desires draw him to the match, but disguised as a stork. Naturally Robin wins and his identity is revealed. Prince John orders his execution, but he is freed and a big long ass chase scene ensues. Robin and Marian confess their love to one another and plan to marry.

Prince John, now dubbed "The Phony King of England" hikes taxes to an all time high. Friar Tuck (a badger) attacks the Sheriff of Nottingham in retaliation and is sentenced to hang. The night before, Robin and Little John rescue him, steal back a shit ton of money, and all the tax dodgers are freed from prison. After that, King Richard returns, forces Prince John, the Sheriff, and Sir Hiss to hard labor and pardons Robin. He and Marian marry and live happily ever after.

As I finish my traditional synopsis, I'm at a loss to discuss Robin Hood thoroughly or even remotely in an entertaining fashion. I enjoy it, yet I know it's not that good. I accept that fact. This is just a movie that is, and I'm fine to let it stay as is. I suppose Robin Hood and I have a very conflict-free relationship.

Sure, they reuse a shit ton of animation, particularly in "The Phony King of England" segment. And it should annoy me, but for some reason, I just shrug my shoulders and let it fly. You can make a fun little game out of it: "Oh there's Snow White! There's The Jungle Book!" Perhaps it would even make a great drinking game.
And the child characters are a bit cloying, as Andrew (Diversion 2.0) has already stated. But again, for some reason, I'm more tolerant than usual. I did watch this one growing up, but I don't want to hand the reins over to Nostalgia quite yet. Perhaps it's the voice work, Peter Ustinov particularly. And I always appreciate Phil Harris even though he's just doing Baloo/O'Malley.

Then there's the music, which I have to admit, I enjoy. It's nice to have a break from those Sherman Brothers when you're watching the DAF's in chronological order. I'm extremely fond of the Oscar nominated "Love" which is decidedly underrated and at the same time, deserving of its obscurity. Soft as cotton candy and six times as sweet, that syrupy ballad is the highlight of the movie for me.

I guess I'll discuss the romance, since that's what I usually do when I run out of things to say. Robin Hood and Maid Marian are often ranked among "The Great Fictional Couples" but this is only for name recognition. As far as I know, there is very little to put them on that list. Sure, sure, everyone's wet for External Conflict Romance, but this movie makes exceptionally light of it. It's about half-way through the movie when Robin finally mentions her and their childhood romance. I'll admit bringing in their childhood connection makes their reunion and declarations of love more believable. But it raises some questions: How exactly did they meet? When did they meet? Who forbid their love? And why, oh, why couldn't we be treated to some flashbacks?
Interesting that a mere two posts ago I complained about how The Sword in the Stone failed to fulfill its potential and yet, I'm pretty much content with Robin Hood. Why is that, I wonder? Is it because Disney was dead when this film went into production and the animation team just didn't know any better? Or is it because I'm forgiving of those movies that nobody seems to like. Well, it would have to be "nobody likes on a technical level." God knows Robin Hood has its fans. Ah, just one of the mysteries of being a Disney-phile. We can easily pick one film to death and then let another one just comfortably occupy #34.

“Whistle Stop" - Roger Miller (Allen-a-Dale)
"Oo De Lally" - Roger Miller
"Love" - Nancy Adams
"The Phony King of England" - Phil Harris (Little John)
"The Phony King of England (Reprise)" - Pat Buttram (Sheriff) and Terry Thomas (Sir Hiss)
"Not in Nottingham" - Roger Miller

Favorite Song: “Love” - Nancy Adams
Favorite Moment: "Love"

Favorite Character: Toby Turtle

But I'm all Milhouse!
Next DAF: 101 Dalmatians (1961)

No comments: