Sunday, March 08, 2009

3/4/09: Robin Hood (1973)

I had a curious reason for wanting to see Disney's animated Robin Hood feature from 1973.

When I was a child, my family would regularly pile into the car and head for the Florida Twin "Rocking Chair" Theater, which would typically offer a kids' movie on one side, and something more adult playing on the other. In late 1973, my Dad stunned me by inviting me to join the parents for the adult feature, which was the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force. This was an important "rite of passage" for me, the de facto end of my childhood. In recent years, though, I'd begun to wonder what the kids' feature my younger brother and sister had gone to see by themselves that evening. So, a couple of years ago, I decided to research it. I delved into the microfilm archives at the Broward County Libarary and checked the newspaper listings of the Miami Herals. Turns out it was Robin Hood. And so, 35 years later, I've given myself a new lease on my childhood by finally screening what many people insist is Disney's most underrated cartoon feature.

This was actually The Mouse's second filming of this stalwart tale, the first being the 1952 live-action The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men. I think the animated version belongs in the same Disney subcategory that began with 1961's One Hundred and One Dalmations and encompasses The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Jungle Book (1967) and The Aristocats (1970). Robin Hood has the same middle-period animation style, which is deliberately sketchy and much less pristine than vintage Disney. It also seems to rank with the same general overall quality in storytelling, direction, etc. Which is to say it's very good, just not quite in the league with early classics like Bambi or the 1990s renaissance that includes The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast.

Still, Robin Hood is a lively and entertaining comedy, with a cast of anthropomorphic jungle critters (fox, snake, bear, lion, wolf, etc.) playing the roles of Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Little John, Friar Tuck and the rest. Although clearly geared for kids, Disney-loving grownups are sure to find it charming. I did. Rating: 4/5.

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