Man, I love this movie. I’ve gotten used to hating the character of Robin Hood with all my heart and soul because I really despised him on the BBC show Robin Hood, but this Robin makes my heart flutter. It’s one of those things no one admits until someone else says it first, so I’ll just put it out there: the Disney Robin Hood is a fox. I mean, yes, he’s literally an anthropomorphized fox, but…he’s also a fox, if you know what I mean. And yeah, you do know. Don’t deny it. If you were also an anthropomorphized fox, you’d be all over that.
Robin Hood‘s opening credits get an A+. I love the jaunty tune (more commonly referred to nowadays as the hamster dance song), the fact that we have a narrator in true medieval minstral fashion (albeit, he’s got a Southern twang), and the introduction of each character with their voice actor and animal species. I’ll admit that when I was younger, I didn’t know what a “vixen” was, so I could never figure out why Maid Marian looked like a fox, but apparently wasn’t. I’ve also just discovered that Marian and Lady Kluck are voiced by the Odd Couple Pigeon sisters, aka the geese in The Aristocats. That kind of blows my mind.
The opening sequence is also pretty much perfect. We get a song (“Oo-de-Lally”), an introduction to our heroes and villains, and a micro-version of the movie’s plot and main conflict. “Are we good guys or bad guys?” Little John asks, and Robin kind of shrugs and says that they’re good guys, of course, but in a way that suggests that he doesn’t really care either way. Disney has fun with these “bad boy” animal types–first Tramp, then Thomas O’Malley, and now Robin Hood as the most human of them. He’s a crafty little bastard when he wants to be. He specializes in deception and theft, but he’s still a good guy. I vastly prefer these types of Disney heroes to the more noble (and boring) Prince Charming types.
And then there’s Maid Marian. She is rather damsel-in-distressy, and she basically disappears sometime in the second half of the movie, but considering that every modern Robin Hood adaptation tends to make Marian a freaking ninja or something, I’d say that this Marian is more traditional than several of her counterparts. Besides, what Marian lacks in badass ninja skills, Lady Kluck has more than enough of. She’s completely awesome, and I love that she’s sort of the counterpart to Little John–if Robin gets a sidekick/platonic lifemate, then Marian gets one, too. It’s always refreshing to see a genuine friendship between ladies in the movies. Especially in Disney movies, where the sidekicks tend to be male.
And the romance! Gosh, I forgot how utterly adorable Robin and Marian are! I think what works so well about this romance is that I don’t have to buy that these two met, fell in love, and got married within a 90 minute movie. They have history together, and they already love each other, so cynical people like me don’t have to sit around wondering how two characters could fall in love after just meeting and singing a duet. I believe that their love is real, so when they start fluttering their eyelashes at each other, it makes my heart flutter, too. And just…little details make them seem like a functional couple. Like, how cute is it that Marian has Robin’s reward poster hung up in her closet? Or when the two of them start planning their wedding and honeymoon while trying to defeat Prince John’s guards. So cute, I can barely stand it.
If I had to complain about one thing in this movie, it would be the villains, I guess. Except not really, because Prince John is hilarious. But he’s also not very scary. We have three main villains, and they’re all pretty ineffective. The Sheriff of Nottingham gets to be a little scary at the end when he’s trapping Robin in the burning castle, but I mean…who’s afraid of Prince John? No one. No one could ever be afraid of good ol’ PJ. Even so, Peter Ustinov does such a fabulous job voicing him, and there’s also the historical bonus of him crying about his mommy and how she always liked Richard best. It makes the Lion in Winter fangirl inside me very happy. And I can’t forget Hiss, because between his getting hilariously drunk and singing “Phony King of England” all operatic-style, I realized that I love Hiss a whole lot. It makes sense to me that the villains are put in jail rather than getting killed, because they’re too comedic to be hated.
Okay, one more thing, then ‘ll wrap this up. I really appreciate the sense of actual danger and drama and sadness in this movie. Disney movies are full of sad scenes, but one of the saddest that I’ve seen that doesn’t involve death is the “Not in Nottingham” sequence. It’s so simple and moving–the dog sharing his crumbs with the mice, that other dog with the broken leg being fed soup, the owl couple…all of this, plus the threat of Friar Tuck’s death really puts things in perspective after the general light-heartedness of the movie. There’s something at stake here, and it makes Robin’s victory all the more rewarding. I always have to give children’s movies props when they create some real drama or peril.
This really is a wonderful little movie, one that tends to be forgotten since it came out during that dubious Disney period after Walt Disney’s death, but before the Disney Renaissance. It’s proof to me that you don’t need a huge budget or flashy CGI effects to make a damn good animated movie.
Favorite moment: The Phony King of England
Because it’s fun! All the good guys are having a good time and mocking their enemies! Even the Sheriff thinks it’s a catchy song.
Next time: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh!