I asked you why you count Robin Hood as your favourite Disney film, and sure enough its fans emerged in the comments section. As it is entirely sensible to never read comments online, I thought I would post them as an article, as many of the points were very valid and well expressed. Enjoy a more positive spin on the film than I gave it.
Mark J. Hansen
Nostalgia is a key factor in my enjoyment as well. I watched and re-watched this one so much as a kid I can recite whole scenes verbatim. But as you said, the hero is likeable if a little bland, and the villain is terrific. Peter Ustinov’s choices in his line readings are memorable and bizarre. As others have mentioned, the music still holds up as well. I particularly like “Not in Nottingham,” which is classic Roger Miller Balladry. And lest we forget the scat intro gave birth to the inexplicably popular Hamsterdance (my apologies, you can actually go back to forgetting about that.)
Personally, Robin Hood doesn’t come close to my top 10 disney films. I only watched it once or twice growing up so it doesn’t hold the same nostalgia for me as The Lion King or Hercules.
However, my sister is in love with Robin Hood. She loved the legend being portrayed by animals and found the characters charming. In addition, the music (as with many/if not all disney films) held a good amount of the appeal.
Annoyingly, despite my lack of love for the film, Oh de lally is still a remarkably catchy and fun song. I was surprised that music didn’t feature in your review.
Ah yes, Disney’s Robin Hood. The film itself is in my top 30 of all time favourite films, along with Drive, In Bruges, The Great Dictator and Blade Runner. I’ve not really given much thought as to why this is, except that I enjoy it tremendously. So, this would be the first time I would give a reason.
Nostalgia and charm definitely play a big part. Whereas the animation templates being reused from The Jungle Book is definitely lazy animating, I rather like it. The whole series of The Aristocats, The Jungle Book and Robin Hood are one big happy memory in my head – and the similarities in animation probably help that. From a child’s perspective, the familiarity of seeing old friends in new ones rather endears the characters. Lazy animation, but a jolly effective way of making a sequel without being a sequel, for kids.
I’m surprised you didn’t mention anything about the music. Oo De Lally is definitely a stand out one, but what The Jungle Book did for blues and jazz, Robin Hood does for folk. I think the understated quality of the songs make it one of the most effective of all Disney soundtracks, which have a tendency of being a bit overdramatic.
You adressed Robin as a good character, largely because of the pre-existing myth, rather than any addition that the film makes. However, I think the whole array of characters keeps me thoroughly entertained. From Friar Tuck and the Sheriff of Nottingham to Robin Hood and King John, they all have moments to shine and by the end of it are revealed as fairly complex characters. King John, in particular, though rather condescendingly, is shown to have parental issues which drive him to his cruelty. It’s all done in jest and child-friendly ways, but in the end they are quite sophisticated for a children’s film.
As you mentioned, the stand out voice acting is done by Peter Ustinov – making King John perhaps one of the most enjoyable Disney villains. And again, considerably more layered than others. But really it’s Ustinov that makes the character and I would probably put him in alongside Jeremy Irons as one of the most memorable performances for a villain.
The script. It’s jolly well written. That will do.
I’ll let you know if there is anything else I can think of.
I think the (as yet unfulfilled) desire to be able to whistle like the rooster was a big reason I went back to it time and time again. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGq53ArYFSw
Also, the extensive use of the phrase ‘Oo De Lally’
The Animation Commendation
I disagree with you that the majority of people love this movie/claim it’s on their favorites list. I love this movie, but most of the people I meet disagree with me.
Oh, it’s definitely warm-fuzzy nostalgia for me. I look at it now and cringe a bit at how lackluster much of it actually is, but… the Alan A-Dale song! Peter Ustinov! I just can’t not love this movie, rough edges and all.
It has an indefinable quality of greatness where everything comes together *perfectly*. The characters are brilliantly written and voiced and it’s packed full of great lines – “Hith! Hith!” is enough to make me laugh my head off for five minutes. The songs are terrific and it has an emotional punch that’s often underrated – when the villagers are crippled by taxes and Friar Tuck erupts in rage, that always strikes me as a really powerful moment, and the climax is hugely exciting.
But if I had to really boil it down to an essential quality – it’s the songs, the voicework and the jokes.
Nostalgia is definitely one of the big reasons I love it so much.
But also, probably the most likeable Robin there has ever been (Who doesn’t love a fox in a hat?!)
Why do people love Robin Hood? Wolfgang Reitherman continued a solid run of films with this animal kingdom version of Britain’s most famous hero. However, if Disney films could be objectively but into tiers (they can’t) then this one would probably be C-List. Unremarkable but for a couple of moments and altogether rather lazy in the grand scheme of the studio’s work, this is not up there with Disney’s best or even second best. There’s nothing to make this stand out from the crowd, no big emotional moments or anything that’s especially funny. It’s just there, it’s fine and occasionally dull. Some of the animation is nice, a lot of it is merely ok. When it comes to my Top 10 Disney films at the end of the project, this won’t be troubling it. And yet many people would count this as one of their favourites, and it’s difficult to see why. So I thought I’d try and work out what it is that makes this so beloved by so many people.
Surely this can’t be the reason people claim this as their favourite Disney film? There’s a classic Simpsons moment where the guy in charge of Itchy and Scratchy teaches Bart and Lisa basic animation techniques, explaining that often animators will just repeat bits of the background as a way of cutting corners (as the same cleaning lady goes by several times). That kind of animation laziness is seen all over the place in Robin Hood, reusing the same character movement and just copying and pasting scenes, backgrounds and characters throughout the film. Then, of course, there is Little John copying the movements and facial expressions of Baloo from The Jungle Book. Reitherman’s style here feels a little muted, not quite as wild or as fun as his best work. There are still some nice landscape shots, and the action sequences are kinetic, but it all feels a little bland compared to the director’s finest visual achievements.
This could be a large part of the appeal. Once again, Phil Harris turns up to lend an easy charm to the proceedings as Little John, and some of the Aristocats return to voice the younger woodland animals. The real draw here is respected British thesp Peter Ustinov as Prince John, a snivelling oedipal lion who lives in the shadow of his big brother King Richard (the Lionheart, obviously). In a curiously American version of England, it’s great to hear the inimitably English tones of Ustinov, and it’s a joy to hear him call Hiss an ‘Aggravating asp!’ and get his tongue around sentences like ‘when our elusive hero tries to rescue the corpulent cleric my men will be ready.’ Ustinov gives the often excellent script richness and humour.
Ever since Errol Flynn, Robin Hood has been associated with a lot swash and copious amounts of buckle, and the Disney version doesn’t skimp on the action sequences. There’s a lot of slapstick, and the fighting is often of the comic brawl variety. Arrows and swords fly haphazardly across each scene and rhinos (in Britain???) trample everything in their path. The final act is an enjoyably audacious prisoner and gold heist that sees Robin and John overturn an entire system of Government. Yet some of it feels a little lacklustre and perfunctory to me – none of it is especially impressive or filled with any sense of danger, unlike, say, Bambi. Like the film as a whole, it’s all fine, but nothing particularly impresses.
A large amount of the appeal could be Robin himself, Britain’s greatest hero and champion of the poor and downtrodden. There’s something enduring about the figure who stands up against tyranny and makes sure everyone gets their fair share. Just like The Sword in the Stone, adapting a legend means choosing from a large selection of different aspects to the story, and many familiar things are left out – no returning from the crusades; no real merry men to speak of; no meeting on a bridge with Little John. But it does get in far more of the mythology than the studio managed with Arthur, with a whole lot of robbing the rich and, of course, the famous arrow-splitting archery tournament. Hood is a people’s champion, a firm part of British culture and perhaps it’s him that gives this film its lasting favour with audiences.
Incidentally, this is also one of the best versions of the Robin Hood legend in cinema, as although the story and its component parts are familiar, he is often under-served by film and television. Flynn’s film is loved by many and still has charm but is horribly dated and rather camp. Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is divisive (by my reckoning its rubbish, and its geography is particularly dreadful), whereas all can agree that Ridley Scott’s dour, bloodless version is terrible and the less said about the BBC version a few years ago, the better. The Disney version trumps the lot, although arguably cinema is still waiting for a definitive version of the story. The best at the moment is Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
This is the best explanation I can come up with as to why people class this as a favourite, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s one of the big reasons I love The Lion King so much, so it makes sense if you watched this lots as a child then it would hold a special place in your heart.
If Robin Hood is your favourite Disney, please let me know why in the comments! I like it, but I really don’t love it, so I want to hear from the die hard fans.