Most Wanted Edition
Review by Michael Jacobson
Voices: Brian Bedford, Phil Harris, Peter Ustinov,
Terry-Thomas, Monica Evans, Carole Shelley, Andy Devine, Roger Miller, Pat
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.75:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 83 Minutes
Release Date: November 28, 2006
"Are we good guys or bad guys?"
Robin Hood never seems to get mentioned in the same breath as other Disney animated classics, but that doesn't mean there isn't great fun to be had. The all-animal take on the tried and true legend of Robin Hood may not be high art, but it's funny, action packed and loaded with memorable songs, many of them courtesy of Roger Miller (who also voices Allan a Dale).
Robin's (Bedford) merry men has been reduced to one for this retelling, the lovable Little John (Harris). The two friends live in Sherwood Forest and make life difficult for the unscrupulous Prince John (Ustinov) and the no-good Sheriff of Nottingham (Buttram), thwarting their plans to make themselves rich on the backs of the poor with endless taxes.
But all heroism and no play makes for a dull Hood, and Robin has his eye on the lovely Maid Marian (Evans). Can he win the girl, win the archery tournament, thwart the bad guys, save the good people of Nottingham, and restore good will to merry old England?
Hey, it's a Disney film, so one guess. In the world of Disney, everything ends happily. History is even rewritten when King Richard returns at the end to straighten out the mess, even though in actuality Richard died on the Crusades. But I doubt the kids would have liked that as much.
The star studded cast is first rate, from the noble Brian Bedford to the lovely Monica Evans. Special Kudos goes to the delightful Peter Ustinov who delivers a devilishly wicked turn as Prince John, and the always affable and excellent Phil Harris as Little John.
The comedy, music and action always made this offering a quiet favorite of mine. It's just a fun animated offering, no more, no less. Sometimes that's more than enough.
Disney's anamorphic transfer services this 1973 film well. It was actually the first 'classic' to be offered on VHS back in the 80s, but if you still have that one (as I do), you can retire it now. Colors are brighter and more vivid than ever, with stronger definition, crisper lines and less grain and aging artifacts than ever before.
The 5.1 mix is fairly lively, but not overly demanding. Dialogue is clean and clear, and some of the action sequences with music score accents sound really vibrant. For me the best part of the audio is the songs, and "Oo-de-Lally", "Not in Nottingham", "The Phony King of England" and "Whistle Stop" are all worth singing along to.
This disc isn't quite as loaded as some of Disney's classic animated offerings, but there are a handful of extras for you. You can peruse a deleted scene (in storyboard format), or the classic Mickey Mouse short "Ye Olden Days". There are song selections for three of the tunes in the movie, and two new games: one for trivia, and one interactive where you have to rescue Maid Marian.
Robin Hood remains fun for all ages, even more than two decades after the fact. It may have fallen into that post-Walt period where it seemed like the studio was still trying to recapture its identity, but this is one that deserves a second look...especially with this solid DVD.