Review by Michael Jacobson
Voices: Brian Bedford, Phil
Harris, Peter Ustinov, Pat Buttram, Andy Devine, Roger Miller
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.75:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 83 Minutes
Release Date: August 6, 2013
“You know, Robin, I've been wondering...are we good guys or bad guys?”
Quick...what was the first Disney animated film to roll out the studio's “Classics” line on VHS? If you answered, “what is VHS?”, I no longer want to talk to you.
It was Robin Hood. This was a film not celebrated by many fans, but one that always held a special place in my heart. It was lively, entertaining, well-cast, and...well, just plain fun.
It was Disney's take on the legend of old, and even though it mentions “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor”, it actually shows Robin Hood for what he originally was: someone who took ill-gotten taxes from the government and returned it to the rightful owners. Yes, Robin was less socialist and more Tea Party candidate. Although considering most modern takes on Robin Hood have King Richard returning from the Crusades when he actually died on the mission, that's a minor historical beef at best.
Robin Hood (Bedford) has only one merry man here, and that's Little John (the affable Harris). But the duo is more than enough to keep the scheming Prince John (Ustinov) and the rotten Sheriff of Nottingham (Buttram) on their toes.
Prince John has been having a field day on the throne in the absence of his brother, and has taxed the good people of Nottingham into almost nothing. It's up to the daring duo of Robin and Little John to make things right. But Robin is taking too many chances these days, including entering the royal archery tournament for a chance to win his love, Maid Marian.
This version, with animated animals, has a lot of charm and fun...good action, good comedy, and possibly for the last time in a while, good songs. Roger Miller, who voices Allan a Dale, penned a couple of memorable tunes, including the instrumental “Whistle Stop”, and “Oo De Lally”, the kind of song ONLY Roger Miller could have done.
It's not up to the legendary Disney films of old, and doesn't match well with the studio's later renaissance years, but for my money, it's still good, lively, animated entertainment that keeps a smile on my face from start to finish.
I've seen many renderings of this movie over the years (and I still even have my original VHS copy from the 80s), but this Blu-ray delivers best of all. In high definition, the colors are bright and beautiful, and the contrast levels and crispness throughout are stunning. It definitely looks better than me at 40 years old.
The DTS HD soundtrack is also quite good, with some solid dynamic range, clear dialogue, and nice music.
There are two deleted scenes in storyboard form, including an alternate ending (which was better, I think). There is an art gallery, a sing-along mode, and a storybook. Rounding out is a classic Mickey Mouse short, “Ye Olden Days”.
Robin Hood may not quite be a Disney classic, but only because there's so much to live up to with that moniker. It might have been one of any other studio's best animated offerings. This is a fun film, and one I will always return to.