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Robin Hood

Disney/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 80 mins . G . PAL


Disney's take on the legend of Robin Hood was released in 1973, placing it firmly in the "dark days" of Disney animation; that is, the period between the studio's early, groundbreaking hits (eg. Snow White, Cinderella and Pinocchio) and its renaissance in the early nineties (with the likes of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Lion King). And visually, it really is a low point. The animation is extraordinarily rough and inconsistent, with the animators' pencil marks still visible in many shots - indeed, I suspect that the pencil drawings were photocopied directly onto the cels, rather than traced with ink and cleaned up. Shots are regularly reused, the movement is frequently jerky, camera movement is unimaginative, and the animation is far inferior to what we now see on Disney's Saturday morning cartoon output.

But having said... the story is a real charmer. It's a pastiche of the various myths surrounding the outlaw archer of Sherwood Forest, told in a kiddie-friendly manner with animal characters standing in for humans. Robin and Marion are foxes, King John is a cowardly lion, and Little John is a towering bear. Mice, rhinoceroses, hens, snakes and dogs round out the cast, peacefully co-existing in a very surreal take on the British countryside.

Robin Hood was a childhood favourite of mine, and while through twenty-first century eyes the animation is far from impressive, the sweetness and simplicity of the story still drew me in. If you're a soft-hearted sucker like me - or better still, if you want to expose your kids to some good ol' fashioned high adventure that doesn't involve seizure-provoking computer graphics or serve as an extended toy advertisement - Robin Hood is worth checking out.


The image quality here is by no means terrible, but compared to the likes of Atlantis, Pocahontas, and especially the remastered Snow White, it's a Disney disaster. Strangely, the film is presented in full frame (1:33:1) rather than its original 1:75:1 ratio. There is a frequent amount of grain, and the scratchy quality of the original animation doesn't help matters either. But these are really quite minor carps, as the film's low budget origins serve to focus the viewer's attention on the story and the characters, not the imagery.


The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is serviceable, although there is no discernable use of rear channels or the subwoofer. Dialogue and SFX are crisp and clear. The obligatory musical interludes are fine - the tunes are cute but hardly inspiring.


Disney have assembled a decent collection of kiddie-friendly extras here...

Robin Hood's Art Gallery is a small collection of conceptual art pieces, charting the evolution of the look of the film. The pieces can be scrolled through manually, or played as a slideshow with a narrator adding some fairly uninsightful insights.

We get an extra Animated Short entitled Ye Olden Days. It's an eight-minute Mickey Mouse cartoon which sees our hero cast as a wandering minstrel in Medieval England who disrupts the wedding of a reluctant Princess Minnie to the goofy Lord Goofy. This is old-school Disney, probably from the forties or fifties. A nice addition.

Robin Hood's Merry Games are for kids only, consisting of a series of very simple point-and-click puzzles. It should amuse them for a half hour or so.

Finally, we're treated to a Sing-Along-Song which is essentially an excerpt from the film with the lyrics bouncing along the bottom of the screen.


Robin Hood is a charming adaption of the classic tale, with its substandard Disney animation being compensated for by an excess of heart and endearing characters. Visually and aurally it's decent, and the kids will enjoy the package of extras.

By the way, Buena Vista have reduced a stack of Disney titles to $20 at the time of writing this, including Robin Hood... just so you know...

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      And I quote...
    "If you're a soft-hearted sucker like me - or better still, if you want to expose your kids to some good ol' fashioned high adventure that doesn't involve seizure-provoking computer graphics or serve as an extended toy advertisement - Robin Hood is worth checking out."
    - Terry Oberg
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          Standard RCA
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          Standard Component RCA
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