51 Days of Disney (Day 21): Robin Hood

It’s been 3 years since the Aristocats was released, so you would think that Disney was working on something big to return with, oh how wrong you would be.

Robin Hood is the legendary story of the noble thief (Roger Miller) who stole from the rich and gave to the poor after the crown of England was stolen from King Richard the Lionheart (who ironically enough is a lion in this movie) by his brother, Prince John (Peter Ustinov, who some people might recognize from Blackbeard’s Ghost or the Great Muppet Caper), who raised the taxes to a point in which the people are starving and suffering. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Pat Buttram), appointed tax collector of the town of Nottingham near the Sherwood Forest, is constantly after the king of thieves but can never quite keep up with him. They finally are able to catch Robin at a tournament held where the prize is a kiss from Robin’s childhood sweetheart, Maid Marian, but his Merry Men are able to trick Robin out of imprisonment and execution.

One of the things that I absolutely love about this movie is the character of Prince John. He’s such a sniveling little momma’s boy that it makes him incredibly comical as a villain. You just look at him and wonder just how anyone takes him seriously enough as a ruler to actually listen to anything he has to say. To top it off, he even has a thumb sucking problem that Sir Hiss tries to hypnotize out of him. Peter Ustinov voices him to perfection, truly bringing out the whiny nuances of his character.

This film had a drastically cut budget due to the lack of success from other ventures at the time and it really shows. Animation from earlier films is reused to a point in which it became a joke online. Little John uses a lot of Baloo’s animation (they even share the same voice actor, Phil Harris), Sir Hiss uses Kaa’s down to the hypnotism eyes, the “Phony King of England” segment uses the “I Wan’na be Like You” animation of Baloo and King Louie Dancing, the “Silly Song” dance from Snow White, and Thomas O’Malley and Duchess’ dance from “Ev’rybody Wants to be a Cat”. Prince John uses animation from Bedknobs and Broomsticks. There is even animation reused from within the movie such as certain stock characters running or characters laughing. One can come to expect this kind of reuse from animation on television, but it is unheard of and cheap looking in animation for the silver screen. Ugh, the reused animation just makes me so angry!

They even try to hide the fact that some of the reused animation is reused on multiple occasions! During the end of the “Phony King of England,” you can see some reused Baloo animation that was already used in the movie sticking awkwardly out of some bushes. When did Little John go into the bushes? Why would he have a reason to be in there while everyone is out dancing? Who cares? We need to cut corners. Even shots from the movie are reused! This is completely unacceptable Disney.

This reuse of animation is made even worse by the cheap look of the new animation. There are even more stray lines than ever before and it gets to be very distracting. There’s even some weird little aspects to some of the character’s animations such as some scenes where Sir Hiss looks like he has fur. They actually drew fur on some of his “joints” in some of the scenes he’s in. He’s a snake. Last time I checked, snakes do not have fur. The firefly effect during “Love” is entirely unconvincing and the fact that the fireflies are all in the same location makes it look even worse. There are even points in the film where they don’t animate mouth movements when characters are speaking and you can SEE THEIR MOUTH.

The music in this movie is weird. There’s some parts that almost sound like surf guitar and that is not something that one would normally relate to medieval England. The score is once more done by George Bruns, but it really seems like he phoned in this film. The score just isn’t memorable in any real way. The same can be said for the songs, really the only one that is an exception is the “Phony King of England” and even that one is somewhat forgettable when looking back at over 80 years of songs in the Disney Animated Canon.

What could have been a great movie with it’s fun characters and story has been ruined for me by the egregious and blatant reuse of animation (mostly in ONE BLOODY SCENE) from some of the most recent (at the time) Disney films. If I ever watch this movie again, I need to just skip the “Phony King of England” despite it’s fun music and just enjoy the rest of the movie.

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