Robin Hood (1973)

It was a full three years between Disney’s last full-length feature release, The Aristocats, and the release of this film.  Such a gap between releases can mean one of two things: either Disney didn’t have high hopes for its animated features, and so chose to release fewer, or they decided that quality was better than quantity, and decided to give each picture the time and attention it deserved.

If Robin Hood is any indication, I would have to lean towards the latter.  Disney took the classic tale of Robin Hood and adapted it for children. Truth be told, this is quite possibly the version that most people think of when they hear “Robin Hood”.  It certainly is for me.

Robin Hood (for those who aren’t familiar) is the story of a man who robs from the rich to give to the poor, as the old adage goes.  For this version, Disney adapted the story to feature animals in all of the character roles, making it kid-friendly and more visually enjoyable.

Like The Aristocats, this is a character-driven film.  You pity the poor, root for Robin Hood, and despise King John and the sheriff of Knottingham.

The story is almost too basic: Robin Hood steals from King John to give money back to the everyday people, who have been driven into poverty due to King John’s overtaxing.  The movie revolves around that central plot, with character development throughout to make the viewer truly love/hate certain characters.

Truth be told, it works quite well.  The characterization makes viewers love Robin, for the noble yet adventurous risks he takes to help those in need.

He’s also a bit roguish, with a devil-may-care attitude. Yep, he’s probably the original Disney bad boy that all little girls had a crush on (don’t even pretend you never had a crush on a cartoon character. We all have at one point or another, just admit it.)

Whereas Robin is brave and daring, King John is cowardly and childish, ruling over a land that is technically his brother’s and pouting any time he doesn’t get his way.

When your main bad guy sucks his thumb and tugs on his ear, it’s difficult to take him seriously. No wonder Robin can get one over on him all the time.

The plot of the movie unfolds easily enough, without ever seeming too predictable.  Robin plans a massive heist to steal all of King John’s gold, and to release his friends who have been thrown in debtor’s prison.  At the same time, he’s reuniting with his lady love Maid Marion and planning a life with her.

This film managed to find the perfect balance between romance and adventure.  The love story adds a nice touch to the movie, without ever distracting from the main storyline.  Robin’s efforts to help those in need are at the forefront of this story, and the fact that the movie doesn’t devolve into a basic love story shows that the Disney writers knew the significance of the story it was trying to tell.

By the end of the film all is well, as King Richard returns to claim his throne. Robin and Maid Marion are married, and the country is restored to its former glory.  It’s a sweet, expected ending that nevertheless completes the story perfectly.  It’s nice to see the good guys win out, especially in a story where politics are concerned.  This film deals with a few more adult themes than earlier Disney movies, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a great way to introduce kids to the concepts of political rule, taxes, and even prison in a way that is kid-friendly and simple enough to understand.  Addressing adult themes in an understandable manner is not a common theme among these earlier Disney movies, yet Robin Hood covers a variety of topics with surprising tact.

Robin Hood was never a favorite of mine. For one reason or another I just never watched it that much.  I’m regretting that now, because it really is a great movie.  There’s a perfect blend of righteousness, action, and romance to please any type of fan, and it holds up even all these years later.  This movie has quickly skyrocketed up my list, and is easily one of my favorites of the Disney films I’ve watched so far.

Besides, how do you not love a movie that features the cutest little bunny rabbit of all time??

Seriously, I quote her lines ALL. THE. TIME.  I’m not even sorry, she’s just too cute for words.

-Jess

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