The nadir of the studio’s animation output after the death of Walt Disney was 1973’s Robin Hood. While okay entertainment for small children, the film lacks the inspiration found in the best of the studio’s features, offers a forgettable song score, mixes British and American voice cast members incongruously, takes short cuts and makes silly mistakes with the animation, and in general is an utterly forgettable viewing experience. It did acceptably at the box-office as Disney's 1973 Christmas release (among the top twenty highest grossing movies of the year), but like some of the studio’s other uninspired efforts, it hasn’t left much of lasting cinematically historical value.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DTS, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Run Time: 1 Hr. 23 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 08/06/2013
With his brother away fighting in the Crusades, Prince John (Peter Ustinov) takes over ruling England with a iron fist imposing crippling taxes on the people and tossing them into jail with they don’t or can’t pay. To their rescue comes Robin Hood (Brian Bedford) who with his companion Little John (Phil Harris) steals back money from the acting king and returns it to the people. When John holds an archery tournament which offers a golden arrow as the top prize, Robin disguises himself so he can enter for two reasons: to get the golden arrow and to receive a kiss from his childhood sweetheart Maid Marian (Monica Evans). The crafty Sheriff of Nottingham (Pat Buttram) is almost successful in capturing the bandit of Sherwood Forest, but Robin escapes his clutches. In order to lure Robin back to the castle, the Sheriff arrests Friar Tuck (Andy Devine) knowing that Robin will attempt to save his friend.
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
The film’s innovations begin and end with the tale being told through animals assuming the roles of the famous participants in the Robin Hood legend. But why have the filmmakers cast this most English tale with a mixture of British and American actors (and with the American actors almost all possessing twangy southern accents)? True, in the decades to come, Kevin Costner and other American cohorts would assume the roles in the Robin Hood legend (to some derision), but this precedent doesn’t really seem to make much sense story-wise. Roger Miller who plays the balladeer rooster Allen-a-dale gets things started in his best American folksy manner singing “Oo-de-lally,” and then we immediately go to the king and his aide Sir Hiss played by the most English Peter Ustinov and Terry-Thomas causing an almost instant disconnect. But the sheriff is crackle-voiced Pat Buttram and his deputies are Ken Curtis (from Gunsmoke fame) and George Lindsey (The Andy Griffith Show), all southern-speaking animals, and Friar Tuck is Andy Devine. Phil Harris as Little John may not be southern, but he uses the same hipster Harris character voice that he utilized in The Jungle Book and The Aristocats. So for some, the voices are going to make an uneasy mixture of picture and sound to story.
The animation contains continuity errors that aren’t worthy of the Disney name. Some business with John’s rings (Robin and Little John steal one of the rings and the jewels from other rings) early on are a mass of problems with the rings appearing and disappearing from shot to shot that are unthinkable in the animation from previous decades. Eagle-eyed Disney fanatics will notice that the animators have taken some short cuts, too, by using the pencil animation for Snow White dancing and applying it directly to Maid Marian as she prances with her friends in “The Phony King of England” dance number. Little John’s dance moves look directly lifted from Baloo’s movements in The Jungle Book (both coincidentally voiced by Phil Harris). With the uninspired storytelling and the animation problems plus a dawdling pace from director Wolfgang Reitherman and a most juvenile tone to the entire enterprise, the movie is mostly a dud.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t any merit here. Brian Bedford does a wonderful acting job as Robin, and Peter Ustinov matches him in authority as John. Monica Evans doesn’t do anything special with Maid Marian, but the movie’s romantic ballad “Love” (Oscar-nominated) which accompanies the film’s most lyrically animated segment as Robin and Marian have a montage of tender moments is the film’s high water mark. Carole Shelley as Marian’s lady-in-waiting Lady Kluck has some amusingly raucous moments, and Terry-Thomas likewise slithers amusingly as the venal viper Sir Hiss.
The film is presented in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. One’s heart may sink a little bit during the film’s opening actor credits which are soft and impossibly indistinct for a top of the line Blu-ray transfer, but afterward things sharpen up beautifully, and the film sustains its quality throughout. Color is bright and well handled with no blooming, and there is also no banding to distract the eye, nor is there any aliasing in the solid line presentations which are offered. The film has been divided into 15 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is mostly frontcentric. There are some echoes from the music that spill into the rear channels, but the dialogue which has been well recorded is rooted to the center channel, and the music and sound effects get spread across the front soundstage nicely but with not tremendous depth. Bass is a bit light in the mix as well.
Audio Rating: 4/5
“Love Letters” (7:33, HD): a deleted storyline offering another plan for John to trap Robin. It’s done in the manner of partially animated pencil-drawn storyboards.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Alternate Ending (4:34, SD): an injured Robin is nursed back to health by Maid Marian.
Disney Song Selection (7:43, HD): four songs from the film are pulled out and can be watched independently from the movie: “Oo-de-lally,” “Love,” “The Phony King of England,” and “Not in Nottingham.”
“Oo-de-lally” Sing Along Song (2:08, SD): the song is pulled from the beginning of the film and fitted with sing along subtitled lyrics.
Robin Hood Art Gallery (8:50, SD): artwork on various characters and story points, behind-the-scenes views of artists at work, and selected movie posters are put together in this montage.
Robin Hood Storybook (14:21, SD): the movie in storybook form is presented with large type which children can read along with.
Sing Along With the Movie (HD): turns on subtitles only during musical numbers.
“Ye Olden Days” (8:18, HD): 1933 Mickey Mouse cartoon
Promo Trailers (HD): Super Buddies, The Little Mermaid, Planes, The Muppet Movie
Disney’s 1973 Robin Hood is a perfectly acceptable entertainment for children who will likely not mind the incompatible mix of accents nor the problems with some of the animation. But Disney did a far better version of the Robin Hood legend a couple of decades earlier, and that live action film is the one I’d rather have seen come to Blu-ray.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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