Considering that, as a non-Disney fan, I aimed to go my whole life without having to sit through any of their joyous motion pictures, I feel it’s quite a masochistic achievement that I’ve reached my landmark 20th film. In this 35 years or so (the timespan of the Disney films, not how long it took me to watch them, although it sometimes felt like it) I’ve been on quite a rollercoaster, from the very good (Lady and the Tramp), to the very bad (Donald Duck, José Carioca, Donkey-Slave-Children, disturbing ventriloquist dummies, attempted-puppy-skinning plots, pervy middle-aged Princes that sing, middle-aged-bitchy-prostitute-elephants, non-prostitute elephants doing ballet to classical music, middle-aged fairies, annoying miniature fairies, Toad of Toad Hall, sex-offender Snakes, random geese, pro-Latin Propaganda, Archimedes the owl, Night on Bald Mountain followed by Ave Maria and, last but certainly not least, Deer-snuff).
Ok I’m exaggerating somewhat, it hasn’t all been bad. At the risk of being “real-man-shamed”, the pre-seventies Princess films I’ve watched so far have been enjoyable enough, and I’m still singing “Everybody Wants To Be a Cat” I much prefer finding moments I enjoy (or tolerate) in these films, as I’ve discovered there are lots of lovely, positive people in the Disney-loving community, and I’d much rather be able to share in their passion rather than constantly pissing on their parade (and all the inexplicable pink elephants that probably frequent it…) Happily, having just finished watching Robin Hood, I am pleased to add this movie to the shorter, yet treasured, list of Disney films I can speak positively about.
And not just moments either. The whole thing. I liked it all. My childhood self didn’t watch Disney films. Most of the time when one came on my television, I would turn it over quickly. There were two exceptions to this rule, even though I have no recollection of watching either. The first was Lady and the Tramp, which I still really liked when I watched it last month. The second was Robin Hood, and once again, my childhood and adult self are of accord. And I don’t think I can say I’ve been biased by nostalgia as I didn’t remember the content of either of them at all. There will be occasions when Kerry will say to me “this bit coming up is great” or “I used to wind this bit back over and over as a child”. I’d watch it and then turn to her and ask, “er… why?!!!” Then I realise that, actually, she still watches that particular bit in the exact same way she did when she was little and is far more easily entertained and ultimately, she’s recommending bits through the distorted lens of nostalgia. I’m free of such bias so while it makes me far more of a cantankerous bastard when watching these films, when I enjoy one of them, it has really earnt it. So, lets dig into what makes the movie a largely pleasurable experience for this Disney cynic, and as always, bad language and spoilers are inevitable…
One more thing: Every time Disney includes something “predictably Disney” such as frolicking baby animals, an over-diluted chase scene, a random psychedelic nightmare or jailbait-princess grooming, I will award the film a ⭐ as a sort of “reward” for services to time-filling laziness. I’ve only been doing this for the last few films, but I imagine ‘The Three Caballeros’ must win with about 5 stars for “for the love of God, please try something different” moments so far. If you’ve never seen the “The Three Caballeros” …. don’t. Just don’t. I still have nightmares of Donald Duck swooping down on bikini-clad Mexican girls from a rudimentary flying-rape-carpet, to this day….
Back to 1973 and Robin Hood. The intro tune is called ‘Whistle Stop’. I know this because, firstly, it briefly mentions it in the intro and, secondly, this was a question in a pub-quiz I did pre-Covid, when doing stuff and going places was a thing. No-one doing the quiz knew the answer, and that included Kerry who has spent her life getting full marks in every Disney-based quiz going. That dropped point will haunt her… Anyway, this whistled intro tune is far better than any other Disney intro-tune I’ve heard so far. It’s also the first one that doesn’t feel too “typical Disney”.
All the Characters are played by animals, because Disney. We are introduced to Robin Hood, who is a fox that lives in Sherwood Forest. As everyone knows, he steals from the rich, corrupt elite, and redistributes it to the poor. His cohort is Little John, that is played by a bear (odd, I didn’t think you found bears in England, let alone Sherwood Forest…). He looks a lot like Baloo from ‘The Jungle Book’ except he’s now brown. And wears a hat. He also sounds a lot like Baloo from ‘The Jungle Book’, most likely because they are both voiced by Phil Harris. Let’s face it, Little John IS Baloo from ‘The Jungle Book’ and Disney are barely making any effort to conceal that fact, so like hell I will. It’s lucky that Baloo is such a likeable character.
We are then introduced to Prince John. He is a lion (odd, I didn’t think you found lions in England, let alone Sherwood Forest…). His brother is King Richard who is off fighting in The Crusades. The fact that Richard is considered the likeable brother by the native peasants when he is overseas attacking those who don’t follow his own belief system, is testament to just how much of a prick John is… John has a right hand man / assistant / special chum named Sir Hiss. Sir Hiss is a snake as the highly imaginative name alludes. They are both travelling in a cart pulled by rhinos (odd, I didn’t think you found rhinos in… you know what, forget it. It’s easier to just suspend my disbelief). Robin Hood and Baloo disguise themselves as women and beckon Johns cart to stop. Robin gives a crystal ball reading to John for some reason and sneakily steals his jewellery and money while Baloo waits outside for Robin to pass the ill-gotten gains to him. As they steal the gold hubcaps in the process, their getaway is fairly simple. Every time something goes wrong for John, he sucks his thumb and whines, sometimes for his mummy. This triggered a vague memory in my mind of me pissing myself laughing as a child whenever he did this. I still find it funny now. Maybe the nostalgia is subconsciously stronger than I realized…
⭐ First “typical Disney” moment of the film is awarded for frolicking baby bunnies!
The frolicking baby bunnies in question are part of a family in Nottingham. It’s one young boy bunny’s birthday. His name is Skippy. They’re very poor as the ruling elite keep (to use the technical term) taxing the fuck out of them. Yet the bunnies have all come together to give Skippy a coin as a present. But unfortunately, the Sheriff of Nottingham appears. The Sheriff of Nottingham is a dick. He’s a sort of weird obese wolf. With a very strong American accent. There are a few characters in this film that come across extremely American, which is quite an achievement as they’re in Nottingham, England, as well as the small factor that America is still 300 years from being discovered. The Sheriff takes the coin from a sad Skippy as a rates payment, which is a pretty impressive way to introduce an antagonist and ensure you want to see him suffer greatly….
At least a fox in sunglasses shows up. Hmm… I wonder who the fox could be. It’s Robin Hood! Shook. He can’t get the coin back, but he does give Skippy a bow and arrow that he’s too small to use and a hat that’s too big. It’s the thought that counts though… Skippy seems happy. He then gives the mother a big bag of coins and it’s smiles all round. Robin tells them “Someday there will be happiness again in Nottingham!” Who knows, maybe one day there might be.
Next, we are introduced to Maid Marion. She’s a girl fox. And King Richards niece. She loves Robin and Robin loves her, but because she lives at the royal castle and Robin is an outlaw, they haven’t seen each other in years. Maid Marion has a scene where she pisses around with a load of animals in traditional Disney-filler fashion.
Prince John organises an archery event and a ploy to lure and trap Robin Hood. Friar Tuck arrives at Robin’s hideout to inform him of the competition. For some reason, there isn’t really a collective band of “Merry Men” in this version. I guess they really wanted to focus on the foxes, Baloo and the other random frolicking animals. Either way, Robin and Baloo decide to go, but wisely have decided to turn up in disguise. After many hijinks, mainly involving Sir Hiss, Robin wins the competition which proves to be the giveaway as to his true identity and he is sentenced to death.
⭐ Typical Disney high-drama chase scene with many near misses’ alert.
Maid Marion reunites with Robin Hood and joins them in their high-drama escape. Much to John’s anger, they successfully get away.
Later, Robin asks Marion to marry him. Now it’s Disney-cheesy-song time! It’s horrible. Actually, this film doesn’t contain much in the way of songs, which for me is a very good thing. But they stick three of the buggers together right in the middle of it for some reason. One of them sounds very ‘American deep-south’ which considering they’re in the English midlands, feels somewhat out of place…
In his rage at Robin’s escape, John decides to tax the living fuck out of everyone. Most of the poor in Nottingham couldn’t pay their taxes and end up in prison. And when baby bunnies are locked in prison you know shit needs to be sorted quick. John also arrests Friar Tuck and uses him as bait to get Robin to go to the castle. Imprisoned bunnies should be enough motivation really. So, Robin and Baloo go to the castle to rescue everyone. The Sheriff of Nottingham and the two vultures who are guarding the prisoners, are easily incapacitated or tricked into sleeping, mainly because they’re stupid.
Baloo takes the key to the prison and helps the prisoners escape. Meanwhile, Robin sneaks into John’s bedroom where he and Sir Hiss are asleep surrounded by bags of all the gold they’ve taken in taxes. What now follows is one of the more ‘edge of your seat to the point of for-the-love-of-God-get-a-move-on’ scenes in the history of film. Robin decides he has to retrieve every single last bag of gold and put it on a pulley system that goes out of the window, all the way down to Baloo, who is waiting to collect it. Every. Last. Bag. Whilst Jon and Sir Hiss sleep in the same room. I’m pretty sure if there weren’t kids in the house, I would have screamed at Robin to “HURRY THE FUCK UP!” several times. The very last bag proves to be one too many and it wakes the antagonists up. I’m pretty sure if there weren’t kids in the house I would have screamed “SEE! YOU GOT TOO GREEDY YOU DICK!” Fortunately, with another high drama chase scene, and with so many near misses it’s like Disney is parodying itself, they escape with all the prisoners and coins to boot.
⭐ Also, a predictable Disney star is to be awarded here for making it look like Robin has snuffed it, cute animals sobbing, only for it to turn out that he is alive and well. When it comes to emotional manipulation, Disney always reigns supreme…
The film is wrapped up with Richard returning and locking up all the bad guys, pardoning Robin Hood and bringing an end to all the poverty. Question: If Richard was returning anyway to restore order to Nottingham, did Robin Hood and his Merry Baloo even need to bother rescuing the prisoners and all the bags of gold if shit was going to be sorted anyway? The main thing is though, that everyone is happy, and Robin and Marion got married. And Skippy learnt how to use the bow and arrow. All’s well that end well.
The last line states that with regards to the tale of Robin Hood, “this is what really happened”. Now, I can suspend my disbelief that Robin is a fox. I can suspend my disbelief that ALL of the characters are animals. I can suspend my disbelief that in 12th century middle England, half of the subjects involved have strong American accents and tendencies. I can suspend my disbelief that a snake can stick its head in a balloon and blow to make himself float whilst using its tail to steer. I can suspend my disbelief that Little John is Baloo. BUT. Am I supposed to believe that the fox Maid Marion is the niece to the lion King Richard?!!! No…
Think about it. You have the following scenarios:
- This involves a male lion how do I say this… fucking a female fox. The fox gives birth to two lions (Richard and John) in a no doubt harrowing ordeal, and presumably a fox that would go on to spawn Marion in the future.
- This one is very similar but involves a male fox somehow mounting a lioness and the lioness then giving birth to Richard, John and a fox that would go on to spawn Marion in the future.
- This involves Richard and John having a lion sibling that married a fox in a no doubt eye-raising move and their offspring included Marion.
- In the next two scenarios, Marion is Richards niece but not John’s niece. Firstly, Richard marries a fox. That fox has a sibling that gives birth to Marion.
- This scenario involves Richard marrying another lion who was the product of a lion fucking a fox. Richards partner therefore has a sibling who is a fox who gives birth to Marion.
- Finally, everyone in the family tree is a lion. Richard and Johns lion parents have three lion cubs. The lion cub that isn’t Richard or john grows up to marry another lion. The female lion of the couple gets pregnant. On the special day when she gives birth, the male lion looks down and exclaims “Darling, I can see the baby’s head! It’s… IT’S A FOX! HOW THE FUCK HAS THAT HAPPENED!!!!!!!”
Whichever scenario is true, it still involves a lion fucking a fox. And if it doesn’t involve a lion fucking a fox, it involves a king lion being in a sexless marriage to a fox or an inexplicable situation of two lions conceiving a fox. Maybe that’s why we have foxes? Explain that scientists.
Crossbreeding or phantom-fox-births aside however, this was a fun film. Some parts of the film felt like typical Disney (hence the three stars for Disney predictability), but that doesn’t tell the whole story. There were elements that felt fresh and previously unexplored in the animation studios franchise. The most notable is the humour running throughout. In previous films although there have been some jokes and plenty of moments younger kids would laugh at, a Disney film would be royally pummelled by a Hanna-Barbera or Looney Tunes cartoon in the mirth stakes, and they’re just two examples of many. Disney previously has been far more concerned about patting itself on the back for its artistic skillsets or switching between emotionally scarring its viewer and convincing them to visit Peru, than filling its movies with outright hilarity. The previous nineteen films combined probably contained fewer jokes than puppies that have been nearly drowned and skinned. Robin Hood compensates for this very nicely. It was laugh-out-loud funny in places and generally carried a more relaxed attitude throughout. Finally, it was an enjoyable story with good protagonists and antagonists alike. I hope this is the new norm going forward…
Disney Predictability: ⭐⭐⭐
I can not believe that he mentioned the Whistlestop question. What will people think if they know that I got a question wrong in a Disney quiz! Bastard!
Ben, a female fox is a vixen. She sounds sexier that way too. Sexy… Disney… fox cartoon character… *tumbleweed*. Forget it. ‘Girl fox’ is fine.
I’m so glad that Ben enjoyed Robin Hood. Say it with me now, “It’s one of my favourite Disney films”. I feel I won’t be saying it in a post until The Little Mermaid now (which is my actual favourite Disney film, for the record), as we are about to head into the films from the late seventies to the late eighties and, Disney fans, you know they aint that good! It’s like the writers joined the punk movement and rebelled against creating good films. Urgh! It’s been a while since I watched them though, so they may be better than I recall.
As for Ben, moving forward, our next film is ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh’! A film about a boy, essentially, playing with his cuddly toys. It’s aimed at a much MUCH younger demographic, so I’m interested to see if he can watch it from that point of view, rather than that of a 37-year-old man. He’s an only-child, so I doubt it. We do love each other. Honest!
As for this film, Robin Hood is getting a definate: