Despite the fact that its ambling opening theme was later accelerated (with the help of cocaine) and turned into “The Hamster Dance,” Robin Hood is one of the most lackadaisical Disney features of all. The graphics department couldn’t even be bothered to add swooping, golden serifs to the title font. Taking its cue from The Aristocats’ sanitized back-alley version of swinging, bohemian Purree, the Mouse House took the tale of the 13th-century British folk hero and, in a bid to appeal to summer-of-lovers and their potentially lucrative surfeit of love children, put heavy emphasis on the “folk” component. That is to say, Sherwood Forest here is sort of a Renaissance-era Woodstock, and the peasants’ muddy squalor carries with it the purity of essence other Disney films attach to rose petals and baby rabbit tears falling into twilight ponds. The project’s overseers got almost everything wrong (the central ballad “Love” is about as Joan Baez as “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo” was Alice Cooper), but thankfully the animators seemed game. The images of Robin Hood have an almost disorienting vitality when compared to the feckless gliding Teflon surfaces of Disney’s ‘40s and ‘50s golden era. From the looks of it, the inking department was apparently told to not erase, but instead trace the hash marks of the pencil artists, which gives everyone in Sherwood roughneck credibility. In contrast to that puberty parable that was Bambi, who was never even allowed to sprout pubes on his vagina, everyone in Robin Hood looks as though they haven’t shaved in weeks. Even Terry-Thomas’s toady snake has sideburns. Not that any of it ends up mattering in the slightest, as the film’s haphazard scenario makes even the Woodstock sequels look well-planned in comparison. Not only that, but the Robin Hood legend’s dependence on validating capitalism by righting its wrongs is second in anti-hippie integrity only to the perpetuation of Prince John’s reputation as a jewelry-cocooned, preening, thumb-sucking mama’s boy with a not-entirely-covert secret yin not just for Robin Hood’s twice-stolen booty, but also his…well, booty. (As far as Disney’s retrograde fag baddies go, this pussy-whipped lion is no match for the Grace Jonesian Jafar.) If Robin Hood‘s charmingly shitty animation comes damn close to redeeming the film from utter vapidity, it’s a damn shame they couldn’t manage to supply a villain with the balls of an Ursula, a Cruella, or a Maleficent.
Robin Hood's image is probably the only thing that matters. Indeed it's the only thing worth preserving, unless you're partial to Pat Buttram's castrated Confederate-colonel vocal work. So it's a relief to report that the image outclasses the 5.1 audio mix, which makes all the actors sound tinny and compressed.
It very well may be the "most wanted" edition in the sense that no one would possibly desire anything more than an essentially bare-bones set for this movie (which I'd gather ranks right up there with The Rescuers and Mulan among the studio's least-heralded efforts, though there are certainly worse). No commentary, no documentary with Leonard Maltin invoking the idea of "Disney's magic touch," nothing from the vaults beyond a disposable deleted scene and an art gallery, no music video featuring (That's So) Ravyn bankheading her way through "Oo-de-lally." Just an old Mickey short and a couple CGI games, one testing archery, the other chivalry.
Prince John and his thumb aren't the only things that suck about Robin Hood.