Disney used to be less of a ‘house of franchises’. This probably ended in the 90s, after the Disney Renaissance that produced The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, and my personal favorite The Lion King. There have been many direct-to-DVD (video?) sequels and spinoffs of these movies since they were made, but they were originally made as one-shots.
That’s the big names. Disney also made some really interesting movies that aren’t those big names. Tron, while having its own itsy-bitsy media fiefdom nowadays, is one, but there are others that have a special place in my heart.
The one I always think of during tax season (which at this time is past, but is coming around again, as always) is Disney’s anthropomorphic animal Robin Hood.
Why tax season? Because I think of the government as Prince John in this scene:
This movie was something my family watched a lot when I was a kid, to the extent that the jokes still show up in our conversation. Mostly from my dad, who has a terrible habit of making jokes that do not work even on a dad joke level. At my present remove, I think of this tendency with affection… anyway, he still uses the phrase ‘Hiss, stop hissing in my ear’ from time to time, generally apropos of nothing.
Who knew that anthropomorphic animals in the Robin Hood story would work so well? But it does. This is a good movie. Why?
The songs are so much fun.
The animation is pretty and unique, compared to a lot of what you see in modern movies or even the glories of 90s animation. I am wella ware soem of the chacrter designs and animations were recycled from The Jungle Book and The Arsitocats. Even if the character design is simplistic—Little John is basically brown Baloo in a green tunic—I really like it. It reminds me somehow of the imagery you see in medieval illuminations, which is of course helped by the movie’s introduction. Alan-a-Dale, the rooster minstrel, should get more use in Disney things. What’s more is the design leaves the animals as what they are; Robin has to hide his bushy tail when he disguises himself.
The voice acting is pretty awesome. Robin’s voice, in particular, makes some scenes and lines very touching, at least with a bottle of wine after a long Friday of Air Defense soldiering during tax season.
Absurd as the idea of this Robin Hood is, people cared about it. Some quick wiki research shows that is definitely true.
The director of story and character concepts, Ken Anderson:
I knew right off that sly Robin Hood must be a fox. From there it was logical that Maid Marian should be a pretty vixen. Little John, legendarily known for his size, was easily a big overgrown bear. Friar Tuck is great as a badger, but he was also great as a pig, as I had originally planned. Then I thought the symbol of a pig might be offensive to the Church, so we changed him. Richard the Lion-hearted, of course, had to be a regal, proud, strong lion; and his pathetic cousin [historically, and in the movie, his brother] Prince John, the weak villain, also had to be a lion, but we made him scrawny and childish. I originally thought of a snake as a member of the poor townspeople but one of the other men here suggested that a snake would be perfect as a slithering consort [Sir Hiss] to mean Prince John.
Considering the prevalence of animal symbolism is medieval and earlier tales, this works magnificently.
Thinking about it in my nerdy way, maybe Zootopia is a descendant of this world? But no, the backstory states that predators and prey didn’t get along before Zootopia, which they do in Robin Hood, so nope. Would have been a fun shout out, though.
If you have not seen this movie, you should pick it up. It is probably the best adaptation of Robin Hood I have seen or read. There is fun and wit in spades. The action and romance are paced really well, especially considering the run time is 83 minutes. It doesn’t insult any viewer, child or adult. And the songs will be with you forever.