Sunday, May 8, 2016

Robin Hood (non-Japanese animation, movie), via Netflix

Disney's Robin Hood combines adventure, humor, and romance.

I'm still plowing my way through my review backlog, so no watch-alikes or read-alikes.

In case the story isn't already familiar: Robin Hood and his friend Little John steal everything they possibly can, right out from under Prince John's nose, and give it to the poor (not that this seems to improve anyone's lives much). Robin's life is a risk-filled, care-free existence, but there's one person he can't get out of his head: his childhood sweetheart, Maid Marian. When he hears about an archery contest in which the winner will get a kiss from her, he can't help but want to take part, even though it's obviously a trap designed to capture him.

This was my first time watching this movie in years, maybe since I was a kid. I vaguely remembered having enjoyed it, although not as much as some of Disney's other movies, and I was curious to see whether a re-watch would highlight similarities between Robin Hood and Zootopia's Nick.

I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed at first. The opening credits were long and boring and felt more like closing credits, as they trotted out all the characters that would be in the movie, and I realized that I have a lot less patience for long Disney songs than I used to. The animation quality wasn't great either. I'm not sure how it compares to other animated movies at the time, but I couldn't help but notice everyone's lack of shadows, and it was incredibly easy to tell that the characters were moving on static painted backgrounds. Also, while I enjoyed the various ways the animators had Sir Hiss's snake body contort and move, his linework tended to shiver a little, almost like he was slightly furry – I'm not sure if that was intentional or a sign of lower quality animation.

I'm torn on the movie's simplicity. On the one hand, I wouldn't be surprised if it still works great for kids, maybe even better than some recent animated movies. On the other hand, it wasn't the kind of movie that would work just as well for adults watching alongside their kids. Nottingham's poverty was ridiculously over-the-top, and when things got worse, literally the only way the writer could show it was by putting the whole town in prison, which just isn't believable unless you turn your brain completely off. I tried to do that, I really did, but then I started to wonder where the heck Robin and Marian were when the whole town was being put in prison, and why none of the townsfolk were mad that they were living happily in the forest while everyone else was practically starving to death, and, well, I guess I'm not very good at turning my brain off. There wasn't any rhyme or reason to most of the various types of animals chosen, either. Zootopia's world-building had its issues, but at least it tried. Robin Hood didn't even do that much.

The main things that saved this movie were the character designs (I loved them, even though I wondered how a fox managed to become a lion's cousin) and Robin Hood's tremendous charm. Brian Bedford did a wonderful job with Robin's voice acting, and the character as a whole was great. I loved Robin's fearlessness as he gleefully robbed Prince John, his dreaminess as he thought about Marian, and his joy as he decided to enter the archery contest. Little John was right, he was too reckless, but he made everything he did look so effortless that it didn't really matter.

I had thought I'd end up noticing a lot of similarities between Robin Hood and Zootopia's Nick, but instead I kept noticing all the differences between them. They were both charming tricksters, but Robin was optimistic and fearless, whereas Nick was cynical and sarcastic. Even their movements weren't as similar as I'd expected.

All in all, this was nice to re-watch, but I still don't feel inclined to buy myself a copy. I'd rather have my current favorite, Zootopia.

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