Robin Hood Blu-ray delivers great video and audio in this fan-pleasing Blu-ray release
A long time ago, in a faraway land, legend tells an extraordinary tale of courage and friendship.... Get ready for swashbuckling adventure, unforgettable characters, memorable music, and lots of laughs in Disney's ROBIN HOOD. Heroic Robin Hood -- along with his trusted companion Little John and his devoted band of merry men -- conjures up one famously funny and daring deed after another to outfox greedy Prince John and bring happiness to the residents of Sherwood Forest.
For more about Robin Hood and the Robin Hood Blu-ray release, see Robin Hood Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 1, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Thanks to the August 6th Blu-ray debuts of The Sword in the Stone (1963), Robin Hood (1973) and Oliver & Company (1988), only fourteen theatrically released Disney Animated Classics remain, two of which -- The Little Mermaid and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh -- are already set to arrive later this year. It's hard to believe that just five years ago the beautifully remastered release of Sleeping Beauty (followed by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 2009) hinted at a then faraway, now closer than ever future in which Disney's entire animated features canon is available in high definition. No, the Mouse House hasn't always led fans and purists down the smoothest of restoration roads (The Fox and the Hound), but it's been an exciting journey with far more peaks than valleys, and 2015 looks to be the year that it reaches its long-awaited end. For now, though, completists have a new batch of classics to enjoy, the most beloved being Robin Hood, a flawed but endearing bit of childhood nostalgia that holds a special place in many a fan's heart.
Partners in crime...
Legendary hero to the common folk of Nottingham, Robin Hood (voiced by Brian Bedford) and his best friend, Little John (Phil Harris), are outlaws of the highest caliber, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. (The sly fox just takes issue with the word "rob.") In hot pursuit of Hood is the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham (Pat Buttram), charged by the scheming lion, Prince John (Peter Ustinov), and his counselor, Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas), to restore order and bring Robin to... ahem, justice. Robin Hood isn't without allies, though. By the time the Sheriff closes in, Robin and Little John are aided by true love Maid Marian (Monica Evans), her lady-in-waiting Lady Kluck (Carole Shelley), the generous Friar Tuck (Andy Devine), a pair of church mice (John Fiedler and Barbara Luddy), storyteller Alan-a-Dale (Roger Miller), a young turtle (Richie Sanders), and a trio of young rabbits (Billy Whittaker, Dana Laurita and Dori Whittaker). Now it's up to Robin and Little John to stop the Sheriff, thwart Prince John and Sir Hiss's plans, and make sure King Richard (Ustinov) has a throne to claim when he returns home from the Crusades.
The talking animals trope has long been a go-to device for Disney Animation, but it's no mere gimmick here. The denizens of Nottingham translate to the animal kingdom quite effortlessly, with most of director Wolfgang Reitherman and screenwriter Larry Clemmons' choices selling themselves. The Prince of Thieves as a cunning fox. His lovable, oversized companion, Little John, a bear of Jungle Book proportions. The Sheriff a fiendish wolf (albeit one with a strangely specific backwoods-Kentucky drawl). King Richard and Prince John as lions. Kindly Friar Tuck a roly poly badger, and Maid Marian a vixen. The third tier supporting cast seems hurriedly conceived -- chicken Lady Kluck and crocodile Captain Crocodile, for starters -- but the central cast of characters fare well in the suddenly literal forests of Sherwood. (Not that Ken Anderson would agree. The veteran writer took issue with many of the decisions made by Reitherman and Clemmons, and voiced his displeasure with some of the departures they made from his original vision for the film.) The light, fanciful tone and colorful fairy tale adventure that accompanies the creatures seems a natural fit as well, even if it's easy to see why children embraced the film so wholeheartedly all those years ago. The same thing can be seen today, with the young (and young at heart) enjoying Robin Hood despite its shortcomings, as more seasoned newcomers judge it a lesser entry in Disney's classics canon.
Alas, dear and loyal subjects of King Walt's realm, Robin Hood isn't nearly as agile and nimble an animated adventure as those who've grown up with the film so fondly remember. Animation elements recycled from other projects, toothless villainy, an over-reliance on slapstick and bumbling beasts, hit or miss voice casting, a troubling number of filler scenes (particularly for an 83-minute movie), a rushed third act... all is not well in Reitherman's Sherwood, and it's clear production nightmares and budgetary constraints took a toll on Disney's 21st animated feature. Most distressing is the narrative tug-of-war that yanks Robin and his Merry Men between each scene and the next, focusing more on supporting characters than the wily fox and his daring deeds. The confidence and consistency so vital to Reitherman's previous and subsequent Disney films is lacking here, at least in part, and the end never really justifies the means. Robin Hood isn't a grand scale adventure, or even a very clever adaptation of the Hood legends. It targets kids, captivates kids, gravitates to kids and doesn't show the sort of all-ages ambition and certainty of purpose the Disney Greats exhibit; those timeless classics and unforgettable masterpieces which have kept the studio evolving for more than seventy-five years. That's not to suggest there isn't a good deal of fun to be had in Robin Hood, mind you. Simply that nostalgia, not timelessness, will always be the driving force behind the film, now some four decades past a prime it never reached.
After a somewhat alarmingly soft, less than impressive opening credits sequence, Robin Hood's remastered 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer begins earning its keep. Cool, soothing hues bring Sherwood to lovely watercolor life, without boosting colors or doing anything more invasive that might undermine the filmmakers' original palette. Primaries are playful, black levels are satisfying, and contrast is filmic without growing too dull or diluted. Detail is notable as well, and the only times clarity proves problematic is when the source, print or animation cels are to blame. The animators' scratchy, sketchy line art has been preserved and put on full display, imperfections and all, and the hand-painted backgrounds follow suit. Moreover, significant artifacting, banding and aliasing are held at bay, and ringing is nowhere to be found. The film has obviously been de-grained to some degree, a common practice Disney has employed in restoring and remastering the bulk of its animated catalog. And while that will no doubt come as a disappointment to purists, there fortunately aren't any major repercussions to report (major being the key word). In fact, a faint veneer of grain remains, even though it's really only apparent in darker scenes. A number of lingering specks and spots also pepper the print, but, again, none of it amounts to an issue of consequence. All in all, Robin Hood has never looked better. Fans will be pleased.
Robin Hood features an able-bodied DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that, six-channel remix or no, doesn't drift too far from the film's original monaural path. Voices are clear, intelligible and properly prioritized, effects rarely crowd the soundscape, and noise and hiss aren't frequent offenders. Though largely a front-heavy affair, delicate ambience and the movie's music still find their way into the rear speakers, and the LFE channel provides just enough weight to give the animated action and comedy welcome punch and personality. At its core, Robin Hood still sounds like an animated feature made forty years ago, but that hardly should be held against Disney or its carefully rejuvenated lossless track. A solid presentation all around.
Robin Hood will continue to hold a special place in many fans' hearts. It still has a home in mine. But it's possible to enjoy a trip down nostalgia lane without getting lost along the way. The film doesn't hold up next to other Disney classics, and feels more lightweight and aimless than an animated adaptation of the Hood mythos should. Oh, there's still plenty of fun to be had, sure. Just none that grabs hold of the imagination or lingers long after the credits roll. Disney's Blu-ray release is better, with a commendably remastered video presentation and a solid DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, but a few more supplements would have gone a long way. Even so, Robin Hood deserves a place on every Disney collector's shelves. It may not be among the best of the studio's animated features, but that doesn't mean it deserves to be forgotten.
Walt Disney Home Entertainment has officially announced and detailed the 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release of Robin Hood, Walt Disney Animation's 21st animated feature. The classic adventure arrives on August 6th, and will be available via Blu-ray/DVD/Digital ...