Dr. Toon: The Animation Critic’s Art: Taking the Heat
The blogger who vented his anger averred that the move was economic; Dr. Toon isn’t buying. The Disney empire was far from broke in 1973 and could have afforded much better effort. As if the failings of this film thus far are not enough, other inconsistencies help sink an already foundering vessel:
“Some of the characters, notably the Sheriff of Nottingham, are given voices that seem to come from rural Arkansas, and much of the music and score is far more mod than madrigal.”
One area where I am inclined to back off, and not by much, was my assessment of the animation:
“The animation in much of Robin Hood is frankly terrible; virtually everything animated in long shot is poorly done. One sequence, in which animal children play in the forest prior to meeting Maid Marian, is so sloppy and careless it is impossible to believe that Disney artists worked on it.”
I freely confessed that the “Most Wanted” restored DVD edition had not been released at the time of the writing, and it is possible that said edition had superior clarity to the DVD I viewed. However, the scene remains as described; Disney’s B-team could likely have delivered a livelier effort. In the end, I refer again to the beginning of my review:
“Robin Hood is a strong and nearly uncontested candidate for last place among the studio’s animated features. Given the talent that went into the making of this picture and the funds available, there is no excuse for this half-hearted, shoddy effort.”
Robin Hood was made during a time of enervation and was perhaps the natural result of creative entropy at the studio. It was preceded by The Aristocats (1970), a weak film in the Disney canon, and followed by The Rescuers (1977), a movie with a stronger pulse, but still no classic. (The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, released earlier in 1977, was basically a compilation film). Woolie Reitherman directed them all, and as stated before, was far from the surest feature director in the studio’s history. It would have been hard for any Disney film to achieve tremendous success in 1973, so I have to accept Robin Hood within its historical context. Unfortunately, that does nothing to change my judgment.
The bloggers who blasted me may have very fond memories of this film. Perhaps it was their introduction to the Disney canon, or stirs up memories of snuggling in a blanket at the drive-in with Mom and Dad, soda pop in hand. There are also those who believe Disney films to be sacrosanct, somehow above criticism. They may even see their defense of the movies as patriotic, a defense of the American (and capitalist) way of life. Or, more likely, they believe that Robin Hood was an exceptional film bereft of flaws and problems. They are entitled to this point of view, and in truth, I have done nothing to rob them of that.
What, then, have I done? The very same thing I ask of you future critics, journalists, writers, and pundits to do. Use your critical eye, your knowledge of animation history, your analytical skills, your convictions. Join them to your love of the animated medium. Be fearless, honest, and forthright with your readers. Believe in what you write, just as the lonely critic of the Lonely Hearts Club band did.
I am not claiming that my review of Robin Hood is “right”, only that it was done in a heartfelt manner using the ingredients listed above. I implore you to do the same. Only then will you be able to stand bravely in the critic’s shoes and be able to withstand the heat.
Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman is a longtime student and fan of animation. He lives in Anderson, Indiana.