Robin Hood was one of those classic Disney animations that I grew up on, but unlike the Fantasias and Lion Kings, I haven't seen any of the film since my age was written in single digits. On finally rewatching it, two things struck me in particular:
First, the film has a slightly "filler project" feel to it. Animations are clearly reused from other movies, like The Jungle Book (Little John literally repeats Baloo's dive into the water and spit fountain, plus back scratch; Kaa and Hiss have several moments, including both using the hypnotic eyes) and Aristocats (the music scene borrows heavily, just changing the animal's species a bit). Also, was the weird rugby scene also in Bedknobs and Broomsticks?
The story doesn't string together, either, it's more a sequence of semi-related short stories (which, I guess, they were, being based on folk tales). And the rest of the animation just has a slightly lower quality than I expect from the golden era of Disney, including some quite jarring animation beats that repeat (fine) but before the full animation cycle completed – they just cut and jump back a few dozen frames 😂
But then, second, this film is rooted deep down inside of me. Not so much the story (I remembered sequences in the wrong order, completely forgot others, and had invented entire acts that don't actually happen, such as several additional trick shots in the archery tournament), but the characters and the music. The way certain creatures walked, particular chord progressions, even some sound effects had this almost primal connection to certain emotions or ideas. And that goes doubly for a few particularly poignant moments: the injustice in the jailhouse song, with the slow pan around the room of shackled, forlorn creatures; the rage at the church mice giving their last shilling to the poor, only to have it stolen away by the Sheriff moments later; the terror as Robin's disguise gets torn away from him; the kindness of Marian. Yeah, it turns out that a lot of my core beliefs of non-familial kinship, loyalty, and inherent "rightness" may have come from Robin Hood.
(And third: there are way more oo-da-lallies going on than I remember 😄)
All of which stack together to make a fairly bizarre experience. On the one hand, the film is showing its age. The animation is noticeably rougher, but without the quirky uniqueness of Sleeping Beauty, some of the jokes are definitely looking a little old hat (both for cultural reasons and just the whole King John being a mummy's boy wearing a little thin 😅), and the plot is practically transparent, but as a kid it clearly enraptured my imagination and the core messages still resonate. Plus, there remains a huge amount of soul to the way these animals interact, alongside a healthy portion of that Disney magic that keeps the film full of fun little moments and exceptional visual storytelling. I'd say it's a much watch for kids, but perhaps not a totally necessary one for adults that missed out when younger.