I don’t watch a lot of animated films any more. Mainly because I’m over 40. And the musical numbers drive me mad. (Much as I still love The Fox and the Hound, I’ve already mentioned the songs are terrible.)
And again, I realize I’m not choosing the best animated film. That would probably have to go to something artsy and thoughtful like Spirited Away or The Iron Giant or The Emjoi Movie. While those–the first two anyway–are certainly watchable, the prompt doesn’t ask me what’s the best. What’s my favorite?
This is not just my favorite animated film, it’s my favorite iteration of a wonderful British myth, with all apologies to Kevin Costner and no apologies whatsoever to whatever the hell Taron Egerton was doing two years ago.
Back when I was a lad, every Sunday night, CBS would show a program called The Wonderful World of Disney, which would air classic movies of theirs. I wrote an earlier blog detailing what happened that fateful night when I was in kindergarten and literally my entire school watched Robin Hood for the first time. Ah, to be back on that playground at Southside, which magically transformed into Sherwood Forest with the aid of 6-year-old imaginations.
Later, when The Wide World moved to ABC–I think, memory of those years is a little fuzzy–we had ourselves a fancy-schmancy Video Cassette Recorder. I was able to capture this film and re-watch it at my leisure, all while fast-forwarding through the commercials.
And by “my leisure,” I mean every single day when we got home from school, my sister and I would grab a snack, belly up to the TV and hit play. Yes, for solid months, we watched Robin, Little John, Friar Tuck, and crew and their antics.
My poor mother. I never understood why, the the tape finally broke after being overworked for far too long, when my sister brought it to mommy dearest with tears in her eyes, she merely shrugged and said, “That’s too bad. What else do you have recorded?”
I guess we showed her. We watched the Mary Martin stage version of Peter Pan for nigh a half a year before that tape too committed seppuku.
I hadn’t seen Robin Hood in eons, until I started feeling nostalgic and bought a digital copy on a whim a couple of years ago.
For a movie made four years before I was born, about a legend that circulated in the 14th century, about a chap who was said to come into this world in 1160, it felt strangely contemporary.
I get why the story resonated in 1377, the year the first-known account of Robin of Locksley started circulating. The Plague still fresh in the collective minds of folks, tradesmen and peasants across the nation were starting to rise up and demand better treatment. I mean, just four years later they went out and had themselves a little incident we now call the Peasants’ Revolt.
Nottingham of the story is set amid raging income inequality. There’s less poverty and more full-on destitution. And the powers that be continue to milk them drier and drier.
Speak of powers, that would be the inept, illegitimate, greedy Prince John and his sycophant flunkies, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Hiss. I could draw parallels to current events, but it might be bad form to call Bill Barr the Sheriff and Steve Bannon Hiss. Nah, I’d never do that.
But who wants to get political? Let’s talk about the music.
The minute the first notes hit, I’m ready to croon along with Roger Miller as Alan-A-Dale. “Robin Hood and Little John, walking through the forest/Laughing back and forth at what the other one has to say …”
Oo-de-lally, oo-de-lally, indeed. The deeply romantic chords of “Love” as Rob and Marian fall right into just that. (Who would have thought one of the best love stories on the screen in the last half-century features two anthropomorphic foxes? And don’t get me started on Tod and Vixy from The Fox and the Hound.) Then there’s the plaintive, mournful “Not in Nottingham,” perfectly setting the scene for the desperation as the stakes are raised, the heroes are at their lowest point, and we’re readying ourselves for a triumphant 3rd act.
And, oh snap, that up-beat toe-tapper that is “The Phony King of England.”
That song just flat-out slaps. (Did I use that right? I’m really old and no longer cool.)
And I could again point out modern-day parallels, like how the lyrics
He throws an angry tantrum if he cannot have his way
He calls for mom and sucks his thumb
And doesn’t want to play …
also could possibly, maybe, I’m-not-saying-it-can-but-it-totally-can be applied to a certain national leader on the scene today.
But that would be lapsing back into politics and I don’t want to do that.
I mean, Prince John isn’t really comparable to, say, a certain U. S. President, is he?
Wait, what does the J. stand for again?