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The Cinematic Life (and Death) of Robin Hood: How Realism Kills Legends

“Rob? That’s a naughty word. We never rob. We just sort of borrow a bit from those who can afford it.”
Robin Hood Disney
By  · Published on July 19th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on why Disney’s Robin Hood rules.

When an animated film becomes a “timeless classic,” it can be easy to forget that it was made during a specific time and place. While old-fashioned techniques like rotoscoping and cel animation can give up a film’s age, at face value, animated classics — from Sleeping Beauty to My Neighbor Totoro — don’t tend to feel as tied down to any particular decade as their live-action counterparts. Which makes sense. Like musicals, animated films tend to intentionally lean into the suspension of disbelief. Animals talk, the laws of physics wobble, and the world feels overwhelmingly filled with color. And this is why, in part, animated films make such a perfect medium for myths.

Disney’s Robin Hood came out in 1973, and if you’re looking for them, there are giveaways that point to the film’s origins both within a tumultuous decade and a tumultuous period within the company’s history. Robin Hood was made in the midst of the “Disney Dark Age,” a period of creative and financial uncertainty in the wake of Walt Disney’s passing. The film was forced to cut financial corners, trim its runtime, and assume a more uncinematic gait. But adversity worked in Robin Hood‘s favor, endowing the film with a compact and light-hearted informal breeze. It is both knowingly unpolished and impressively economical. The film squeezes centuries of folklore into a sort of “greatest hits” album for the myth itself.

The video essay below offers a more in-depth explanation of why Disney’s Robin Hood slaps, both on its own terms and as a “Robin Hood movie.” The essay concludes by noting that Disney’s Robin Hood was, in a way, one of the final films to let the legend exist untethered from the grim realities of the real world. Gritty reboots aren’t a new invention. A keen eye towards historicism has its time and place. But by anchoring a mirth-filled legend in a mirthless world, the legend of Robin Hood became a little less legendary.

Watch “Disney’s Robin Hood and the Death of Color”:

Who made this?

This video on Disney’s Robin Hood is by Jace, a.k.a  BREADSWORD, an LA-based video essayist who specializes in long-form nostalgia-heavy love letters. Impeccably edited and smoother than butter, BREADSWORD essays boast an unparalleled relaxed fit and an expressive narrative tone. Long essays like this take a lot of time to put together, and somehow BREADSWORD makes it all look effortless. You can subscribe to them on YouTube here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.