"In presenting his latest picture package at the Criterion—a trio including the feature, The Story of Robin Hood ; the newest entry in the True-Life Adventure series, "Water Birds," and the cartoon short, "The Little House"—Walt Disney is again proving that his organization can provide the variety that is the spice of entertainment. Equally important is the fact that this film tryptych is likely to meet with the tastes of a variety of audiences. "Robin Hood" may not have the adult approach or credibility of "Water Birds," or the youthful charm of "The Little House," but it is an expert rendition of an ancient legend that is as pretty as its Technical hues and as lively as a sturdy Western.
Appropriately enough, the producer thought enough of this centuries-old saga to film it in England, its obvious locale, and with a British cast. His principals, from Plantagenet royalty to outlaw yeomanry, speak dialogue which does not grate on the ear. And, the action—the courtly speeches and romance are kept to a sensible minimum—is robust and fairly continuous.
The tale, for those who have never been to the movies or haven't heard it before, is still as true to form as Robin's fabulous archery. England, with Richard the Lion Heart held captive in Austria and his brother, the treacherous Prince John, mulcting the Midlands, is hardly a merry area. So, Robin again is ensconced in Sherwood Forest with his bold band, robbing "the rich to aid the poor."
This, of course, brings him into constant contact with the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham and an occasional rendezvous with the Maid Marian, an ever-loving wench who can recognize a hero when she sees one. And, with the aid of such stalwarts as Little John and Friar Tuck, it is no time before Prince John's coffers are emptied to ransom Richard and Robin is rewarded with an Earldom and, naturally, the Maid Marian.
Richard Todd seems rather puny but is agile enough as the most feared long bowman of the greenwood. Joan Rice is pretty and mischievous as the dark-haired Maid Marian. And such veteran British character actors as James Hayter, James Robertson Justice, Peter Finch, Martita Hunt and Hubert Gregg contribute the proper adventurous and villainous assists as Friar Tuck, Little John, the Sheriff, the Queen Mother and Prince John, respectively. They all help to give a shining veneer to what could have been a dull story.
On the other hand, "Water Birds" is an old story in the finest tradition that does nothing to tarnish the reputation gained by the producer with such excellent predecessors as "Seal Island," "Beaver Valley" and "Nature's Half-Acre."
This time, more than a dozen cameramen, in cooperation with the National Audubon Society and the Denver Museum of Natural History, have trained their Technicolor sights on gannets, fairy terns, pelicans, coots, grebes, snowy egrets, flamingos, curlews and other water fowl to come up with a film document which again both educates and entertains. Especially edifying are such slow-motion shots as gannets plummeting from great heights into the waters below and a mating dance of the Western grebe which is as comic as a Chaplin fandango. And the integration of the musical background and the intelligent and humorous narration by Winston Hibler makes "Water Birds" a treat for both the eye and the ear."
Walt Disney's 'Story Of Robin Hood' was released in the United States of America on June 26th 1952.