1. The Theme Song
“Band of brothers marching together, heads held high in all kinds of weather. With fiery blasts our roaring rockets rise…beyond the earth. Beyond the skies! ….”
When I heard this as a kid, it sent shivers down my spine. What a kick-ass song! It just made me want to join Robin and blast off into space with him to blow up monsters and bad guys. (If the army today played something similar, I’m sure they’d have no problems getting recruits.)
What’s amazing is the high production quality (considering how cheesy the rest of the cartoon is). I suspect that the producers blew most of their budget on the orchestra, choir and recording studio for the opening theme song, which didnt’ leave much left over for animation, storyboards and writing.
2. They actually beat up the bad guys
Back in the 60′s, there was none of this PC crap on TV. Cartoons would routinely show the good guys actually beating up the bad guys. And the animators on Rocket Robin Hood were only too glad to show this to the kids. (If you dont’ believe me, just watch the opening credits of the show).
There was plenty of direct fist-to-fist combat in Rocket Robin Hood. The best scene I like is in one of those cartoon “interludes” they showed every show, when the narrator describes Rocket Robin to us: ”He’s fun….he’s FANTASTIC”. This is followed by scene in which Robin smiles at the camera, and his fist flies towards us and fills the entire TV screen. We get a first hand view of what the bad guys might see…BAM!
I’d like to see the Bernstein Bears or Caillou try that.
Man, they’d never dare make a cartoon like that today.
3. Little John shows Good-Hearted Kindness Towards all Living Creatures.
Like all the other “commercials” in the cartoon, they showed the same “Little John” clip every damned show. The bad guys are trying to shoot him down with lasers, which he deflects with his “electro-quarterstaff” as he flies out of the sky, right into the bad guys, and clobbers the living shit out of them.
Then a squirrel comes along, and lands on Little John’s quarterstaff. This is when we are shown Little John’s softer side…he laughs. But the animation is so bad, there are mabye two frames of him laughing, played in an endless loop.
In one of the frames, they must have forgotten to draw in his collar bone. So it looked like one of his clavicles kept disappearing and re-appearing as he laughed.
Even at six years old, I recognized this was bad animation.
4. Robins’ Skunk Hair
In this 10 second film clip, they’d sing about Robin Hood, and then his entire head would fill the TV screen. He’s drawn with a white streak running down the middle of his hair.
I suppose this was meant to look like slicked down jet-black hair. But it looked like a skunk. As kids, we’d all delightely point out to each other. ”Skunk hair…skunk hair!”
For some reason, we’d never get tired of this joke.
5. Really, Really Bad Science.
Okay, I know its a cartoon, but come on! There are limits!
Geez, where do I even start? The fact that Little John can walk around outer space wearing nothing but shorts, a tank top and a goldfish bowl on his head.
How about Sherwood Asteroid flying through what appears to be a sunny partly cloudy sky (Ummm…where does the atmosphere come from?)
I also like whenever a ship flies through space, the soundtrack plays these cheesy synthesizer sounds to let you know you’re in outer space.
I guess the cartoon is so old (it pre-dates the moon landing) that back then, people still didnt’ have a clue what space was like..only that it must have sounded very…er… ”space-like”.
The best is that STUPID ARROW that Robin fires into Prince John’s money bag. The arrow lands into the bag, comes to a dead stop, then accelerates away (with the bag attached) as Prince John looks on, perplexed.
I never saw anything wrong with that, until one of the older kids in the neighbourhood told me this was physically impossible.
Lucky for me, I forgot all the bad science from the show by the time I got my engineering degree.
6. Blinking Eyes
This is one of the trademarks of the show. To save on animation costs, the animators would show a close-up of someones’ face (just the eyes). You’d hear the dialogue, but they’d just show the eyes. Then the eyes would blink, and then you’d have a few more seconds of the eyes.
The whole interval would last about three seconds, but this probably saved quite a few animation cels. (Especially when the blinking eyes were repeated several times in any given episode).
Say what you want, but this was “pioneering” animation work that even Disney never came up with. (Can you name any cartoon show that has done anything similar, before or since?)
7. The fact that the show is still on the air
According to Wikipedia, the cartoon was made from 1966-1969. I remember seeing for the first time, in the late 60′s when I was 5. I remember the re-runs starting in the early 70′s. It’s always been on TV in one form or another. It’s still on today on the Retro Cartoon Channel. How awesome is THAT?
How many other cartoons can you name that are still on the air after 40 years? (Sure, there’s Bugs Bugs Bunny, the Flintstones, Woody Woodpecker, etc.) But those were created in world-class high-budget animation studios. How many other cheesy low-budget Canadian shows fall into the same category?
8. The Astro-Poor
This refers to when the narrator tells us “Robin robs from the cosmic rich, and gives to the astro-poor”. And then they show these motionless people trying to catch poorly animated stop-action coins from the sky that Robin dropped.
Astro-poor. Heh heh. You gotta love it. It’s in the future, so they can’t just be poor. They have to be ”astro” poor.
The astro-poor probably have to live in solar slums, and have to pay the celestial-rent to the inter-planetary landlord.
9. Ahhh….the Animation!
In case I haven’t emphasized this enough, the animation is bad. I mean, really really BAD. I don’t know what’s more hilarious…. how bad the animation is, or the fact that the creators of the show had the balls to produce something as low budget as this and try to get away with it.
It’s a well known fact that the human brain needs to see a minimum of 24 picture a second, in order to perceive continuous motion. I’d say Rocket Robin Hood, on a good day, might have 6 frames a second. Or maybe even less.
Aside from the blinking eyes, the animators used other tricks to save money. For example, repeating the same scenes over and over (similar to Spider Man or the Mighty Hercules).
In some cases, they didn’t even bother with this. (How about zero frames per second?). Seriously, there are often scenes where nothing moves, for seconds at a time (for example, a character might be shocked, or freezing in terror). At this point, it stops becoming a cartoon, and it becomes a slide show.
When they did try animate, it wasn’t consistent. Certain things would disappear and suddenly reappear (body parts, lines on a face, etc).
Or the characters wouldn’t even look the same. (For example, Friar Tuck could look like two completely different people within the same 2 minute segment.) Geezus Christ, it’s like they had completely different groups of artists, who didnt’ even work together in the same studio, and had no idea what the other person was drawing.
It’s almost like the show’s creators stopped caring. Yet they still made the cartoons anyway for four years.
10. The Friar
I’ve saved the best till last. I love Friar Tuck (He’s partly the reason why I’m called the “Friar”) Some of the lads at work gave me the nickname and it stuck.
The best scene is when the Wicked Sheriff of N.O.T.T. (who thinks the Friar is fat, foolish) sends two guards to go capture him. But the Friar shows THEM…he shoves out his belly, and knocks them flying!
Then the Friar sits down at his table, to start some serious eatin’. As the dramatic music plays in the back ground, he gleefully grabs an apple, takes one bite, and throws it over his shoulder, and then a sausage, takes one bite, throws it over his shoulder, then grapes, then a chicken leg, then an apple, etc.
I must have seen that film clip 1000 times. But I never get tired of it.
Sure, he’s a glutton when he eats like this. But he can get away with this, because he’s The Friar, and he just clobbered two bad guys.
I was tempted to try that at our company picnic….I could just picture myself eating food and throwing it over my shoulder….It would have gotten a good laugh from the boys, but the boss probably wouldn’t have appreciated it.