ⓘ Robin Hood (1973 film)


ⓘ Robin Hood (1973 film)

Robin Hood is a 1973 American animated romantic musical comedy film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by Buena Vista Distribution. Produced and directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, it is the 21st Disney animated feature film. The story follows the adventures of Robin Hood, Little John, and the inhabitants of Nottingham as they fight against the excessive taxation of Prince John, and Robin Hood wins the hand of Maid Marian. The film features the voices of Brian Bedford, Phil Harris, Peter Ustinov, Terry-Thomas, Roger Miller, Andy Devine, Pat Buttram, George Lindsey, Monica Evans, Carole Shelley, Ken Curtis, Candy Candido, Barbara Luddy, J. Pat OMalley, and John Fiedler.

The idea to adapt Robin Hood into an animated feature dated back to Walt Disneys interest in the tale of Reynard the Fox during his first full-length feature production, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937. The idea was repeatedly shelved until writer and production designer Ken Anderson incorporated ideas from it in a pitch of the legend of Robin Hood using anthropomorphic animals rather than people during the production of The Aristocats 1970.

Robin Hood was released on November 8, 1973 to box office success. It was initially received positively by film critics who praised the voice cast, animation, and humor yet its critical reception became gradually mixed since its release. The film has also gained a fan following.


1. Plot

The film is narrated by the rooster Alan-a-Dale, who explains that Robin Hood and Little John live in Sherwood Forest, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor townsfolk of Nottingham. Meanwhile, Prince John, who is king of England, sends his lead henchman, the Sheriff of Nottingham, to catch the two but he fails every time. Meanwhile, Prince John and his assistant Sir Hiss, arrive in Nottingham. Sir Hiss hypnotized Prince Johns brother King Richard to go off on the Crusades, allowing Prince John to take the throne. Unfortunately, the prince is greedy and immature, even sucking his thumb whenever his mother is mentioned. Robin and Little John rob Prince John by disguising themselves as fortune tellers, prompting the prince to put a bounty on their heads and makes the Sheriff his personal tax collector.

The Sheriff taxes Friar Tuck and a family of rabbits. However, Robin gives back some money to the rabbits, giving his hat and archery kit to the young rabbit Skippy for his birthday. Skippy and his friends test out the archery kit, but Skippy fires an arrow into the grounds of Maid Marians castle. The children sneak inside, meeting Maid Marian and her attendant Lady Kluck. Maid Marian reveals she and Robin were childhood sweethearts but they have not seen one another for years. Friar Tuck visits Robin and Little John, explaining that Prince John is hosting an archery tournament, and the winner will receive a kiss from Maid Marian. Robin agrees to participate in the tournament disguised as a stork whilst Little John disguises himself as the Duke of Chutney to get near Prince John. Sir Hiss discovers Robins identity but is trapped in a barrel of ale by Friar Tuck and Alan-a-Dale. Robin wins the tournament, but Prince John exposes him and has him arrested for execution despite Maid Marians pleas.

Little John threatens Prince John leading to a fight between Robin, Little John, Maid Marian, Lady Kluck and Prince Johns soldiers. In the forest, Robin and Maid Marian fall in love again as the townsfolk sing a song mocking Prince John, describing him as the "Phony King of England". Enraged by the song, Prince John triples the taxes, imprisoning most of the townsfolk who cannot or refuse to pay their taxes. The Sheriff visits Friar Tucks church to steal from the poor box, enraging Friar Tuck who viciously attacks him until he too is arrested. Prince John plans to hang Friar Tuck to lure in Robin and kill him. Robin and Little John sneak in, with Little John managing to free all of the prisoners whilst Robin steals Prince Johns taxes, but Sir Hiss awakens to find Robin fleeing.

Chaos follows as Robin and the others try to escape to Sherwood Forest. The Sheriff corners Robin after he is forced to return to rescue Skippys younger sister, setting fire to Prince Johns castle and causing Robin to leap from a tower into the moat below. Little John and Skippy watch as the moat is pelted with arrows and Robin is apparently shot and drowned, only for him to emerge unharmed after using a reed as a breathing tube. Prince John despairs and is driven into a blind rage when Sir Hiss points out his mothers castle is on fire. Later, King Richard returns to England, placing his brother and his cohorts under arrest and allows Robin and Maid Marian to be married and leave Nottingham with Little John and Skippy in tow.


2. Cast

  • Billy Whitaker, Dana Laurita, Dori Whitaker, and Richie Sanders as Skippy, Sis, Tagalong, and Toby, respectively, the local children of Nottingham who idolize Robin Hood. Skippy, Sis, and Tagalong are rabbits while Toby is a turtle.
  • Andy Devine as Friar Tuck, the towns local friar who protects the villagers of Nottingham. Portrayed as a badger, he is taken to be hanged at the end of the film in a plot of Prince Johns to lure Robin Hood out of hiding, but is rescued in time.
  • Monica Evans as Maid Marian, a vixen, niece of King Richard and the primary love interest of Robin Hood.
  • Terry-Thomas as Sir Hiss, Prince Johns snake friend who is tricky and hypocritical. He is similar to The Jungle Book s Kaa.
  • Brian Bedford as Robin Hood, a gifted archer who is seen doing good for the townspeople. He is portrayed as a fox.
  • J. Pat OMalley as Otto, a dog with a lame leg.
  • Pat Buttram as the Sheriff of Nottingham, a greedy and shifty wolf.
  • Carole Shelley as Lady Kluck, a chicken who is good friends with Maid Marian.
  • John Fiedler and Barbara Luddy as Friar Tucks Sexton and his wife, respectively, church mice. Luddy also voiced Mother Rabbit, the mother of Skippy, Sis, and Tagalong.
  • Roger Miller as Alan-a-Dale, a rooster who serves as the narrator of the film.
  • Peter Ustinov as Prince John and King Richard, respectively a greedy fraud and the true king of England. Both characters are lions. Prince John has the habit of sucking his thumb when someone mentions his mother. At the end of the film, King Richard returns from the Third Crusade and sentences his brother Prince John to work in the Royal Rock Pile.
  • George Lindsey and Ken Curtis as Trigger and Nutsy, respectively, vultures.
  • Candy Candido as the Captain of the Guard, a crocodile who hosts the archery tournament.
  • Phil Harris as Little John, Robin Hoods best friend, who is very gluttonous and though not small at all still called "Little John". Portrayed as a bear, he is a recreation of The Jungle Book s Baloo, as both characters are voiced by Phil Harris and were animated by the same Disney animators.

3. Production

Around the time of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, Walt Disney became interested in adapting the twelfth-century legend of Reynard the Fox. However, the project languished due to Walts concern that Reynard was an unsuitable choice for a hero. In a meeting held on February 12, 1938, Disney commented "I see swell possibilities in Reynard, but is it smart to make it? We have such a terrific kid audience. parents and kids together. Thats the trouble – too sophisticated. Well take a nosedive doing it with animals." For Treasure Island 1950, Walt seriously considered three animated sections, each one of the Reynard tales, to be told by Long John Silver to Jim Hawkins as moral fables. Ultimately, the idea was nixed as Treasure Island became the studios first fully live-action film. Over the years, the studio decided to make Reynard the villain of a musical feature film named Chanticleer and Reynard based on Edmond Rostands Chanticleer, but the production was scrapped in the early 1960s in favor of The Sword in the Stone 1963.

While The Aristocats 1970 was in production, Ken Anderson began exploring possibilities for the next film. Studio executives favored a "classic" tale as the subject for the next film, in which Anderson suggested the tale of Robin Hood, which was received enthusiastically. He blended his ideas of Robin Hood by incorporating that the fox character could be slick but still use his skills to protect the community. Additionally, Anderson wanted to set the film in the Deep South desiring to recapture the spirit of Song of the South 1946. However, the executives were wary of the reputation of Song of the South, which was followed by Wolfgang Reithermans decision to set the film in its traditional English location inspired by The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men 1952. Veteran writer Larry Clemmons came on board the project by writing a script with dialogue that was later storyboarded by other writers.

As production went further along, Robin Allan stated in his book Walt Disney and Europe that "Ken Anderson wept when he saw how his character concepts had been processed into stereotypes for the animation on Robin Hood." According to Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, one such casualty was the concept of making the Sheriff of Nottingham a goat as an artistic experiment to try different animals for a villain, only to be overruled by Reitherman who wanted to keep to the villainous stereotype of a wolf instead. Additionally, Anderson wanted to include the Merry Men into the film, which was again overridden by Reitherman because he wanted a "buddy picture" reminiscent of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969, so Little John was the only Merry Man who remained in the film, while Friar Tuck was put as a friend of Robins who lived in Nottingham, and Alan-a-Dale was turned into the narrator.

Because of the time spent on developing several settings and auditioning actors to voice Robin Hood, production fell behind schedule. In order to meet deadlines, the animators had no other choice but to recycle several dance sequences from previous Disney animated films, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937, The Jungle Book 1967, and The Aristocats 1970.


3.1. Production Casting

By October 1970, most of the voice actors were confirmed, with the exception of Tommy Steele cast in the title role. Steele himself was chosen because of his performance in The Happiest Millionaire 1967 while Peter Ustinov was cast because Walt Disney had enjoyed his presence on the set of Blackbeards Ghost 1968 during one of his last visits to the studio before his death. However, Steele was unable to make his character sound more heroic, and his replacement came down to final two candidates which were Bernard Fox and Brian Bedford. Disney executives had first seen Bedford performing onstage in Los Angeles, in which they brought him in to test for the role in May 1971 and ultimately cast him. Meanwhile, Louis Prima was so angered at not being considered for a role that he personally paid the recording expenses for the subsequent album, Lets "Hear" it For Robin Hood, which he sold to Disneyland Records.


4.1. Release Home media

It was released on VHS, CED, Betamax, and Laserdisc on December 4, 1984 becoming the first installment of the Walt Disney Classics home video label. Disney had thought the idea of releasing any of its animated classics known as the "untouchables" might threaten future theatrical reissue revenue. However, Robin Hood was viewed as the first choice since it was not held in such high esteem as some of the other titles, and was less likely to get another theatrical release as its 1982 reissue proved to be disappointing. The release went into moratorium in January 1987. It was later re-released on VHS as an installment of the Walt Disney Classics on July 12, 1991. The film was re-released on October 28, 1994 and July 13, 1999 on VHS as an installment of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection lineup.

In January 2000, Walt Disney Home Video launched the Gold Classic Collection, with Robin Hood re-issued on VHS and DVD on July 4, 2000. The DVD contained the film in its 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and was accompanied with special features including a trivia game and the cartoon short "Ye Olden Days". The remastered "Most Wanted Edition" DVD "Special Edition" in the UK was released on November 28, 2006 in a 16:9 matted transfer to represent its original theatrical screen ratio. It also featured a deleted scene/alternate ending of Prince John attempting to kill a wounded Robin Hood. On August 6, 2013, the film was released as the 40th Anniversary Edition on a Blu-ray combo pack.


5.1. Reception Critical reaction

Judith Crist, reviewing the film in the New York magazine, said it was "nicely tongue-in-cheek without insult to the intelligence of either child or adult." She also stated that it "has class – in the fine cast that gives both voice and personality to the characters, in the bright and brisk dialogue, in its overall concept." Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that it "should. be a good deal of fun for toddlers whose minds have not yet shriveled into orthodoxy" and he called the visual style "charmingly conventional". Dave Billington of The Montreal Gazette wrote "As a film, Robin Hood marks a come-back of sorts for the Disney people. Ever since the old maestro died, the cartoon features have shown distressing signs of a drop in quality, both in art work and in voice characterization. But the blending of appealing cartoon animals with perfect voices for the part makes Robin Hood an excellent evening out for the whole family." Also writing in the New York magazine, Ruth Gilbert called it "a sweet, funny, slam-bang, good-hearted Walt Disney feature cartoon with a fine cast" and wrote it was "a feast for the eyes for kiddies and Disney nostalgics."

Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the Disney "hallmarks are there as they ever were: the incomparably rich, full animation, the humanized animal characters perky, individual and enchanting, and the wild, inventive slapstick action." Awarding the film four stars out of five, Ian Nathan, in a retrospective review for Empire, praised the vocal performances of Peter Ustinov and Terry-Thomas acknowledging "while this is hardly the most dazzling of animated features, it has that cut-corner feel that seem to hold sway in the 70s mainly because Disney were cutting corners, the characters spark to life, and the story remains as rock steady as ever."

Among less favorable reviews, Jay Cocks of Time gave the film a mixed verdict writing "Even at its best, Robin Hood is only mildly diverting. There is not a single moment of the hilarity or deep, eerie fear that the Disney people used to be able to conjure up, or of the sort of visual invention that made the early features so memorable. Robin Hood s basic problem is that it is rather too pretty and good natured." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one-and-a-half stars out of four, describing the film as "80 minutes of pratfalls and nincompoop dialog," and criticizing the animation quality as "Saturday morning TV cartoon stuff." John Baxter of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote that "for the most part the film is as bland and one-dimensional as the product of less sophisticated studios; and except for Peter Ustinovs plummy Prince John, the voice characterisations are as insipid as the animation is unoriginal."

Decades since the films release, the film has been heavily noted for the recycled scenes of animation and the sex appeal of the two main characters. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that the film received a 54% approval rating with an average rating of 5.4/10 based on 28 reviews. The websites consensus states that "One of the weaker Disney adaptations, Robin Hood is cute and colorful but lacks the majesty and excitement of the studios earlier efforts." Metacritic gave the film a score of 57 based on 9 reviews.


5.2. Reception Box office

During its initial release, Robin Hood earned $9.6 million in rentals in the United States and Canada. It also grossed $18 million in foreign territories, which was at the time a Disney record, for a worldwide rental of $27.5 million.

The film has earned a lifetime gross in the United States and Canada between $32–35 million across its two releases.


6. Legacy

The film has since become a fan favorite. Disney animator and director Byron Howard said this to be his favorite movie growing up and the inspiration for the 2016 Oscar-winning Zootopia. It was also one of the many inspirations for the then-emerging furry fandom.

The song "Love" is featured in the 2009 feature film Fantastic Mr. Fox. The song "Whistle-Stop" was sped up and used in the Hampster Dance, one of the earliest internet memes, and later used at normal speed in the Super Bowl XLVIII commercial for T-Mobile. The song "Oo De Lally" is featured in a 2015 commercial for Android which shows animals of different species playing together.

Awards and honors

The song "Love" was nominated for Best Original Song at the 46th Academy Awards but lost to "The Way We Were" from the film of the same name.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

  • 2008: AFIs 10 Top 10
  • Nominated Animation Film


7. Soundtrack

The music played in the background while Lady Kluck fights off Prince Johns soldiers in an American football manner, following the archery tournament, is an arrangement of "Fight On" and "On, Wisconsin", the respective fight songs of the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin.

A record of the film was made at the time of its release in 1973, which included its songs, score, narration, and dialogue. Both "Oo-De-Lally" and "Love" appear on the CD collection, Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic. The full soundtrack of the film was released to the general public on August 4, 2017 as part of the Walt Disney Records: The Legacy Collection series on compact disc and digital, and was a timed exclusive to the 2017 D23 Expo.

The song" The Phony King of England” bears a strong resemblance to a much older, bawdy English folk song," The Bastard King of England”.


8. Bibliography

  • Koenig, David 1997. Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks. Irvine, California: Bonaventure Press. ISBN 978-0964060517.
  • Grant, John 1998. The Encyclopedia of Walt Disneys Animated Characters: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules. Disney Editions. ISBN 978-0-7868-6336-5.