Robin Hood is an 1973 American animated film produced by the Walt Disney Productions, first released in the United States on November 8, 1973. The 21st animated feature in the Walt disney animated Classics series, the film is based on the legend of Robin Hood, but uses anthropomorphic animals instead of people.
The film is narrated by a rooster minstrel named Alan-aDale (mentioned verbally only, while credited officially on-screen as "The Rooster"), who describes Robin Hood and Little John as outlaws who dwell in Sherwood Forest, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor people of nearby city Nottingham. They are constantly pursued by the Sheriff of Nottingham and his posse, but manage to outrun them each time.
Meanwhile, Prince John, the ruling "king" of England, passes through Nottingham. After his servant, Sir Hiss, hypnotized King Richard into going to battle in The Crusades, Prince John made himself King and began collecting taxes from the people all over England to become richer. Robin and Little John disguise themselves as female fortune tellers and manage to steal from (and humiliate) Prince John, who does not realize what it happening until they are escaping.
Shortly afterwards, Prince John puts a bounty on Robin Hood and uses the Sheriff of Nottingham as his personal Tax Collector, who begins stealing taxes from Friar Tuck, a little boy named Skippy at his birthday party and even from Robin himself when he is disguised as a blind beggar. Robin shows up at Skippy's party and offers him his own bow and arrow and even his own hat to make him feel better, he then offers his mother a bag of money to keep their taxes up. Skippy and his friends go out to play, but after Skippy loses his Arrow in Prince john's castle the kids soon meet Robin Hood's former girlfriend, Maid Marian and her friend Lady Kluck whom they play with on that day. After the kids leave, Marian admits that she's still in love with Robin Hood and fears that he has forgotten all about her after so many years have gone by.
Elsewhere, Robin admits to Little John that he too is in love with Maid Marian after so many years, but is too guilty to admit this to her due to his position as an outlaw. Friar Tuck then pays a surprise visit and informs Robin that an opportunity to reunite with Maid Marian is happening when Prince John announces an archery tournament, the winner receiving a kiss from Maid Marian and a golden arrow from Prince John, who has organized the contest as a trap to catch Robin Hood.
Robin enters the tournament disguised as a chatty stork from Devonshire and competes against the Sheriff and others while Little John disguised as the Duke of Chutney distracts and panders to Prince John making Sir Hiss suspicious. During the Tournament, Hiss discovers Robin's identity but is trapped in a barrel of ale by Friar Tuck and Alan-a-Dale. Robin wins, but his disguise is blown by Prince John who orders him to be executed, even after Maid Marian pleads to spare Robin's life. Little John then threatens Prince John into releasing Robin, starting a battle between Robin, Little John and Prince John's soldiers. Robin and Maid Marian are reunited and fall in love once again, the townsfolk all retreat into Sherwood Forest where they dub Prince John as the "Phony King of England" while holding a big party.
Enraged upon hearing of this, Prince John increases taxes to impossible amounts and all who cannot pay are put in prison. Alan-a-Dale is among the unfortunate ones, as are most of the people in Nottingham.
The Sheriff visits Friar Tuck's church where he steals money from a charity box, enraging Friar Tuck into attacking the Sheriff, but also leading to his arrest. On hearing that Friar Tuck is in jail, Prince John decides to hang him, hoping that Robin Hood will come to the rescue and get caught.
This prompts Robin and Little John to rescue him. On the night before Friar Tuck's hanging, Robin steals a large amount of taxation money from Prince John's bedroom while Little John frees Friar Tuck and the other prisoners, who all escape on a cart. The Sheriff confronts Robin in Prince John's castle and sets the castle on fire. Robin is forced to flee to the spire of the castle but falls into a river, seemingly shot by archers. He survives, much to Prince John's anger, and the destruction of the castle which belonged to John's beloved mother, sends him into an insanity frenzy, in which he chases and attacks Sir Hiss.
Some time later, King Richard returns from the crusades, snapped out of Hiss's hypnosis and seizes control of England again. King Richard then pardons Robin and Little John, and forces Prince John, Hiss and the Sheriff to do hard labor.
Robin and Maid Marian get married and depart to places unknown with Little John and Skippy in tow.
Initially, the studio considered a movie about Reynard the Fox. However, due to Walt disney's concern that Reynard was an unsuitable choice for a hero, Ken Anderson used many elements from it in Robin Hood.
Robin Allan writes 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."
Reuse of footage, sound, and voice actors
As the film allotted a small budget, the artists referenced footage from previous animated features. A dance sequence in the film was traced from a sequence originally produced for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This is most noticeable during the song-and-dance number, "The Phony King of England"; the characters' movements strongly resemble those from The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A notable example is that the section where Little John and Lady Cluck dance together mirrors part of the song "I Wanna Be Like You" from The Jungle Book with Baloo and King Louie respectively. Other examples include Robin Hood and Maid Marian mirroring the dancing movements of Thomas O'Malley and Duchess during the song "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" from The Aristocats and Maid Marian mirroring the dancing movements of Snow White during the song "The Silly Song" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The animation of Little John, the bear in Robin Hood, is nearly identical to that of Baloo in The Jungle Book. However, Little John more closely resembles a Brown Bear or Grizzly Bear, and Baloo was based on an Indian Sloth Bear. Both characters were voiced by actor Phil Harris, and have similar personalities, though Little John seems a far more responsible character than the "jungle bum" Baloo. Because Maid Marian dances the same moves that Snow White does, she was animated to wear a petticoat instead of bloomers. The robe that Prince John wears, and the crown worn by the puppet version of himself, are the same robe and crown the king wears in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. In addition, Robin Hood's costume (green tunic and feathered cap) is similar to that of 1953's Peter Pan, sometimes leading to confusion between the two characters. At the end of the movie, a sound clip of the church bells ringing in Cinderella was used for the wedding church bells. During the beginning of the film, Sir Hiss mesmerizes Prince John with his eyes. This was the same type of ability Kaa the Indian Python had in Disney's 1967 film, The Jungle Book. This short scene may be another re-use of older animation; Hiss looks similar to Kaa.
At one point, one of the elephants who act as heralds for Prince John attempts to trumpet a warning. Lady Kluck grabs the trunk, preventing the trumpeting and leaving the elephant flapping his ears ineffectually. The same joke was used in The Jungle Book, with identical sound. The vultures in the movie are identical to the ones in The Jungle Book. The movie also reuses the same animated shots several times, including those of the rhinos walking and running and those of Sis and Tagalong Rabbit (Skippy's siblings) and Toby Turtle (his friend, a turtle) laughing. Several animated clips of the Sheriff of Nottingham are also recycled at different points in the film: twice in the film, he says "There's something funny going on around here" in exactly the same tone of voice and with exactly the same posture. The music piece during which the rabbit children run outside to play with the bow and arrow Robin Hood gave them is identical to the scene in Bambi in which Faline chases Bambi up the hill to their mothers after seeing each other for the first time. There is also a point where Prince John goes "Off with his head!" as opposed to the queen in Alice in Wonderland.
Peter Ustinov grew famous playing over-the-top villains. His campy, spoiled, and thoroughly weak-willed portrayal of Prince John is an effective caricature of his own performance as the Roman Emperor Nero in the epic film Quo Vadis. John endlessly sulks over his mother's preference for his brother, a grudge marked by thumb-sucking and the reversion to an infantile state. At one point the behavior culminates in the complaint "Mother always did like Richard best". This is an overt reference to a classic comedy routine by the Smothers Brothers, in which Tom Smothers would bewail the maternal favoritism shown to Dick Smothers. In the historical play and film The Lion in Winter, Richard is indeed shown as being the favorite of their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, while John is the favored son of their father, King Henry II.
Peter Ustinov lent his voice to both the original English-speaking Prince John and the Prince John in the German dubbed version of the movie. Phil Harris's voice as Little John is virtually identical to the voice he used for the character Baloo in Disney's The Jungle Book. Both characters were bears and looked generally similar except for their heads and coloring.
Phil Harris and Andy Devine had both appeared on The Jack Benny Program.
John Fiedler and Barbara Luddy would eventually be cast into the roles of Kanga and Piglet for The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh.
The alternate ending (included in the "Most Wanted Edition" DVD) is a short retelling of the story's conclusion, primarily utilizing still images from Ken Anderson's original storyboard drawings of the sequence. As Robin Hood leaps off of the castle and into the moat, he is wounded (presumably from one of the arrows shot into the water after him) and carried away to the church for safety. Prince John, enraged that he has once again been outwitted by Robin Hood, finds Little John leaving the church, and suspects the outlaw to be there as well. He finds Maid Marian tending to an unconscious Robin Hood, and draws a sword to kill them both. Before Prince John can strike, however, he is stopped by his brother, King Richard, having returned from the Crusades, is appalled to find that Prince John has left his kingdom bleak and oppressed. Abiding his mother's wishes, King Richard decides he cannot banish Prince John from the kingdom, but does grant him severe punishment. King Richard returns Nottingham to its former glory (before leaving for the Third Crusade), and orders Friar Tuck to marry Robin Hood and Maid Marian.
A short finished scene from the planned original ending, featuring King Richard and revealing himself to vulture henchmen Nutsy and Trigger, appeared in the Ken Anderson episode of the 1980s Disney Channel documentary series "Disney Family Album." This scene, at least in animated form, does not appear on the "Most Wanted Edition" DVD.
A few of the voice-actors utilized in this production are British. However, the decision was made to cast quite a number of American character actors in the traditional medieval roles. Many of these individuals were veteran performers from Western-themed movies and television programs, which meant that characters like Friar Tuck and the Sheriff of Nottingham have Southern U.S. accents, and mannerisms more associated with the rural southeastern United States than with England. This effect was further reinforced by the choice of country singer Roger Miller as the movie's songwriter and narrator.
The film was originally released in 1973, followed by a re-release in 1982. The film was released to videocassette in 1984, 1991 (the first two being in the Walt Disney Classics video line), 1994 and 1999 (these two were in the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection video line), staying in general release since 1991. In 2000, it was released on DVD in the Gold Classic Collection. On November 28, 2006, the movie was re-mastered as the "Most Wanted Edition" ("Special Edition" in the UK) featuring a deleted scene/alternate ending, as well as a 16:9 matted transfer to represent its original theatrical screen ratio.
Robin Hood garnered approximately $9.5 million at the box office upon its initial release.
At the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 55% "rotten" rating among critics, summarizing that it was "One of the weaker Disney adaptations, Robin Hood is cute and colorful but lacks the majesty and excitement of the studio's earlier efforts." However, it may be more popular with viewers, since it enjoys a 91% "fresh" rating from the same site's user community.
The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Song for "Love." It lost to "The Way We Were" from the film of the same name.
The American Film Institute nominated Robin Hood for its Top 10 Animated Films list.
- "Whistle-Stop" written and sung by Roger Miller
- "Oo De Lally" written and sung by Roger Miller as Alan-a-Dale the rooster.
- "Love" written by Floyd Huddleston and George Burns, and sung by Nancy Adams.
- "The Phony King of England" written by Johnny Mercer and sung by Phil Harris,
- "The Phony King of England Reprise" sung by Terry-Thomas
- "Not In Nottingham" written and sung by Roger Miller
- "Love Goes On/Oo-De-Lally Reprise" sung by Chorus.
The songs played in the background while Lady Kluck fights off Prince John's goons in an American football manner are better known as Fight On, the fight song of the University of Southern California, and "On, Wisconsin", the fight song of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Although a full soundtrack to Robin Hood has never been released on Compact Disc in the US, a record of the film was made at the time of the film's release in 1973, which included the film's songs, score, narration, and dialogue.
On Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic, this includes "Oo De Lally" on the green disc and "Love" on the purple disc.
The song "Love" was also featured in the 2009 film adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox.