Sly like a fox, that Robin Hood was. So, when Disney decided to bring the epic adventure to the big screen in animated form, they indeed gave the role to an anthropomorphic fox. And they found critters to play each of the famous roles. Marian was also a fox, Prince John and King Richard became lions. Little John was now a bear, Friar Tuck was a badger, and the sinister Sheriff of Nottingham was a wolf – in Walt Disney’s classic 1973 film, Robin Hood.
Fans of the famous Errol Flynn movie (or Kevin Costner’s version, years later) already know the story. While King Richard is off fighting the Crusades, his brother, Prince John, assumes the throne. The poor aren’t faring so well under the Prince, thanks to extensive taxation. But they do have a friend in Robin Hood, who delights in robbing from the rich to pay the poor – a philosophy that leads to several unsuccessful attempts by the Prince to bring Robin Hood to justice.
Knowing that Robin has eyes for the beautiful Maid Marian who also resides at the Castle, the Prince announces that an archery contest will take place and the first prize will be a kiss from the fair maiden. Robin, an expert with the bow and arrow cannot resist the challenge and arrives in disguise to capture the prize. When he is discovered, a madcap chase ensues, one of the many in the film. But Prince John still comes up empty-handed. Finally he is able to capture Friar Tuck and some of the other locals. He announces that they will be hung from the gallows should Robin not turn himself in. It is up to Robin to rescue his friends in an incendiary finale.
Although under a somewhat more constrained budget than some of the earlier fare, Disney still managed to add another classic to their impressive list of animated features. As usual, they assembled an impressive cast of voice talent for Robin Hood that included Peter Ustinov (Prince John,) Andy Devine (Friar Tuck) and Phil Harris (Little John.) Rather than use a medieval score, Disney leaned a little more toward a country and western style that works surprisingly well. One song in particular, “Love,” received an Oscar nomination.
The first animated film released after Walt Disney’s passing, Robin Hood also served as somewhat of a test to determine whether the studio could continue successfully after his demise. With the film bringing in close to $10 million in box-office receipts, the folks at Disney were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief and, thankfully, continue their animated feature films for many years to come. Robin Hood was released on DVD in 2000, ensuring that generations to come could enjoy this classic film.
If you are a fan of the animated version of Robin Hood, we would love for you to share your recollections and thoughts in our comments sections, as we tip our hats to Disney for this childhood favorite.