Robin Hood (1973 film)
Robin Hood is a 1973 American animated adventure 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, Pat Buttram, Monica Evans, and Carole Shelley.
Original theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Wolfgang Reitherman|
|Produced by||Wolfgang Reitherman|
|Based on||The legend of Robin Hood|
|Music by||George Bruns|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution|
|Box office||$32 million|
The idea to adapt Robin Hood into an animated feature dated back to Walt Disney's 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 which 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 was a box office success.
Narrated by Alan-a-Dale, we are introduced to Robin Hood and Little John who live in Sherwood Forest, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor townsfolk of Nottingham. Meanwhile, Prince John, the de facto 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 John's 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 the inhabitants of Nottingham excessively. However, Robin gives back some money to a family of rabbits and gives a bow and arrow and his hat to the young rabbit Skippy for his birthday. Skippy and his friends test out the bow, but Skippy fires an arrow into the grounds of Maid Marian's castle. Skippy sneaks inside, meeting Maid Marian and her lady-in-waiting 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 in disguise whilst Little John arrives as the Duke of Chutney to get near Prince John. Sir Hiss discovers Robin's 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 sentences him to death despite Maid Marian's pleas. Little John threatens Prince John with a dagger which leads to a fight between Robin, Little John, Maid Marian, Lady Kluck, and Prince John's soldiers and culminates in Robin and his allies escaping.
In the forest, Robin and Maid Marian share a romantic evening, then are surprised by his “merry men” who throw a party and 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 pay their taxes. The Sheriff visits Friar Tuck's church to steal from the poor box, which angers Friar Tuck and he attacks the Sheriff and is arrested. Prince John plans to hang Friar Tuck to lure in Robin and kill him. Robin and Little John sneak into the castle, with Little John managing to free all of the prisoners whilst Robin steals Prince John's gold, but Sir Hiss awakens to find Robin fleeing. Chaos ensues as Robin and the others try to escape to Sherwood Forest. However, the Sheriff corners Robin after he returns to rescue Skippy's younger sister. The two fight, accidentally setting fire to Prince John's 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 presumably shot and drowned, only to emerge unharmed. Prince John despairs and is driven into a blind rage when Sir Hiss points out his mother's castle is on fire.
Later, King Richard returns to England, places his brother, Sir Hiss, and the Sheriff under arrest and pardons Robin, allowing him and Maid Marian to marry and leave Nottingham with Little John and Skippy in tow.
- Brian Bedford as Robin Hood, a gifted archer who is devoted to helping the poor and downtrodden townspeople. He is portrayed as a fox.
- Monica Evans as Maid Marian, a vixen, niece of King Richard and the primary love interest of Robin Hood.
- Phil Harris as Little John, Robin Hood's best friend, who though not small at all is still called "Little John". Portrayed as a bear, he is modeled after The Jungle Book's Baloo, as both characters are voiced by Phil Harris and were animated by the same Disney animators.
- Roger Miller as Alan-a-Dale, a rooster who serves as the narrator of the film.
- Andy Devine as Friar Tuck, the town's local priest who protects the villagers of Nottingham. He is portrayed as a badger.
- Peter Ustinov as Prince John, a greedy and cowardly lion who is the Prince Regent of England. He has the habit of sucking his thumb when someone mentions his mother. Ustinov also voiced Prince John in the German version of the film.
- Terry-Thomas as Sir Hiss, Prince John's serpent advisor who is manipulative and prideful.
- Carole Shelley as Lady Kluck, a Scottish hen who is the lady-in-waiting for Maid Marian.
- Pat Buttram as the Sheriff of Nottingham, a heartless wolf who enjoys collecting taxes on behalf of Prince John.
- George Lindsey and Ken Curtis as Trigger and Nutsy, respectively, vulture guardsmen.
- John Fiedler and Barbara Luddy as Sexton and his wife, respectively, church mice. Luddy also voiced Mother Rabbit, the mother of Skippy, Sis, and Tagalong.
- Billy Whitaker, Dana Laurita, Dori Whitaker, and Richie Sanders as Skippy, Sis, Tagalong, and Toby, respectively, local children of Nottingham who idolize Robin Hood. Skippy, Sis, and Tagalong are rabbits while Toby is a turtle.
- Candy Candido as the Captain of the Guard, a crocodile who hosts the archery tournament.
- J. Pat O'Malley as Otto, a dog blacksmith with a lame leg.
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 Walt's 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. That's the trouble – too sophisticated. We'll 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 studio's 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 Rostand's 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 Reitherman's 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 Robin's 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).
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 Blackbeard's 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, Let's "Hear" it For Robin Hood, which he sold to Disneyland Records.
The film was first released on VHS, CED, Betamax, and Laserdisc on December 3, 1984, becoming the debut 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. 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.
Judith Crist, reviewing the film in 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 Ustinov's plummy Prince John, the voice characterisations are as insipid as the animation is unoriginal."
Decades since the film's 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 website's consensus states that "One of the weaker Disney adaptations, Robin Hood is cute and colorful but lacks the majesty and excitement of the studio's earlier efforts." Metacritic gave the film a score of 57 based on 9 reviews.
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 since become a fan favorite. Disney animator and director Byron Howard admitted that Robin Hood was his favorite film while growing up and cited it as a major influence on Zootopia. It was also one of the many inspirations for the then-emerging furry fandom. Some of the characters from the film also cameoed in the 1983 Oscar-nominated featurette short Mickey's Christmas Carol. The film was nominated for a spot on AFI's 10 Top 10 by American Film Institute in 2008 for the Animated Film list.
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. It was also 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.
In April 2020, it was reported that Disney is developing a live-action/CG hybrid remake of Robin Hood featuring the same kind of anthropomorphic characters as in the 1973 film, with Kari Granlund writing and Carlos Lopez Estrada directing, while Justin Springer will produce the film. The remake will be released exclusively on Disney+.
|Studio album by |
|Genre||Classical, Soundtrack, Classic pop|
|Walt Disney Animation Studios chronology|
|1.||"Whistle-Stop"||Roger Miller||Roger Miller|
|2.||"Oo-De-Lally"||Roger Miller||Roger Miller|
|3.||"Love"||Floyd Huddleston, George Bruns||Nancy Adams|
|4.||"The Phony King of England"||Johnny Mercer||Phil Harris|
|5.||"The Phony King of England (Reprise)"||Pat Buttram and Terry-Thomas|
|6.||"Not in Nottingham"||Roger Miller||Roger Miller|
|7.||"Love/Oo-De-Lally Reprise"||Disney Studio Chorus|
The music played in the background while Lady Kluck fights off Prince John's 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. "Love" is featured in the soundtrack for the 2009 film Fantastic Mr. Fox, directed by Wes Anderson. "Oo-De-Lally" is featured in the 2015 compilation album This Record Belongs To.... 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.
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- The Many Character Cameos in Mickey's Christmas Carol|Oh My Disney
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- on YouTube
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