Steve’s Wonderful Reviews of Disney: Robin Hood

Robin Hood

Release Date: November 8th, 1973

Inspiration: The legend of Robin Hood

Budget: $5 million

Domestic Gross: $32 million

Worldwide Gross: $35 million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 54%

IMDB Score: 7.6/10

Storyline (per IMDB): An imaginative Disney version of the Robin Hood legend. Fun and romance abound as the swashbuckling hero of Sherwood Forest and his valiant sidekick plot one daring adventure after another to outwit the greedy Prince John (Sir Peter Ustinov) and his partner as they put the tax squeeze on the poor.

Pre-Watching Thoughts: We continue on through the 1970s with one of the more polarizing films in the Disney canon as this film has its fans, but also certainly has its detractors as well. This has always been one of my favorites films growing up and I remember watching this one constantly along with another film that we will get to down the line, and I’m hoping that this film has managed to hold up well since it has been a long time since I’ve seen it.

Voice Cast: This last few years has seen a lot of the same names show up for these films and we see a bunch of them return here, but this also is the last appearance for a couple of them as some new voices show up towards the end of the decade. At the top of the list for the returning actors is Phil Harris who voices Little John which is basically a carbon copy of Baloo since both characters are bears and this would be his swan song with Disney. We then have the pairing of Monica Evans and Carole Shelley return as they voice Maid Marian and Lady Cluck respectively, and sadly this would be Evans’ final film role as she would retire after it while Shelley wouldn’t return for quite a while. We then have Pat Buttram return as he voices the Sheriff of Nottingham in a pretty memorable role, and then we have George Lindsay return as Trigger the Vulture and then we have Barbara Luddy who voices the Sexton’s wife in a minor role. Finally we have Candy Candido as the Captain of the Guard and J. Pat O’Malley as Otto the blacksmith in one of his last film roles as he would transition into TV shortly after this. We then come to our debuting actors as we have Brian Bedford who voices Robin Hood in what would be his only appearance in an animated film, and then we have country singer Roger Miller who voices Alan-a-Dale in one of his few film appearances. Next, we have Andy Devine who voices Friar Tuck in what would be one of his final appearances, and then we have Peter Ustinov who voices Prince John as well as King Richard though he is better remembered as Prince John. We then have Terry-Thomas who voices Sir Hiss as he was starting to wind down his career by this point, and then we have Ken Curtis who voices Nutsy the Vulture though he was more famous at this point for being in Gunsmoke. We then have John Fielder who voices Friar Tuck’s Sexton though he would become famous for another role shortly after this, and finally we have the quartet of Billy Whitaker, Dana Laurita, Dori Whitaker, and Richie Sanders as the children Skippy, Sis, Tagalong, and Toby. Again we have a few voices debut here that would become standard bearers for the next couple of films while we bid farewell to a few, and again it will be interesting to see how much longer before the idea of returning voices starts to fizzle out.

Hero/Prince: I had neglected to mention this back in the One Hundred and One Dalmatians review that it was the first time I had a pair of heroes, and now we have the second instance of that happening as we have the duo of Robin Hood and Little John. They are deemed outlaws by Prince John as they rob from the rich and give it back to the poor who is taxed by the Prince, and things come to a head at first at an archery tournament where Robin and John escape the Prince’s plot. Prince John eventually has the entire town arrested after overtaxing them and Robin and John free them while also taking all the Prince’s wealth, and Robin escapes death again and he and John are deemed heroes when King Richard returns to reclaim his throne. Now in most circles, Robin Hood is the main hero and Little John is mainly his sidekick while Robin also had his band of Merry Men who are mysterious absent in this film, but Robin and John are in essence treated as equals and they are fine heroes for the film.

Princess: I was debating whether or not to include this character as a princess since she is never considered a princess even in the folklore, but I feel that she does deserve mentioning and that is Robin Hood’s love interest Maid Marian. She is the niece of King Richard and serves in his court as she remembers Robin Hood when they were children, and she reunites with him and falls in love with him as she is supportive of him in spite of Prince John. After King Richard returns, Marian and Robin get married as Richard muses that he now has an outlaw for an in-law. Again, she technically is not considered a princess though I felt it necessary that she should at least be mention, but she will probably rank at the bottom of the list of princesses.

Villain: We have had 20 films in the Disney canon prior to the release of this film and to this point, Pinocchio had the largest number of villains as they had 5 different villains throughout the film though they were not united under one cause. Here, we once again have 5 villains though they are united in one cause and that is the capture and/or death of Robin Hood as well as taxing the poor. At the top is of course Prince John who was placed in charge of England when his brother King Richard went off on the Third Crusade, and John would extort the poor people in taxes while being aided by his assistant Sir Hiss. He would have his personal collector the Sheriff of Nottingham be the main one in charge of capturing Robin Hood and he uses the vultures Nutsy and Trigger as well as John’s army to do so. They first try to capture Robin by holding an archery tournament which ultimately fails, and John in a fit ends up overtaxing the population of Nottingham and has them all thrown in jail. They devise a plot to lure Robin Hood out by threatening to hang Friar Tuck, but Robin and John save everyone and recover the taxed gold much to John’s chagrin. Before John can retaliate, King Richard returns to reclaim the throne and upon learning of John’s actions, he has John, Hiss, the Sheriff, Nutsy, and Trigger all arrested and working hard labor. Prince John is a classic example of a little brother being extremely jealous of his older and more successful brother, and when he takes the throne in Richard’s absence he becomes drunk with power by taxing the poor and living in excess with the Sheriff serving as his main henchman. He puts on this façade of a great leader, but in reality is a petulant child who complains when he doesn’t get his way, even going as far as to call for his mother and suck his thumb like a baby. Sir Hiss is basically a yes man to Prince John though he does call him out on some of his decisions, while Nutsy and Trigger try their best but are pretty useless as the Sheriff’s main henchmen. It is going to be interesting to see where these villains, in particular Prince John rank amongst the other villains, but in terms of the legend of Robin Hood they are all worthy villains to the great outlaw.

Other Characters: This is interesting because we have quite a number of characters that make up this film, but we have already covered quite a decent number of them and they are the main focus though there are some other characters that get some good time as well. At the top of the list we have Friar Tuck who serves as a protector to the people of Nottingham while supporting Robin Hood, and at one point he is captured by the Sheriff and is set to be lynched only for Robin and Little John to save him as well as the other townspeople. We then have Lady Kluck who is Maid Marian’s friend and lady-in-waiting and at one point fights with Prince John’s men during the archery competition, and then we have Alan-a-Dale who is the minstrel and serves as the narrator to the story though he is also a member of the town. We then have the brief appearance of King Richard at the end when he reclaims the throne from Prince John and has him and his minions arrested, and then we have the townspeople of Nottingham who are supported by Robin Hood and are oppressed by Prince John and his army. While a lot of the film focuses on the main characters of the film, the supporting characters are fine to help fill out the story though they are mainly just there as filler.

Songs: Given that this was a Disney film, you knew that they were going to come up with some songs to fit into the film even though to my knowledge no previous Robin Hood adaptation had featured any songs. The first song from this film is the song played during the opening credits titled “Whistle-Stop” and while it was mainly whistling and no singing it was a pretty catchy song and gets you fired up for the film. The next film is one of the centerpiece songs which is “Oo-De-Lally” sung by Alan-a-Dale which is another fun song early on, and the next one we have is the other centerpiece song “Love” which is sung as a love ballad for Robin and Marian. We then have “The Phony King of England” that Little John sings with the townspeople as they mock Prince John and that is another fun song, and finally we have a slight downer song in “Not in Nottingham” which is sung when the townspeople are imprisoned by Prince John. Again, the songs might not rank up very highly with the rest of the songs in the Disney canon, but they are still pretty good songs and fit just fine into this film.

Plot: When it comes to English folklore, there is perhaps no bigger story besides the story of King Arthur and that is the story of Robin Hood and his Merry Men to the point that there is still question as to whether Robin Hood was in fact a real person. The story is pretty much the same as King Richard leaves to go on the Third Crusade and Prince John is given control, and unlike his respected brother Prince John is a greedy ruler who taxes the poor. Robin Hood is still loyal to Richard and is deemed an outlaw by John due to Robin stealing from the rich and giving it to the poor, and John employs the Sheriff of Nottingham to track down Robin who is assisted by Little John and Friar Tuck. Prince John tries several plots to capture Robin Hood including imprisoning the townspeople only for Robin to free them and steal back the gold, and finally Richard returns and has Prince John along with his minions imprisoned as Robin marries Marian. There had been numerous adaptations of Robin Hood on the big screen and TV prior to this film and even a few animated films made about it as well, but this would arguably be the biggest and most successful adaptation until 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. While most adaptations are more action and have some suspense to them, this version is a fun adaptation though it does have a few dark moments in the film which was common for Disney films.

Random Watching Thoughts: Once again we have the storybook beginning; I find it funny they had to specify each animal as if they thought kids wouldn’t know what each animal was; It was a bit weird they called Marian a “vixen” and not just a “fox”; This is also the second film in a row where we see animations that will be used numerous times throughout the film during the opening credits; Reportedly, the reason while there are so many recycled sequences from previous films was because the film fell behind schedule and they did it to catch up and make sure the film released on time; Another fun fact is that Friar Tuck was originally going to be a pig and not a badger, but it was changed as they felt that having the friar be a pig would be offensive to the Catholic Church; Alan-a-Dale needs to watch how tight he pulls the strings on his lute if one broke up that easily; Robin scoffs at the notion that they are taking too many chances while an arrow is embedded in his hat near inches from going his head; Bit of fat shaming of John by Robin when he says the Sheriff and his posse couldn’t get him off the ground to hang him; It’s funny they tried to avoid the arrows only for John to then use one of them as a back scratcher; Prince John has got himself quite the convoy with a pack of elephants, hippos, and rhinos as his security; Is he that paranoid that he needed 6 padlocks on that chest?; So they had to have either been returning to or coming from London if they are going through Nottingham; It was interesting they had it be a plot by John and Hiss to send Richard off on the Crusade when in real life Richard went willingly; It’s mentioned about how John sucks his thumb, but what’s not talked about enough is how he tugs on his ear at the same time; Did Robin and John have these outfits stashed away somewhere because they were not carrying them at all when we first met them; Funny how Little John says there’s a law against robbing royalty, but yet they do it all the time by robbing the rich which would probably be royalty; A note is that Robin takes Prince John’ ring off before kissing his hand, but when he puts his finger in his ear the ring is on the finger though it is missing the jewel; Robin is quite the actor knowing he was having to say those nice things about Prince John and he didn’t believe them; Prince John’s name did go down in history, but not the way he probably wanted it; How much gold does Prince John have that he was able to have gold hubcaps for his carriage?; Little John must’ve had quite a bit of room in his dress to be able to fit all that gold; A bit scandalous scene there of Little John teasing the rhino guard; How was Robin able to coerce Prince John into giving him his robe?; The guards just kept right on going not even realizing that Prince John had falling out of the carriage; So Prince John offered 1,000 pounds for the capture of Robin Hood; Nottingham was quite the slum with all those houses being seized for taxes; Of all the places to hide the gold, why would you hide it in Otto’s cast?; It’s amazing that with such a large family that the mother can keep track of everyone’s birthday unless a bunch of them are twins; The Sheriff is real cold to not only take Skippy’s birthday present, but to also take the two other pieces of gold from the beggar not knowing it is Robin in disguise; I don’t know if I would be giving a 7 year old a bow and arrow as a gift; We got three rabbits and a turtle as friends because this was many years before “The Tortoise and the Hare”; Considering he only had one arrow, Skippy should’ve taken his sister’s advice and not shot it so high that it went into the castle ground; Of all the things do to when taking that oath, they had to cross their eyes?; I always thought badminton was first created in the 19th century, well apparently not since Marian and Lady Kluck are playing it; The shuttlecock goes down Kluck’s dress yet somehow manages to land exactly next to the arrow; Sis is eager to throw Skippy under the bus for exposing them yet it was Tagalong’s sneeze that gave them away; The children are so keen to see Marian marry Robin yet she thinks he’s forgotten her; Kluck was spot on in her mocking of Prince John all the way down to the thumb suck; The poster on the tree offered 1,000 pounds for Robin’s capture yet the one that Marian has in her closet says 1,000 ingots; Robin and Little John carved themselves out quite a bachelor pad in the forest; The pot was boiling over at one point yet Little John was able to pour several spoonfuls of water into it without it spilling over; That was a bit rude of Friar Tuck to just help himself to whatever they were making and he was quite a good amount of it; This archery tournament was quite the elaborate plan for Prince John to come up with to try and catch Robin; Another animation snafu is the ring Prince John is wearing is missing a jewel when he goes to rub his ear, but in the next shot the jewel is there; Hiss must really admire Prince John if he is willing to take his abuse that much; Bushel britches is quite the nickname that they came up with for the Sheriff; In case anyone was wondering, what Prince John said in French was “Such know how, brilliance, verve, and dynamism”; A nice callback there as Prince John remembers what happened last time and doesn’t let Little John kiss his hand; That is quite the array of archers competing and the shaggy dog can’t be bothered to carry his bow as he drags it on the ground; How was Hiss able to get into that balloon and considering that it could be filled with either oxygen or helium, how is he able to breathe easily without suffocating?; They haven’t seen each other since they were children yet Marian was quickly able to realize it was Robin in that disguise just by staring into his eyes; Again, how much gold does Prince John have that he can just have a golden arrow made?; The shaggy dog had to blow his fur up to see, yet it came back down and blocked his vision when he made the shot; If Robin wanted to not make it as obvious, he should’ve botched the first few shots intentionally and then picked it up towards the end especially since he tells the Sheriff he’s not that good right before he hits a perfect bullseye; I do like the touch of Robin using a bow and arrows made out of branches; The Sheriff says he can spot Robin through his disguises not realizing that he’s talking to Robin in disguise; If Hiss says he doesn’t drink, he’s going to be in trouble if he stays in that barrel for too long; It’s funny because Prince John is a whiner and a child, yet he is more devious than you think because he has clearly deduced the stork is Robin and is playing along with everything; They said to move the target back 3 paces yet Nutsy looked like he took a good 10-15 paces back; Prince John was not fooling around by sentencing Robin to sudden, instant, and immediate death, and he even had the executioner there to do it; Prince John tells Little John not to choke him so hard yet he says nothing about the sword jabbing into his back; Prince John was all tough until Robin knocked the sword out of his hand and he went running like a coward; Kluck tells Marian that this is no place for a lady as she jumps right into the fight; That’s quite the expensive honeymoon going to London, Normandy, and Spain; That’s an exact number of children to have and Marian seems way too eager considering she then bumped it up from 6 to a dozen; An interesting fun fact is during the scene where Kluck fights off the guards, the music is a mashup of the fight songs for the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin; As expected, Hiss proves himself to be a lightweight when it comes to drinking; As great a sequence as this is with “The Phony King of England”, it does hurt a bit when you know that most of the animations are borrowed from other films; You know the song became catchy when even the Sheriff and Hiss are singing it even though it is mocking Prince John; Does Prince John realize that by taxing the townspeople so much that they ended up in jail and now no one there will be paying him taxes?; This is a pretty sad scene seeing all of the townspeople in jail; That was a quick appearance by the Sheriff as he showed up right as the Sexton’s wife gave Friar the farthing; That’s quite a threat from the Sheriff to hang a man of the Church; I was wondering if Prince John was thinking of punishing Marian but didn’t because she is family; It’s safe to say that Prince John is obsessed with Robin that he is willing to have Friar Tuck executed just to draw Robin out; Nutsy was so willing to test the trapdoor even though he knew the Sheriff was standing on it; They were hiding behind one wall and then a second later they managed to sneak to another wall right behind Nutsy; Nutsy says that it’s 1:00 yet the clock clearly says 3:00; Trigger was so confident his crossbow was safely locked yet he shot the arrow just like that; The Sheriff was smart to have Trigger go ahead of him; Why would Little John just think to slam the door like that?; You would think that after being robbed as much as he has that Prince John would keep the gold locked up and under constant guard, not in his bedroom just begging to be taken; I feel that Friar saying that line about the tax rebate was an inside joke since most religions are tax-exempt; Ironically one of the prisoners was a stork that looks suspicious like Robin did when he was in disguise; That was a super quick turnaround for Little John to kidnap the Sheriff, tie him up, takes his clothes, and then take his place in the chair; I wonder what time of year it was that the sun was already starting to come up at 4AM; One of the arrows pierces a bag yet amazingly nothing falls out of it; Was that another inside joke to have the raccoons dressed as robbers?; How strong was Alan-a-Dale’s lute that it deflected the arrows with none of them piercing it?; Those guards are not great shots since it seems like they are missing Robin quite often; The Sheriff should’ve been a bit more cautious if he’s going to swing a flaming torch around like that in a closed space; Prince John was so confident Robin was killed even though he never saw the body float up to the surface; The look on Robin’s face when Skippy said he could’ve swam twice that far; Considering that Robin was standing there for quite a while, you would think Prince John would’ve told his archers to keep firing at him; Prince John was able to clearly spit out his insults to Hiss and chase after him while keeping his thumb in his mouth; Why does Prince John have to use the bigger hammer and the Sheriff gets the smaller hammer?; Good callback by King Richard saying he has an outlaw for an in-law after Kluck made the joke earlier to Marian; Did Skippy’s mother really give him permission to go with Robin and Marian?; That arrow must be bouncing off a lot of things for them to have to constantly avoid it.

Overall Thoughts: Overall, this film was still just as enjoyable as it was when I was a child, but it was not quite as good as some of the other films in this canon. It is interesting to see these films get good reviews when they come out only for the reviews to become more mixed to negative as the years go on, and sadly this is one of those films that suffers that as it is not held in high regard like when it first came out. The early part of the decade has been pretty tumultuous around the world with the American populace being fed up with the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal was dominating the news, and Disney was experiencing some highs with the opening of Walt Disney World two years earlier. It will be a few years until the release of the next film and we were about to see a major shift in the animation studios, but we will get to that when we get there. As for this film, it is a solid film and is still a lot of fun though it doesn’t reach the same status as some of the other legendary films released to this point.

Final Grade: 7/10

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