Robin Hood (1973 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Wolfgang Reitherman|
|Produced by||Wolfgang Reitherman|
|Story by||Larry Clemmons|
|Based on||The legend of Robin Hood|
|Narrated by||Roger Miller|
|Music by||George Bruns|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution|
|Box office||$32 million|
Robin Hood is a 1973 American animated musical comedy-adventure film produced by Walt Disney Productions which was first released in the United States on November 8, 1973. As the twenty-first 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 idea to adapt Robin Hood into an animated feature dated back to Walt Disney's interest in the tale of Reynard the Fox during production of 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 production of The Aristocats (1970). Due to casting changes and using experimental locations, production on the film fell behind schedule in which the animators had to recycle several dance sequences from previous Disney animated features in order to meet its deadline.
Robin Hood was released on November 8, 1973 where it was initially received with positive reviews from film critics who praised the voice cast, animation, and humor, but its reception became gradually mixed since its release. During its initial theatrical run, the film was a box office success.
Alan-a-Dale introduces the story of Robin Hood and Little John, two outlaws living in the Sherwood Forest, where they rob from the rich and give to the poor townsfolk of Nottingham, despite the efforts of the Sheriff of Nottingham to stop them. Meanwhile, Prince John and his assistant Sir Hiss arrive in Nottingham on a tour of the kingdom. Knowing the royal coach is laden with riches, Robin and Little John rob Prince John by disguising themselves as fortune tellers. The embarrassed Prince John then puts a bounty on their heads and makes the Sheriff his personal tax collector, who takes pleasure in collecting funds from the townsfolk, including hidden money from the crippled blacksmith Otto and a single farthing from a young rabbit, Skippy, who had just received it as a birthday present. However, Robin Hood, disguised as a beggar, sneaks in and gives back some money to the family, as well as his hat and a bow to Skippy in honor of his birthday.
Skippy, his two sisters, and Skippy's friend Toby test out the bow, but Skippy fires an arrow into the grounds of Maid Marian's castle. The children sneak inside, meeting Maid Marian and her attendant Lady Kluck. Skippy "rescues" Marian from Lady Kluck, who pretends to be a pompous Prince John. Later, when she is alone with Kluck, Maid Marian reveals she and Robin were childhood sweethearts, but they have not seen one another for years; Kluck consoles her not to give up on her love for Robin. Meanwhile, 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 decides to participate in the tournament disguised as a stork whilst Little John disguises himself as the Duke of Chutney to get near Prince John. Robin wins the tournament, but Prince John exposes him and has him arrested for execution despite Maid Marian's pleas. Little John threatens Prince John in order to release Robin, which leads to a fight between Prince John's soldiers and the townsfolk, all of whom escape to Sherwood Forest.
As Robin and Maid Marian fall in love again, the townsfolk have a troubadour festival spoofing Prince John, describing him as the "Phony King of England", and the song soon becomes popular with John's soldiers. Enraged by the insult, Prince John triples the taxes, imprisoning most of the townsfolk who cannot pay. A paltry coin gets deposited into the poor box at Friar Tuck's church, which gets seized by the Sheriff. Enraged that government has meddled in his church, Friar Tuck lashes out at the Sheriff, for which he is quickly arrested. Prince John orders Friar Tuck hung, knowing Robin Hood will come out of hiding to rescue his friend and give the potential for Robin to be caught.
Robin and Little John learn of the plot and sneak in during the night, with Little John managing to free all of the prisoners whilst Robin steals Prince John's taxes with a makeshift ropeway conveyor, 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 Tagalong, Skippy's little sister. During the chase, Prince John's castle catches fire and Robin jumps into the moat, where he is seemingly skewered by the soldiers' arrows. Little John and Skippy fear Robin is lost, but he surfaces safely after using a reed as a breathing tube. Later, King Richard returns to England, placing his brother, Sir Hiss and the Sheriff under arrest and allows his niece Maid Marian to marry Robin Hood.
|Prince John||Lion||Peter Ustinov|
|Robin Hood||Red fox||Brian Bedford|
|Maid Marian||Red fox||Monica Evans|
|Little John||Bear||Phil Harris|
|Friar Tuck||European badger||Andy Devine|
|Lady Kluck||Chicken||Carole Shelley|
|The Sheriff Of Nottingham||Wolf||Pat Buttram|
|The Widow||Rabbit||Barbara Luddy|
|Otto||Dog||J. Pat O'Malley|
|The Captain Of The Guard||Crocodylidae||Candy Candido|
|Sextons Mother||Mus (genus)||Barbara Luddy|
|Sexton||Mus (genus)||John Fiedler|
|King Richard||Lion||Peter Ustinov|
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 would become 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 wrote 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 its deadline, the animators decided to recycle dance sequences from 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, with the latter being chosen. 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 premiered at the Radio City Music Hall on November 9, 1973. The film was re-released on March 26, 1982. 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 in 2006 and featured a deleted scene/alternate ending, as well as a 16:9 matted transfer to represent its original theatrical screen ratio. On August 6, 2013, the film was released as the 40th Anniversary Edition on a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack.
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." Jay Cocks of Time gave the film a mixed review 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." Awarding the film four stars out of five, Ian Nathan, in a contemporary 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."
Decades since the film's release, the film was heavily noted for the recycled scenes of animation. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that the film received a 52% approval rating with an average rating of 5.4/10 based on 25 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."
Awards and honors
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- 2008: AFI's 10 Top 10:
- Nominated Animation Film
|Studio album by Various artists|
|Genre||Classical, Soundtrack, Classic pop|
- "Whistle-Stop" written and sung by Roger Miller
- "Oo-De-Lally" written and sung by Roger Miller
- "Love" written by Floyd Huddleston and George Bruns 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 and Pat Buttram
- "Not in Nottingham" written and sung by Roger Miller
- "Love"/"Oo-De-Lally Reprise" sung by 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. 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 "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.
In December 2014, it was announced that Disney had bought a spec script for a live-action film titled Nottingham & Hood with hopes that it would spawn a new film franchise. The tone is said to be similar to the Pirates of the Caribbean film series.
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