07 January 2020

Robin Hood (1973)

The twenty-first Disney animated feature film Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973) is an imaginative version of the Robin Hood legend. Fun and romance abound as the swashbuckling hero of Sherwood Forest and his valiant sidekick Little John plot one daring adventure after another to outwit the greedy prince John.

Robin Hood (1973)
Italian postcard by Grafiche Biondetti S.R.L., Verona. Image: Disney. Publicity still for Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973).

Robin Hood (1973)
Belgian postcard by Editions Corna, Bruxelles (Brussels), no. 3303. Image: Walt Disney Productions. Publicity still for Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973).

Outlaw

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 (David Hand a.o., 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 Disney's previous production of The Aristocats (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1970).

Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973) is narrated by the rooster Alan-a-Dale, who explains that Robin Hood and Little John live in Sherwood Forest, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor townsfolk of Nottingham. Robin and Little John happen upon the royal entourage which is taking Prince John and his counsellor, Sir Hiss, to Nottingham in order to tax the people there.

Disguised as female fortune-tellers, Robin and Little John effectively steal from Prince John all the gold they can carry and run off into the forest, leaving Prince John sucking his thumb in humiliation.

In Nottingham, Robin uses Friar Tuck to smuggle the stolen gold back to the peasants. Later Robin sees Maid Marian, she and Robin had once been sweethearts as children, but were forced to part ways when she moved to London. Since Robin is an outlaw he waits for marriage. Marian is mistaken when she thinks he has forgotten her: Robin can't stop thinking about her.

Seething with rage, that Robin is winning, John triples the taxes, making the bleak situation in Nottingham even worse. One night, Robin Hood, disguised again as the beggar, learns that Friar Tuck is in jail and will rescue him, save Nottingham once and for all and give Prince John the justice that has been coming to him for a long time...

Robin Hood (1973)
French postcard in the series Le Monde merveilleux de Walt Disney by Editions Kroma, Caissargues, no. 233. Image: Walt Disney Productions. Publicity still for Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973).

Robin Hood (1973)
French postcard by G. Picard, Paris, no. WD 1/6. Image: Disney. Publicity still for Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973).

Great characters with witty and smart dialogues


Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973) is generally considered to be one of the weakest Disney animated classics, but I totally disagree.

Yes, this version of Robin Hood has animals in the roles of the characters, but it works superbly! Robin Hood as a clever fox is a natural choice. And naturally, Maid Marian is a vixen. Prince John and King Richard as lions are also logical choices.

But John is a mane-less lion, who starts sucking his thumb whenever anyone mentions his mother. He is silly, but with a truly evil undercurrent. The Sheriff of Nottingham is also deliciously nasty ("Upsy-daisy"), Other hilarious characters are the vultures Trigger, and Nutsy, and Sir Hiss, the snake. They provide the delicious humour to the film.

Sir Hiss is smarter than any of the other bad guys, but the humour with him is that Prince John never believes him until it's too late, and abuses him afterwards. Trigger's 'old Betsy' (a crossbow) provides plenty of laughs, especially when it goes off. And Nutsy is so stupid he says "One o'clock and all's well!" when it's three o'clock, and when told to set his brain ahead a couple hours, he doesn't know if he has to add or subtract two hours.

Apart from the great characters and their witty and smart dialogues, the film has beautiful background artwork e especially in the love scene, and the music is also good, with the hard and gritty song 'Not in Nottingham' as a highlight.

Robin Hood was a box office hit at the time and it was initially received with positive reviews from film critics who praised the voice cast, animation, and humour, but its critical reception became gradually mixed since its release and recycled scenes of animation have been noted. But despite these flaws, Robin Hood is still a very entertaining Disney classic.

Robin Hood (1973)
Belgian postcard by Editions Corna, Bruxelles (Brussels), no. 3303. Image: Walt Disney Productions. Publicity still for Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973).

Robin Hood (1973)
French postcard in the Les Dessins de Walt Disney series by MD, no. D 430. Image: Disney. Publicity still for Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973).

Robin Hood (1973)
French postcard in the series Le Monde merveilleux de Walt Disney by Editions Kroma, Caissargues, no. 235. Image: Walt Disney Productions. Publicity still for Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973).

Sources: Wikipedia and IMDb.

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