Disney’s Robin Hood at 45

Little John and Robin Hood in Disney's Robin Hood.

Disney’s Robin Hood holds up quite well as the animated classic celebrates 45 years since hitting the big screen in 1973.  It’s not a perfect film by any means as the film has its faults.  In the time since it’s release, we’ve seen a number of incarnations of the hooded Sherwood Forest outlaw.  This includes another film here in the next few weeks.

Disney modeled their version of Robin Hood after Reynard the fox as they give us a version that features animals rather than people.  Looking back, using animals serves as a great choice to attract children to the theater.  The villains are not depicted in a way that will scares viewers like Ursula in The Little Mermaid.

Staying true to the legend, both Robin Hood and Little John are hiding out in Sherwood Forest.  They steal money from the rich and give back to the poor.  This is in spite of the Sheriff of Nottingham’s best efforts to stop them.  Having a wolf be the sheriff is very much a cliche due to Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs.   Only when Prince John and Sir Hiss arrive does the action start to come along.  Prince John places a bounty on Hood’s head after his money was stolen.

Despite serving as the love interest, Maid Marian doesn’t appear in over half the film.  Yes, Robin and Marian get their happy ending especially after Prince John, Sir Hiss and The Sheriff of Nottingham end up in jail.  The amount of her screen time is something that ought to change in any live-action adaptation.

As far as the story goes, it works.  At one point, the film was going to be a western and that would have been an awful idea.  Robin Hood only works in traditional settings. Even the contemporary films don’t work without this key setting.  In turning to animals, the story takes from the Reynard fable but only to an extent.  Reynard would not have made for a popular film choice.  Some of the animals would follow from one tale to the other, including the fox and wolf.

Whether you want to call it laziness or just merely recycling what’s been done in the past, Robin Hood recycles backgrounds and such from earlier animated films.  The film is allowed to get away with this activity because animation in the 1970s isn’t the same as today.  This isn’t to take away anything from the film in general.  It does show that these animated classics will recycle from previous films.  The film recycled sequences from Snow White, The Jungle Book, and The Aristocats.

There’s plenty of potential here for a live-action adaptation.  If Prince John is supposed to be a lion, he needs to look more like a lion.  Disney could probably tone it up a notch or two for such a film.  Hood is a darker character in theory so I understand why they played him up as a hero.  He’s an anti-hero through and through.  Play the character similar to how he’s depicted on Once Upon A Time.

The cute and enjoyable Robin Hood came to mark an end of an era for animated Walt Disney films.  John Lounsbery became the first of Disney’s Nine Old Men to pass away before the next animated release.

DIRECTOR:  Wolfgang Reitherman
CAST:  Phil Harris, Andy Devine, Peter Ustinov, Terry-Thomas, Brian Bedford, Monica Evans, Carole Shelley, Pat Buttram, Roger Miller

Walt Disney Productions/Buena Vista Distribution opened Robin Hood in theaters on November 8, 1973.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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