While the film was a box-office success and is widely popular with audiences, the film has been met with a mixed critical response and lack of flexibility in the commercial market. The heavy use of recycled animation is also criticized.
Alan-a-Dale introduces the story of Robin Hood and Little John, two outlaws living in 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 and his friends 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, and 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. Sir Hiss discovers Robin's identity but is trapped in a barrel of ale by Friar Tuck. 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 which 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, to which he is quickly arrested for "attacking a lawman, interfering with the Sheriff's legal duties and high treason to the Crown". 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 and a "double hanging".
Robin and Little John, having learned of the plot, chose to sneak in during the night, with Little John managing to free all of the prisoners whilst Robin steals Prince John's taxes, 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 the Sheriff figures he has Robin where he wants, either to be captured, burned, or make a risky jump into the moat. Robin Hood elects to jump. Little John and Skippy fear Robin is lost, but he surfaces safely after using a reed as a breathing tube. Sir Hiss says he tried to warn Prince John, and now look what he did to his mother's castle, causing the Prince to exclaim "Mummy!" and suck his thumb and chase the terrified snake into the burning castle.
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, turning the former outlaw into an in-law.
- Robin Hood, a fox, voice: Brian Bedford
- Little John, a bear, voice: Phil Harris
- Prince John, a lion, voice: Peter Ustinov
- Friar Tuck, a badger, voice: Andy Devine
- Sir Hiss, a snake, voice: Terry-Thomas
- Maid Marian, a vixen, voice: Monica Evans
- Lady Kluck, a Chicken/hen, voice: Carole Shelley
- Sheriff of Nottingham, a wolf, voice: Pat Buttram
- Alan-A-Dale, a rooster, voice: Roger Miller
- Trigger & Nutsy, vultures, voices: George Lindsey and Ken Curtis, respectively
- Father Sexton and Mother Little Sister, mice, voice: John Fiedler and Barbara Luddy, respectively.
- Mother Rabbit, Sis, Tagalong, and Skippy, rabbits, voice: Barbara Luddy, Dana Laurita, Dori Whitaker, Billy Whitaker, respectively
- Otto, a dog, voice: J. Pat O'Malley
- Toby, a turtle, voice: Richie Sanders
- King Richard, a lion, voice: Peter Ustinov
- Captain Crocodile, a crocodile, voice: Candy Candido
A few of the voice-actors utilized in this production are/were British (Bedford, Evans, Ustinov, Thomas, Shelley, and O'Malley). However, the creators of the film made the decision to cast quite a number of American character actors in the traditional medieval roles. Many of these individuals were veteran performers from Western-themed movies and television programs, which meant that characters like Friar Tuck and the Sheriff of Nottingham have accents and mannerisms more associated with the rural southwestern United States than with England. This effect was further reinforced by the choice of country singer Roger Miller as the movie's songwriter and narrator.
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 sosphicated. We'll take a nosedive doing it with animals." For Treasure Island, 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 mid-1960s, in favor of The Sword in the Stone (1963).
Ken Anderson blended his ideas with the legend of Robin Hood 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. 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. 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 Ward Kimball 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 the director 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, so Little John was the only Merry Man who remained in the film, whle Friar Tuck was put as a friend of Robin's who live in Nottingham, and Alan-a-Dale was turned in the narrator. Because of the time spent on developing several settings and auditioning actors to voice Robin Hood, production fell behind schedule.
As the film was made during Disney's financial slump following the completion of Phase One of the Florida Project and therefore allotted a small budget, the artists reused footage from previous animated features. This is most noticeable during the song-and-dance number, "The Phony King of England"; the characters' movements strongly resemble those from The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
In particular, the section where Little John and Lady Kluck dance together mirrors part of the song "I Wanna Be Like You" from The Jungle Book with Baloo and King Louie respectively, and Robin Hood and Maid Marian mirror the dancing movements of Thomas O'Malley and Duchess during the song "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" from The Aristocats (from which some of the musicians also mirror the movements of Scat Cat and his gang) and Maid Marian mirror dancing the movements of Snow White during the song "The Silly Song" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The animation of Little John, the bear in Robin Hood, is nearly identical to that of Baloo in The Jungle Book, but Little John more closely resembles a brown or grizzly bear (Baloo was based on an Indian Sloth Bear). Both characters were voiced by actor Phil Harris, and have similar personalities, though Little John seems a far more responsible character than the "jungle bum" Baloo. When Maid Marian, dances the same moves as Snow White, she is caused to wear a petticoat instead of bloomers. The robe that Prince John wears, and the crown worn by the puppet version of him, are the same robe and crown the king wears in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. In addition, Robin Hood's costume (green tunic and feathered cap) is similar to that of 1953's Peter Pan, sometimes leading to confusion between the two characters. At the end of the movie, a sound clip of the church bells ringing in Cinderella was used for the wedding church bells. During the beginning of the film, Sir Hiss mesmerizes Prince John with his eyes. This was the same type of ability Kaa the snake had in Disney's 1967 film, The Jungle Book. This short scene also appears to be another re-use of older animation.
At one point, one of the elephants who acts as heralds for Prince John attempts to trumpet a warning. Lady Kluck grabs the trunk, preventing the trumpeting and leaving the elephant flapping his ears ineffectually. The same joke was used in The Jungle Book, with identical sound.
The vultures in the movie are identical to one of those (Buzzy) in The Jungle Book.
The movie also reuses the same animated shots several times, including those of the rhinos walking and running and those of Sis, Tagalong, and Toby laughing. Several animated clips of the Sheriff of Nottingham are also recycled at different points in the film.
Box office and Reception
At the time leading up to its release, Robin Hood had a bit of a burden to carry — many observers were treating it as a benchmark to determine whether or not the studio could carry on without the late Walt Disney since this was the studio's first animated feature produced without his involvement. Since Disney had attached his name to all his previous films, it gave the impression among many that the studio was nothing without him. Had the film failed, this impression might have been cemented and might have done serious damage to the studio's reputation. However, Robin Hood was very successful upon its initial release, garnering around $9.5 million, the biggest Disney attraction at that time. Its 1982 re-release brought in even more income.
Critical response was (and remains) somewhat mixed. Judith Crist said it was "nicely tongue-in-cheek without insult to the intelligence of either child or adult." she also notes that the film "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 said that the film "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." The Montreal Gazette said that when "Disney cartoon films ... are good, they are very good" and that "there are not many films around these days which an entire family can attend and enjoy. Robin Hood is one of them." New York Magazine called the film "a sweet, funny, slam-bang, good-hearted Walt Disney feature cartoon with a fine cast" and said it was "a feast for the eyes for kiddies and Disney nostalgics." The Milwaukee Sentinel said that the film was "excellent children's fare" and singles out Ustinov's Prince John as "delightful" and says he "practically steals the movie."
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that "although Robin Hood can't compare with the best Disney cartoon features (Fantasia, Pinocchio, and Cinderella among them), it's on a par with the company's most recent full-length cartoon, The Jungle Book. The Calgary Herald called Prince John and Sir Hiss "the year's most endearing pair of movie villains." It added that "this offering may lack the dramatic and artistic peaks of the more legendary Disney triumphs of the Forties, but it is a good deal funnier than anything we have seen from this studio for several outings."
Reviews written decades after the initial release of the film have been more mixed. At the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes it has a 55% "Rotten" rating based on 22 reviews. The site's overall assessment is that the film is: "One of the weaker Disney adaptations, Robin Hood is cute and colorful but lacks the majesty and excitement of the studio's earlier efforts."
The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Song for "Love." It lost to "The Way We Were" from the film of the same name. The American Film Institute nominated Robin Hood for its Top 10 Animated Films list.
- Main article: Robin Hood (video)
The movie was originally released in 1973, followed by a re-release in 1982. The film was released to videocassette in 1984, 1991 (the first two being in the Walt Disney Classics video line), 1994 and 1999 (these two were in the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection video line), staying in general release since 1991. In 2000, it was released on DVD in the Gold Classic Collection. On November 28, 2006, the movie was remastered as the "Most Wanted Edition" featuring a deleted scene/alternate ending, as well as a 16:9 matted transfer.
As one of the earliest Disney animated features to be released on home video, it is also one of the few to have been released on every home video format. Portions of the film have also been sold on Super 8 reels. It was also shown many times on the Disney Channel during the 1980s and 90s.
International release dates
- Argentina: December 6, 1973
- Italy: October 10, 1974
- Sweden: November 30, 1974
- Spain: December 5, 1974
- France: December 13, 1974
- West Germany: December 13, 1974
- Denmark: December 26, 1974
- Norway: December 26, 1974
- Hong Kong: January 23, 1975
- Japan: July 5, 1975
- Initially, the studio considered a movie about Reynard the Fox (which had previously been made as a stop-motion film in 1937 by pioneering French filmmaker, Ladislas Starevich). However, due to Walt Disney's concern that Reynard was an unsuitable choice for a hero, Ken Anderson used many elements from it in Robin Hood.
- Director Byron Howard has stated that the creation of Zootopia was the thought of creating a modern Robin Hood movie with modern CG technology.
- The voices of Mother Rabbit, Mother Mouse, and Father Mouse would be cast in the roles of Kanga and Piglet from Winnie the Pooh.
- Peter Ustinov grew famous playing over-the-top villains. His campy, spoiled, and thoroughly weak-willed portrayal of Prince John is an effective caricature of his own performance as the Roman emperor Nero in the epic film Quo Vadis (1951).
- Phil Harris and Andy Devine had both appeared on The Jack Benny Program.
- Robin Hood, Little John, Friar Tuck, Trigger, Prince John, and the Sheriff of Nottingham appear at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts as meetable characters.
- This is a unique version of Robin Hood that gives Prince John the place of main villain instead of the Sheriff of Nottingham.
- The mice bear an almost identical resemblance to those in The Aristocats.
- Many Robin Hood characters make cameo appearances in various episodes of the House of Mouse television series.
- Little John and the Sheriff of Nottingham make cameo appearances in the direct-to-video release Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse.
- John endlessly sulks over his mother's preference for his brother, a grudge marked by thumb-sucking and the reversion to an infantile state. At one point the behavior culminates in the complaint "Mother always did like Richard best." This is a sly reference to a classic comedy routine by the Smothers Brothers, in which Tom Smothers would bewail the maternal favoritism shown to Dick Smothers. ("Dick" is a common nickname for Richard.) In the historical play and film The Lion in Winter, Richard is indeed shown as being the favorite of their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, while John is the favored son of their father, King Henry II.
- The church bell on Friar Tuck's church is an actual bell, filmed and added in post-production.
- Friar Tuck was originally envisioned as a pig but was changed to a badger to avoid offending religious sensitivities.
- Peter Ustinov lent his voice to both the original English-speaking Prince John and Prince John in the German dubbed version of the movie. Although Ustinov also voiced King Richard in the English version, he doesn't do that character's German voice.
- Phil Harris's voice as Little John is virtually identical to the voice he used for the character Baloo in Disney's The Jungle Book. Both characters were bears and looked generally similar except for their color.
- In the jailbreak scene, "God forgive Prince John" is written on the wall when Little John and Friar Tuck enter. Preceding this, in Friar Tuck's cell, the words "Forgive them all" is carved in the wall to the right of Friar Tuck.
- The alternate ending included in the "Most Wanted Edition" DVD) is a short retelling of the story's conclusion, using still images of colored concept art instead of animation. As Robin Hood leaps off of the castle and into the moat, he is wounded by the arrows shot into the water after him and is carried away by Little John to the church for safety. Prince John enraged that he has once again been outwitted by Robin Hood, follows their trail with Sir Hiss. They see Little John leaving the church and suspect the outlaw to be there as well. Sure enough, inside the church, Prince John finds Maid Marian tending to an unconscious Robin Hood, and draws a dagger to kill the unconscious outlaw. Before Prince John can strike, however, he is stopped by the appearance of his brother, King Richard, who is appalled to find his kingdom bleak and oppressed in his absence. Abiding his mother's wishes, King Richard decides he can't banish Prince John from the kingdom, but doesn't pardon him from severe punishment. King Richard returns Nottingham to its former glory (before leaving for the third crusade), and orders Friar Tuck to marry Robin Hood and Maid Marian.
- A short finished scene from the planned original ending, featuring King Richard stopped by, and revealing himself to, Nutsy and Trigger, appeared in the Ken Anderson episode of the 1980s Disney Channel documentary series Disney Family Album. This scene, at least in animated form, doesn't appear on the "Most Wanted Edition" DVD.
- In one scene of the film, where Kluck is fighting the men of Prince John, the University of Wisconsin fight song, "On Wisconsin," is played.
- Nancy Adams, who sang "Love" as Maid Marian's singing voice, was the wife of one of its songwriters, Floyd Huddleston. The song was later featured in the 2009 stop-motion animated film version of Fantastic Mr. Fox.
- The film is referenced in Mel Brooks' 1993 film Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
- Jim Henson's Labyrinth contains a pan-shot of Sarah's book collection, including a book version of Robin Hood with the title character pictured on the front cover.
- The theme song for the film played during a T-Mobile commercial during the 2014 Super Bowl.
- This is one of the Disney animated films to have no humans (not counting the opening sequence showing artwork of the human equivalents in a book).
- Assistant animator (at the time) Floyd Norman admitted on one of his Facebook photos that he personally hated the character Skippy because of his "obnoxious brat" personality.
- "Oo-de-lally" Written and Sung by Roger Miller
- "Not In Nottingham" Written and Sung by Roger Miller
- "Whistle Stop" Written and Sung by Roger Miller
- "Love" Written by Floyd Huddleston and George Bruns Sung by Nancy Adams
- "The Phony King of England" Written by Johnny Mercer Sung by Phil Harris
"Whistle Stop" by Roger Miller was sampled and the pitch increased for use on The Hampster Dance website. This sample was later used by the Cuban Boys as part of their song "Cognoscenti Vs. Intelligentsia." A dance remix using the sample also became a popular hit on Radio Disney.
The music played in the background while Lady Kluck fights off Prince John's goons in an American football style manner is better known as Fight On, the fight song of the University of Southern California and On Wisconsin, the fight song of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Although a full soundtrack to Robin Hood has never been released on Compact Disc in the US, a record of the film was made at the time of the film's release, including the film's songs and score.
- Robin Hood DVD at Official Disney Website
- Detailed Info on Robin Hood including Don Bluth's involvement
- Robin Hood: Most Wanted Edition DVD Review