Disney Classics #21: Robin Hood

There have been countless versions of the Robin Hood stories, and this, Disney’s version, remains one of my favourites. It’s a damn sight better than the Russell Crowe version, at least.

robinhood pos

Set in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, this sees the characters of Sherwood Forest reimagined as various critters, while keeping the derring-do and fun of the folklore. Robin (Brian Bedford) and Little John (Phil Harris, rounding off a trio of iconic Disney characters), rob from the rich to feed the poor, running afoul of petty and weak willed Prince John (Peter Ustinov), who seeks to tax the poor and steal the crown while his brother King Richard fights the crusades.

Robin tries to help the people of Nottingham, evade the Sheriff (Pat Buttram) and marry his childhood sweetheart, Maid Marian (Monica Evans). All while hoping that King Richard will return and reclaim his throne.

I love this movie for a few reasons. There’s the great music, including the romantic ballad “Love” and the melancholic “Not in Nottingham”, which plays during a period where the residents of Nottingham are having hard times. I also like the use of a minstrel rooster as a narrator, with Alan-A-Dale (Roger Miller), which is a nice touch, although furthers the distinct American feeling to a traditional British folk tale. But it feels churlish to complain about that. I mean, if Robin’s a fox, does his accent really matter?

What the film gets right is the action portion of the story, with plenty of swashbuckling heroics and some genuine peril along the way. Much of the action is anarchic and fun, with some slapstick thrown in.

robinhood action

Robin is a devil-may-care hero, throwing himself into danger head first to help the people or get one over on King John. There’s a childish glee and lack of fear in the way he approaches life, taking risks and having fun as he does it. It makes him a likeable and fun hero, especially when his schemes include ludicrous disguises and frustrates Prince John.

Ustinov’s Prince is a scene stealing villain, with Ustinov’s voice making him an interesting character, a cowardly, vain and petty dictator who throws tantrums and sulks when things don’t go his way. There’s a nasty edge to him, sure, but he’s more pathetic than terrifying. His interactions with Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas) always make me laugh, as his assistant tries to calm his moods. The thumb sucking would-be king is a memorable villain, and as a villain who already holds a position of power he is able to really impact the lives of others.

robinhood pj

He may not be as cool as other villains, but I think he may be among my favourites. Which kinda goes for my feelings for this film in the Disney ranks. There are better films, with better animation and stronger stories, but this has a special place in my heart. It always makes me happy and puts a smile on my face. I just love it.

Disney Score: 9/10.

Any thoughts?

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