A Fascinating Day In Animation History: Disney’s ‘Robin Hood’ (1973)

Robin Hood 1978

This segment will pay homage to great (and not-so-great) animated films in history.

So, forty years ago a movie came out that may have had an exceedingly low-budget, but also has an incredibly high quotability and musical ranking. Walt Disney’s Robin Hood released in the US on November 8, 1973 to great critical acclaim. It has an 83 minute running time and about 587 classic one-liners:

“Sire, if you don’t mind my saying, you have a very loud thumb.”

Some factoids about Disney’s 21st Animated Feature: a lot of the character designs and concept art came from a rendition of Reynard-the-fox that was never realized. Ken Anderson reportedly wept when he saw how his designs for Reynard were being used. The movie is infamous for its recycled animation sequences, such as the dancing that was copied from Snow White and The Aristocats. Both USC and University of Wisconsin’s fight songs are used in the film. Friar Tuck was originally supposed to be a pig, but it was deemed too anti-Catholic. Sheriff was a goat, but it was deemed too different—much better to rehash classic animal stereotypes of wolves as villains.

The “Most Wanted Edition,” which Disney put out this year to commemorate the 40th Anniversary, includes an alternate ending in which Robin Hood is badly wounded by one of the arrows in the castle scene at the end. Robin is taken to the church to recover, but Prince John comes to finish Robin off. He is stopped from killing Robin Hood by King Richard. The decision was (rightly) made to divert from that finale largely because Prince John was not believable as such a nefarious, suddenly competent villain.

I love this movie because it is fun. The movie doesn’t EVER take itself too seriously and yet it conveys a message about power and corruption within its lighthearted frame. The anthropomorphic characters are such classic figures in my mind now, that I can’t imagine them animated any other way. Robin Hood is not the most fully developed character in history, but he and Little John definitely pave the way for The Bare Necessities and Hakuna Matata. This may not have earned a “platinum” standard for Disney Blu-ray release, but Robin Hood is definitely one of the top classic Disney films in my book.

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