PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
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. Maid Marian reveals she and Robin were childhood sweethearts but they have not seen one another for years. 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 and Alan-a-Dale. 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 mock Prince John, describing him as the “Phony King of England”. Enraged by the insult, Prince John triples the taxes, imprisoning most of the townsfolk who cannot pay. The Sheriff visits Friar Tuck’s church to collect from the poor box, but when Friar Tuck protests, the Sheriff arrests him for high treason. Prince John plans to execute Friar Tuck, giving him the chance to capture Robin Hood when he comes to rescue Friar Tuck.
Robin and Little John sneak in, 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. During the chase, Prince John’s castle catches fire and forces a trapped Robin Hood to leap from a tower into the moat below. Little John and Skippy fear Robin is lost, but he surfaces safely after using a reed as a breathing tube, which drives Prince John into a blind rage.
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.
I remember growing up and going to visit one my mom’s church friends. Her kids were a little younger than me, but we bonded over Disney (this was at a time before it became the corrupt, money-grubbing company that it is today). They had all the VHS copies of movies, or they had recorded them from Disney channel. The one that we watched the most was Robin Hood and, to this day, it remains my 2nd or 3rd favorite Disney flick.
What is this about?
Prince John sets about taxing Nottingham’s citizens with staunch opposition by the wily Robin Hood and his band of merry men.
What did I like?
Just like animals. It may come as a surprise, but this is the only Disney film that used talking animals. Let me explain. Sure, there are talking animals in nearly every Disney film, but none of them are anthropomorphized. On top of that, these animals are just wearing clothes in the human world, a la The Great Mouse Detective, for example. The only other (full-length) Disney film, that I can think of, which doesn’t use any humans is The Lion King. I think this is why a film like this is so different from the rest. We have anthropomorphized animals as the cast, not a human in sight, and it is unique in doing so.
Know your audience. As a boy watching this, I remember having feeling of, as young Skippy so eloquently states in the picture, “Yuck! Sissy stuff!” Truth is, this is one of the few Disney films that had a male protagonist. To this day, that is still true, believe it or not. As such, it was marketed more towards the boys, but had parts for girls, too. I like how the film was able to balance the comedy and action with hints of romance. Take for instance Robin and Maid Marian’s song, “Love”. This was an Oscar nominated, gorgeous piece of music, but it is also barely clocking in at 2 minutes, I think. For the boys, that is not something they wanted to see, but they still had to appease the females.
Fight song. For the general viewer, when Lady Cluck takes on the rhino guards as everyone is escaping the archery tournament they hear random band music. A little out of place for the film, but fits perfectly for the football game that the imagery is intending to portray. Well, unless you are into college fight songs, you probably didn’t notice that this was a melody of a couple of popular fight songs, USC and Wisconsin. Being a college football fan and former marching band member, this was something that really could appreciate.
What didn’t I like?
Pink elephants. Sir Hiss, after spying on Robin Hood, gets caught by Friar Tuck and Alan-a-Dale and placed in a barrel of Ale. While he didn’t come out seeing pink elephants like Dumbo and Timothy in Dumbo, I couldn’t help but wonder if that was something they toyed around with, but decided against because it would be too similar. I’m sure they could have placed him somewhere more strategic that a barrel of ale so that he could get drunk.
More costumes. Some of the best scenes in the film are when Robin and Little John are dressed up in costume, so I ask you, why aren’t there more of these? It boggles the mind! In the film’s defense, a good part of the film is spent at the archery tournament where they both are in disguise. I’m selfish, though, and want more! Also, more of little John wouldn’t hurt. Phil Harris is a great performer, as we’ve seen when he’s Thomas O’Malley and Baloo the Bear, but they just reigned him in here and kept the leash pulled almost too tight. I felt Little John should be a bit more jovial, at least in this incarnation.
Jump to the end. The ending has always bothered me. In one scene Prince John and Sir Hiss see Robin Hood come up from the water after apparently falling to his watery grave and threaten to finish him off and then, literally, the next scene is Robin and Maid Marian getting married at the behest of King Richard while Prince John, Sir Hiss, and the Sheriff split rocks as prisoners. Apparently, there is an alternate ending which ties things up a bit nicer, but takes a darker turn. I could care less about the dark tone, just give me a complete story!
Admittedly, I’m not the best person to speak unbiasedly about Robin Hood. I will say, though, that if you are a fan of the swashbuckling adventures from classic Hollywood, you should really enjoy this film. Some scenes seem as if they were taken straight from the Errol Flynn film. That being said, as mentioned before, the ending is a misstep in my eyes. Is it enough for me to dissuade anyone from watching? No, I highly recommend this as a film one must see (many times) before they die!
5 out of 5 stars