Before we get started, this is not a post about Disney’s animated classic Robin Hood. This film doesn’t have a fox as a hero or a lion as a villain, it’s a live action, dramatic, musical, version of a classic story. Actually, this version of Robin Hood is quite classic itself and paints an incredible story of an English legend.
Robin Hood has been a familiar character to all of us since the 13th century in England. The folklore of a bandit that stole from the rich to give back to the poor has brought cheer to many in a time where lower class wasn’t even a phrase yet because it was the norm. By the time we get to the 20th century, Robin Hood has become iconic and in early Hollywood, was an easy subject to portray. Before Disney’s adaptation of Robin Hood, there had already been a dozen other films since the early 1900s made of the character. So what makes this film special? The backstory truly makes this film.
As mentioned previously, money made in the U.K. had to stay on the English Isle during World War II and Disney had made a substantial money from the Kingdom’s box office from his previous films. Treasure Island was put into production but Disney still had money left over and the returns on Treasure Island gave him enough to start his next live action film from England. Thinking of something that the English and American audiences would both appreciate, Walt Disney chose Robin Hood.
Ken Annakin, who had previously directed Treasure Island, was asked to be the director for this film and in doing so, saw the previous Robin Hood films so as he would not repeat another film. Due to Annakin’s knowledge of previous films, musical numbers were added to Disney’s version as was a focus on the love story between Robin and Marian. This made the film feel fresh and different. Also, keeping with musical numbers gave this Robin Hood a distinct Disney feel.
The film made it’s debut in London on June 26th, 1952. Despite this film being lost in the shuffle of other live action films from long ago, Robin Hood and his Merrie Men did well at the box office in it’s initial run. It was one of the top seen films of the year in the U.K. and had more critical praise than previous films like Bambi. With that being said, is this a film you should seek out? Not neccesarily. The film does seem dated and the animated versiou is clearly the more well known and for good reasoning. It should also be known that this film has been released on DVD but not Blu Ray, and the DVD release was not remastered. That means the film doesn’t look as good as it could be so Disney must have also forgotten about this hidden gem. Find this film online somewhere and enjoy it. The music is fun, the pacing of the film is good, and it’s a fun flick for any Disney fan!