Sunday, April 12, 2009

Disney's First Robin Hood

Brimming with gallantry, romance and adventure, this classic tale of England's most celebrated outlaw-patriot ranks as one of the finest examples of Disney storytelling magic.

While the noble King Richard the Lionhearted is away, the evil Prince John and wicked Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Finch) try to seize the throne. Only the quick-witted young Robin Hood and his band of Merrie Men can fight off their attempts, save the fair Maid Marian from harm, and preserve the throne for the rightful King!

Join Robin, Little John, Friar Tuck and all the Merrie Men as they rob from the rich to give to the poor and provide rousing good entertainment.

Title: Robin Hood and His Merrie Men
Release: June 26, 1952
Genre: Family- Adventure
MPAA Rating: PG
Writer: Lawrence Edward Watkin
Director: Ken Annakin
Music By: Clifton Parker and George Wyle
Produced By: Perce Pearce & Walt Disney
Distributed By: RKO Radio Pictures and Walt Disney Productions
Run Time: 84 minutes

Some people say that Robin Hood was a real person and other say he was fictional then still others sometimes say he's a commoner or the complete opposite: an Earl robbed of his rightful title. He's been called 'Robinhood', 'Robehod' 'Hobbehod' and even 'Robert Hood' at times too. Nor has he (or at least those in tales passed down that had assumed his name) always "robbed the rich to aid the poor" either. For the most part however, the folklore legends and stories of Robin Hood and his band of outlaws (not to mention his lovely Maid Marian) have remained mostly the same. However, they have been re-told in numerous different ways: ballads, novels, and especially film and television. Walt Disney was one of the filmmakers to take on this legend with his film The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men.

There are quite a few notable films (and TV shows or cartoons) based on the Robin Hood legend with quite a few notable actors playing the title character but I haven’t seen very many of them. Not even the Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn ones that many consider to be the very best ones ever made (they came out a couple of decades before this one). Sadly, Disney’s first take on the Robin Hood story has been mostly forgotten or actually supplanted by their 1973 animated version, which was my introduction to the legend. Neither of the Disney films was particularly better than the other as they were both good but only the live action one has been forgotten.

The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men may have fell between the cracks of time and memory (it’s even extremely hard to buy nowadays unless on VHS but it rumored to be making its way to DVD sometime in 2009) but it’s tightly woven plot and beautiful sets and locations (it was filmed in Buckinghamshire, England near where many of the legends claim that it really took place) do withstand the test of time. So does the humor provided by some incredibly talented actors like Richard Todd as Robin Hood who had been nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards a couple of years before, the inexperienced English actress Joan Rice who played Maid Marian (this was one of her only big roles in her career), the Ocsar winner Peter Finch (the Sherriff of Nottingham) who was said to have “brought sincerity... with a lot of bite [to the part]", and dozens of Merrie men too (my favorites are Little John (played by James Robertson Justice) and Friar Tuck (James Hayter), and Will Scarlet (Anthony Forwood).

This film benefits greatly from having a cast of mostly English actors since it is an English film and story and it was made in England since Walt Disney couldn’t use the money he had made overseas before World War II anywhere but there. This was why he made his first completely live action film Treasure Island and also his second one: this film. It’s a brilliant film that stays authentic to the medieval time in costume, set, and most of the time action as well. This Robin Hood should have never been forgotten! “I’ve tidings to tell and new songs as well of the wonders I’ve seen far and wide.” “Oh Robin, who is called Fitzsooth is dwelling in the wood. His coat is changed to Lincoln green and his name to Robin Hood…”

Links:, Film Wikipedia, Robin Hood Wikipedia, Robin Hood in Popular Culture (books, ballads, films, etc.) Wikipedia, Disney’s Robin Hood Fan Blog,
Interview: Ken Annakin (the director), Richard Todd, and others. Plus, Stephen Knight- Robin Hood Professor

Whistle My Love Song:

Small Clip (0:26-0:59)


  1. I have a feeling I saw this on The Wonderful World of Disney when I was a kid.

  2. Lady Tink...there is a special place in heaven for people like you who love Disney so much! I live very near Disney World and have been an admirer of Walt Disney and everything Disney since a child. I can remember this movie but then I am probably older than anyone else on the internet. It is true that our youth today miss so much in not knowing these older movies. I show them sometimes to my 6th graders and I always stress their reading the classics as well as the old favorites. I tell them how as a child each week in school we had an assembly and after the national anthem we always sang The Ballad of Davey Crockett. :D I sing it and then they stare at me...ah, youth! Thanks for a great blog!

  3. I don't think I have watched this Robin Hood version - and I don't think I will. But you have to love Disney movies, even the really old and not-so-stellar ones!

    ^Bingo: I love singing The Ballad of Davy Crockett! The King of the Wild Frontier ;)

  4. I think I've seen every version of Robin Hood!.. one you might enjoy was a tv series starring Richard Greene as Robin (another cutie!).. but I have to admit to loving the Flynn version most of all.

  5. I havent seen this one. But I did like the Robin Hood film with Kevin Costner.

  6. Bermudaonion: Maybe! It first aired on the Disneyland show on November 2nd and 9th in 1955.

    Bingo: Aw, what a sweet thing to say! I knew the Davy Crockett song but I watched the movie for the first time a few months ago and really loved it!

    The Epic Rat: It was hard for me to get my hands on a copy but I did enjoy watching it. Love old Disney movies :)

    DesLily: Okay, I'll make sure to add those two to my need-to-watch list. Thanks :)

    Naida: That was either the first or the second Robin Hood film I ever saw so I can't see it now without my "nostalgia-colored" glasses on :)

  7. I love the Flynn version the best! Nice review :)

  8. Always loved this, no matter in cartoon or not. My favorite was with Kevin Costner. He was awesome!

  9. This is one I am sure I must have seen at one point, but I honestly don't remember. I do hope it is released on DVD soon so I can get the chance to watch it--and remember it this time. Excellent review.

  10. The Chic Geek: I really must watch that one soon!

    J. Kaye: Robin Hood is one of my favorite stories too no matter how its adapted :)

    Wendy: Hope you do get to see it someday soon. I really, really enjoyed it.

  11. Thanks for the link Ladytink!
    (Wow that rymes!)

    Did you know that the clip of the outlaws singing around their camp was taken from the movie Sword of Sherwood Forest made I think in 1968.

    The star was Richard Greene who played Robin Hood in the TV series that ran for many years. Many people get Richard Todd and Richard Greene mixed up they were very similar.

    Excellent site-keep up the good work.

  12. Clement of the Glen: Thank you for having such a wonderfully informative blog. I wouldn't have been able to write this without you! No, I didn't know where the first part of the video was from but I realized that the second part was when Alan-a-Dale, the miller, and the "page" stumble across Robin Hood and two of my favoritest outlaws was from this movie. Thank you again!

    Robin_Titan: I kind of would like to see it again lol!



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