The great fable of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, who rob from the rich to give to the poor, as told by Disney through the use of animals. Robin and Marion are Foxes, Prince John is a lion who sucks his thumb, and the Sheriff is a snake.
While the greatness was somewhere behind them, by 1973 Disney were still capable of creating magic. After Uncle Walt departed to the real Magic Kingdom, his troops were always more confident when turning legends and fairy-tales in cute critters rather than sticking with human figures — hence this sprightly and funny take on Robin Hood is so much more appealing than the humanoid Sword In The Stone. It seemed to bring out the personality in them.
So, while this is hardly the most dazzling of animated features, it has that cut-corner feel that seem to hold sway in the ‘70s (mainly because Disney were cutting corners), the characters spark to life, and the story remains as rock steady as ever. It’s especially delightful to see, or maybe that is hear (one is a lion, the other a slippery snake), Peter Ustinov and Terry-Thomas spark up a comedy double act as a stroppy King John and a sycophantic Sheriff. They do wonders with only their voices, with Ustinov bumptious and spoilt and Thomas playing that magnificent wheedling tone that made him cinema’s greatest cad. By comparison, Brian Bedford’s foxy Robin comes across a bit bland.
It’s going to surprise no one, the songs have nothing on The Jungle Book (the last true great), but as the archery contest (splitting the arrow!) succumbs to what seems to be an all-out American football match, the pleasures are all ours.
Foxes with bows and arrows..what could be better than that?