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From left to right: Friar Tuck, Maid Marian, Robin Hood, and Little John.
"You know, there's been a heap o' legends and tall tales about Robin Hood — all different too. Well, we folks in the animal kingdom have our own version — it's the story of what really happened in Sherwood Forest." — Alan-a-Dale's Opening Narration
This movie was the first in the Disney Animated Canon that was made completely independent of Walt Disney, who had died in 1966 - The Aristocats was personally greenlit by Walt. Therefore, it is one of the most visibly - how can we best put this kindly? - economical Disney animated films. The studio was suffering financially during its production, resulting in plenty of recycled animation from a multitude of films. Luckily for the company, the movie made enough money in the box office to pull through. That didn't prevent Disney from viewing it as one of their worst entries - during production, and even after the box office success. Additionally, the movie was poorly received critically and has ended up branded "Rotten" on Rotten Tomatoes. But in contrast, fan reaction has always been almost unanimously positive, to the point where the movie has been Vindicated by History through 80s and 90s kids who know it from VHS, definitely helped by it being the first Disney movie ever released on a home video format. With its beautiful character designs and occasionally witty dialogue, it's also considered one of the gateway drugs to the Furry Fandom.Take a shot when you notice recycled animation.
Disney's Robin Hood provides examples of:
Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Marian fears this is what happened to Robin. However, it is quickly subverted in the next scene, as Robin is shown daydreaming about her. He's just afraid that he might not be good enough to be with her due to his status as an outlaw.
The Ace: Robin himself; expert archer, master of disguise, champion of the people, etc.
Action Girl: Lady Kluck joins the brawl that caps the archery tournament.
Adapted Out: No band of merry men here; just Robin, Little John, and Friar Tuck.
During the "Phony King of England" musical number, Little John does make reference to the merry men as "Robin's wily pack". It does seem like he's just referring to himself and Friar Tuck though...unless the rest of the outlaws are always conveniently off-screen.
All-Knowing Singing Narrator: Alan-a-Dale is the one telling this story, but he also takes part in it. For instance, when he's arrested and thrown in jail, he already knows what's happening outside.
Alliterative List: At the start Sir Hiss is also called "silly serpent" and "reluctant reptile" while Friar Tuck is a "corpulent cleric". At the end when Prince John chases Sir Hiss and tries to hit him with his stick, he calls him a "cowardly cobra," "procrastinating python," and an "aggravating asp." All of these could also count as Alliterative Nicknames.
Ambiguously Gay: Prince John and Sir Hiss are both contenders. It's ironic as historically King John was a notorious womanizer and adulterer and King Richard was the one historians claim may have been homosexual.
Arguably averted in the case of the voices. The accents are not far off of what it was like in Merry England. The reason being is that what the world considers to be an American accent is really the original British accent, with Southern drawl being another import to the New World, and the modern English accent first appeared in the 1860's. If anything, the American accents are more accurate than the English accents. Still, intent counts, and many of the voices were filled from the Disney Studio's stable of Western Movie actors, particularly the Sheriff and his men, who attempted to play the roles off as a corrupt sheriff and his deputies from the Old West.
Although Friar Tuck comes from the original legend, his presence during the reign of Richard I makes no sense, as the first Mendicant order was not founded until 1209, a full decade after the Lionheart's death.
The rabbits sing "Happy Birthday to You" - which was written in the late 19th century in Louisville, Kentucky - to Skippy. The film takes place in the 12th century. America hadn't even been discovered yet.
While in the ale barrel, Sir Hiss sings "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" (although he says "for I'm a jolly good fellow"). Again, that song hadn't been written yet— it was written in 1709.
In their first scene, Maid Marian and Lady Cluck are playing badminton, which was invented in the 18th century.
Nottingham Castle has a scaffold gallows, even though it was invented by the Scot Deacon William Brodie in 1787.
The (American) football segment when the game was invented in 1869 (rugby can be traced back to the 1400s, which is still after the events of the film). To take it further, "On, Wisconsin!" plays in the background, which was written in 1909. Granted, no one's actually playing football, it's just part of the preceding battle sequence.
Artistic License – Gun Safety: Trigger keeps pointing his crossbow at the Sheriff. It also has a tendency to randomly go off even when the safety is on. Eventually the Sheriff gets Genre Savvy about this and insists that Trigger walk ahead of him when he's carrying the crossbow.
Lore commonly puts the outlaw as a contemporary of John and Richard rather than (probably) Edward I. However, just to reiterate, John was not taxing the poor of England just so he could swim around in mountains of gold coins; though he was definitely attempting to seize the throne, he had no authority to raise revenues from any but his own possessions (of which Nottingham was one). note The film does not mention Richard's captivity and ransom, but the money for that was raised by a special collection largely overseen by Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard and John's mother. Richard didn't imprison John or the Sheriff of Nottingham (though the sheriff did lose his job) when he got back; in fact, John eventually became king, the first after the Norman Conquest (possibly) to speak English fluently. John did make a lot of enemies and suffer a lot of setbacks, but it is debatable whether he was the grasping, cowardly tyrant portrayed in the film.
The Church was very powerful in the 12th Century and would have made a serious fuss over the Sheriff helping himself to the contents of the church poor box. Especially since the Crown had no authority to collect taxes on church income at all at that point in history - that was one of the many issues that the Church and Crown argued over until Henry VIII broke from Rome in the 16th century. Similarly, the question of whether a civil authority such as the Sheriff could arrest a clergyman at all was a major political hot topic, much less having a priest executed by the order of a secular authority. Prince John would have known that, after the major political mess caused by the death of Archbishop Thomas Becket during his father's reign.
The line "too late to be known as John the First" in The Villain Sucks Song is strange, since he is (so far) the only King John of England. Presumably it's because at the time, he was not yet officially the king — being the younger brother (i.e. born "too late"), he had no right to call himself John the Anythingth.
Ass in a Lion Skin: Robin, a fox, disguises himself as "the spindle-legged stork from Devonshire" and as Nutsy, a vulture.
Batman Gambit: How Prince John fooled Robin Hood to take part of the archery tournament. Knowing that he's in love in Marian, he announces that the winner of the tournament shall get a kiss from Marian as a first prize, knowing that Robin wouldn't refuse to take that opportunity. The tournament was just a trap to snare Robin Hood in, based on who was the unnatural superior archer. He didn't actually see through Robin Hood's "stork" disguise, but considering that the stork was somehow much better at archery than most of the others, he didn't really need to; by process of elimination, Prince John figured out that, therefore, the stork must be Robin Hood.
Beary Funny: Little John is a downplayed example; he's Robin's straight man.
Mentioning King Richard in front of Prince John. Mentioning his mother is probably okay, as it just causes him to bluescreen and start sucking his thumb.
For Friar Tuck, dismissing his 'sermons' is one thing, but outright disrespecting him, a man of the church, by telling him that his 'preachiness' is gonna soon land him in a hangman's noose while stealing out of the poor box is another thing entirely.
But He Sounds Handsome: During the archery tournament, Robin, disguised as a stork, praises himself and taunts the Sheriff of Nottingham about his failure catching him. He also claims Robin is a better archer than he is, while landing a perfect bullseye.
Prince John: Hiss. I've been robbed. Sir Hiss:[more vehement than at any other time in the movie]: Of course you've been robbed!
Card-Carrying Villain: Not only does the Sheriff use underhanded tactics to collect every last coin from the townspeople, he enjoys every minute of it.
Cassandra Truth: Sir Hiss sees through every single disguise. While he might not know who it is, he knows they aren't who they claim to be. Yet every time, Prince John assumes he's just jealous of the attention they're getting. Now, if Prince John had listened to Hiss' advice now and then (don't trust the strange gypsy women, for one), he'd have been spared some of his humiliations.
Chekhov's Gun: The little rabbit sister can't run nearly as fast as the other kids. This becomes very important in the final battle when she's struggling to keep up with the evacuating villagers, and Robin Hood has to turn around and rescue her, leaving him trapped on the opposite side of the portcullis.
There is also a near miss in the first scene; an arrow comes within inches of Robin's head and impales his hat instead.
Deadly Dodging: Robin uses this tactic against the mook archers, causing them to hit each other. Of course, they don't actually hit each other with arrows. They just get pinned to walls through the collars or somesuch.
Dirty Coward: Prince John in the Archery Tournament fiasco. While Robin Hood was fighting off the guards, Prince John tried to blind-side him. However, Robin Hood easily disarms him before that happened, and Prince John immediately runs away in fear while pathetically begging for his life.
Disguised in Drag/Harmless Lady Disguise: Robin Hood and Little John both pulled this trick at the beginning, stealing everything valuable that wasn't nailed down after Prince John dismissed the notion of female bandits as "rubbish". Robin was good at it, Little John...not so much; his cover would have been blown if he spoke to anyone up-close.
Robin's voice actor, Brian Bedford, performed in drag after Robin Hood's theatrical release. He probably did so before the film too, given that his female voice is fairly convincing.
While it's not really shown as one, or commented on, the Sheriff managed to escape from the burning castle along with Prince John and Sir Hiss. If the final scene had been omitted, you could've easily assumed all the villains burnt to death.
Dolled-Up Installment: Ever wonder why it's Robin Hood with funny animals? That's because Disney had previously been trying to make a movie about Reynard the Fox but abandoned the idea. Since they had tried to make the character more appealing by giving him Robin Hood-like qualities, it wasn't too hard to take what they had and turn it into a Robin Hood the fox story instead.
The Dragon: The Sheriff of Nottingham to Prince John. One of the few really obvious Disney examples. He's aggressive, takes orders from his (slightly) brighter boss, orders the Mooks around, and serves as the primary physical threat to Robin as demonstrated nicely during the final battle scene in the tower.
An in-universe example — "The Phony King Of England" is so catchy even Hiss and the Sheriff enjoy it.
As well as Roger Miller's quite memorable folk/country tunes "Whistle-Stop" and "Oo De Lally", which he played as In-Universe character Alan-a-Dale (the Rooster).
Earwormy enough to spark an internet phenomenon almost three decades later. Enjoy the Hamster Dance? It's "Whistle-Stop" sped up by about 60%.
Elite Mooks: The crocodile and the executioner rhino, who at least looks slightly less moronic than the regular kind.
Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas/My Beloved Smother: Prince John's relationship with his mother is... complicated. He seemed to react with a huge amount of remorse when he ends up either wrecking her things (ie, her mirror and her castle) or is reminded of her in some way, and childishly sucks his thumb. However, he also disparagingly states that his mother liked Richard much better than him.
Everyone Can See It: All of Nottingham ships Robin/Marian, though the pair are initially uncertain of each others' feelings. Little John goes further and tries to make it happen via royal decree (at knifepoint).
Evil Is Hammy: Prince John chews the scenery with abandon. Sir Hiss and the Sheriff also have their moments.
Nutsy and Trigger also share animation models with the Beatles-esque vultures from The Jungle Book. Many other characters are drawn similarly to other Disney characters. The elephants look like the elephants from The Jungle Book, the crocodiles and hippos look like the ones from Fantasia, the owls look similar to Archimedes from The Sword in the Stone.
In some ways, this is averted; i.e. no one in this world has pets or rides horses — there is a blacksmith dog that is seen making horseshoes, but perhaps anthropomorphic horses still have hooves. On the other hand, it is worth noting that we never see who or what is pulling that carriage in the last scene.note Considering we see Little John pulling a cart and Prince John's rhino soldiers pulling his carriage, it may be the bigger animals are paid to pull carts.
Following the tradition of the Robin Hood myth, Maid Marian is said to be King Richard's niece. She is a fox. He is a lion. This could be Fridge Brilliance - historically, it's debatable whether or not Richard ever consummated his marriage with Berengaria and may have only married her for political reasons, so it's entirely possible that Richard's unseen wife was a fox after all. A lion and a fox could never successfully inbreed with each other, but his other wives (i.e. not Marian's aunt) would presumably have been lionesses to provide heirs.
Near the beginning, when Robin and Little John are disguised as women, Robin keeps Little John from running away by pushing him by his false breasts.
A male rhino guard is shown to clearly be checking out Little John's butt while he's in drag.
Robin, disguised as a woman, makes off with Prince John's clothes, except his underwear. This is immediately after "she" spent a good deal of time feeding him compliments. Raising the idea of how she probably got him out of those clothes.
Robin Hood's gonna have kids?!
... The next line - "Somebody has to keep an eye on things." He may be an innocent child now...
The running "A pox on the phony king of England". "Pox" was often used to mean syphilis, although it was also a general term for disease (as in smallpox, chicken pox etc). The song's probable real-world inspiration, "The Bastard King of England," is a hilariously filthy song about John getting the clap.
During the scene where Skippy sneaks into the castle to get his lost arrow, Lady Kluck quite clearly loses the shuttlecock down her bodice and spends several hilarious minutes dancing around, trying to get it out.
Get Thee to a Nunnery: "A pox on you" (in this case, on the phony king of England) is a Shakespearean-era insult meaning, "I hope you get a disfiguring and potentially deadly disease, like smallpox or syphilis." It did also have a more general meaning along the lines of "To heck with you," so it might be a milder case of Getting Crap Past the Radar.
Good Shepherd: As usual, Friar Tuck is a devout and admirable man. When the Sheriff helps himself to the poor box, he flies into a rage not because it cuts into his bottom line but because it's supposed to help the poor.
As a Freeze-Frame Bonus, "Forgive them all" is carved into the wall of Friar Tuck's cell. It may have been put there by a prior tenant, but it would be a characteristic statement for him to write.
Greed: Prince John is depicted as not only hoarding gold, obsessively counting it, and fondling it, but he sleeping with it in his bedchamber. To be fair, no one could expect the royal chambers to be vulnerable to any but the most daring and skillful of thieves, but surely there were more secure places to put it...
Greek Chorus: Alan-a-Dale sings the story that he's a part of.
The corpulent Sheriff of Nottingham saying that "that fat friar is gonna hang."
Hypocrite: After he is captured at the archery contest, Prince John calls Robin a traitor to the crown, despite the fact that he unlawfully seized the throne while Richard was off on the Crusades. Robin calls him out on it in the most badass way possible.
I Kiss Your Hand: Robin and Little John use this trope to steal PJ's finger rings at the beginning. He gets wise to this trick when Little John tries it again later.
Improbable Aiming Skills: In the archery contest, Robin still manages to score perfect bull’s-eyes even though the arrows he's using are made of two twigs tied loosely together with cord. When a cheap shot causes him to aim high, he fires a second arrow at the first one to redirect it back to the bulls-eye, even knocking out the Sheriff's arrow in the process. HE'S FRIGGIN' ROBIN HOOD! Accept no substitutes.
Ironic Echo: Early in the movie, the characters talk about how if Robin marries Maid Marian, Kind Richard will have an outlaw for an in-law. At the end of the movie, Richard says this exact phrase while laughing about the marriage.
A throwaway line from the Sheriff as he hums; "They call me a slob...but I just do my job..."
As stated below, this is implied to be why Trigger and Nutsy weren't arrested.
Karma Houdini: Trigger and Nutsy are the only villains that weren't arrested. Given that they weren't abusing their power like John, Hiss, and the Sheriff were, this shouldn't be a surprise. They're seen guarding the imprisoned John, Hiss, and the Sheriff for King Richard at the end, so it's clear they just do their job no matter who's on the throne. Either that or they did a Heel-Face Turn.
Any raccoon that shows up in this movie fits this trope because raccoons are native only to the Americas. This may be a Petting Zoo People movie, but this movie takes place in Medieval England, and people in Europe back in the Middle Ages have not heard of raccoons, so this counts as Anachronism Stew as well.
Friar Tuck is seemingly based on an American badger rather than a European badger.
There's also all the crocodiles, vultures, rhinos, etc, but it's probably safe to assume the animators knew they weren't typical British wildlife.
The fireflies Little John uses to make the crystal ball glow near the beginning. (Wolves and bears aren't found in Britain now, but would've been at the time.)
Neck Lift: Prince John to Sir Hiss. Of course, being a snake, he's pretty much all neck.
Neutral Female: Averted by Maid Marian; she typically isn't of much help when things get dangerous, but she does have a couple of moments where she's actively trying to assist the protagonists.
Nice Mice: The Sexton and his wife. They gave their last farthing to the poor box.
No Gun Safety: The guards are dangerously reckless with their crossbows, one of which has a very unreliable trigger mechanism. Even though "Ol' Betsy" explicitly does have a safety, it just doesn't seem to work very well.
Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Some of the voice actors are real Brits, but some are Australians, and others are Americans best known for Westerns and rural Sit Coms whose accents aren't at all what you'd expect to hear in a film set in medieval England. (Although it is worth noting that rural and Southern accents of American English are a lot more closely related to medieval English than we tend to think — had to come from somewhere, after all.) The very well-spoken English Robin Hood for some reason adopts a Cockney (London) accent when disguised as a stork...from Devonshire! His lack of West Country burr should have blown his cover the moment he opened his beak!
Paper-Thin Disguise: Played with. Prince John figures it out while the sheriff said he could see through any disguise Robin could cook up. He was wrong (the stork costume was good; from a distance, you'd never know). Earlier, Prince John and his guards failed to realize anything suspicious about the "gypsies" that come to visit while they're riding in a carriage full of gold. This made John perceptive enough to catch on to Robin the second time around. However, none of the bad guys ever see through Robin's blind-beggar disguise, although Trigger suspects something is up.
Pinball Projectile: Sometimes arrows do this. Robin can do it because he's just that good.
Please Spare Him, My Liege!: Marian to John after Robin is captured. It might have worked if Robin hadn't taken offense to being called a traitor to the crown. Then again, since Prince John was interrupted after saying "but traitors to the crown must die..." Robin would probably have been executed anyway, just not "suddenly, instantly, and immediately."
Pragmatic Villainy: While Sir Hiss seems genuinely shocked that Friar Tuck is going to be hanged, he might be afraid that doing so would get them excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
Revealing Skill: The "bandy-legged stork" is just a little too good at archery when a kiss from Marian is on the line.
Right Behind Me: The Sheriff and Sir Hiss are having a good laugh over the song "The Phony King of England" when Prince John enters the room. Hiss immediately starts singing lyrics praising PJ before the Sheriff corrects him ("... the sniveling, groveling —"). PJ throws a wine bottle at him.
Righteous Rabbits: The rabbit family are all good natured. Their family is solid and loving, though given to bickering as families do.
Rule of Symbolism: King Richard's crown is too big for Ki- Prince John's head, and his trying to wear it keeps making him look foolish. Why not get it adjusted/padded? 'Cause it's a metaphor. (That and it doesn't really belong to him yet...)
Savage Wolves: The Sheriff of Nottingham, one of the main antagonists of the series, is portrayed as a wolf.
Scooby-Dooby Doors: Done without doors, but otherwise true to the trope, when the tent stuffed with rhino guards (and the Sheriff and Little John) races back and forth between the other rows of tents.
Little John: Who's driving this flying umbrella?
Seize Him: Prince John takes every opportunity to invoke this phrase.
The Sheriff's observation of Friar Tuck: "Well, looky there! Friar Tuck, the old do-gooder. He's out doing good again."
The oath used by the rabbit kids: "If I tattletale, I'll die till I'm dead."
Shoot the Bullet: In the archery competition, the sheriff has just scored a bullseye (by cheating). To make sure Robin (in disguise) can't win, the sheriff taps Robin's bow as he releases. The arrow goes in a high arc. Undaunted, Robin nocks another arrow and fires at the first arrow. It hits, changing its direction such that it too hits a perfect bullseye, right through the sheriff's arrow.
Lady Kluck's attack on the guards bears a strong resemblance to a football player's charge (Hence the Fan Nickname). She even has her arm curled, as if holding a ball. Plus the angle and perspective of the rhinos who leap to catch her. The music played in this scene is in fact the University of Wisconsin Badgers fight song. Notice the pan to Friar Tuck.
Prince John often mentioned that his mother always liked Richard best is a reference to the well-known Smothers Brothers bit "Mom always liked you best", 'you' referring to Dick (aka Richard) Smothers.
The shots of marching rhino soldiers are the same shot each time.
More an example of Limited Animation than Stock Footage: After loading all the civilians onto the cart (although as it turns out, missing the baby rabbit), as Little John exclaims "Onward to Sherwood Forest", look at the people on the cart. None of them are moving, not even breathing.
Stout Strength: Little John, Friar Tuck, and the Sheriff of Nottingham are all grossly fat (though to be fair to John, he is a bear). They're also among the most physically powerful of the named characters in the film (although the Sheriff only really gets to show it in the climax).
Unfortunately, once the "Phony King of England" himself hears the aforementioned song, it leads to him screaming new decrees about tripling the taxes right at the scared-witless Sheriff's face while strangling Sir Hiss.
After Robin frees all his prisoners, steals all his gold, causes part of his mother's castle to be burned up and escapes with his life, John goes berserk and chases Sir Hiss around with a stick:
Sir Hiss (while running and screaming): Help! He's gone stark raving MAAAAAAAD!!!
There are also literal church mice, who are poor as church-mice.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Where were Maid Marian and Lady Cluck, who actively participated in the riot (and The Villain Sucks Song), when the whole town was thrown in jail? The ending listed under What Could Have Been implies Maid Marian had been hiding in the church. Considering that it was more than obvious by that point that both of them were allied with Robin Hood, common sense would say anyway that they were in hiding, probably in Sherwood Forest.
Wouldn't Hurt a Child: During the melee that ensued after the archery tournament, seven-year-old rabbit Skippy shot an arrow at Prince John, which bounced off his rear end. Despite the result, he's guilty of assaulting royalty with a deadly weapon. Yet when he and his family are thrown in jail because they didn't pay their taxes, Skippy isn't singled out for punishment for that. Is it an example of this trope, the censors stepping in, or an oversight? You decide.
It's possible no one saw Skippy shoot the arrow in the chaos. Prince John was brained by Lady Cluck immediately afterwards, so his attention was on her.