Friday, February 6, 2015
Disney's Robin Hood Unmasked
There's something about animated Disney foxes. As a kid, I particularly enjoyed The Fox and the Hound, as well as the Splash Mountain log flume attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World (starring Brer Fox). Sometime in the early 1980s, Robin Hood was re-released in movie theaters, and I was obsessed with the film just by seeing the commercial for it on television.
I would have asked for any Robin Hood toy that was available, but at the time, there wasn't much of anything available. No Robin Hood action figures, no plush toys, nothing! There were books and records, of course, but not much else. It seems like there was a good assortment of merchandise when the movie was released in 1973. And Robin Hood (aka Robin des Bois) has appeared on some keen loot in Europe.
Robin Hood is notorious for stealing from other Disney films. The "Phony King of England" sequence directly lifts animation from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Jungle Book and The Aristocats.
I often wondered if I was the only person who noticed that the facial design of Robin Hood changes during the film. Sometimes Robin Hood is drawn with a long snout and a pointy rounded nose (similar to the Fox in Mary Poppins). Other times Robin Hood is drawn with a shorter snout and a triangular nose (similar to the Adult Tod in The Fox and the Hound).
My hunch is that Robin Hood got a redesign during production to make the character seem more handsome and less comical. Quite a bit of early merchandise shows this long-snout Robin Hood.
Way before Julie Taymor re-imagined characters from The Lion King for Broadway, Henri Salvador made Robin Hood records wearing a very different Robin Hood costume.
I would totally see Robin des Bois if it was a musical on the stage.
Robin Hood strikes a foxy pose.
Updated versions of Robin Hood and Little John appeared in the 2012 "Disneyland" episode of the TV series Modern Family.
The Modern Family episode story featuring Little John the bear recalls a plot point of a 1973 episode of The Brady Bunch called "The Cincinnati Kids" set at Kings Island amusement park in Ohio. Peter Brady gets a job playing Hanna Barbera character Hair Bear from the TV series Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch.
At Walt Disney World and Disneyland in the 1970s, you could find some great Robin Hood Merchandise.
Highly detailed bisque figures of Prince John and Sir Hiss look like they could star in a theme park show.
An extensive line of amazing Robin Hood figures was planned.
It took many years, but a Robin Hood action figure was finally released. At McDonald's!
The Robin Hood McDonald's Happy Meal action figure was released in the late 1990s as part of a Walt Disney Home Video promotion. The figurines were packaged in VHS Tape boxes (remember VHS?).
In Europe, Robin Hood characters appeared in Fast Food promotions at Burger King and McDonald's. A "Slinky" type plush toy of Sir Hiss was part of the Ronald McDonald Happy Meal Walt Disney Classics Collection.
The Slinky Sir Hiss was joined by characters from Alice in Wonderland, Hercules, Pinocchio, and Mary Poppins.
For years, I had never seen a Robin Hood plush toy for sale at a Disney theme park (which is kind of amazing). Then, I finally saw one.
Yes, I finally saw a Robin Hood plush toy for sale at Disneyland in California in the early 1990s, and the character chosen to represent the film was Sir Hiss! How could this be? Suspicious snake!
Last night, much to my shock and surprise, I saw for the first time the Android "Animal Buddies" commercial on TV that uses Roger Miller's "Oo De Lally" Robin Hood song. Robin Hood may not get the press the other popular Disney films get, but he is clearly not forgotten!