Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Larry Clemmons/Ken Anderson/Vance Gerry/Frank Thomas/Eric Cleworth/Julius Svendsen/David Michener
This is kind of another weird one. Everyone loves it. Even more so than The Sword In The Stone. But it’s clunky, cheaply animated and really only has a couple of great songs in it. “Love” was nominated for an Oscar, but can you actually remember how it goes? I didn’t even remember that it existed.
Walt had wanted to do a Reynard The Fox movie since about 1937, but he could never figure out how to make it work, Reynard being a thief and all. He thought about doing it as a sort of combo with Treasure Island, with Long John Silver telling Reynard stories to Jim Hawkins. That didn’t work out.
What also didn’t work was putting the film in the Deep South. Someone thought it would be a good idea to “recapture the spirit of Song Of The South.” Luckily, they were vetoed and the movie was set in Merry Ol’ England.
The characters really are what saves this movie. Robin and Marion as foxes is obvious but brilliant. Little John as a bear (voiced again by Phil Harris) is great. Prince John as a weak, childlike, but tyrannical lion (Peter Ustinov) is perfect. Friar Tuck (Western character actor legend Andy Devine), Alan-a-Dale (Roger Miller who wrote the best songs), Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas)…all of them are amazing.
If it wasn’t for all of those great characters, the movie would kinda fall flat. The animation is cheap (a lot of it reused from other films: the dance scene is rotoscoped from Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and Snow White), so it’s doubtful that it influenced very much. A lot of the action is muddled and silly. Lady Cluck as a football player? I mean…sure? I guess?
Disney is possibly currently planning a live-action series based on this film in the vein of Pirates Of The Caribbean. So…lucky us? (No word on if it will still use animals instead of humans, or if it’s even happening at all, at this point.)
Like I said, I actually love this movie. It’s one of the Disney films that I absolutely grew up on, so I have a very soft spot in my heart for it. But I can recognize that it’s not the best. Not by a long shot.
But, man, I could rewatch it over and over again.