Last night I learned of the passing of Brian Bedford, the voice behind the title character of Disney’s animated film Robin Hood (1973). In his memory, I want to spend some time looking at this film today.
Image property of Walt Disney Co.
Robin Hood is an often overlooked gem in the Disney collection because it came out after the Golden Age of Animation (which ended around 1959) and well before the Disney Renaissance which began in 1989 with The Little Mermaid.
Disney’s version of the classic tale depicts all the characters as animals, with many of the chosen species’ representing their characters particularly well:
Robin Hood (Brian Bedford) is a fox, as is his love Maid Marian (Monica Evans)
Little John (Phil Harris) is a bear and Friar Tuck (Andy Devine) is a badger
Prince John (Peter Ustinov) is a lion and Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas) is a snake
And the reprehensible Sheriff of Nottingham (Pat Buttram) is a wolf, among many other characters
The film features some of my favorite Disney songs, several brought to life by the late Roger Miller (who also stars as Alan-a-Dale, the rooster minstrel who narrates a generous portion of the movie). My favorite by far though, is the song “The Phony King of England,” written by Johnny Mercer and performed by the incomparable Phil Harris. A full performance can be found on Youtube here: The Phony King of England (on a funny note, this song is a cleaned up version of an actual song sung during the time of the real Robin Hood. Only they didn’t call Prince John “phony,” they called him….something else (I’m sure you can take a guess).
Another favorite song is the sad ballad “Not in Nottingham.” Prince John, fed up with being humiliated one time too many, has lowered the hammer on the whole town of Nottingham, taxing the people so ruthlessly that everyone has been placed in jail because they can’t pay the outrageous amounts of money demanded. The full song can be listened to here: Not in Nottingham
Here’s the funny thing about Alan-a-dale by the way: throughout the film he is seen holding a lute, a medieval instrument that is appropriate to the era, however, it is being played (and sounds) exactly like a guitar! These two instruments are not the same thing, so it always cracks me up a little to see that.
I do give Disney credit for giving him a lute though, E for Effort Disney!!
In closing, Bedford and the entire cast delivered a wonderful performance that makes this movie something truly special. Rest in Peace Brian Bedford, you will always be remembered.