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The 40th Anniversary of ROBIN HOOD, Disney’s Underappreciated Joy

Oo de lally, golly what a day.

Yesterday I was on the Walt Disney studio lot and, knowing that today was the 40th anniversary of the release of Disney's Robin Hood, I hit the studio store looking for merch. My best friend is a huge fan of Robin Hood, but the movie has almost slipped from the consciousness of the world; the film got a Blu-ray release earlier this year, but that was all the hoopla Disney could muster. When I got to the studio store I discovered that not only was there no Robin Hood merchandise on display, there wasn't even a Blu-ray to buy (which is ok, because we already have the Blu in this house, but it's the principle of the thing). 

I won't claim that Disney's Robin Hood is one of the great films in the Disney cartoon canon, but it's a wonderful work in its own right, a fine example of a strange period for the studio. Released in 1973 it has an incredibly laid-back vibe that shines through in the voice acting, which is very naturalistic and low-key for this sort of film. The animation isn't up to classic Disney standards - they actually re-used animation from previous films this time, thanks to a low budget - but the art style has a scratchy, warm feeling that speaks to a scrappy moment in American pop culture.

Most of all the film has a great soundtrack. Not stuffed with showtunes like your average Disney film, Disney's Robin Hood is - despite being set in England - soaked in American roots music. The soundtrack features bluegrass and stomping country, with the great Roger Miller - singer of King of the Road and Dang Me, the song that closes out the Badass Padcast Podcast!  - doing most of the writing and singing (pop legend Johnny Mercer wrote the song Phony King of England). It's a great soundtrack, never released on CD.

The movie has had a weird, minor impact on culture; the opening credits Whistle-Stop ended up being sampled for the infamous "Hampster Dance" video. Love ended up on the Fantastic Mr. Fox soundtrack. While another criminally underrated and unavailable soundtrack came back in vogue after a cool movie used one of its songs (He Needs Me from Harry Nilsson's brilliant Popeye soundtrack, used in Punch Drunk Love), Robin Hood never quite got that comeback bump. 

Disney's Robin Hood is beautifully analog, a crackling and fuzzy piece of minor joy. I always love the slightly overlooked things in pop culture, and this movie definitely qualifies.