There are a series of stories that I consider classics, both because I grew up adoring the characters and because they are, well, classic. Stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood, the Three Musketeers, etc. draw me in no matter what format they are presented in, whether it’s a Smurfs version or the extended versions by authors like T.H. White or Sir Thomas Mallory. This week finds several of Walt Disney’s classic versions releasing in Blu-ray for the very first time, and two of those classic stories are included.
The second of these films coming out today is Robin Hood (1973), the Walt Disney variation of the ancient legend of the outlaw(s) of Sherwood Forest who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Of course, in the animated world of Disney, that sets Robin as a fox pursuing his childhood vixen love interest, Marian, while battling the evil lion prince John, and contending with the malicious wolf Sheriff of Nottingham. With musical backing by Roger Miller, the vocal cast sings, dances, and carries on through the exploits of the outlaws who gave John fits until his brother, the noble King Richard the Lionhearted, returned from the Great Crusades. (Of course, in this version, John’s lieutenant, Hiss the snake, messes with Richard’s mind, and also provides a majority of the hijinks here.)
Rounding out this Robin’s crew are Friar Tuck (a badger), Alan-a-Dale (a rooster), and, of course, Little John (a bear). There are host of other animal creatures, like rabbits, turtles, dogs, and vultures, and suddenly, the epic excitement of the Sherwood men has been transported from the world of Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe into the world of childlike wonder. Years later, I’m still a fan! There’s romance, adventure, intrigue, and humor, and the animation is quite nice in high definition. I’m not sure it’s everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s mine!
Readers of the blog will know that I’m always looking for something below the surface, and Robin’s “steal from the rich and give to the poor” motif is right up my alley. In Micah 6:8, the prophet says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV). Micah wants us to understand that God puts a value on being just (doing the right thing) and showing humility. The writer James will later add that the “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27, NIV). To understand our own place in the world, it seems that we have to explore how we interact with the people around us; to believe that we operate in isolation would be to completely miss the mark.
Disney delivers that message here, in the fortieth anniversary of this great, animated tale. We’re reminded that we don’t have only so that we can benefit, but that we have so that others would also be blessed. It’s a story of justice, and a story of the “redistribution of wealth,” as told of us in legend, and cartoon.