A 'Different' Robin Hood Film

From 'The Disney Films' By Leonard Maltin:

'Having formed RKO-Walt Disney British Productions Ltd and succeeded in filming a most creditable live-action feature, Walt Disney decided to continue making films in England, with Perce Pearce as his producer. They decided to continue in the action-adventure genre and chose Robin Hood.

This time out, in addition to using an all-British crew, Disney hired a British director as well, a young man who had made an impressive start at Rank studios with such films as 'Trio' and 'Quartet', Ken Annakin. At the time he joined the production, some prepatory work had already been done by Disney and Pearce with their cameraman Guy Green and art director, Carmen Dillon. As on 'Treasure Island' three seperate shooting units were established, one doing action work on exterior location and two doing interiors at Denham Studios. Disney spent part of the summer in England working closely with Annakin. The director recalls
"I remember talking about the original Errol Flynn 'Robin Hood' and I looked at it, just to get an idea what had been done before, because I never like to do anything twice. Walt didn't seem very worried about seeing the original and in fact I doubt he ever did. His approach is always that the film is a Disney picture and therefore, because of his attitudes and his approach, the picture is bound to be different from anything else made on that subject before."

That is exactly what happened of course, the Disney film adheres to the Robin Hood legend, yet it is a work unto itself. One is hard pressed to make comparisons between the Disney Robin Hood and earlier versions, not because one is better than another, but simply each one is different.
This is an extremely 'good looking' film as well. The locations are beautiful with lush green countrysides, the sets are truly formidable and realistic. The seemingly effortless pacing and knowing use of camera angles and cutting is doubly impressive when one considers certain background facts. For instance, Annakin has vivd memories of the difficulties in shooting Technicolor at that time.

"It was the very elaborate three-strip system with a very immobile camera. When you wanted to reload the camera in it's very heavy blimp, you had to have it lifted on chains and it took the first-class technicolor crew a minimum of eleven minutes to reload the camera. After every single shot the camera had to be opened and the gate had to be examined; the prism was the great thing because this was the light splitter which gave the registrations on the three strips. For this reason, if you were making a big picture like 'Robin Hood' you had to be very certain you were not wasting set-ups or wasting shots because it was a big industrial process every time to set up your camera"

The use of story boards was new to Annakin, "but it appealed to my logical brain very, very much" and prompted ingenious scenes such as the first meeting between Prince John and the Sheriff after King Richard has lefy, played on the balcony of the castle against a brilliant but ominous orange sky at sundown.
Time has been kind to the film, as so many inferior films in this genre have followed it: today it seems better than ever.

Disney's 'Robin Hood' strikes a happy medium, leaning heavily on strong characterisations but placing them against a colorful and sumptuous tableau that gives the film a fine period flavor.'


robin hood said...

Thanks for the link-up.

I shall put a link to this site on my main Robin Hood blog over the next couple of days.

Best wishes for now. Keep the faith.

Clement of the Glen said...

Thanks Robin!

Good to know you are around.

Herns son said...

There are films that stay with you all your life, they are there like old friends , i saw Richard Todd as Robin way back in 1952, this film means so much to me and so does being part of this wonderful site. I have written to Mr Todd several times and have always received a very nice letter back.keep up the great work Tony.