Below is the script for the beginning of Walt Disney’s short promotional film ‘The Riddle of Robin Hood.’ Possibly read by Hans Conried (later the voice of Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan). I am indebted to Neil Vessey for sending me information on this extremely rare piece of cinematic history. What it emphasises is the amount of groundwork and research Disney and his staff carried out before a single frame of his lavish Technicolor movie was shot. Walt Disney was also brave enough to tackle a mystery that has caused ceaseless controversy amongst distinguished scholars and antiquaries for well over seven hundred years-who was Robin Hood?
His fact-finding expedition to Nottingham and Sherwood paid off. The end product was without doubt one of the best-if not the best-Robin Hood movie ever made. It certainly sparked an interest in the legend in me, that has lasted a lifetime. Thank you Mr Disney.
"Who was Robin Hood? Was he a man or a legend? Did such a person roam the glades of Sherwood Forest, robbing the rich and giving to the poor? Or was he simply a fable invented by strolling minstrels? If he did exist, was he an ordinary rogue whose concern was fattening his own purse, or was he a champion of mankind whose deeds help to light the first torch of freedom back in the dark ages?
Could there have been a real Robin Hood, or someone very like him who inspired the knights of England to force the Magna Carta, that first great document of human rights and law, from the tyrannical Prince John?
Would the outlaw story ever be known? The legendry challenge, the hope of untangling a trail of mystery that led back through the centuries was not lost on Walt Disney. With his producer Perce Pearce and his screen playwright, Lawrence Watkin, they stuck to the job of sifting through endless books, ballads, papers, public and private libraries, the scraps of song and traces of legend that have accumulated over the passing years.
Famous writers, back through the ages, Tennyson, Spencer, Chaucer, were fascinated by the Robin Hood story and referred to the outlaw frequently.
In Act 1 of 'As You Like It', Shakespeare too makes special mention of Robin. Still despite all the literary and historical clues, as the Sheriff of Nottingham discovered long ago. The capture of the elusive mocking spirit, known as Robin Hood, was not an easy one. Obviously if he was to be caught at all, it would not be in the sylvan glades of Hollywood. The Disney force headed for England to take up the quest of Robin on his own grounds".