Original British 'Story of Robin Hood' poster (1952)

Once again a big thank you goes out to Mike, for sending me a copy of his much-treasured original British poster of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).

In my opinion this is by far the best artwork I have seen for the movie, it captures beautifully the colour, action and romance of the film. I would love to own a copy of this. Unfortunately I have not found the name of the artist, although it seems to have been produced by Pulford Publicity in London which later became known as Downtown Advertising and Feref Associates. If anyone can help me find a name for the artist, please get in touch at

James Hayter as Mr Pickwick in 'The Pickwick Papers' (1952)

Two Friars. James Hayter was later picked by Ken Annakin to become the celebrated Friar Tuck in Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood (1952). Alexander Gauge seen here as Mr Tupman, also became Friar Tuck in TV's Adventures of Robin Hood in 1955.

Ken Annakin (1914-2009)

I have just heard the very sad news that Ken Annakin has passed away in Beverly Hills aged 94. As my regular readers will know, it was Ken who directed Walt Disney's be-loved Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men. (1952).

Ken had previously been in good health and always talked about making more films, even though he had not directed since the early 1990s, his daughter Deborah Peters said. "He was absolutely fine, other than old age," she said. "He was walking and mobile, chatting and working, still trying to get films made. I don't think anybody like that ever really stops." His health had been failing since he had a heart attack and stroke within a day of each other in February. He passed away on Wednesday night.

I intend to look into the life of this Disney Legend in the future, but for now here is today's obituary from the New York Times:

"Starting as a cameraman in Britain on training films for the Royal Air Force in World War II, Mr. Annakin went on to direct more than 40 feature films for the British screen and Hollywood.
His 1965 comedy about the early days of aviation, the full title of which is Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew From London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes, starred Stuart Whitman as an American flier racing for a prize awarded by a British newspaper. It intertwined romance, cheating and international conflicts with soaring flight scenes. It earned Mr. Annakin an Oscar nomination, with Jack Davis for best screenplay.

Comedies were Mr. Annakin’s specialty in his early directing days. One hit from those years was Miranda (1948), with Glynis Johns as a mermaid caught by a doctor on a fishing trip; her tail reappears whenever she gets wet. In 1948 and ’49 Mr. Annakin directed a series of films about a down-to-earth British family, the Huggetts.

One of the first live-action Disney movies was Mr. Annakin’s “Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men,” with Richard Todd as Robin Hood. Shot in England and released in the United States in 1952, it entered many more childhood memories when it was shown on television in 1955. Another Disney film directed by Mr. Annakin was the 1960 version of “Swiss Family Robinson,” with John Mills, Dorothy McGuire and James MacArthur.

Some of Mr. Annakin’s work was more serious. In 1957 he directed “Across the Bridge,” in which Rod Steiger played a Wall Street swindler hiding in Mexico using the identity of a man he had murdered. Mr. Annakin’s daughter said “Across the Bridge” was her father’s favorite film.
In 1962 Mr. Annakin was one of the four directors of “The Longest Day,” the sprawling World War II epic about the invasion of Normandy. He directed the scenes involving British and French troops.

In 1965 he was the sole director of “Battle of the Bulge,” with Henry Fonda.
Among Mr. Annakin’s other directing credits are “The Biggest Bundle of Them All” (1968), a comedy heist movie set in Italy; “The Call of the Wild” (1972), starring Charlton Heston; and “The Pirate Movie” (1982), an adaptation of “The Pirates of Penzance” starring Kristy McNichol and Christopher Atkins.

Kenneth Cooper Annakin was born in Beverley, in Yorkshire, England, on Aug. 10, 1914. His daughter said he was an only child who left his parents as a teenager and never told her his parents’ names. Besides his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 49 years, the former Pauline Carter; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

After dropping out of school, Mr. Annakin traveled to Australia, New Zealand and the United States. He returned to England and sold insurance and cars, then joined the RAF.
In 2002 Queen Elizabeth named Mr. Annakin an officer of the Order of the British Empire."

Disney's nephew Roy described Ken Annakin as, "an important part of the Disney legacy [who] made several memorable films for my uncle Walt."

“Star Wars” creator George Lucas paid him an indirect compliment when he named the character Anakin Skywalker for him.

In addition to his daughter Deborah, Annakin is survived by his wife of 50 years, Pauline; grandchildren Alice and Matthew; and great grandchildren, Oliver and Zoe. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Monday at Westwood Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.

In 4 days time Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood DVD will go on general release across America. This film will be one of a number of wonderful lasting legacies of a man who insisted, that he only made films for audiences.

Thank you Ken.

St George and England!

April 23rd is St George’s Day. Sadly for decades it has been un-fashionable to celebrate England’s patron Saint. Our American cousins, Ireland, Scotland and most other countries around the globe celebrate their national identity with pride, in England we don’t. A survey by a government agency revealed that fewer than one in five people mark St George's Day on April 23rd. There have been many excuses given out by government officials and local councils down the years as to why. It has been even been reported that some local shops have been forbidden to fly the national flag from their premises, for fear of upsetting the local residents from diverse cultures.

Meanwhile the flag of St George has developed negative connotations of football hooliganism and the racism of the National Front. In schools in the inner cities and across the country, lessons in the history of our nation have been removed from the curriculum or dumbed down to such an extent that in a survey in 2008, carried out by the Daily Mail newspaper, they found these shocking results:

“In the Survey a quarter of the population thought that Winston Churchill never actually existed.

While a poll recently named him the greatest Briton of all time, the wartime prime minister is seen by many as a mythical figure along with the likes of Florence Nightingale and Sir Walter Raleigh. Churchill, the 'greatest Briton of all time,' is merely a myth to some.

This could well have something to do with the TV insurance adverts inviting viewers to challenge Churchill and featuring a lugubrious talking dog.

According to the survey of 3,000 respondents, many believe the inspirational Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, Cleopatra and the Duke of Wellington are also characters dreamed up for films and books.
Some think Charles Dickens was himself a character in fiction rather than the creator of David Copperfield, Oliver Twist and Martin Chuzzlewit.

In this damning indictment of the nation's historical knowledge, many of those surveyed said they believe Sherlock Holmes was a real person, along with the pilot Biggles and even the Three Musketeers!

Almost 50 per cent were certain that Eleanor Rigby existed not just in the imagination of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.”

Such damming evidence of a basic knowledge of our history and culture has inspired this recent poem:


Goodbye my England, so long old friend
Your days are numbered, being brought to an end.
To be Scottish or Irish or Welsh that’s just fine,
But don’t say you’re English that’s way out of line!

The French and the Germans may call themselves such,
As may the Norwegians, the Swedes and the Dutch.
You can say you are Russian or maybe a Dane,
But don’t say you are English ever again.

At Broadcasting House that word is taboo,
In Brussels they’ve scrapped it, in Parliament too.
Even schools are affected; staff do as they’re told,
They mustn’t teach children about the England of old.

Writers like Shakespeare, Milton or Shaw,
Do pupils not learn about them anymore?
How about Agincourt, Hastings or Mons?
Where England lost hosts of her very brave sons.

We’re not Europeans, how can we be?
Europe is miles away, over the sea!
We’re English from England let’s all be proud.
Stand up and be counted, shout it out loud!

Let’s tell Tony Blair and Brussels too.
We’re proud of our heritage, not just red, white and blue.
Fly the flag of St. George, not the Union Jack!
Let the World know ENGLAND is back!

The tide is turning and dear old blighty is starting to reclaim the day of its Patron Saint in a spirit of inclusiveness and rejuvenation spearheaded by London Mayor’s Boris Johnson. Let’s hope it’s not too late!

In an official statement published on March 22, Johnson said: "St George’s Day has been ignored in London for far too long, but I’m truly pleased to announce some fantastic events to mark this occasion. We have much to be proud of in this great country, England has given so much to the world, politically, socially and artistically."

So on April 23rd wherever you are, raise your glass and recite these famous words from Shakespeare's (he was born and died on 23rd April) famous St. George speech (Henry V - Act III, Scene I):
"I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start.
The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!”

Russell Crowe as Robin Hood

Here he is! Our very first glimpse of Russell Crowe as Robin Hood, filming Ridley Scott’s eagerly anticipated £110 million remake of the classic tale. Opening in theatres on May 14, 2010, the Universal action-drama co-stars Cate Blanchett, Vanessa Redgrave, Mark Strong, Scott Grimes, Kevin Durand, Alan Doyle, Oscar Isaacs, Lea Seydoux and William Hurt. According to the press, the 45-year old actor has started a crusade of dieting and exercise to lose more than four stone. Crowe is said to have eaten food with a low glycaemic index, such as peanuts, apricots and porridge which leave the dieter feeling satisfied for longer. He has also cycled daily in preparation for the film.

USA Today says:

Sporting a Caesar haircut and slimmed-down physique, Crowe shed the weight he gained for his portly characters in State of Play and Body of Lies. He also updated the bandit's wardrobe.

"He doesn't have the old Robin Hood tights," says producer Brian Grazer. "He's got armor. He's very medieval. He looks, if anything, more like he did in Gladiator than anything we're used to seeing with Robin Hood."

And though it won't be easy replicating the box office or Oscar success of the 2000 film —Gladiator raked in $458 million worldwide and won five Academy Awards, including best picture — Grazer says Robin Hood's story was ripe for revisiting.

"Oddly, it's a metaphor for today," Grazer says. "He's trying to create equality in a world where there are a lot of injustices. He's a crusader for the people, trying to reclaim some of the ill-gotten gains of the wealthy. That's a universal theme."
Not that the film will linger on the contemporary. "We just shot a scene where Maid Marion fires a flaming bow and arrow into the night sky. It's just a cool story."

Apparently the film has a Gladiator-style retelling of the old English legend, in which Robin Hood's psychological issues are examined. Crowe plays Robin of Loxley in an “original story of Robin Hood that hews close to historical facts of the period. Abandoned as a child, he finds community with the common people of Nottingham. Robin's abandonment and trust issues hamper his ability to fall in love. He meets his match in Marian (Blanchett), a strong, independent woman."

Sienna Miller was originally offered the role as Maid Marian, but the producers of the film feared that her slim physique would appear to make Crowe seem too chubby on the screen, so the part of Robin’s love interest has been given to 39 year old Cate Blanchett.

Some of the reaction on the web has been interesting:

  • errol flynn will be turning in his grave, first costner now bloody crowe...this is sooooo wrong!

  • bloody 'eck. Hope 'e's got the accent right. Be very disappointing if he hasn't. Much as I love the Aussie accent it just won't sound right on Robin.
    Vonne,Yass (down under)

  • Expect lots of slow motion blurry cam shots from Ridley 'I used to make good movies but then started using cgi' Scott.

  • Kevin Costners American accent speaking and clean shaven Robin hood was the worst ever portrayed. The film was fun but he was laughable! The current BBC Robin Hood is a joke too with Robin looking like a member of a Brit-pop band! Patrick Bergin was the most authentic looking Robin Hood since Errol Flynn's 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood masterpiece that is still not beaten today! Russell looks as brutish as he always does, not exactly the classic look for Robin Hood and not much of the Lincoln Green in the costume department either. I'm almost biting my tongue when I say this but they should have tried again with Orlando Bloom, he's not the greatest actor without a good supporting cast but he at least looks the part and won't have to fake his accent for a change! ..Besides, he’s only good with a bow and arrow in his hands.

  • First off, Ridley Scott is going for the real look of how Robin Hood would have been in the era he lived in. In the era that Robin Hood lived in, men didn't wear tights as tights weren't invented yet. Also were does everyone get that Robin Hood is some kind of pretty boy or some young stud? seriously? the myth of Robin Hood never states the character's age. Hell, the myth of Robin Hood is technically flawed on several accounts. Ridley Scott is delivering a realistic & griddy Robin Hood. If you want the whole fantasy green tight wearing Robin Hood go watch the classic of Michael Curtiz' "The Adventures Of Robin Hood". If you want a comedic take on the myth go watch Mel Brooks' "Men In Tights". If you want a inadmissible Robin Hood film then go watch Kevin Costner's "Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves". You'll see why he got a Razzie for that performance. But hey, Kevin Costner's been nominated for a total of 14 Razzies. Then there's the BBC's Robin Hood who looks like a punk band Robin Hood which is just a joke. All you people who are pre-judging or hating on Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood" for being "inaccurate" are just being either ignorant, narrow-minded, ill-advise, or all of the above. Technically, Ridley's verison is going to be the most historically correct version.P.S. Orlando Bloom would have been the cliché fantasy pick for Robin Hood something that's been done already with Errol Flynn.

The Ribald Tales of Robin Hood

This beautiful Japanese poster caught my eye the other day. It is advertising The Ribald Tales of Robin Hood, which was released in the USA in October 1969. Unfortunately the quality of the art work is not reflected in the movie, which describes itself as the erotic and exotic story of Robin Hood and his merry men and women. The reason, it states that, everyone is so merry, is they spend the live-long day engaging in their favourite sexual experiences.

The film was directed by Richard Kanter and starred Ralph Jenkins as Robin Hood, Dee Lockwood as Marian, Bambi Allen as Polly and C.S. Poole as the Sheriff.

The American poster claimed:

“From Gutsy, Grabby 11th Century England...An Area and Era of Unparalleled Earthiness comes the Uncut, Uncloaked version of one of Anglo-Saxondom’s Best Loved Tales.”

Definitely un-Disney!

Jonas Armstrong and his Bow

For at least 800 years the legend of Robin Hood has been enhanced and embellished by minstrels and story-tellers. With the start of the recent BBC TV series; it came as no surprise to critics; that to appeal to a modern young audience, today’s writers had to come-up with a few new twists for their version of the ancient tale.

But as the new series unfolded, it soon became apparent that no element of the legend was safe. In particular, the BBC’s Robin Hood chose not to use a traditional English bow made from the finest Yew, but what appeared initially to be a Middle Eastern recurved bow constructed from composite materials.

This of course sent shock-waves through the English archery clubs and federations up and down the country who look upon Robin Hood as their ‘patron saint.’

The directors have certainly made the archery shots completely unrealistic and in some cases spectacularly ridiculous. But what followed on many web sites and forums was an interesting debate on Jonas Armstrong’s choice of bow. Initially it was believed that Jonas; as Robin Hood, carried this type of bow, as a respect for his former Saracen enemy during the third Crusade with King Richard the Lionheart. In the first series he explains to Luke Scarlet, the younger brother of Will, that the Saracen bow is curved that way to give more power to a smaller weapon. But was it a Saracen bow?

A recurve bow is defined as having tips curving away from the archer. The recurve bow's bent limbs have a longer draw length than an equivalent straight-limbed bow, giving a more acceleration to the projectile and less hand shock. But Recurved limbs also put greater strain on the materials used to make the bow and this is what started quite an interesting internet debate.

Below is just a small sample:

“The composite bow that Robin uses in the TV show requires the use of very strong glues. The strongest glues at that time were made from collagen which is a main protein of connective tissue in animals. The collagen in our own skin, for example, helps bind it and keep it supple. If you boil up animal hide, sinew or parts of certain fish you can scoop of the collagen and get different types of hide glue, sinew glue and fish glue respectively. Although as strong as modern synthetic glues the biggest weakness for this type of glue is that it takes a long time to dry because any moisture in the glue will break down the bonds that hold it. And worse, once dry, if it gets wet the glue will begin to dissolve again. This is why composite bows were common in warm, dry climates but weren't used in wetter climates, like England. So no, if Robin Hood were real he wouldn't have used a composite "Saracen" bow. Or at least not for very long.”


“It's not a Saracen bow. It's an ancient Hungarian recurved bow.The Hungarian fighters used it 1500 years ago."Ab saggittae ungarorum, libera nos Domine"- God save us from the Hungarian's bows- said the prayer of the Middle Ages, which is familiar to everyone, who ever studied the tactics of the "raider" Hungarians.
This new version filmed in Hungary. That's why this bow is in the series.”


“It is indeed a Hungarian bow, and looks like it was made by either Kassai or Grozer, both fine Hungarian bowyers making traditional style bows. Of the two, Grozer is, I think, the best - his finest bows are made using authentic materials and designs. They are incredible testaments to engineering knowledge that dates back more than 2 millennia. I too saw the article on the web stating that the wet climate would cause the glue used to construct the bow would fail - This is not a logical argument. Firstly, the weak point of any medieval bow is the bow string - contemporary English bow strings were made from nettle or flax fiber, and would stretch when wet. Secondly, the glue (made from the swim bladders of freshwater fish) unlike hide or sinew glue, cures as it dries. This makes it far less susceptible to moisture, but for added protection the bow limbs were covered with fish/snake skin or birch bark. Thirdly, and probably most convincingly, the horn/wood/sinew composite bow was used to great effect by Ghengis Kahn across a vast and climatically diverse area - it was never a weapon limited to arid regions.”


“This type of bow is often called a "horse bow”. Developed by the Mongols, it was used on horseback (hence the smaller size). Despite its small size it packs incredible power. This is because of its shape, and materials used in its construction. Wet weather is not a problem; ancient archers (much more ancient than the middle ages) covered these bows with a layer of birch bark to protect them from the elements. These bow easily pierced the plate armor of Roman or Chinese soldiers. This weapon was the reason Genghis Kahn was able to rule the largest empire known to man.”

The opening titles of the BBC’s Robin Hood series declares that deep in the heart of England lies the legend of Robin Hood.
But at the heart of the ancient legend of Robin Hood, is his traditional prowess with an English bow; perhaps it would have been better if the BBC had left this vital element of the story alone.

What do you think?

Patrick Barr as Richard the Lionheart

This stunning picture of Patrick Barr as Richard the Lionheart, was kindly sent to me by Mike.

The publicity photographers for Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood were Ian Jeays, George-Courtney Ward and Frank Bellingham.

I have tried to identify the work of the photographer of this and some of the stills I own, but it has proved impossible. So if anyone can help, please get in touch and if you have any stills from the film that you would like to share with the readers of this blog, please send a copy to disneysrobin@googlemail.com

New Robin Hood Discovery

This is a very rare opportunity to report on an important discovery in the search for Robin Hood. Recently the world’s media have excitedly reported on Dr Julian M. Luxford’s significant find of a new historical reference to the famous outlaw.

Dr Luxford, a lecturer in art history at St. Andrews University in Scotland, found the Latin chronicle, known as Polychronicon, while researching 15th Century drawings in the library of England’s prestigious Eton College. The college was founded by King Henry VI in 1440. The manuscript, believed to have been written at Witham monastery in Somerset, has been at Eton since 1913 and its link to Robin Hood appears to have been overlooked.

Written neatly in the large margin of this medieval document are 23 words in Latin:

Circa h[ec] temp[or]a vulg[us] opinat[ur] que[n]da[m] exlegatu[m] dict[um] Robyn hode cu[m] suis co[m]plicib[us] assiduis latrocinijs apud shirwode & alibi regios fideles Anglie infestasse.

(Around this time, according to popular opinion, a certain outlaw named Robin Hood, with his accomplices, infested Sherwood and other law-abiding areas of England with continuous robberies.)

The anonymous scribe was writing this in about 1460 and places his insertion regarding Robin Hood during the events of 1294- 1299, in the reign of King Edward I. Dr Luxford said:

"The new find places Robin Hood in Edward I's reign, thus supporting the belief that his legend is of 13th Century origin."

Up until now the first chroniclers to mention Robin Hood in a historical context were Scottish. Andrew de Wyntoun in 1420, placed the ‘renowned’ outlaw in the early 1280’s; Walter Bower in about 1445 placed the ‘cutthroat’ Robin Hood’s’ activities to 1266 and John Major stated that Robin was outlawed between 1193 and 1194 while Richard I was on Crusade.
Luxford makes the following points:

"Rather than depicting the traditionally well-liked hero, the article suggests that Robin Hood and his merry men may not actually have been 'loved by the good'. The new find contains a uniquely negative assessment of the outlaw, and provides rare evidence for monastic attitudes towards him. The inscription's author does at least acknowledge that these men were active elsewhere in England.

By mentioning Sherwood it buttresses the hitherto rather thin evidence for a medieval connection between Robin and the Nottinghamshire forest with which he has become so closely associated."

This is of course a significant find. It gives us a glimpse of the first English chronicler’s view of Robin Hood. For someone like me, who has had a lifetime interest in the origins of this remarkable legend, it is very interesting. But if we strip away all the media hype, what are we left with?

· The insertion by the 15th century scribe into the years of 1294- 1299 is said by Luxford to ‘support’ the belief that the outlaw was active in the 13th century. But it could also be counter-argued that the choice by this medieval chronicler was purely arbitrary.

· The author of the note actually reveals very little information and simply relies on ‘popular opinion.’

Nottingham Castle in 1617

Above can be seen John Smythson’s plan of Nottingham Castle in 1617. This document gives us one of the only detailed layouts of the castle before the 18th Century.

Many tourists who visit Nottingham are often disappointed to find out that very little survives of this once magnificent medieval castle (including Walt Disney in 1951). It was, in its time in the same league as Windsor, Dover and the Tower of London as a military stronghold, royal palace and administration centre.

The order for Nottingham Castle’s final destruction was given during the English Civil War by the Council of State in 1651. Major Thomas Poulton was given instructions to see Nottingham Castle was demolished effectively within 14 days, so that the castle and ‘all the outworks and fortifications be altogether demolished before the 10th November.’

For the next twenty years the ruins became a common quarry for the local townspeople, until the site was acquired by the Duke of Newcastle.

The vast majority of visitors who arrive to gaze at what is left of Nottingham Castle come because of the castle’s association with one person - the noble outlaw, Robin Hood. But what is often not realized is the fact that Nottingham Castle actually has no part in the earliest medieval stories about the merry outlaw. But that did not stop the castle becoming an elegant backdrop to the later plays and continuous stream of films about his adventures.

To read more about the history of the castle, please click on the Nottingham Castle label.

Fabulous Blog Award

A special thank you to Alianore for awarding me with one of the Your Blog is Fabulous Awards on her Edward II web site.

Feed-back like this makes it all worth-while.

Alianore's fascinating and extensively researched blog, dedicated to the reign of Edward II, can be found at http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.com/.