The work of the Walt Disney Company has formed over 70 years of groundbreaking and beloved storytelling, adored the world over. For many of us, Disney remains an indelible part of our childhoods, the structural backbone of our pop culture nostalgia. Everyone has a favorite Disney movie or TV show or princess that played a massive part in their youth.
Today, the company remains an indomitable titan of entertainment, with both the Marvel and Star Wars universes under their vast umbrella. Yet it’s those animated movies of the past that we remain so drawn to, partly because they were such a defining part of our young lives. For a lot of us, it was through Disney that we experienced our first crushes, and who could blame us? After all, this is the studio that made the handsome prince a bankable trademark. The one enduring Disney crush that seems to unite a hefty demographic, however, is one with more fur than your average prince.
Disney's Robin Hood, the 1973 animated adaptation of the classic legend, is generally considered one of the studio's minor efforts; a sweet little film but nowhere near the creative peak of Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. Still, it remains a charming story and probably the version of Robin Hood most of us grew up with. It also contains one of Disney's most beloved heroes and the character that seemingly everyone fancies. If you'll forgive the pun, Disney's Robin Hood is a stone cold fox.
I asked my Twitter followers how many of them, at some point in their lives, had a crush on Disney’s take on Robin Hood, and the response was overwhelmingly "yes." Even the handful of people who said they didn’t were happy to admit that they totally got why he was so hot. A parody article on CBC joked that Robin's aesthetic allure was "not the subjective opinion of anyone on this research team, but rather a straight-up empirical and unassailable scientific fact." We can’t argue with the numbers here — Robin’s hot!
The Robin Hood archetype is a classic of both literature and cinema, with Errol Flynn's depiction being one of the golden age of Hollywood's most iconic heroes. The concept is simple: a roguish hero who's an expert with the bow and arrow steals from the rich to give to the poor. Who could resist a handsome archer who's ardently dedicated to the woman he loves and the concept of redistribution of wealth?
Disney’s take on the story is pretty standard, but with great emphasis on those details that make Robin so darn charismatic. Not only is he charming, but he’s impeccably chivalrous, a great supporter of the beleaguered underdog, an enemy of undemocratic power, and a hopeless romantic. He doesn’t mind making a fool of himself to get the girl, and he’s simply better than the competition. If you’re a kid watching this seemingly innocent cartoon and the hero of the piece is the most potent embodiment of that heroic archetype you’ve ever seen, it’s going to make an impression. Everyone can get behind that kind of hero.
Robin, compared to the Disney princes of the day, was far more interesting and had a definable personality. He wasn’t like Snow White’s handsome prince, who didn’t have a name and only had to turn up to get his girl, or Cinderella’s Prince Charming — also nameless — who couldn’t even be bothered to go and look for his mysterious love himself, outsourcing that gig to his manservant. At least Sleeping Beauty’s Prince Phillip got out his sword and turned dragon slayer for his princess. Robin didn’t just fight for Maid Marian — he fought for the people, and did it with an ever-present gleam in his eye. It’s not just that he believes in love, he believes in justice, and he’ll do what it takes to ensure everyone is saved from the smothering cruelty of the sniveling Prince John. With so much to offer, you could almost forget he was an anthropomorphic fox.Robin Hood is entirely cast with animals, but the animators do not specifically define them by their primal traits. They mostly walk like humans, talk like humans and interact like humans. As noted in my colleague Clare McBride's piece on how furries became a fandom, "While there are plenty of jokes that play on the characters’ species—elephants using their trunks instead of trumpets, for instance—not all of them are based on the idea that talking animals are inherently funny. There are honestly thrilling and poignant moments in the film. They just happen to be played out by a cast of anthropomorphic animals."
From a purely aesthetic point-of-view, even non-furries can appreciate the foxy Robin. He's slender, elegant, has beautiful eyes — which he uses to stare devotedly at Marian at every opportunity he gets — and his plummy English accent, provided by Shakespearean actor Brian Bedford, is music to our ears. There’s always this glimmer in his voice or smirk that hints at mischief managed. When all the other Disney leading men are so polished and predictably handsome, there’s something to be said about a hero who gets his hands/paws dirty and is rough around the edges. He’s not super muscled or macho, and he never plays hard to get with Marian. His adoration for her is evident from the get-go, making Robin the consummate beta hero of our dreams.
Disney has never fully acknowledged the foxy phenomenon — some things are too weird, even for them — but they certainly seem aware of the appeal. The 2016 film Zootopia was influenced by director Byron Howard's desire to make an anthropomorphic animal story in the vein of Robin Hood, and their own fox lead, Nick Wilde, is blatantly inspired by the roguish Robin. Still, you can’t beat the classics, and for generations of Disney fans, their love of Robin Hood remains.
There’s nothing like an old-school hero, one who does the right thing and gets the love of their life, all with impeccable style. In this day and age, there’s something exceptionally alluring about a hero with justice on the brain and a stark understanding of good and bad. He wants to steal from the rich, give to the poor, and stand up for the trodden-down underdogs who sorely need it. If you can do all that while keeping your chivalry and sense of humor, all the better. Disney’s Robin Hood had it all and he had us enraptured. Sometimes, all you need is a fox — literally or metaphorically.