Disney’s Live Action ‘Robin Hood’: How it Can Work


It’s hard to predict where we’re at with Disney’s recent trend of live-action remakes of their classic properties. It may feel like the critical reception is becoming mixed, but they’re generally pulling in strong box office. The Lion King was particularly successful becoming the 5th highest earning animated movie to date and bringing in more than a billion dollars.

Either way, there’s a big slate of fresh titles in the works, such as The Little Mermaid, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Bambi, Hercules, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, The Sword in the Stone, Lilo and Stitch and, most perplexingly, Robin Hood. If you don’t quite remember which Robin Hood is the Disney one, it’s the one where he’s a fox.

I can see the potential in pretty much every one of these projects…except for the fox one. What is this going to look like? If they’re not doing this with the animals, then it’s not Disney’s Robin Hood. It’s just another Robin Hood and we get one of those every couple of years. So this is a live-action remake of anthropomorphic animals wearing people clothes. I’ve been on the internet long enough to know what live action anthropomorphic cartoon animals look like.

Everyone is going to be thinking it. Sorry Disney, but the internet has ruined this one.

So perhaps we should be considering what a blanket term ‘live action remake’ can be. The Jungle Book was mostly animated animals, but still had a human actor playing Mowgli, but The Lion King was entirely populated by computer animated creatures and still fell under the banner of ‘live-action’. This is perhaps in reference to the photorealistic style of animation used to create the characters.

Now I don’t think this photorealistic look is right for Robin Hood. This look didn’t work for everyone, but it does the job and is a solid technical achievement. Now imagine if those creatures stood up on their hind legs and put clothes on. Then it’s less appealing. You’re getting into The Island of Doctor Moreau territory and then Marlon Brando turns up wearing a bucket on his head and everything falls apart. And let’s not forget that Cats is still recent in people’s memories.

We need to make some clear stylistic choices here, because there’s a fine line between cute and creepy. Plus you don’t want to lean into Dreamworks style. There’s very little room for this to work.

Funnily enough, the one stylistic animation choice that could make this work already exists. It fits the Disney stye, it’s proven in the market and we know it works with foxes.

Guys…make it look like Zootopia. Disney fans have already ‘theorised’ that Robin Hood and Zootopia exist on the same timeline. Both stories feature a grifter fox who weaponises charm.

But don’t make it a prequel to Zootopia. That doesn’t work. Robin Hood is explicitly set in England. Unless you want to turn Zootropolis into some kind of sci-fi for Earth if it was populated by anthropomorphic animals instead of humans. It’s not the only inconsistency, as Zootopia‘s population are all based on mammals with no bird, reptile or amphibian ‘people’. Robin Hood‘s extended cast include Lady Cluck, Sir Hiss, Alan-A-Dale, Nusty, Trigger, Toby, none of which are mammals and don’t fit the universe of the other film. You can’t cut that many characters and still call it a remake.

What you can do is not actually say it exists in the same universe. But you do have to keep the film’s literal bookends. And by that we mean the book that appears at both the beginning and ending of the film.

When the book closes at the end we see that it’s being held by a pair of paws. Pan back and we see that the story was being read by none other than Judy Hopps! Now you’ve got the style of Zootopia by making Robin Hood a story that exists in their universe. But wait…because then we pan further back and see that Judy is reading to a room full of rabbit children! And Nick is there!

Then her parents walk in and thank Judy for babysitting her siblings. Fun little fake-out for the weirdos on the internet.

You’re welcome, Disney. I’m not asking for money…just a family trip to Disney World. We’ve never been.