I was at a party full of film geeks last weekend, and what movie were people talking about at length? Not Awesome; I F***ing Shot That!, the Beastie Boys movie playing in the background; not any of the Oscar contenders currently flooding theaters; not even Christmas movies. No, for some reason, the people around me were chatting nostalgically about the recent DVD release of Disney's 1973 animated Robin Hood, which features animated woodland animals as the principal characters in the standard Robin Hood/Maid Marian story. The voice talent included Disney regulars Peter Ustinov as evil Prince John, Phil Harris as Little John, and Terry-Thomas as Prince John's nasty sidekick, Sir Hiss.
Another character was voiced by a musician who composed some of the songs for the film, the late Roger Miller. Miller's 70th birthday is today; he died in 1992 from cancer. It's probably not considered fashionable to confess to a liking for Miller and his 1960s-era country music, but I grew up listening to it on road trips and in my grandmother's car (on 8-track, no less), and his music is still a road-trip favorite of mine. As a child, I found the novelty-style lyrics in songs like "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd" irresistable. So you can imagine that I was naturally enamored of a movie that combined cute animated creatures with Miller's music. I even had a 45 rpm record with songs from the movie to play on my little plastic turntable. In Robin Hood, Miller plays Alan-a-Dale, the singing rooster, as pictured above. I haven't seen the movie in years and years, although I can remember Miller's "Whistle Stop" song from the film pretty well.
Miller wasn't in many other films, although occasionally he turned up on TV shows, and his songs still appear on a number of soundtracks. In the past year, his big hit "King of the Road" could be heard in Talladega Nights and Brokeback Mountain. Now I'm wondering whether it's worthwhile to give Robin Hood another look, or if it's one of those movies that's best remembered nostalgically from childhood days. The film geeks at the party claimed that the new DVD contains an alternate ending, but is it worth the risk of possibly finding the movie too childish and irritating from an older viewpoint?