Released theatrically March 8, 1958.
Director: Chuck Jones
Music: Milt Franklyn
Story: Michael Maltese
Voices: Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck, Porky Pig)
Ooh, I don't see HOW I could have doubted you.
Shall we spend the gold all in one place?
Porky Pig, as Friar Tuck
The veritable legend of Robin Hood is retold, with Porky Pig taking on the role of Friar Tuck, and the lovable, hapless Daffy Duck playing the titular English hero.
The story begins with Daffy's character falling into a river while singing his own theme song. After Friar Tuck has a good laugh at his expense, he asks if Daffy can direct him to Robin Hood's hideout. "What luck! For I am he, Robin Hood!" Daffy declares. With typical suspicion, Tuck doesn't believe that this somewhat buffoonish character before him is Robin Hood. First, he tries to impress him with his martial skills, brandishing a quarterstaff (actually a "buck and a quarter staff," Daffy confides to the audience) to joust with the humble Friar. After this backfires in his face (rather literally), our Robin Hood decides to prove himself in the only possible way: by robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.
As a rich man on horseback approaches a nearby castle, Robin Hood undertakes a variety of methods to relieve him of his money. First, he tries swinging through the trees, but after several unwanted collisions, he gets resourceful and chops them all down - which gives him plenty of room to run into a large boulder just beyond the forest. A final attempt to stop him at the drawbridge results in more self-inflicted violence.
Unsuccessful in his attempts to convince us that he is Robin Hood, Daffy admits defeat, and we are welcomed to a new character in the Sherwood saga: Friar Duck.
Odds and Ends
- The Warner Brothers animation studio had already taken up the Robin Hood legend before, in 1949's Rabbit Hood.
- The song that Porky sings during the first few opening scenes is a traditional English folk ballad called "Barbara Allen." Meanwhile, Daffy's "To trip, to trip" ditty is a Milt Franklyn original. Good job, Mel!
Chuck Jones directed probably the three greatest Daffy Duck-Porky Pig "buddy" Warner Bros. cartoons with 1953's Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, 1956's Deduce, You Say!, and Robin Hood Daffy. Each of them was successful in transplanting the two's straight man and hyperbolic ham aesthetic into exotic settings, and then letting the two play off each other.
Robin Hood Daffy is perhaps the least adventuresome of the three, despite its subject matter. Its simplistic backgrounds and overall muted take on the conflict at hand do a pastoral justice to the Nottingham legends, but they pale in comparison to the more daring works of Duck Amuck or the aforementioned Duck Dodgers. Instead, Jones' animation relies heavily on the characters to pass on the brunt of the comedy. Lucky for him that he had such a wunderkind as Mel Blanc to play off of with his story.
As the gullible stuttering do-gooder, Porky's standing at the studios was as a permanent fall guy, but in Robin Hood Daffy he fares much better as the suave and understated Friar Tuck. Playfully sarcastic with his "too cool for school" manner, the simple gag of him outjousting the rambunctious Daffy with a small twig speaks volumes for Porky's multidimensionality.
On the other hand, Blanc's wildman persona comes alive in the breathless derring-do of our would-be hero, Daffy. From his asides to the camera to his bravado shouts of "Parry, parry, thrust!", Daffy's Robin Hood is the one of children's dreams, dashing, reckless, and cavalier. Needless to say, this is a dangerous combination in the hands of the little black duck. Blanc's unbridled energy goes a long way to fill in the gaps where the animation and humor occasionally falls short.
All in all, Robin Hood Daffy is one of those shorts constantly mentioned as one of Warner Brothers' finest. For six minutes of laughter, it's hard to top its great sense of counterpuntal timing and modernist humor. Hopefully it will appear in remastered form on the forthcoming Looney Toons Golden Collection Volume 2 DVD. Until then, up, up, and away!