Friday 11 December 2015

Casual Merry Men

Robin Hood’s Merry Men aren’t all that merry in Robin Hoodlum, the first UPA cartoon released by Columbia. They’re quite dispassionate, more interested in drinking tea than anything. But when Robin’s in trouble, they spring into action, forming a little bunch of men.

Off they run to the castle to rescue Robin. They stop to pant because they’re out of breath. Note the animator has them at different angles to each other.

The fox and crow hardly behave like they did when Columbia was making its own cartoons. The cartoon is pretty droll. But it’s not altogether the kind of cartoon you’d expect out of UPA. The characters squash and stretch, there’s overlapping action, and the pig King John’s movements look like something out of a later Disney cartoon. However the backgrounds are stylised, and the actors avoid “cartoony” voices (the fox and crow had been voiced by Frank Graham for Columbia). All this resulted in an Academy Award nomination.

Bill Hurtz got a design credit on the short and the credited animators were Bobe Cannon, Rudy Larriva, Pat Matthews and Willis Pyle.


  1. There seem to be 9 merry men in the first image, but in the last there are 7. Did a few drop off or did the animators miscount?

  2. Yes, the nine merry men leap together to form seven (with a little eighth one showing up). Then the scene cuts to seven merry men. There are nine again when the scene cuts to them entering the castle behind two overlays.

  3. This was the UPA cartoon Michael Barrier said was pretty much mentored by the Warner Bros. cartoon studio, with Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Michael Maltese and Tedd Pierce providing assistance. Not a shock, given the ex-Warners employees already on staff, but it is ironic, given (according to Bill Scott) the disdainful way some UPA staffers looked down their noses at Warners' efforts a few years later, after their studio had become the toast of the critics and an Oscar favorite.

    1. Wouldn't surprise me. Of course "Robin Hoodlum" could be see as the make-or-break deal that gave Columbia the courage to give UPA the green light to do what they did later on, if only because they kept in some of that cartooniness they would frown upon down the road.

    2. A decade later it would be the lack of desire to make the audience laugh, compared to impressing the audience with their radical designs and layouts, that would help lead to UPA's downfall. They were still the critics' darlings, but when Columbia had a chance to save money by contracting with Hanna-Barbera for the Loopy de Loop series, there was no public feedback in terms of bookings to give Columbia any reason to keep funding UPA.

  4. Frank Graham had been replaced with someone else before the Screen Gems studio shut down, though I have no idea why. In "Tooth or Consequences" and "Grape Nutty" the Fox has a "dumb" voice that just doesn't fit the character.