Originally, Friar Tuck was to be a pig, but was changed to a badger to avoid insulting religious sensibilities. The Sheriff of Nottingham was originally a goat, but was changed to a wolf as they seem better representing villains.
A few months before release, the Disney animators needed Sir Peter Ustinov to come back to the Disney Studios to re-record some of his lines as Prince John. The animators made phone calls to New York City, London, Paris, Vienna, and Tokyo, trying to locate Ustinov, only to discover that he was working at the NBC Studios in Burbank that week, a half-mile down the street from them.
Prince John's (Sir Peter Ustinov's) infantile behavior whenever someone mentions his mother is a sly reference to the real King John "The Fool" of England. The brother of King Richard "the Lionheart", John, the favorite son (and heavily spoiled) by their father King Henry II, was said to be crude and dim-witted, and attempted to usurp the throne from Richard while the latter fought in the Crusades. Though Richard eventually returned from battle and foiled John's rebellion, John eventually became King anyway after Richard's untimely death (1199) in battle without an heir.
Maid Marian's (Monica Evans') dance with the forest animals in "The Phony King of England" is the same as Snow White's dance with the dwarves in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). During the song, she also shares dance movements with Duchess from The Aristocats (1970).
A possible ending included Robin Hood (Brian Bedford) being wounded after escaping from the castle. In this ending, Prince John (Sir Peter Ustinov), hooded and cloaked, is about to stab Robin, but is interrupted by the arrival of King Richard (Sir Peter Ustinov). The filmmakers felt it made Prince John too sinister, and took away from Robin Hood as the hero. It was also seen as too dark a turn from the otherwise upbeat and carefree tone of the movie, and so it was deleted and replaced with the ending where Robin Hood not only survives unscathed, but Prince John, Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas), and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Pat Buttram) are imprisoned for their treachery, with Allan-a-Dale (Roger Miller) explaining King Richard's return in front of a wanted poster of Robin Hood that now says "Pardoned by King Richard" on it. The original ending, in storyboard form, is included in the "Most Wanted Edition" DVD.
This is the first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to not feature any humans since Bambi (1942), unlike that film, these animals are "anthropomorphic", living like humans do, without there being any non-anthropomorphic animals.
The University of Southern California fight song, "Fight On", is played during the chase scene after the archery contest. "On Wisconsin", the fight song of the University of Wisconsin, is also used during the "football" sequence of this scene.
The characters of the Sheriff of Nottingham (Pat Buttram), Friar Tuck (Andy Devine), Nutsy (Ken Curtis), and Trigger (George Lindsey) were all voiced by actors known for doing westerns. This is because at one point in the production, the setting was the Old West.
Because things like backgrounds and characters were so painstakingly drawn and painted by hand, it wasn't uncommon for some scenes and character reactions to be repeated throughout earlier Disney movies.
Monica Evans (Maid Marian) and Carole Shelley (Lady Kluck) also worked together on Disney's The Aristocats (1970), as the voices of the two geese, Abigail and Amelia. The two actresses were originally paired up in The Odd Couple (1968), Broadway play and movie, as the Pigeon sisters.
Initially, Disney considered a movie about the European fable Reynard the Fox. However, due to Walt Disney's concern that Reynard was an unsuitable choice for a hero, Ken Anderson used many elements from it in this movie. Particularly the animal counterparts (Robin Hood, like Reynard, was a fox, and the Sheriff of Nottingham, like Isengrin, was a wolf.)
When Robin Hood (Brian Bedford) and Little John (Phil Harris) first appear on-screen, they wander upon a fallen tree which bridges a river, and each cordially insists that the other cross first. This is a friendly subversion of the traditional Robin Hood narrative, in which Robin Hood and Little John meet while crossing opposite sides of a narrow tree bridge and fight over who will be allowed to cross first.
Tommy Steele was the original choice to perform the voice of the title character, but he dropped out shortly after recording sessions began. Terry Jones of "Monty Python" fame was also considered for the role.
With his dual performances of Prince John and King Richard in this movie, Sir Peter Ustinov became the second Oscar-winning actor to have a voice role in a Disney movie (the first being George Sanders in The Jungle Book (1967)).
People often think that the recycling of animation that was used in this movie was done to save time and money. This is not true, as Floyd Norman (former Disney animator) revealed that recycling animation was Director Wolfgang Retiherman's decision, and he did it because he wanted to use stuff that he knew would work. In reality, it's harder and takes longer to redraw an existing sequence.