Anyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for a sentimental tale about romance and friendship. I have been known to snuggle up to the 25 days of Christmas on Hallmark and whatever syrupy story is coming out of ABC Family.
That said, Fox and the Hound lays it on almost too thick even for me. One thing is for sure if you are at all averse to that kind of message you will hate the movie. As for me, I liked it but it bore on me after a while.
Released in 1981 (year I was born!) The Fox and the Hound had a very dramatic time in production (took 4 years and 12 million). Based on a novel by Daniel P Mannix, it was initially started by the legendary 9 Old Men of animators with Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson, in particular, taking the lead in the early storyboarding and concept development.
However, at the same time Disney had a school of animators and such big names as John Lasseter, Tim Burton (who knew right?), John Musker, Ron Clements and Brad Bird all had graduated and began work on the Fox and the Hound.
Don Bluth, who had been a part of Disney animation since Sleeping Beauty, led a contingent that felt Disney had ‘grown stale’ and wanted to do edgier things with the material. Mid-production Bluth quit and took 11 animators with him, 17% of Disney’s staff. I’m sorry but to me that is just wrong. Finish out the project and then severe ties. I mean can you imagine someone doing that on a regular motion picture? Like if Brad Pitt and Christopher Nolan didn’t get along or agree with the direction of the movie so they just bolted?
What makes it worse is then Bluth went on to be a competitor to Disney. Early on Bluth’s movies were stiff competition to Disney with Secret of Nimh (1982), An American Tale (1986) and Land Before Time (1988). To be fair this competition I believe made Disney better and led to the renaissance but it was still a dirty move to leave mid-project and take animators with him.
This change in leadership led to a few rocky moments in Fox and the Hound such as the bear attack that feel disjointed and episodic which is to be expected since the film was probably drawn and conceptualized in episodes by different men.
However, at least the animation is gorgeous. It was getting close to the art pieces of the 30’s and 40’s and I enjoyed Fox and the Hound on that level very much.
Look at this intro. For a second I thought it was the beginning of Bambi.
The voice cast is very strong with everyone from Kurt Rusell (Copper), Mickey Rooney (Tod), Pearl Bailey (Big Mama), Paul Winchell (from Tigger fame as Boomer) and more. Everyone does a good job with the voices although at times it was a little distracting because I kept thinking of Tigger when I’d hear Winchell’s voice.
The music is a mixed bag. It’s not that it is bad. It’s fine and the score by Jim Stafford is great. The strange thing is most of the songs don’t really feel like songs at all. It feels like the songs start and then get interrupted by talking or activity. It’s a shame in a way because I liked the songs if I could have heard them all the way through. I wonder if they were just over time at 83 minutes so cut down the songs?
The movie opened to mixed reviews but it made 63 million at box office.
Kind of like with Lady and the Tramp the beginning we get to meet baby Tod and baby Copper and they are uber-cute.
Tod and Copper meet when they are too little to know that foxes and dogs are enemies and hunt each other. Like I said, if this kind of sentimentality makes you roll your eyes and groan this is not the movie for you.
One day when trying to play,Chief see’s Tod and chases him off the property, which angers Amos,and he shoots at and threatens Tod and the Widow. As a result, she keeps him inside but it doesn’t matter because Amos is taking Copper away for a winter hunting trip.
Our next scene is Tod and Copper all grown up. Copper knows how to hunt and he tells Tod they can’ t be friends any more.
In between these tense scenes we get some comic relief from Boomer and Dinky as the chase a caterpillar.
Tod and Copper end up getting involved in a scuffle involving a train that injures Chief. The segment with the train is very well animated.
Feeling that Tod has injured Chief Copper vows revenge and he and Amos chase Tod and the Widow in a fun car scene.
Eventually the Widow decides it is for Tod’s own good to take him to back to the woods. I don’t mean to be harsh but she sing/talks one of the worst poems I have ever heard (and I know poetry pretty well). It’s discount greeting card bad.
|“We met it seems, such a short time ago.|
|You looked at me, needing me so.|
|Yet from your sadness, our happiness grew.|
|Then I found out, I need you, too.|
|I remember how we used to play.|
|I recall those rainy days, the fires glowed, that kept us warm.|
|And now I find, we’re both alone.|
|Goodbye may seem forever, farewell is like the end.|
|But in my heart’s a memory, and there you’ll always be.|
I mean yikes…
So Tod is forced to make it on his own in the forest. He meets a mean badger and then finds a friend in a porcupine played by John Fielder of Piglet fame. Then we meet my least favorite character in the movie. One of the worst in all of Disney- Vixey the female fox or vixen (clever name there…).
Voiced by Sandy Duncan, Vixey is the cooing, fawning, giggling, idiot female character I hate in Disney. And of course we get the instant love trope like we do in every Disney movie but this one is one of the worst for sure. Why couldn’t it have been like in the Lion King where they meet in some way as little foxes and then meet up again later? Or anything but the instant love twitterpated scene from Bambi all over again…She reminds me of an idiotic Michael Bay woman in fox form.
What makes it worse is that Tod behaves like kind of a pompous moron when they meet but one song from Big Mama and she’s back on board the ‘oh well. He’s so pretty…’ train. Urgh…At least in this movie we have Big Mama and the Widow but seriously why does every other Disney woman have to be a complete twit? Thank you Renaissance for changing that at least a little.
Amos decides to set traps and Tod and Vixen come upon them. That leads to a chase with the climatic bear scene. It is an amazingly animated scene but for a movie that has been kindergarten aged friendly the bear is too scary. My nieces all bolted at the bear in Brave, and I know they would be terrified of the bear here too.
Tod eventually comes to Copper’s defense so when Amos is about to shoot Tod, Copper steps in, the two realizing they really are friends at heart.
We get an ending back at the farms where all is back to normal and Copper thinks about those early days and we hear the voice over ‘Tod, you’re my best friend’…
Another mixed bag for me, and I think recommending the picture entirely depends on the type of movie-goer you are. If you don’t mind the ooey-gooey messages laid on very thick than you will eat this up! I went with it for most of the way. It eventually wore me a down a little bit and I HATED Vixey character just as much as about any character in Disney ever.
There are a lot of good messages for kids but the bear scene is very scary (and the train fight too). I guess it just depends on the kid in question. Like I said, I know it would be too much for at least my youngest niece. And it is kind of a long scene so if you fast forward it you are missing story and a lot of the movie (plus, it is animated very well).
It was so nice to see animation from Disney that looked pretty. For once I am liking a Disney movie more for the animation than the music and story. That hasn’t happened since Bambi!
It is not up there with the greats. I’d put it smack in the middle of Disney films. It’s not terrible. It has a nice message. The comedic scenes work and the action is good. So if you can handle the script you will probably like it!
Overall Grade- C+