Anyone who knows me knows I am a Disney nut. I love animation and particularly almost anything from the house of mouse. However, it is no secret that the 70s and 80s were a bit of a rough patch for their animated films. In fact, with the massive disaster at the box office that was Black Cauldron in 1985 it is lucky Walt Disney Animated Studios made it through. One reason they did survive was because of a huge crop of talent they got to work on a little film called Fox and the Hound. This film is no masterpiece but I enjoy watching it and feel it somehow fits the fall.
The Fox and the Hound is based on a novel by Daniel P Mannix and was released in 1981 by Disney. It was directed by Wolfgang Reitherman and early development was done by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston- all 3 part of the legendary Nine Old Men at Disney. But a new group of animators also came on board for the project including John Lasseter (Toy Story), John Musker, Ron Clements (Aladdin), Glen Keane, Tim Burton (Beetlejuice), Henry Selick (NB Christmas) Chris Buck (Frozen).
It is perhaps surprising that for a film with so much new blood it feels as old school as it does. I suppose that is mainly due to the character development and direction of the Nine Old Men (and perhaps the original novel which I haven’t read). Fox and the Hound is a sentimental tale that is heavy on the syrup but still entertaining and enjoyable to watch.
The film tells the story of a fox named Tod and a hound named Copper who despite being supposed enemies become quick friends as little ones. An owl named Big Mama narrates the story and offers the boys some advice from time to time. They both have different owners- Tod being owned by Widow Tweed and Copper by an insane hunter named Amos Slade.
Eventually Copper is taught by Amos to hunt and that foxes are the enemies and to be killed. Of course, this puts things at odds with his friend Tod and he tells him to stay away from the farm. Amos also makes it clear to Widow Tweed if he sees her fox at his farm he will shoot him. She eventually decides to leave her pet in the reserve that is next door hoping he won’t be hurt (no hunting is allowed on the reserve). This is where Tod meets a girl fox named Vixey.
Unfortunately, Amos decides he is going to ignore the no hunting rule and goes to find Tod and kill him. But a bear attacks and Copper and Tod must decide where their loyalties lie? With owners or friendships made in their youth.
As you can tell Fox and the Hound is a very sweet movie- sometimes too sweet like when Widow Tweed reads a very sappy poem as she drops Tod off in the reserve. Its hallmark greeting card level of cornball writing but I don’t mind it.
But if you can get through all that there is a really nice message about friendship. It’s actually not a very tidy answer considering the cheeseball nature of the film. Basically the message is that friendship doesn’t always work out but it’s important to treasure the moments in life we do have because they may not come around again.
I could do without the Vixey love interest sections but the music sung by Pearl Bailey as Big Mama is really nice especially Best of Friends, Lack of Education, Appreciate the Lady and Goodbye May Seem Forever.
The animation is also beautiful and lush. You will be particularly amazed by the section with the bear attack as it looks so real and the sound design accompanying it feels like a real bear creating a real sense of peril for our heroes. It may even be a little bit too scary for some young ones.
Overall, Fox and the Hound is not a Disney masterpiece but it has a nice message about friendship, growing up and loving people even when they let you down. The animation is lovely. The songs are nice. I think you will enjoy watching it with your family even if it is not perfect.
If you’ve seen Fox and the Hound put in the comments section what you think. I would love to hear.
Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!