"THE FOX AND THE HOUND"
by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Mickey Rooney as TOD
Kurt Russell as COPPER
Pearl Bailey as BIG MAMA
Jack Albertson as AMOS SLADE
Sandy Duncan as VIXEY
Jeanette Nolan as WIDOW TWEED
Pat Buttram as CHIEF
Directed by: Ted Berman, Richard Rich and Art Stevens
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Even though the animation was a bit substandard for the Disney studio and the plot was nothing new, there will always be a special place in my heard for “The Fox and the Hound.” It was released in 1981, when I was getting ready to turn 10, so it was a part of my childhood. It was also the first fully animated Disney movie I remember in new release.
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In some ways, “The Fox and the Hound” is remembered by many to be the beginning of a slump for Disney, and it was. Follow-up titles included low performers like “The Great Mouse Detective,” “The Black Cauldron” and “Oliver and Company.” Things didn’t heat up again for the studio until the release of “The Little Mermaid” almost a decade later.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t remember “The Fox and the Hound” fondly as part of my childhood. With new animators and a new perspective, this film is still a classic in my mind.
Featuring the voices of Kurt Russell, Mickey Rooney and Pearl Bailey, this animated film bridged the gap between old-school Disney and new Disney. It tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a red fox and a hound dog. The two are buddies when they’re pups, but as they grow into adulthood, they learn they are mortal enemies.
The concept of disparate friends is nothing new to the Disney slate. However, it is treated exceptionally well in this film. Coming off of huge hits from the 60s and 70s, like “Robin Hood” and “The Aristocats,” “The Fox and the Hound” really had something to live up to. It did, in my opinion, by specially not trying to live up to them.
“The Fox and the Hound” was a small story. It wasn’t a huge, epic piece. It didn’t deal with a classic fairy tale, and it didn’t involve anything more than a handful of characters from the forest. The same reasons that made “Bambi” so fresh and lovable was the reason that “The Fox and the Hound” worked.
There’s also a trend that is only beginning with this film, that of an animated Disney film without huge songs. Pearl Bailey sings “The Best of Friends” in a spotlight, but the rest of the film is pretty much absent of music. This is a trend that disappeared after “The Little Mermaid” hit it big, but the non-musical Disney cartoon have returned in the current decade.
Like many Disney films, the characters were cute and loveable animals. Unlike movies like “Robin Hood,” these animals were put in the normal life of humans. We just saw things from their point of view. Similar to Disney classics like “Lady and the Tramp,” “The Fox and the Hound” took things from a down-to-earth perspective. It was a self-contained story that didn’t try to change the world, and that was part of its charm.
The voice performances were well cast, featuring a supporting case of Paul Winchell and Pat Buttram. The film also features a young Corey Feldman as the voice of young Copper the hound dog.
The 25th Anniversary DVD includes a DVD Storybook and a Forest Friendship game for the kids to play. There’s also an art gallery from the film, a behind-the-scenes look at making this movie and a sneak peek at “The Fox and the Hound 2.” The bonus features are rounded out with two cartoon shorts – “Lambert the Sheepish Lion” and “Lend a Paw” – as well as a sing-along of “The Best of Friends.”
My sons are huge Disney fans, which isn’t a surprise since they’re only 3 and 5 years old. Anything with dogs in it gets them going, and the Disney company is playing right into their hand. With a new sequel to “The Fox and the Hound” coming along with “AirBuddies” and a DVD set-top game of the Disney dogs, this is a treat for them.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Full screen (1.33:1). French and Spanish language tracks. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.