The Disney Marathon: ‘The Fox & the Hound’


This is a movie that has always been on my radar, to the point that I know how the plot goes almost in its entirety. I’ve never seen it though, and it’s rarely cited as anyones favourite movie from the Disney canon. Time to see how it weighs up.

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 30s blogger), my son Josh (stoic 10 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 7 year old princess wannabe) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: The Fox and the Hound

Released: 1981

Director: Ted Berman, Richard Rich, Art Stevens

Cast: Mickey Rooney, Kurt Russell, Pearl Bailey, Keith Mitchell, Corey Feldman, Jack Albertson, Sandy Duncan, Jeanette Nolan, Pat Buttram

Plot: A young fox and a hound on growing up on neighbouring farms become close friends, only to meet again as enemies in adulthood.

Review: This is a difficult movie to review because, well, there’s very little to it. The story doesn’t have much more to it than the one-sentence summary suggests, and the way it shakes out is predictable. It’s not a bad film by any stretch, but it doesn’t push any boundaries either.

We get some mild trauma out of the way early, with a vixen hiding her cub while they’re being hunted, sacrificing herself for the life of her child. A trio of birds – Big Mama (Bailey), Dinky (Dick Bakalyan) and Boomer (Paul Winchell) – find the cub and arrange for him to be found by Widow Tweed (Duncan). The kind-hearted woman and the fox form an immediate close bond and she raises him as a companion. Newly christened as ‘Tod’ (Mitchell), the fox ventures onto the neighbouring farm where he meets Copper (Feldman), a young hunting dog in training. In spite of the animosity of the elder hound Chief (Buttram) and their owner, Amos (Albertson), who’d rather take Tod out of the food chain.

When the two friends reach adulthood, Cooper is a trained and successful hunting dog and opines that they can no longer be friends. Their argument wakes Chief and Slade, resulting in an encounter that leaves Chief with a broken leg. Amos is furious with Widow Tweed for keeping a fox so close to his farm, and Tweed fears for Tod’s life. She tearfully takes Tod to a game preserve and leaves him behind. Although initially scared and has a number of challenging encounters, he meets with a Vixen named Vixey (Duncan). Eventually Amos and Copper return to hunt the foxes, leading to Copper having to decide if he should protect his old friend and Tod’s new family.

The fight in the game reserve is when the excitement really ratchets up, as we see Tod having to contend with traps, being cornered in a burrow on fire and a furious bear. The stakes are genuinely high, and Amos feels as though he’s beyond reason. Eventually Tod rescues Copper from the bear, and Copper is later faced with the choice between rescuing Tod from his own master. As tense as it is, the predictable happens and Copper does the right thing before the two part ways for good.

And…that’s about it. We’ve put off writing about this movie because there’s little else to mention. The movie went through a rocky production, which started more than ten years before the film was actually released. The Nine Old Men of Disney fame were going to be involved, but as they moved into retirement the younger generation stepped up. The new team included a number of figures who’d go on to be big names in the business, such as Don Bluth, Ron Clements, John Musker, John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Henry Selick and more.

Unfortunately a conflict grew between the older and younger teams, with a major point of discrepancy concerning the fate of Chief. The new animators felt that Chief surviving with a broken leg cheapened the story and Copper turning against Tod, whilst the older group refused to kill a main character as they felt it went against the company image. Eventually the decision was to keep Chief alive and a number of the animators, lead by Bluth, quit the project.

This could be why the movie lacks a punch. The leadership behind the film was split and quarrelled over who was managing the animators, and the creative direction was being pulled in different directions. What works in the movie’s favour is that it is reminiscent of Disney’s earliest works, bookending that era in time to lay the groundwork for the Disney Renaissance.

Coolest Easter Egg: A familiar squirrel from The Sword in the Stone is scene leaping among the trees, and a number of recurring performers return in the supporting cast. Much of the Robin Hood cast can be easily identified.

Weirdest Trivia: Director Tim Burton was among the team of young animators who found their first work on this movie. He would work with Henry Selick, and the two would later collaborate on A Nightmare Before Christmas.

Rating: FOUR out of TEN

THE RANKING

ME

Yeah, it’s a weaker one. Not outright terrible, like Chicken Little, but it’s unlikely we’ll be giving it a rewatch.

Click those titles if you want to see what we said about the other movies.

  1. Robin Hood
  2. Aladdin
  3. Wreck-It Ralph
  4. Alice in Wonderland
  5. Beauty and the Beast
  6. Moana
  7. Big Hero 6
  8. Frozen
  9. Tangled
  10. The Sword in the Stone
  11. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  12. Mulan
  13. Emperor’s New Groove
  14. Fantasia
  15. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  16. The Three Caballeros
  17. The Princess and the Frog
  18. Oliver & Company
  19. The Aristocats
  20. The Fox and the Hound
  21. A Goofy Movie
  22. Treasure Planet
  23. Chicken Little

AMELIA

Once again Amelia has revised her list. She seems to need a bit of time to cool off before she makes a clear decision. A Goofy Movie took a real big dive down the list. As expected, she landed this one halfway down.

  1. Frozen
  2. Emperor’s New Groove
  3. The Three Caballeros
  4. Moana
  5. Mulan
  6. Alice in Wonderland
  7. Wreck-It Ralph
  8. Tangled
  9. The Aristocats
  10. The Princess and the Frog
  11. Robin Hood
  12. Beauty and the Beast
  13. The Fox and the Hound
  14. Oliver & Company
  15. The Sword in the Stone
  16. Aladdin
  17. Treasure Planet
  18. Big Hero 6
  19. A Goofy Movie
  20. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  21. Chicken Little
  22. Fantasia

JOSHUA

Joshua was unimpressed with this one, straight up not enjoying it. It didn’t match his distaste for Alice in Wonderland, which still leaves me perturbed.

  1. Big Hero 6
  2. Aladdin
  3. Emperor’s New Groove
  4. Treasure Planet
  5. Moana
  6. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  7. The Three Caballeros
  8. Wreck-It Ralph
  9. Frozen
  10. Mulan
  11. The Princess and the Frog
  12. Robin Hood
  13. The Sword in the Stone
  14. Beauty and the Beast
  15. Oliver & Company
  16. Tangled
  17. A Goofy Movie
  18. The Aristocats
  19. Fantasia
  20. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  21. The Fox and the Hound
  22. Alice in Wonderland
  23. Chicken Little