The Fox and the Hound
Release Date: July 10th, 1981
Inspiration: “The Fox and the Hound” by Daniel P. Mannix
Budget: $12 million
Domestic Gross: $39.9 million
Worldwide Gross: $63.5 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%
IMDB Score: 7.3/10
Storyline (per IMDB): When an adopted fox and a to-be hunting hound become inseparable friends as pups, their friendship grows stronger every day in their “childhood.” But as they grow older, they grow farther and farther apart, to the day when the two old comrades’ bond is put to the ultimate test.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We continue on as we start a brand new decade and a new era seems to be dawning at Disney as the group known as the Nine Old Men were being phased out and a new group of animators looked to make their mark. This is one of those films that I might have seen once or twice before, but have absolutely no recollection of and this is another film that some consider a very underrated film. Now I claimed that the Rescuers was the most underrated film to this point and I also thought it was a great film, and we will see if this film reaches that same level or ends up falling short.
Voice Cast: So to this point, we have had a lot of the same actors return to do these films and they had become very well known to this point, and aside from a few big names we wouldn’t see a lot of big name actors appear in these films. But it seems like that trend might seem to be changing as we saw Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor appear in the previous film and now we have some more big names appear in this one. We do have several returning actors appear here with the first being Jeanette Nolan who voices Widow Tweed in one of her last film appearances, and then we have Pat Buttram who voices Chief the dog in one of his last appearances as well. Next, we have John Fielder who voices the porcupine as he would soon transition to being on TV as well as being in film, and then we have John McIntire as Mr. Digger the badger in one of his last appearances. Finally, we have Paul Winchell who voices Boomer the woodpecker and we can clearly see that this generation of actors was starting to wind down and the next generation would soon take their place. Now moving onto the new voices we hear in the film, we have the legendary Mickey Rooney who voices Tod the fox as he was getting into the twilight of his career, and we have Keith Mitchell who voices Tod when he was a cub in what would be his film debut. We then have another top star in Kurt Russell who voices Copper the hound in what would be his only appearance in an animated film, and then we have child star Corey Feldman who voices Copper as a puppy as he was just getting his career started. Next, we have legendary musician Pearl Bailey who voices Big Mama the owl in what was her final film appearance, and then we have another legend in Jack Albertson who voices Amos Slade in what was his final film appearance prior to his death that same year. We then have TV star Sandy Duncan who voices Vixey the fox in one of her few film appearances as she would mainly stay in TV, and finally we have Dick Bakalyan who voices Dinky the finch in one of his only appearances in an animated film. This was an interesting film as you had a lot of big names with a few of them marking their final appearance in a film as well as veterans nearing the end of their run as well, and it will be interesting to see who steps up to take their spots throughout the next few films.
Hero/Prince: On the surface, this doesn’t seem like the film that would have a hero in it but after delving deeper into it, I do have to give mention to both Tod the fox and Copper the hound who become friends when they are young despite being natural enemies. When they become adults, Copper believes that they can’t be friends anymore and after his mentor Chief is injured, he believes Tod to be responsible and vows revenge. Copper and his owner Slade are close to killing Tod and Vixey until a grizzly bear attacks them and Tod risks his life to save Copper and Slade. After seeing Tod save him, Copper returns the favor and prevents Slade from killing him as they finally go their separate ways remembering their days as friends. While both of them did save the other in the end of the film which does in essence make them heroes, they will probably not rank high and might even end up close to the bottom against the other heroes.
Villain: Much like I mentioned earlier, on the surface it seems like there is no real clear villain in this film aside from one and that is the grizzly bear that attacks Slade and Copper only for Tod to fight him off and send him to his death by pushing him over the waterfall. But interestingly enough, Amos Slade is also considered a villain in the Disney canon as he is the grouchy owner of Copper and Chief, and he has a serious hatred of foxes and makes no bones about it as he threatens to kill Tod even while he is under Widow Tweed’s care. After Chief is injured, Slade vows revenge on Tod and even trespasses onto a reserve to hunt him, and even after Tod saves them from the grizzly bear he still wants to kill him and it is only when Copper stands between them that he gives up his desire and walks away with Copper as he reconciles with Tweed. Unlike some of the other villains in the Disney canon, Slade has motivation to do what he does even though he is not truly evil and he is just relying on his hunter instincts, and because of that he is relatable in a way and as we see he eventually lets his hate for Tod go if anything for Copper’s sake. As a result, he is definitely not going to rank high in terms of the villains and if anything, the grizzly bear will probably rank high than him.
Other Characters: I had mentioned before that the number of other characters in these films seems to be fluctuating constantly and we go back to a film that has a pretty light amount of characters with most of the focus being on the main characters. But we do have other characters that play an important role with the first being Widow Tweed, an elderly woman who takes care of Tod when he was a cub before putting him in a reserve to protect him from Copper and Slade. We then have Chief who is Slade’s dog and he becomes Copper’s mentor before he has his leg broken when he is hit by a train, and then we have Big Mama the owl who looks over Tod before giving him to Tweed and then she brings Tod and Vixey together. Speaking of Vixey, we have her next as she becomes Tod’s love interest and narrowly avoids being killed by Slade and Copper, and finally we have the animals in the forest like Dinky and Boomer who help Big Mama as well as the badger who comes into conflict with Tod and the porcupine who tries to help Tod get acclimated to the forest. While these characters are pretty instrumental in being important to the story, there is no question that the focus of the film is on the main characters of Tod and Copper and their struggles.
Songs: Much like the Rescuers before it, this seemed like a film that wouldn’t have any songs in it if only because of the source material, but due to it being adapted into a family-friendly film you had to guess that they were going to shoehorn in some songs. We first have the signature song of the film which is “Best of Friends” sung about the friendship between Tod and Copper despite their differences and it is a nice little song to put over the main premises of the film. The next song to talk about is “Lack of Education” which Big Mama sings to Tod as she tries to warn him that Copper will become a trained killer and it was more of a spoken song as opposed to be sung, and then we have “A Huntin’ Man” that Slade sings as he comes back from his hunting trip and it is about as basic as you can get. The next song that we hear is “Goodbye May Seem Forever” which Tweed sings as she prepares to release Tod into the wild and it is a fine ballad recounting their relationship, and the final song we hear is “Appreciate the Lady” which Big Mama sings to help Tod court Vixey. While the first song is the best remembered song from this film, the other songs are just fine for the film and that’s pretty much all there is to say about it.
Plot: This is another film that I did not know was adapted from a novel and I do not recall ever hearing about a book called “The Fox and the Hound” at any point in my life. Reading about the novel and comparing it to the movie, it is astonishing at how different the film is compared to the novel though given the content of the novel it makes sense why they would change it up to be more family friendly. In the film, a young fox cub named Tod befriends a hound puppy named Copper and Tod believes they will be friends forever, but Copper’s owner Slade does not like Tod and vows to kill him if he trespasses onto his farm and the forest animals warn Tod that he and Copper are natural enemies. When the two grow up, Copper tells Tod they can’t be friends anymore and his mentor Chief hunts Tod only to be hit by a train and suffers a broken leg, and Slade and Copper vow revenge as Tod becomes close with a vixen named Vixey. In the end, Copper and Slade are close to killing both foxes until a grizzly bear attacks them and Tod risks his life to save Copper and Slade, and then Copper prevents Slade from killing Tod and they go their separate ways as Tod and Vixey return to the forest and Copper goes home with Slade. This is one of those cases where I would love to read an interview or watch something with the author of the novel and get their opinion on how they felt the film turned out, and the only reason is because I know some authors hate on the adaptations turn out and others enjoy them very much so this is definitely one of the times where I would love to find out the author’s thoughts.
Random Watching Thoughts: For being a family friendly film, this opening intro feels pretty dark and may be lulling you into a false sense of security; One of the big points of this film is that it was during the production of this film when Don Bluth and various animators walked out due to differences with the higher ups at Disney, and they would go onto form their own studio and become Disney’s main competitor for the next decade; As a result of this upheaval, the film was pushed back from its Christmas Day 1980 release to being released during the summer of 1981; Much like when Bambi’s mother was killed, we have another instance of a mother sacrificing herself for her child; I couldn’t imagine how the owl came by the name Big Mama; Tod was so scared of Big Mama at first though he quickly warmed up to her and wanted to be with her; I feel like the running gag of Boomer and Dinky trying to get that worm was added to bring some levity to the film since it does appear heavy for the most part; Poor Boomer was lucky that his beak didn’t bend further when Tweed slammed the door on him; Of all the things they had to grab, it was her undergarments; Considering how wild they are, Tweed had no problem bringing Tod into her home even though he was a fox; I find it funny how Tweed decided to call him Tod just because he was a toddler; Chief got so excited thinking that Slade had some meat for him only to find out it was a puppy; Copper was so keen to be buddies with Chief and it took a while, but eventually Chief started warming up to him; That’s quite the service of Tweed shooting milk from Abigail’s udder right into Tod’s mouth; Tod was just trying to have fun, but that chicken had to assume that he was going after her chicks and then all hell breaks loose; Tweed was ready to lay the hammer down on Tod, but he manages to get out of it by being a cute pup; I wonder how hard it was for Paul Winchell to try and laugh not like he would when he is voicing Tigger; Considering how small that worm is, how are Boomer and Dinky exactly going to split him evenly so they both get a fair share?; With as much pecking as he does, it’s a wonder that Boomer’s beak doesn’t get all bent out of shape; That brief few seconds where Boomer forgets he’s a bird and doesn’t fly to safety so he doesn’t hit the ground; For only being a puppy, Copper already has a keen sense of smell if he could smell Tod from that far away; Grits and fatback, the breakfast of champions; I wonder how many adults heard Chief’s voice and realized it was the same guy who voices the Sheriff of Nottingham in ‘Robin Hood”; That’s quite the pipsqueak howl that Copper had; To steal a quote from the great Elvis Presley, Copper ain’t nothing but a hound dog though he ain’t crying all the time; Big Mama sings about Tod and Copper being the best of friends when they literally just met; He runs off twice and Slade finds it necessary to tie him up so he doesn’t run off anymore; Tod really had no fear of Chief if he just walked on top of him and toyed with him until he woke up; Slade didn’t seem the kind of guy to have chickens; That was quite a scoop that Chief made to get all those chickens in his barrel; How was Chief able to get freed from that tree?; Considering Tod was only a puppy, Slade made no qualms about shooting him; Slade had quite a good aim with that gun even while driving, and he had no problem shooting at Tod even though he could’ve hit Tweed; Slade and Tweed as neighbors seems like a real low rent version of the Hatfields and McCoys; Considering that she shot his radiator at point blank range, the fact that it still worked is pretty much a miracle; It seemed like there was more than enough room for all three of them to sit up there especially since Copper was just a puppy; Leave it to an owl to try and teach Tod about the ways of nature; Poor Tod so desperately wants to believe that he and Copper will remain friends even though everyone tells him otherwise, and they even go as far as to show him skinned animals to prove their point; Wouldn’t Boomer and Dinky have already gone south for the winter and not try to put up with the cold?; That worm just took it upon himself to make himself at home in Tweed’s house; It was interesting that they put a lot of focus on Copper growing up and becoming a hunting dog, it’s as if they tried to make a point to the audience that Big Mama would be proven right to Tod; Copper went from being outsmarted by a rabbit to finding a family of quail with Slade getting one of them; Considering it’s only been a few months, Tod and Copper have grown into big animals; Big Mama just throws a pile of leaves out and doesn’t care where they land as she throws them on top of Tod; Tweed even went to the trouble to give Tod a collar; That was a bit rude by that worm to eat that plant while he was staying in the house; That worm literally became a glowworm thanks to some electricity; That area where Slade and Tweed are living seems to be a weird place to have train tracks, and you wonder how many trains actually come by that area; For as bad as he hates Tod, you can’t deny the love that Slade has for Chief and Copper; Even at this point, Tod still wants to believe that he and Copper can still be friends; You can tell Copper is torn because he wants to be friends with Tod, but he feels that it goes against being a hunting dog; Not only are there train tracks by the houses, but there’s a whole old station nearby with a bridge; Of course this would be the one time a train comes through; So in reading up on the production of the film, the original plan was for Chief to be killed by the train as it was in the book, but the director decided against it despite the pleas of the animation team and it was changed to Chief having a broken leg; Even though Tod technically didn’t have anything to do with Chief getting hurt, that was a pretty tense scene where Copper swears revenge on Tod; You would’ve thought Slade was going to just barge in Tweed’s house and shoot Tod on the spot; You do feel bad for Tweed because she had become so attached to Tod and had to let him go to protect him; It was weird that Tod didn’t try to chase after Tweed when she drove away which is a common trope; I know he didn’t Tod intruding on his home, but that badger was being a bit of an asshole about it; That was a kind porcupine to let Tod bunk with him; Slade is willing to break the law by hunting on a game preserve just to get Tod; Chief was lucky to escape with just a busted leg considering that fall he took off the train tracks; Slade is willing to put those traps in a game preserve not caring what ends up in them; Another interesting note is that the original director wanted to add a musical scene in the second act to make it stronger, but it was cut because they felt the scene made no sense and didn’t fit; Vixey asks what Tod looks like even though Big Mama told her he was a fox; I thought the porcupine took Tod away from the badger’s home yet the tree was right above it and Tod just happened to land on it; So Big Mama is not only a guardian to the forest, she apparently is also a matchmaker; He was so convinced that nothing was beautiful until he laid eyes on Vixey; He tries to come up with the right thing to say to her and all he ends up saying is “Hi”; He asks her if he can call her by her first name, I don’t know of many animals that have last names; He’s so confident in his ability to catch fish and yet he fails so miserably; I understand that Tod is upset, but he was out of line in yelling at her when he was trying to impress her; He presents one flower to her and she is immediately smitten with him; What is it with 6 being the right amount of children to have because Maid Marian said the same thing in “Robin Hood”?; Slade is so lucky that there was no law enforcement close by because he probably could’ve faced jail time for hunting on a private game preserve; That’s a lot of traps that he brought for just one fox; Isn’t the forest usually quiet?; That was some fancy footwork by Tod to avoid all those traps; How traumatizing must it have been for kids watching two former best friends fight each other; Not only is he hunting on a game preserve, but now Slade is creating fires; He was so confident that the foxes would have to come out towards them, but instead they throw him for a loop by going out the back way; That is the largest grizzly bear I have ever seen, even for an animate film; Of course Slade would get caught up in his own trap; Even after fighting him, Tod still thinks enough of Copper to save him from the bear; That bear must have some super thick skin that he can withstand multiple bites from both Copper and Tod; The bear was so focused on killing Tod that he ultimately cost himself is own life; That was a powerful moment for Copper to keep Slade from killing Tod and Slade finally lets his hate go, and Tod and Copper share one more smile before parting ways; Boomer and Dinky finally look to get the worm only for the worm to turn into an electric butterfly; That was mighty big of Tweed to be willing to assist Slade in helping heal his foot.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, this film was a pretty solid film though it was not up to par with the Rescuers and unfortunately, I don’t think it is deserving of being declared underrated as I feel I am properly rating it. It’s funny that there was so much turmoil going on during the production of this film in terms of the director stepping down and Don Bluth leading the exodus of the animators, so I’m not completely surprised that this film did fall a bit flat in the end. We are only a short year into the 1980s and there appears to be a feeling of flux within Disney as the theme parks were continuing to grow and they were about to expand their reach overseas. As a result, it is going to be interesting to see how things play out in the animation studio as we hit a major milestone in the Disney film canon. As for this film, it is a perfectly fine film that is probably not as underrated as some people think, but it is just fine as it is.
Final Grade: 6.5/10