The Fox and the Hound
When Tod, an orphaned fox cub meets Copper, a coonhound puppy, they make a pledge to be lifelong friends, not realizing that Copper is being groomed to hunt wild animals, including foxes. Copper spends the winter with his owner, Slade, and an older dog, Chief, tracking animals at a remote cabin. When they return, a lonely Tod eagerly greets his old playmate but is stunned when a reluctant Copper joins Slade and Chief to chase Tod through the forest. During the pursuit, Tod escapes but Chief is seriously injured. Seeking revenge, Copper hunts down Tod only to find himself confronting an even bigger enemy, which he and Tod must face together.
The Fox and the Hound 2
In The Fox and the Hound 2, music takes centerstage as Tod contemplates joining up with “The Singin’ Strays,” a group of harmonizing dogs appearing at the local county fair but dreaming of hitting the big time at the Grand OleOpry. While Tod does his best to fit in with his new friends, Copper finds himself relegated to “roadie,” a position he begins to resent. With the encouragement of Dixie, the “diva” of “The Singin” Strays,” Copper manages to sabotage an important audition. The next day, their differences forgotten, Copper and Tod team up and, using Copper’s superior tracking skills, they locate the Grand Ole Opry talent scout who signs “The Singin’ Strays” (minus Tod, who chooses his friendship with Copper over fame) on the spot.
Being a child of the 80s myself, I grew up watching all kinds of Disney films. I recall not only watching The Fox and The Hound numerous times, but I believe I even had a book and cassette tape based on the film that I probably listened to even more than watching the film. It's also probably been some twenty years or so since I saw the 1981 film, so I was excited to recently revisit the movie. Sadly, I found The Fox and The Hound to not quite be the movie I remembered it to be.
As a kid, knowing what actor voiced what role was never important to know. As an adult, I was shocked to find that Corey Feldman was the voice of young Tod, while Mickey Rooney voiced the adult version of the little fox and Kurt Russell voiced the grown-up hound dog, Copper. The film opens with the classic Disney story element -- the single parent of the main character dies. During the opening credits, we see a female fox run through the forest, deposit her baby fox safely by a fence, then run over a hill out of sight, only to be followed by the sound of a gun shot. Mrs. Fox was dead. This was a frequent Disney plot element, from Bambi to The Lion King, the parents almost always get offed pretty quickly. It definitely quickly colors the story with a sense of sadness as you realize our main character is now an orphan... and so our story begins.
The pacing of The Fox and The Hound is shockingly slow in comparison to what you'll see in modern day animated films (which can also be seen in the 2006 sequel). This isn't a problem, however, and only adds to the classic feel of the story, but kids expecting constant activity on the screen will likely get bored fast (perhaps that's why I don't remember the whole story?). The other thing is that this film is taken relatively seriously. Copper is owned by a farmer named Amos who wants to raise his dog to hunt. A widow adopts Tod into her home to care for him and keep her company. Sadly, the realism that a fox and a hound aren't naturally lifelong friends does come into play as a big part of this story. The warm, fuzzy feeling you get from seeing the two young pups play together doesn't last very long before the farmer takes Copper away for a season to teach him how to hunt, so that when he returns, he's a bit conflicted when it comes to whether or not Tod is his friend or game. To add to the tension, the farmer literally chases after Tod and shoots at him with a shotgun any time he sees him. The guy's pretty menacing and unfriendly, and it makes the movie a bit dark at times, especially without there being much humor to lighten it up.
It's all a far cry from The Fox and The Hound 2. In the sequel, Tod and Copper are still little, and they remain just pups for the duration of the film. Instead of their relationship being grounded in a sense of reality, that line is blurred considerably as the fox and the dog go off to a county fair where Copper meets a team of singing stray dogs. This allows for a wealth of singing numbers (while the original had about three, I think) and they never really specify whether or not the humans in the story hear these dogs howling a melody or belting out words and all. To make the sequel even more of a polar opposite from the original, it's very light, very colorful, and very silly. There's a lot of slapstick humor - especially involving the farmer and the widow. The farmer still chases after Tod, but now he falls into things, shoots his own hat, etc. It's all pretty goofy. The story does focus on friendships, like the original, but it has little to nothing to do with the fact that a fox is friends with a hound. To have a story based around a bunch of country-song singing mutts at a fair only allows for a plot element where Copper gets too busy to chase crickets with Tod; that's it. You could substitute nearly ANY character into these roles and it would accomplish the same thing. While the original feels like a genuine story, The Fox and The Hound 2 has the unmistakable feel that it is a straight-to-video sequel... and that's exactly what it was.
On Blu-Ray disc, the picture is vibrant and colorful for both movies, although the sequel is much more visually interesting. The original looks more blatantly hand-drawn with rougher sketch strokes outlining the characters instead of "perfect" solid lines. The other downside to the clarity of high definition for a movie this old is that some scenes make the painted cells stand out from the painted backgrounds. It's minor, and most casual viewers probably wouldn't even notice, but I personally found it noticeable on more than one occasion. The twenty-five year lapse between the original and The Fox and The Hound 2 is jarringly obvious. The style of animation used for the sequel is much softer and more expressive, and many scenes blatantly incorporate computer animation into the 2D hand-drawn style. But kids more used to that style will probably enjoy the sequel better.
As someone who grew up with the 1981 The Fox and The Hound, I pretty much found myself hating The Fox and The Hound 2. The kids chosen to voice Tod and Copper did a great job, but the new dog characters introduced, including Reba McEntire and Patrick Swayze, don't really fit into the world the first film created and while the actors do their best with the material given, they're not very memorable. Kids might dig the country song numbers, but a lot of the characters frequently spout one southern metaphor after another (like "happier than a pig at Sunday potluck" or something like that) to the point where I was one metaphor away from tossing the remote across the room (OK, not literally, but it was way, way too much). When all was said and done, it's a cute and harmless movie, but far from being any good. It made the original seem like a complete masterpiece.
I touched on the fact that there was some violence in both of the films. The more intense violence is in the first film -- from Amos shooting at Tod with every intention of adding him to his pile of animal skins (which we briefly see in the back of his truck), to Widow Tweed shooting his engine, to an animal being hit by a train and falling a great distance (surviving it all, of course), to a hefty scuffle with a grizzly bear in the film's climax -- it may be much for younger viewers. It's still pretty good story, just keep a box of Puffs handy.
In hindsight, The Fox and The Hound isn't one of the better classic Disney animated films, but it's still a unique story and a worthy addition to their repertoire of timeless stories. The sequel is about as dismissable as they can make them, but kids probably won't care, while some may even prefer it. Adults, just don't expect it to be the quality of Disney you remember from your childhood... cause it's not.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 8/4/11)
Surprisingly enough, the features a bit thin on the Blu-Ray Disc release. Granted, they've included BOTH movies in high definition on one disc, but most Blu-Ray Discs can hold quite a bit of data. There is one new feature on the Blu-Ray disc, while the DVD versions for both films have their own sets of features. This is kind of annoying if you just want to use the Blu-Ray disc. On the original film's DVD, it includes "Passing The Baton: The Making of The Fox and The Hound" and "The Best Of Friends" Sing-Along Song. The sequel's DVD features "The Making of the Music: Behind-The-Scenes Featurette" and "You Know I Will" Music Video Performed By Lucas Grabeel. There doesn't seem to be any good reason why these couldn't have been included on the Blu disc, however...
Unlikely friends - The one BD featurette is targeted at children and shows clips from the Disney animated film catalog (like Bolt and Up, for example) as they drive home the idea of mixed animal species that aren't common. The segment then investigates real life unlikely friends like cats and dogs, cats and mice, and zebras with ostriches. Unfortunately, since this is for kids, the narrator is annoying as anything to listen to, and considering the lack of a real-deal featurette on this disc, it's very disappointing.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 8/4/11)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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