Disney’s “The Fox and the Hound” (1981) Review

Image: Disney, Wikipedia

PLOT –

After Tod the fox and Copper the dog become close childhood friends, their adult relationship is put to the test when Copper becomes a hunting dog.

This plot is quite uneven. More time is spent on side characters than the main plot of the film. Dinky and Boomer, the two birds, get an inordinate amount of focus in the beginning, and as a result, the main plot is rushed and finally gets moving halfway through the film. Darker elements of the plot also are not explored, and choices such as killing off characters are not used to their full potential. There isn’t much resolution at the end, and as a result, the ending is somewhat bittersweet. This is a film that wants to go darker and more dramatic, but instead, plays it safe.

My PLOT RATING is 3 / 5.

CHARACTERS –

Tod (Keith Mitchell, Mickey Rooney) and Copper (Corey Feldman, Kurt Russell) are both good characters here. Their motivations are understandable and clear. Tod gets more focus while Copper is pushed into a more antagonistic role, yet these characters don’t have much time to develop their friendship as adults. They do get a montage showing them as kids, but it’s not enough to convince the viewer that it carries over to adulthood, and they don’t really share many scenes together.

Amos Slade (Jack Albertson) and Widow Tweed (Jeanette Nolan) are fine in this. Slade’s character won’t age well because of his sexist tendencies and cruel character with a sheer lack of common sense. He does get some comeuppance at the end, but not nearly as much as he should. Widow Tweed is very good in this. She’s protective and aggressive, and would probably make a good mother to a human boy, much less Tod. I would have loved to know her backstory.

Dinky (Dick Bakalyan) and Boomer (Paul Winchell) are an annoying waste of time. They don’t contribute to the plot at all, and their scenes are superfluous, and ultimately unneeded. The film would be unchanged if they were cut. They have a good dynamic as characters, but not in this film.

Big Mama (Pearl Bailey) and Vixey (Sandy Duncan) are pretty good characters, but they exist to give more character and guidance to Tod. Neither character does much in the film aside from giving Tod more sympathy and to teach a lesson of kindness to the audience. Sandy Duncan does fine here, playing the coy, shy girl, notable for wanting Tod’s attention first rather than the reverse. Bailey’s voice doesn’t really match the character as far as gusto is concerned, cutting loose in only one song. I do wish they were both given more to do in the plot, as they have potential to be better characters.

On a side note, I need to mention the Bear. Possibly the most memorable character to have three minutes or so of screen time. Incredible in design and size, a total scene stealer, as well as being a deus ex machina to bring the main cast together.

My CHARACTERS RATING is 3 / 5.

DIALOGUE –

The dialogue in this is very simplistic and surprisingly toned down, spoon-feeding plot points to the audience. The feel of the dialogue is similar to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but without the charm and wit. The comedy bits also clash drastically with the dramatic tone, and as much as I love Paul Winchell’s ‘Tigger Laugh’, he overuses it here. This film relies more on emotion and visuals rather than speech.

My DIALOGUE RATING is 3 / 5.

EFFECTS –

The effects here are very nice. Fire and water are the stars here, as well as some neat snow effects. The waterfall at the end is breathtaking in scope, and the backgrounds are gorgeous. Some of the animation isn’t up to snuff, with stilted movements and some scratchiness here and there, but the fox animation is fantastic, with the vibrant dark oranges popping over the greens and browns of the forest..

My EFFECTS RATING is 4 / 5.

MUSIC –

The music here is done well. Buddy Baker does a good job integrating the music with the animation, and the lyrical music is pretty good as well.

“Best of Friends” – A nice, light song that has heart, but seems restrained, performance-wise.

“Lack of Education” – A way better song for Pearl Bailey, yet the music is muddled behind the score for some reason.

“A Huntin’ Man” – Slade’s only song, and a good little ditty, but pretty short.

“Appreciate the Lady” – A better song for Pearl Bailey. Nice and sweet, and with some harmonica thrown in.

“Goodbye May Seem Forever” – Widow Tweed’s song. It’s more like a poem, but it wrings so much emotion with its words and instrumentation, especially at the end utilizing a choir.

My MUSIC RATING is 4 / 5.

OVERALL –

It is here, in this film, that we enter Disney’s Dark Age: a series of films that have not done well financially or critically. To me, this film isn’t that memorable. It’s good, but it doesn’t reach that emotional connection or have the same spark that the other films did. Part of the reason for this is that during the making of this film, Don Bluth and several other animators walked out to create their own studio where the animators could take charge of a film rather than executives that wish to save every penny.

Sadly, this film is more imperfect than the rest. While the music and effects are pretty well done, the characters are not given the time to develop, the dialogue is too simple, and the plot does not focus on the main leads enough. It’s understandable why this film does not live up to its potential, similar to another unavoidable shakeup in Disney’s leading dynamics a few films ago with Aristocats

                                                  This film is sadly forgettable,                                                                                                and it’s pretty telling when the only                                             Disney Parks “character” is the vehicles.

Image: Disney, Jimhillmedia.com

My OVERALL RATING for Disney’s The Fox and the Hound is 68%.

Next time we’ll really visit the Dark Ages…

The Darkest Age of the Disney Animated Canon:

The Black Cauldron.

Stay Tuned!

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