Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Fox and the Hound 1981

Personal Overview: I didn’t realize until doing this and looking at some of the facts behind the movies that The Fox and the Hound was based on a novel. It does say loosely based, as many of the Disney adaptations are, and I think I can see what wasn’t in the original novel or what was and was Disneyfied or removed.

It’s not a funny animal movie as such, both the Fox (Tod) and the Hound (Copper) of the title are an actual fox and hound dog. The fox is orphaned and adopted by a kindly old lady. She’s the one who names him Tod (I’m guessing that’s a reference to the term ‘tod’ which is sometimes used as alternative name for a fox in England). Copper is bought by the hunter Amos as a companion for his old hunting dog Chief (once again voiced by Pat Buttram, which caused issues for me because I kept flashing on the Sherriff from Robin Hood) and probably a replacement for the older dog when he either becomes too old to hunt or passes away.

Predictably enough in typical Disney fashion the two mortal enemies become friends as pups and reject the notion that when they’re grown they’ll be natural enemies.

A maternal owl called Big Mama as well as a fairly simple woodpecker and his equally clueless friend; a finch called Dinky, are added as colour and comedy relief. Big Mama tends to look over all the local woodland creatures, as owls in Disney movies seem to do, and Dinky and Boomer (the woodpecker) spend most of their time trying, without success, to catch a caterpillar.

Eventually Tod’s adventurous nature and the fact that if Amos sees him anywhere near his property he will kill him, and he’s not above pursuing him onto Widow Tweed’s property either, despite the fact that this is trespassing and illegal, means that for his own good the young fox needs to be released back into the wild. Not that Amos ever pays much attention to the law, he’s also prepared to go after Tod on an animal reserve. I was kind of hoping the bear that he and his dogs ran into may actually kill the hunter.

Everything ends happily enough with Tod finding love in the forest in the form of a young vixen called, with an obvious flash of inspiration by the writers; Vixey (it’s not really any wonder Disney view this entire period as a bit of a low one in their history with things like that). Even Amos and the Widow Tweed start up a possible relationship. Copper didn’t get a pretty young hound dog, though and Boomer and Dinky never caught their caterpillar before it turned into a butterfly and flew away.

Chief was actually meant to die as a result of a fall while chasing Tod in the original draft, but as with Trusty in Lady and the Tramp and Baloo in The Jungle Book, he was reprieved. There seemed to be a school of thought at the time that an on screen death would traumatise young viewers.

Hero/es: they’re really the title characters. As they don’t do anything that really deviates from their natures there isn’t a lot of room for character development and neither really grows on you or gets you particularly invested in their characters. The Widow Tweed with her efforts to save Tod and stand up to Amos could be considered a sort of secondary hero.

Villain/s: that’s Amos. He actually reminds me a little of McLeach in The Rescuers Down Under. He may have actually provided the inspiration, as Disney aren’t above mining old material for new films. For some reason Copper stays loyal to him, despite the fact that he’s kept tied up to a barrel whenever they’re not out hunting and that Amos is irrational, bad tempered, frequently engaged in animal cruelty and very nearly gets the hound dog killed during his vendetta against Tod. He could have been the template for the hunters in Bambi. I actually wonder if he killed Bambi’s mother and Tod’s mother as well.

Cuteness Factor: the first half of the film is cute. You can’t help but find the young Tod and especially Copper cute. Puppies of any stripe generally are. I think the other thing they go for Cuteness Factor with is the caterpillar.

Animation: again as with some previous entries there’s nothing special here. It’s competent, but there’s nothing new or different. The fight between the bear and the dogs is well done, but that’s really it. Very little sticks in the memory.

Final Words: it’s a very standard entry and it does nothing to enhance the company’s reputation. Had they never done this one I doubt too many would have missed it. Most critics tended to share that reaction, although it was popular enough to get a direct to video sequel.

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