#24 The Fox and the Hound

#24 The Fox and the Hound

I believe the children baby animals are the future…

What a decade this will be! It’ll see Disney at some of it’s lowest points, but will end on a high! The Renaissance is so close! But first, we need to get through a few more films starting with The Fox and the Hound. This film, loosely based on a book (do I need to keep putting that? Isn’t every Disney movie loosely based on a book in some way?) by Daniel P. Mannix, follows a fox named Tod and a dog, a hound if you will, named Copper, who grow up as friends despite Copper being raised to hunt foxes, including Tod. It’s a lovely story about looking past differences, choosing friendship and love over societal expectations, and how old people are really the problem. I’m just kidding! But Tod and Copper’s owners are both old and pretty terrible people – spoiler alert! Wolfgang Reitherman, Disney director and producer, brought the film into development after reading Mannix’s book. Also, his son once had a pet fox?

Now, grab your mugs, because it’s time for some tea. While the theme of the movie is about working toward unity, there was many a beef being had behind the scenes. First, Reitherman quarreled with his co-director, Art Stevens, as the two disagreed about several aspects of the film and story. Second, Ron Clements (future director) and other young animators lobbied for the character of Chief to be (spoiler) killed rather than injured in the train scene. They argued that him breaking his leg wasn’t a strong enough motivator for Copper. However, Art Stevens pushed back, refusing to kill a main character. Eventually, “upper management” was brought in and they sided with Stevens. Third, apparently a “fight erupted” when Reitherman tried to bring a musical number into the second act, which he felt was dragging. His colleagues strongly opposed the scene and again management was brought in to intervene and remove the scene.

Last, but certainly not least, there was the great secession. If you read my post last week, you may remember I mentioned an animator named Don Bluth. This name may sound familiar, and I’ll explain why in a moment. As you could probably tell already, this was a film in which there were significant disagreements between the new/up-and-coming animators and the veteran animators/higher-ups. Reitherman’s leadership style was particularly disliked, which ultimately caused Bluth, and two other animators, to resign in September of 1979. They were soon followed by thirteen more animators. Bluth even asked not to receive credit for the work he had done for the movie. This departure delayed production by six months, and a group of older assistant animators had to step up to oversee the work of the inexperienced new animators. So, why does Bluth sound familiar? Because not only did his resignation shakeup Fox and the Hound production, but he would also go on to be a major competitor against Disney in the ’80s and ’90s by starting his own animation studio and working with other companies. He’d eventually teamed up with Spielberg and made The Land Before Time and An American Tail. He also made Anastasia which, knowing Bluth’s history with Disney, makes the fact that so many people associate that movie with Disney so cruelly ironic (that’s also one of my BIGGEST pet peeves, if you call Anastasia a Disney film around me, I will flip out). So, just some fun animation studio drama going down all around!

Fox and the Hound was the last project for Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, making it the final film animated by one of the Nine Old Men. Some of the new animators that had stepped up during The Rescuers, as well as other young animators, took the reins. Some of these animators included John Lasseter (future director of Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Cars), Glen Keane (future lead animator for major and iconic Disney characters), Chris Buck (future director of Tarzan and Frozen), and some guy named Tim Burton (if you need me to include any thing in these parentheses, you should probably take a peek out from under your rock – once 2020 is over, of course, stay down there for now). The team got two major actors to voice their leading men animals: Mickey Rooney voiced Tod and Kurt Russell voiced Copper!

Reviews for the film pegged it as average and on the whole it was seen as your standard Disney film, with cute talking animals, lovely animation, and nice original songs. However, it’s message against hate was very much praised. Critics said it was “an intelligent story about prejudice” and that it “contains a useful lesson for younger audiences…it’s also a rather thoughtful meditation on how society determines our behavior.” Also the fight sequence between Tod, Copper, and the bear was especially lauded. At the time, it was the highest grossing animated film, domestically.

In 2006, a direct-to-DVD sequel film was released. As far as the parks go, there isn’t to my knowledge (or what I could find through research) really anything having to do with The Fox and the Hound. Even though prior films and characters may have been more popular in non-American parks, I couldn’t even find any evidence of Tod or Copper or any of the other characters being seen in any of the parks for meet and greets. There’s a bit of merchandise, but that seems about it for TFATH. I feel like this film is pretty well-beloved; it wasn’t a favorite of mine growing up, but many people I know, even those who aren’t the biggest Disney fans, think highly of it. So, I’m surprised there isn’t more representation of it in the parks.

I believe I watched this movie once when I was a kid – I definitely have vague memories sitting and watching it, but I don’t really remember much about it. So, I’m excited to see what it’s about! Like I said, I’ve heard good things. Let’s go off to the forest or the farm or where this takes place!

My thoughts on The Fox and the Hound:

  • Very quiet and ominous credits
  • Mamma fox and a baby, oh dear this can’t end well, we know how disney feels about mothers
  • She’s leaving the baby? Oh hiding him! A brave mamma
  • OH MY GOD GUN SHOTS WHY DISNEY
  • You know I just realized it’s been a while since there’s been a dead parent in a Disney movie and that little trope was NOT one I missed
  • Big mamma is a much better owl than owl from winnie the pooh
  • There is a character named boomer the joke writes itself today folks
  • How did they know this old lady would take in the fox?
  • Like a fox isn’t an animal people tend to nurture….
  • Author’s note: my apologies to Wolfgang Reitherman’s son who apparently did nurture a fox
  • Tod is such a “dad who owns a boat and wears Sperry’s everywhere” type of name weird choice ma’am
  • Meanwhile Amos Slade is leaving one dog to babysit another
  • “He’s for you to look after” that’s not how dogs work mate but okay
  • Didn’t the lady see this problem arising with a fox in the actual hen house?
  • Let me take the time to say that the animation style in this movie is really nice. The 60’s and 70’s had really thick lines and a distinct style, but this really looks like a new era
  • And Tod and Copper are so freaking cute!
  • They’re gonna meet each other!! They’re getting closer
  • Omg copper trying to howl *heart eyes*
  • “Look at that a fox and a hound playing together” the innocence of children, am I right?
  • They’re playing hide and seek! They’re running around!
  • “Copper you’re my very best friend” “Your mine too, Tod” i love them so much, this is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen
  • “And we’ll always be friends forever” “yeah forever!” my heart…hurts…because I know they probably won’t be friends forever…because life will get in the way…and ooh boy why didn’t anyone tell me this movie was gonna be painful?!
  • Aww Copper got tied up 😦
  • Tod does not listen! He’s going to make things worse
  • get OUT Tod!
  • Run Tod run!!!!!!!!
  • Side note: I keep typing “Todd” because that’s the traditional spelling of the name, but the character’s name is “Tod”, and I can’t even be annoyed that I keep having to correct myself because I prefer the spelling with one d because I always thought the second d was superfluous, it adds nothing!
  • So much property damage yikes
  • Why is Tod running around Slade’s farm? Go under the fence and run home
  • Slade is shooting mostly his own property that doesn’t seem smart on his part
  • That’s smart of Tod to get in Tweed’s car
  • Oh dang Slade is pursuing Tod, he really wants this fox
  • But why?? I get he’s a hunter but this is so much work for a little baby fox…can you even feel triumph over killing a baby?
  • Is Amos Slade shooting at the old lady’s car?!!! You’re gonna risk straight up murdering another human for a baby fox?!
  • Oh dang! She pulled the gun on him!!!
  • Tweed is a boss

Amos Slade: Are you calling me a liar?

Tweed:

  • Tod’s grounded
  • Aww the two friends are being separated 😦
  • And of course Tod is sneaking out. Does he not remember nearly being killed yesterday?
  • Copper is so happy to be going on the trip
  • At least Tod doesn’t have to worry about the hunter anymore
  • “What did you plan to do if you ran into old chief?” good question Big Mamma
  • “Didn’t you learn anything yesterday?” GOOD QUESTION BIG MAMMA
  • “It’s either education or elimination” ooh that is a good lesson
  • wow this song about he’s gonna end up dead is the realest disney song ever but also very very dark like one of the lyrics was “you’ll wind up hanging on the wall”
  • oh…my…god…..WHY does Amos slade keep animal skins in his shed???
  • Like I get hunters hanging up things in their homes as trophies to show off but this is a small little shed no one goes in…that’s just sick. Giving me a serial killer vibe ngl
  • So, these birds that hang out with Big Mamma are hunting the caterpillar, are we supposed to be rooting for them? Are they not the same as Amos Slade hunting Todd? OR is that the point the movie is trying to make, that everyone is just out for himself and we’re all trying to survive. OR are they trying to show that we all have the ability to be a villain in someone else’s story?
  • Let’s get philosophical while we have this copper growing up montage
  • Aww Tod has a collar!
  • Tod you are playing with fire…
  • On the one hand I’m annoyed he’s not listening to their warnings but on the other hand it’s sweet he has hope in his friend
  • They still recognize each other!
  • Any one else get a romanitc vibe from this movie? It’s kinda like romeo and juliet…
  • I’m glad Copper isn’t immediately mean to him, and you can tell he’s trying to keep Tod away to protect him
  • “We’re still friends, aren’t we?” “Tod, those days are over” do you hear that cracking sound? That’s my heart breaking!
  • No!! Oh geeze Tod they’re back for like two hours and you’re nearly getting shot again
  • Oh he didn’t run home, it’s a full on chase scene!
  • Hold Strong Copper, don’t you do it!
  • Yes! Good boy Copper!
  • Tod you better stay home from now on!!
  • Oh no! Chief! He found him
  • Oh no! A train!
  • OOF hit by a train and then on the rocks 
  • Man forget the animation being a new era this is when Disney took a turn and decided it was chill to show violence on screen
  • That was honestly brutal
  • “Tod, if it’s the last thing I’ll do, I’ll get you for this!” No!! Copper!!
  • He called her “widow”? That’s such a rude thing to call someone
  • Amos Slade cannot seriously blame the fox when HE was the one who sent his dog after it
  • Your dog got hurt hunting, you sent your dog out to hunt, that’s on you my dude
  • Can’t she call the police and get like some kind of restraining order? I don’t know what era/decade this is supposed to be
  • No matter what year, Amos Slade shouldn’t be able to kill animals that belong to her on her own property
  • Aww Tod’s birthday photo! She made him a cake!
  • Her thoughts are so poetic. My thoughts are chaotic
  • Well, you know, you’ve been reading ‘em
  • Wait, what she doing?
  • …she took his collar…
  • No….
  • NOOOO
  • Why old lady?!! Why is she letting him go? I’m so confused

Me and Tod watching Widow Tweed drive away

  • Was keeping him from getting hurt too much? Why couldn’t she keep in him the house? 
  • She treated him like a beloved pet this whole time WHAT CHANGED?!!!
  • I wish her internal monologue explained this 
  • And now it’s raining, of course
  • Tod doesn’t even know how to survive in the wild!
  • Oh gosh I hate this lady so much
  • I think she’s officially the most evil Disney character of all time
  • That badger is so mean to Tod for an honest mistake, he’s just trying to escape the rain sir!!
  • Honey badger really don’t give a shi-
  • Piglet??!
  • He’s a porcupine now
  • What’s a game preserve? Is that like a “no hunting zone”
  • Can ya tell I’m a city slicker
  • Tod is in the forest one night and Big Mamma is already playing match maker, a literal wing woman
  • But also did this movie NEED a romantic subplot? We already have the DRAMA of a long-lost friendship, friends to enemies, Chief injured, Copper out for vengeance, Tod left alone. Like we have ENOUGH going on, not every story needs a romance
  • I know, I know, I’m talking to the wrong company…
  • This old badger is so aggressive, dang Hufflepuffs
  • “you shouldn’t be so grumpy to someone new in the neighborhood” THANK YOU piglet porcupine
  • Badger: “Why don’t you go back to where you came from” ok boomer
  • HA I used it where you didn’t think I was gonna use it!
  • Vixey is really sweet and actually has a personality
  • Tod has just been abandoned by his mother and is alone and out in the wild for the first time but that emotional trauma is immediately forgotten because pretty fox
  • “Please let him catch a fish” ahahaha big mamma is everyone whose ever watched their friend try to flirt
  •  I like that Vixey actually sticks up for herself! She’s not passive
  • Talking about kids on the first date come on Vixey you know that’s frowned upon
  • *gasp* amos slade sneaking into the game preserve 
  • Like dude your obsession with this fox is a little much
  • How will he even be able to tell Tod apart from the other foxes?
  • Actually, ARE there any other foxes or is it just Vixey?
  • Tod and Vixey climbing out of the same burrow in the morning, WHOAH a new era of disney indeed!
  • It’s his second day in the forest why is Tod so sure of himself? Vixey’s lived here her whole life maybe she knows better
  • Oh my goodness the angry Tod and Copper faces are scary
  • They got them trapped oh noo!!
  • Poor Vixey got dragged into this mess
  • Rabid dog, shooting, now fire, there’s a lot going on!!
  • Where are big Mamma and the birds? The other animals? Can someone assist?!
  • A BEAR?!!!
  • The hunter becomes the hunted! How ya like that old man?
  • Oh my god Tod is helping Copper! He’s saving him from the bear!
  • That’s true friendship!
  • I’m literally on the edge of my seat or I would be if I wasn’t in bed
  • Tod scurrying around the bear so quickly is so cool
  • Oof Tod got smacked
  • They both fell down the waterfall!!! What’s gonna happen?
  • Leaving us in suspense what happened???
  • Tod is okay
  • Wait how did Tod survive but that big ol’ bear died??
  • OH MY GOD THIS HUNTER GO AWAY THEY’RE HAVING A MOMENT
  • COPPER DEFENDING TOD!!
  • I’m so emotional
  • Did slade miss the fox saving his ass and his dog??!
  • “Well, come on boy, let’s go home” that’s it? I mean i’m glad but like he just gives up? After all the petty crap he’s done I’m surprised he didn’t do a fake out and turn and shoot Tod after Copper walked away
  • That smile, that proof that they’ll always be friends, sweet
  • The caterpillar turned into a butterfly! Good for him!!!
  • Why is Tweed helping Slade? HE nearly killed her beloved pet
  • Did she really abandon Tod because of him and then turn around and nurse him?! Oooh I hate her even more
  • Is that lady the most villainous character in the disney canon? Me thinks so!
  • Tod and Vixey watching from afar
  • What a bittersweet ending

That movie made me feel so many emotions! I’m actually really impressed with it because 1) it handled serious topics in a way that was very digestible for children and 2) it handled those topics realistically. It wouldn’t have made sense for it to end with Tod and Copper skipping off into the sunset singing some happy song, you know? They came through for each other in the end, and it was clear that they would always care for each other, but life and their positions in the world just didn’t allow them to be close. And sometimes, that happens. You grow up and grow apart from people. There are friendships that you think will last forever but, unfortunately, for myriad reasons, not every friendship stays exactly the same or even lasts. Not even always because of fights or prejudices like in this movie, but sometimes you just change as people or move or life just takes you in different directions. And that’s okay, and I really liked the message that the film ended with: even if you’re not emotionally or physically close to someone anymore doesn’t mean you stop caring about them or they stop caring about you. Also, the message about how prejudices and hate aren’t inherent, they’re taught is sad but true. If only everyone looked at the world and others with the innocent eyes and open hearts of children, and if only so many kids weren’t raised to hate others! This movie makes me want to hug my friends, but alas I’m stuck here in quarantine, and also 3k miles from everyone I know so…

I could totally see why I watched this once and didn’t watch it a lot as a kid. I think it’s a good movie, but I don’t think my child-self could appreciate it, especially because the plot isn’t the most exciting in the middle. But I did enjoy it! I thought the animation was beautiful, I liked both Tod and Copper (their personalities were distinct and unique), and I also really liked the side characters of Big Mamma and Vixey. Both Amos Slade and Widow Tweed can rot for being evil. Oh, and I liked the worm that became a butterfly! Definitely not a bad start to the ’80’s, and I think this movie deserves more love, especially from Disney itself.

Next week, we deal with what may be Disney’s darkest and even scariest film in the animated classics canon: The Black Cauldron. This would have been perfect to kick-start October, but I’m not pausing the blog another three weeks, so spooky season starts early!

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