The Best of Friends

The Fox and the Hound is the unlikely tale of natural enemies that turned out to be the best of friends. As their twenty-fourth production, this was the first animated Disney movie released in the turbulent 80’s and the very first to have no Walt Disney involvement whatsoever. The rights to the book were purchased a year after Disney’s death and production only picked up 10 years after. The story was just as dark as everything else released at the time, but darker parts of the book still needed to be lightened up. Despite its initial successful, The Fox and the Hound had one of the most troubled productions. The decade change meant the transition of legendary animators with several familiar younger animators. The age gap lead to many story clashes. It got so bad that notable 80’s animation competitor Don Bluth left the company to start his own. Of course my brother and I watched The Fox and the Hound when we were younger, but only a few times due to the harsher tone.

The Fox and the Hound uses the natural enemies of a red fox and a hound dog to tackle social prejudice. Just like in Bambi, a young fox loses his mother to a hunter’s rifle. Caring motherly owl Big Mama helps find him a home. Pearl Bailey is a much more positively depicted black woman with soulful musical talent. In between the heavier story is a subplot about two birds trying to catch a caterpillar. Which doesn’t add much. It’s really the relationship between the poor Widow Tweed and fox that she raises as Tod that gives the film heart. On the other side is tempered hunter Amos Slade who relies on his aging hunting dog Chief before adopting a puppy hound dog named Copper. When the two cross paths, their childlike innocence makes them fast friends. It’s a precious friendship, but sadly life doesn’t always work out that way.

When they grow up, they’re destined to be enemies. Tweed leaves Tod in the forest and Copper becomes Slade’s lead hunting dog. Their first reunion ends in Chief being injured, but it would have made a lot more sense if he died. Tod falls for Vixie, but their happiness doesn’t last as the vengeful hunters try to put an end to them. Only a bear attack brings them together. Copper stands up for Tod, but they still go their separate ways in the end. The animation is much more high quality and the backgrounds are just as detailed as The Rescuers were. The music is mostly left to Big Mama and the most notable song is probably “Best of Friends.” Although it’s really the big name voices of Mickey Rooney, Kurt Russell, Corey Feldman, and Keith Mitchell that deserve a mention. The Fox and the Hound has a moral we’ve all heard before, but it takes enough chances to stand out.

38. The Fox and the Hound

Tod meets Copper

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