Ranking Disney: #33 – The Fox and the Hound (1981)
The Fox and the Hound is one of those films — I think of it as a classic. That is, I’ve always thought of it as a classic. I guess because the title feels like an iconic Disney film. But it’s obviously not on the level as the heavy hitters. You can tell that without having even seen it. I knew nothing about this film until I bought it on Blu-Ray when they released it this past year or last year or whenever it was.
It’s the kind of film — by itself, the plot is definitely one of Disney’s weakest. There’s really not much of a plot here, and considering the run time, doesn’t have much of a pace to it. And yet — as you watch it — it works. I can’t explain why it works, but it does. I’m sure there are people who would feel this should go higher, and probably more who feel it should go lower (especially considering some of the films I’ve ranked below it), but — I don’t know. I just feel like it hits the right notes to belong where it is. It’s obviously not one of the most entertaining of all 51, but there’s just something about it that makes me feel happy. It’s just simple. And to me that counts for a lot.
The film begins like Bambi, actually. Only, we dispense with the scary shit right off the bat.
A fox mother carries her cub through the forest. She is being chased by a hunting dog and a hunter. She leaves her cub by the post of a field, knowing the end is near. She runs away and is shot.
This is witnessed by a kind, old, black-grandmother owl, Big Mama (please. No house jokes), who tries to find a suitable home for him. She gets Boomer, the woodpecker, and Dinky, the finch, to help get him adopted by the Widow Tweed. She takes him in and names him Tod.
Meanwhile, Amos Slade, the Widow Tweed’s neighbor, brings home Copper, a hound, who will eventually become his new hunting dog, as his current hunting dog, Chief, is getting up there in years. Chief tries to dislike Copper, but finds that he can’t.
Tod ends up meeting Copper and becoming good friends with him. Neither one knows they shouldn’t be playing together, and that, in a few years, one will be hunting the other.
Copper eventually gets tied up because he goes off all the time to play with Tod. Tod doesn’t seem to care, deciding that they’ll play right where Copper is tied up. Chief sees Tod and chases after him.
Amos comes out and shoots at Tod, who runs safely to the Widow Tweed’s car. Amos follows behind, shooting at Tod, and shoots up the Widow Tweed’s car and her milk jugs. She responds by shooting up his car. They have a giant argument, and he says if he ever sees Tod on his property, he’s going to shoot him. Shortly after, he leaves with Chief and Copper for the winter.
The next spring, Copper returns with Amos and Chief, and Tod figures things will be just as they used to be. Copper says things are different now – he’s a hunting dog. Chief wakes up and starts barking and Amos shoots at Tod. They chase him into the woods. Copper eventually corners Tod, but lets him go, saying it’s “just this one time.” However, Chief chases Tod onto the train tracks and toward an oncoming train. Chief gets hit and is hurt badly. (Disney sure loves killing off a character and then going, “Oh, no, he’s not really dead.” Like Trusty in Lady and the Tramp and Baloo, and — well, the list keeps on going.) Copper blames Tod for this, and swears he’ll get revenge for Chief.
Amos comes by the Widow Tweed’s house and wants to shoot Tod. She sends him away, but realizes that Tod isn’t safe with her. She takes him to a game preserve and leaves him. Which is pretty fucked up, actually. Since the only difference is, there, someone will pay to shoot him. And he’s completely housebroken. How the fuck is he going to survive in the wild?
Anyway, Amos realizes what the old woman has done and decides to illegally poach Tod on the game preserve. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the hillbilly.
Big Mama flies to the game preserve and introduces Tod to Vixey, a female fox. They hit it off. There’s a nice courting-type sequence. And they end up by a waterfall together (like Lady and the Tramp, or Duchess and Napoleon).
Then Amos and Copper arrive at the game preserve to hunt Tod. They set a bunch of traps for him down by the lake. The next morning, after Tod and Vixey have fucked (they clearly have, too. It’s not even hidden), they come down to the lake, and Amos starts shooting. Copper takes off after Tod and Vixey.
Tod and Copper start fighting as Vixey makes her way back to their burrow. Tod joins her, but the two soon find themselves surrounded by Amos and Copper. Amos set fire to the burrow, figuring he’ll smoke them out. Tod and Vixey manage to escape, but are chased by Copper to the waterfall.
At the waterfall, Amos and Copper manage to piss off a bear. Amos ends up getting caught in one of his traps, and Copper tries fending off the bear by himself. Tod, knowing that’s impossible, comes to help, not wanting to see his friend die. Tod manages to lure the bear out on a log over the falls, and the bear ends up falling down into the water. However – so does Tod.
Tod limps out of the water, wounded, and Copper arrives and apologizes. Amos tries to shoot Tod, but Copper stands in front of him, pleading with Amos not to shoot Tod. Amos eventually relents, and takes Copper home, but not before a heartfelt goodbye between the two friends.
The film ends with the Widow Tweed mending to Amos’s wounded leg, and Copper dreaming about his carefree days as a child with Tod, and Tod and Vixey watching from afar.
It’s a simple film. Effective. Some people might find it too slow and too lacking in character development, but I think the fact that it’s so easy-going makes up for that. The animation just has that feel to it. I don’t know, I can’t explain it. But I stand by this ranking. I really wouldn’t ever rank this below 35 no matter how many times I created this list.
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Official Disney Number: #24
Run Time: 83 minutes
Release Date: July 10, 1981
Budget: $39 million in its initial run, and $63.5 million total
Box Office: No definitive word on the budget, but the estimated amount is around $12 million
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- “Best of Friends,” performed by Pearl Bailey
- “Lack of Education,” performed by Pearl Bailey
- “A Huntin’ Man,” performed by Jack Albertson
- “Appreciate the Lady,” performed by Pearl Bailey
- “Goodbye May Seem Forever,” performed by Jeanette Nolan
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- Production on this film began in 1977. It was delayed after a bunch of animators, who felt the film was “stale,” walked out to form their own studio (including Don Bluth, who went on to make such films as The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, The Land Before Time, All Dogs Go to Heaven and Anastasia.)
- This was the last Disney film to have no closing credits, and have all credits be at the beginning of the film. Starting with The Black Cauldron, Disney would switch over to end credits.
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1. It’s that negative coloring again:
They do it with fire this time, which is pretty awesome.
2. Disney loves reflecting characters in water:
3. The opening shot of the film — very Bambi.
4. Train tracks. Since The Aristocats (which may or may not have gone up yet), I’ve decided to include train tracks as part of that whole “characters walking over a log/downed tree” thing they like to do. And even if it shouldn’t be — I like the idea of wooden train tracks, so I’m putting this screenshot here no matter what.
5. It feels like several Disney films in one. The waterfall reminds me of a shot in The Jungle Book, the way the two are sitting is almost exactly like in The Aristocats (not to mention Lady and the Tramp), and the whole thing has a feel of The Lion King (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight”).
6. Speaking of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” — look at that fucking “come hither” look.
7. This is my favorite shot in the film — Tod is walking through the part of the woods where Amos has set the traps and is waiting to shoot him, and they shoot it from the front and Tod is right in front of the camera, moving forward, but the camera stays with him. So we can only see him and not what’s in front of him, and it has a sort of, moving through the vertical plane feel. It’s a really great shot. Builds suspense like a motherfucker.
8. Look at this fucking jizz hound: