THE FOX AND THE HOUND (1981) is a Disney animated movie now
available on video. It tells the story of a fox named Tod (Keith
Mitchell as the younger Tod and Mickey Rooney as the older Tod) and his
friend, a hunting dog named Copper (Corey Feldman as the younger Copper
and Kurt Russell as the older Copper). The story has two distinct
parts. In the first, these two natural enemies are constant playmates.
In the second, they grow up and Copper, along with his hillbilly owner
Amos Slade (Jack Albertson) and Amos's other hunting dog Chief (Pat
Buttram), are out to kill Tod with Amos's shotgun.
The movie starts like the older Disney movies do. There is a long
title sequence with slow music and no action, but the ending has no
credits at all, just the words, "The End." My son was eager for me to
hit fast forward during the opening credits. How movies have changed.
Today, we have action and rock music during the opening credits, and
the ending credits go on forever thanking everyone right down to the
caterer and the star's masseuse.
Once the directors (Ted Berman, Richard Rich, and Art Stevens)
yell action, we have Tod and his mother being chased by hounds and
hunters. In the distance and off camera, little Tod's mother is
killed. This is handled so low key that youngsters will probably not
even realize it happened. Tod is then taken in by an Owl named Big
Mama (Pearl Bailey). Big Mama in turn finds a home for Tod with Widow
Tweed (Jeanette Nolan).
Eventually Tod meets Copper, and being young and innocent, they do
not believe that they will ever become enemies. They spend the first
half of the movie frolicking in the forest. This part, which is
actually over half of the elapsed time, is the main problem with the
film. The zillions of writers (Ted Berman, Larry Clemmons, Vance
Gerry, Steve Hulett, Earl Kress, Daniel P. Mannix, Burny Mattinson,
David Michener, and Peter Young) on the film are able to craft
characters, each of which are cute and as sweet as can be. The
producers (Ron Miller, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Art Stevens) get top
notch actors and actresses to do the voices. They forget only one
item; they forget to give the characters anything to do. There is no
tension in the long first part and almost nothing happens. The writers
invent wonderful characters and then run out of ideas. What a waste.
In the shorter concluding part, Big Mama warns Tod about the fully
grown hunting dog Copper, "Listen good Tod, it's either education or
elimination." Tod can not accept the changes and tells Big Mama, "He
won't change and we'll keep on being friends forever." Big Mama
responds, "Forever is a long long time and time has a way of changing
things." The ending to the show is completely predictable, but this is
a kid's show afterall.
The drawing (Daniela Bielecka, David Block, and Phil Nibbelink) is
beautifully realistic with bright and lively colors. Granted, this is
not art on par with THE LION KING, but it is impressive in its own
right. The music (Buddy Baker) is pleasant, but the songs are poor and
THE FOX AND THE HOUND runs 1:23 which is too long given the dearth
of ideas in the script. It is rated G, but there are some scenes that
have the potential to scare kids under say 5. These include a enormous
and threatening grizzly bear, snarling animals fighting, and animals
constantly being shot at with a shotgun. My son Jeffrey (almost 7) saw
the movie for the first time with me and he liked it. There is not
enough here for me to recommend the film, but I did like all of the
characters so I am giving the film **.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes