Slightly Foxed

The Fox and the Hound – Released in 1981, this would have been the first Disney animated feature to come out within my lifetime, although I didn’t watch it until considerably later in life. It’s loosely based on a book by Daniel Mannix, which I’ve never read, but I feel I should mention this anyway because Mannix was a known Oz fan, My overall impression of this film is that it’s depressing. In fact, it starts out with a baby fox’s mother being killed by a hunter. Sheesh, everyone talks about Bambi’s mom’s death being sad, but at least that doesn’t happen at the very beginning of the movie! Anyway, the kindly local owl Big Mama, voiced by Pearl Bailey, arranges for the Widow Tweed to take care of the young fox, whom she names Tod. Tod makes friends with the neighbor’s puppy Copper, but the neighbor, a trigger-happy hunter named Amos Slade, isn’t having it. Amos goes away on a hunting trip for the winter, and Copper learns to be a hunting dog. When he comes back, he tells Tod they can’t be friends anymore. When Amos’ older dog Chief almost dies chasing Tod (so as not to make it TOO depressing, he survives but has a broken leg), Copper becomes determined to catch Tod as well. In the end, however, Tod saves Copper from a bear, and the hound decides he can’t go through with killing his old childhood friend. Not so much a happy ending as a “well, things could have been a lot worse” ending. Like I said, it’s pretty much a downer all the way through. There is a subplot that I guess is supposed to provide comic relief, with two birds (one of them having the same voice as Tigger) trying to catch a caterpillar who eludes them at every turn.

There’s kind of a Wile E. Coyote vibe to it, and while most of the movie is realistic, this part includes such old-school cartoonish gags as someone not falling until they realize they’re standing on nothing but air and the caterpillar surviving being zapped by a power line. While I have to suspect this stuff was put in to relieve the sadness that pervades the movie, it didn’t work for me. Besides, it still deals with animals trying to kill each other. While The Fox and the Hound is a well-made film, I’d say it’s just too depressing to be one of Disney’s better animated features.

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