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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Fox and the Hound
The Fox and the Hound
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // G // October 10, 2006
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jamie S. Rich | posted October 19, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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I have a real soft spot for The Fox and the Hound. It was the first Disney movie I remember from when it was new, and I was super into it when it was released back in 1981 (I was nine). I had the record and the storybook, and if I could have been an animal, I would have been a fox just like Tod. After all, Robin Hood in the Disney world was a fox, too. Foxes are cool.

Over the years, I've seen a lot more Disney movies, and The Fox and the Hound has taken some chinks in its armor. By the time it came around, there was a Disney formula, so some of the characters, like the caring matriarch Big Mama (an owl voiced by Pearl Bailey) and the comedic duo of the finch (?) Dinky (Richard Bakalyan) and woodpecker Boomer (Paul Winchell, also the voice of Tigger, Dick Dastardly, and countless other cartoon characters) are relatively cookie-cutter facsimiles of other Disney characters. The songs aren't as good as classic Disney flicks, either, and the animation can be inconsistent when it comes to picture quality and colors.

And yet, The Fox and the Hound has an enduring charm that can't be denied. The story is deceptively simple. When Tod is just a young kit, his mother is killed by a hunter, and the little fox is taken in by a kindly widow (Jeanette Nolan). At the same time, her neighbor, Amos Slade, brings home a puppy, Copper, who will grow up to be his next hunting dog. Young Tod (voiced by Keith Coogan from Adventures of Babysitting) and Young Copper (Corey Feldman, showing no hint of the embarrassing years on reality TV to come) naturally become friends, completely unaware that they should be enemies. When they get older, this fact is no longer avoidable, as Amos isn't going to tolerate a thieving fox living next door. When a misunderstanding causes the older hunting dog Chief (Pat Buttram, known from innumerable western roles) to become injured, even Copper is ready for blood. He helps Amos track Tod, leading to a truly scary showdown with a mountain bear that pushes their commitment to each other to the limit. Ultimately, the old bonds are restored, and the fox saves the hound--a favor that is returned when the hound then saves the fox.

There is a feature on this new 25th-Anniversary DVD that explains how The Fox and the Hound was a transitional film at Walt's studio. During its production, the last of the old guard stepped down and the next generation stepped in. Despite digging into Disney's clich├ęd bag of tricks, perhaps that's why for me The Fox and the Hound feels like the last pure Disney movie. For as good as some of their features in the 1990s were, there is something more emotionally satisfying about The Fox and the Hound that connects it to the cartoon Golden Age. The friendship between Tod and Copper feels real, and so does the threat of the hunter and the bear in the end. The fact that the two animals face off against the more dangerous foes and buck social convention in order to maintain the connection between them is effective in ways that few other Disney films can rival. Even at 34, I still get choked up.


The Fox and the Hound is a full frame film. I noticed the final scene in the forest had a lot of color variation to it, as well as some shots that were cleaner than others and vice versa, so I watched that chapter on one DVD player and viewed my old "Gold Collection" DVD from five years ago on another. To my eye, they were virtually the same. I noticed no difference--which is fine, these are clean transfers. Any perceivable flaws seem to me to be flaws in the actual animation. And if you want to compare picture quality in regards to how bad this film could look, see the bonus Sing Along Song, where no clean-up was done at all. The image looks atrocious.

I do wonder, though, how Disney DVDs are ranked. Given the extras, a "Gold Collection" disc isn't as good of a distinction as a "25th-Anniversary edition," but is that as good as the "Platinum Collection"?

Even if the picture transfer has not been upgraded, The Fox and the Hound now has a 5.1 surround sound mix. There are also French and Spanish audio tracks.

The old DVD of The Fox and the Hound was pretty bare bones except for some interactive features for kids, including the read-along storybook "New Best Friends" that is also on the new edition. Kids are given two options: read along with the words, or listen to the story without seeing the words. There is also a "Forest Friendship Game" where you can match characters to their best friends from the movie. Next is a Sing Along version of the song "The Best of Friends," which, as noted above, looks horrible.

Before we even get to the special features menu, however, Disney wants to push its worst marketing tool on us: the FastPlay feature. This is presented as an option when the DVD loads and is intended for parents to think they can hit it and go right to the movie and not have to wait for the main menu to load before sending their kids on their cinematic way. What this really does, though, is load up a bunch of the eight trailers on the DVD so you have to watch Disney's commercials prior to the start of the movie. It's touted all over the box as something special, when really it's not.

Thankfully, the other extras very much are. A six-minute feature "Passing the Baton: The Making of The Fox and the Hound" has interviews with animators, including legends Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, talking about the early planning of the movie and how the old guard retired during production. This is followed by an excellent gallery of production art, storyboards, promotional items, and behind-the-scenes photos.

After the making-of material, there are two short subjects: 1951's "Lambert the Sheepish Lion," about a lion accidentally delivered to a flock of sheep by the stork, and a 1941 Pluto cartoon called "Lend a Paw," where Mickey brings home a kitten to join the household. Both have themes of animals being amongst their natural enemies and learning to get along, just like The Fox and the Hound. [Note: Both shorts are on other DVDs. "Lambert" is in the Disney Treasures tin Disney Rarities: Celebrated Shorts, 1920s to 1960s, and "Lend a Paw" was on both Oliver & Company and Classic Cartoon Favorites, Vol. 8 - Holiday Celebration With Mickey & Pals.]

The DVD comes wrapped in an embossed cardboard sleeve.

Though being a bridge between two Disney regimes, The Fox and the Hound still manages to pack an emotional punch. With lovable characters and a strong message about friendship, and now given the full DVD treatment, this new 25th-Anniversary edition is Highly Recommended.

Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.

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