The Fox and the Hound (1981)

The Fox and the Hound

The Fox and the Hound Review

The Fox and the Hound is a 1981 animated drama film which is the 24th film from Walt Disney Animation Studios. It is their most underrated film and easily their best effort in years.

It follows the friendship between a fox named Tod and a hound dog named Copper. They struggle to remain friends despite their natural instincts and social pressures. I loved the story because I found it to be incredibly sophisticated. Yes, it is about the friendship between these two animals, but it is applicable to any romantic or friend relationship between any groups of people. You can be friends with anyone despite your differences and what the people around you think. However, by having a poignant ending, it also shows you that sometimes in some cases, the relationship cannot end well due to enormous social pressures and the inescapable innate individual instincts. I loved that theme and it is explored really well here and in such a sophisticated manner making this movie wonderful for adults and important for children due to its great message.

The characters are mostly fantastic. Tod is so likable as our protagonist, but Copper is even more so as he is just so lovable during those childhood scenes. The two have a beautiful relationship that is one of the finest ever in the Disney canon. That relationship drives this movie. But other characters are also phenomenal with Widow Tweed being just awesome. She is so inherently caring and sweet while also being a strong woman as well, most evident in her relationship with Amos Slade. He is absolutely fantastic. And although he’s seemingly a one-note character, that perception changes later on as he thankfully isn’t made a villain. And I love the fact that this movie has no villains as that makes it all the more real.

The relationship between Widow Tweed and Amos Slade is so charming and a lot of fun. Their scenes together are priceless. As for other animal characters, they are honestly a mixed bag. Big Mama is really good, albeit a typical creation. Chief is excellent and is not only a great plot device, but also has a wonderful relationship with Copper. Vixey is so annoying as she is a typical sexually driven female character that is overly sexualized and it is frustrating that Disney did this kind of thing more than a couple of times. As for Dinkey and Boomer, well they are the biggest reason why this movie’s far from perfect. They are present in the movie from time to time and they always try to catch a caterpillar throughout every of their scenes. That repetitive subplot leads to boring characters and a detour/filler like feel to their scenes. That was really unfortunate.

The animation is really good in The Fox and the Hound. It is naturally never on the level of earlier Disney classics, but it is still mostly an improvement over their 1970s efforts. I liked that it is colorful, but not garish. And I also adored the character design. It is safe, but still the characters are so inherently cute and that cutesy factor is great for kids. I loved the various natural landscapes and some scenes are superbly animated with the bear sequence being splendid and the ending being really well done.  The animation here is never extraordinary, but is satisfying and pretty good regardless.

Now, the soundtrack. This film doesn’t have particularly great songs, but some of them are still very good and even underrated. This is never a musical and it is interesting that they went into the more dramatic territory with less songs, but they should have kept just those very good songs in and that would have been a much better choice. I honestly think that because Lack of Education is really mediocre and Appreciate the Lady is also poor. A Huntin’ Man is catchy and in tune to the movie’s setting and themes, but is incredibly short. And that is exactly the problem here – all of these songs are ridiculously short and forgettable which is why they should have been cut.

However, Best of Friends is just great. It is catchy, but also wonderfully melancholic in tone which is perfectly fitting for the scene which has to be one of the most memorable and most heartwarming here. As for Goodbye May Seem Forever, it isn’t the greatest song there is, but I really like it because it is well sung, again very sad and fitting for the scene. That scene is just heartbreaking and one of the highlights of the movie.

Speaking of highlights, The Fox and the Hound has a lot of memorable and overall amazing scenes. The two I mentioned above are great, but the bear sequence is also phenomenal and so thrilling and action-packed. It is a dramatic scene filled with evident danger well executed. The opening scene is terrific as well mostly because it starts the movie in an appropriately dark tone. The waterfall moment is fantastic beyond words and the finale broke my heart. It is incredibly sad and poignant and so wonderfully shot with some brilliant camera movements.

It is frustrating that this movie has those evident problems that prevent it from reaching the classic status. Those fillers with the sidekicks are so annoying and drawn out and the pacing overall is very troublesome. Some of the songs are weak as well as some characters. Those problems aren’t huge, but they impact the viewing to some degree. However, the film is still incredible and it just might be on my top ten or at least top twenty best Disney films list which is why I think it is shamefully underrated and underappreciated. It is most definitely Disney’s best movie since ‘The Jungle Book‘ and it is evidently better than their entire output from the seventies with the best of those ‘The Rescuers‘ being way behind it in terms of quality.

The Fox and the Hound is visually pleasing with some great and memorable imagery. It is well made, albeit flawed in pacing. The tone is very good as it shifts from dramatic to comedic wonderfully and I like how the first half is sweet and childlike whereas the second is dark, dramatic and dangerous. That was done in the vein of ‘Bambi’ and is appropriate for this story. And I liked the humor here with a couple of really sweet and funny moments. The score is very good and the action scenes are superbly well shot and executed with some being incredibly entertaining and dramatic. The film is also extremely emotional without being maudlin and it is very realistic and laid-back without ever being boring. The message is great and the dialogue is pretty good. The characters are mostly well fleshed out and the ending is wonderfully unpredictable and realistic. The screenplay may seem simplistic on surface, but is deep and complex when you think about it. I love this film and it is one of my favorite Disney movies and the one that I probably watched the most as it has a great rewatchability factor to it and such a timeless appeal.

With quite good animation, very well realized characters, some good songs, great action and dramatic scenes, heartbreaking finale, many memorable scenes and a wonderfully sophisticated and applicable plot, The Fox and the Hound is a beautiful movie that is so poignant and sad at times, but also quite funny and charming as well. It does have its flaws including boring sidekicks that only serve as filler and some mediocre songs, but this is mostly a very strong and emotional film that is one of the very best Disney movies of the time and one of their most shamefully underappreciated.

My Rating – 4.5

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