The Fox and the Hound is an American animated feature film loosely based on the Daniel P. Mannix novel of the same name produced by Walt Disney Productions and released in the United States on July 10, 1981 and it's the 24th film in the Disney Animated Canon. It tells the story of two unlikely friends. A red fox named Tod and a hound dog named Copper who struggle to preserve their friendship, despite their emerging instincts and the surrounding social pressures demanding them to be adversaries. Tod and Copper meet when young and become friends. They play together all summer long, but as they reach adulthood, they become enemies because real hounds hunt foxes for food.
The film has been directed by Ted Berman and Richard Rich who later founded Crest Animation Productions to create his first independent animated feature The Swan Princess under the working title Tod and Copper. Daniel Mannix's original novel has a more realistic story which has dealt with the quest of a hunter and his dog, Copper to shoot Tod after he has killed the hunter's new dog, Chief. The novel is mainly about Tod's life in the woods. While being raised by humans, he has not been childhood friends with Copper and none of the animals talk. The story was changed to make it more suitable for a family film instead of a story about the life and death of a fox and it became a parable about how society determines our roles, despite our better impulses.
At the time of its release, the film was the most expensive animated film produced to date, costing $12 million. It has been the last film which was worked on with animation legends like Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two members of Walt Disney's original "Nine Old Men" who has also worked on this one with it being the last one for both as well as the first one for future Disney leaders like Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas), Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), and Glen Keane who has animated the bear in this film and later worked on other animated films like The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991), in which he designed the beast. It is also the final Disney film to have all the credits in the title sequence as opposed to having closing credits and have the words, "The End. A Walt Disney Production" at the end, the last Disney animated film to use the Buena Vista logo and the last Disney film in which Don Bluth was involved in its production.
Despite originally receiving mixed reviews, the film has developed a low cult following and was nominated for three awards. It stars the voices of Kurt Russell, Mickey Rooney, Pearl Bailey, Pat Buttram, Sandy Duncan, Richard Bakalyan, Paul Winchell, Jack Albertson, Jeanette Nolan, John Fiedler, John McIntire, Keith Mitchell, and Corey Feldman. A direct-to-video midquel The Fox and the Hound 2 was released on December 12, 2006.
The film starts with a mother fox who has fear in her eyes, carrying her baby in her mouth, running throughout the forest and passing over a mountain until she reaches a farm where she hides her baby next to a fence and nuzzles it goodbye then runs off and gets shot and we hear another gunshot. An owl named Big Mama along with her two bird friends, Dinky the sparrow and Boomer the woodpecker arrange for him to be adopted by the kindly local widowed farmer, Widow Tweed who names the baby fox Tod since he reminds her of a toddler. Meanwhile, her neighbor, Amos Slade the hunter brings home a hound puppy whom he names Copper and introduces him to his hunting dog, Chief who is an Irish wolfhound. Big Mama is delighted to see Tod and Copper become playmates, singing the song "Best of Friends". They play together for the next three days, vowing to remain "friends forever". Amos grows frustrated at Copper for constantly wandering off and puts him on a leash to prevent him from doing so. While playing with Copper at his home, Tod accidentally awakens Chief. Amos and Chief chase him until they are confronted by Widow.
After having an argument with Widow, Amos threatens that he will kill Tod if he catches him on his property again and that he won't miss him next time. When hunting season comes, Amos takes Chief and Copper into the wilderness for the interim. Meanwhile, Big Mama explains to Tod that his friendship with Copper can't continue by singing, "Lack of Education" as they are now natural enemies, but Tod refuses to believe her. As months pass, Tod and Copper grow into adults. On the night of Copper's return, Tod sneaks over to meet him and asks if they are still friends. Copper tells him that those days are over and since he is a hunting dog now, things are now going to be different between them because if Chief wakes up, they will both be in danger. He does so, alerting Amos and as a chase begins, Copper catches Tod, but decides to let him go then diverts Chief and Amos since he did not want them to kill Tod who creeps out from under a woodpile and runs across a high railroad bridge for home but is cornered by Chief who is blocking his path there. Tod turns back with Chief making his pursuit on the bridge, but when Tod sees a fast-moving train suddenly approach them, Tod, being small enough ducks safely underneath the train while Chief is hit by it, suffering a broken leg as he topples down a steep cliff into the river below. Infuriated by all of this, Copper and Amos both blame Tod for poor Chief's accident and swear vengeance to get him if it's the last thing they do. To make matters worse, Amos storms over to Widow's house and angrily tells her about getting Tod who almost killed Chief and that he plans to get him, but she manages to block him out. She then realizes that she can't protect Tod forever, so the next day, she takes him to the woods to set him free at a nearby game preserve as"Goodbye May Seem Forever" plays. His first night alone in there is a disaster as he enters a badger's den. The badger, who's named Mr. Digger angrily tells him to go away, but a friendly porcupine offers to let him stay with him. That same night, Amos plans revenge on Tod by showing Copper a demonstration of Tod stepping into a trap. The next morning, Big Mama comes, looking for Tod and finds Vixey, a beautiful female fox his age who is good friends with her.
Tod wakes up after being pricked by the porcupine's quills, falls, and lands right on Mr. Digger's den. Mr. Digger scolds him once again. Tod tries to apologize but is interrupted when Mr. Digger thinks he is making up excuses. The porcupine attempts to defend the fox, but Mr. Digger tells him, "You keep out of this, you walking pincushion!" The porcupine points out that Mr. Digger shouldn't be grumpy to a newcomer to which he responds by telling Tod, "Go back where you came from." He leaves, now more depressed than ever. Big Mama and Vixey arrive and see him, feeling sad for him. As Vixey remarks that he looks downhearted, Big Mama tells her, "He was dropped out here all alone without a friend in the world." As Vixey decides to cheer him up, Big Mama thinks the idea is perfect, so she sends Vixey into the sunlight just so that she will look as beautiful as possible and introduces Tod to her. He first tries to impress her by catching a fish, only to fail, causing her to laugh at him. Angry and hurt, he insults her, telling her that she's a silly empty-headed female. Angered by this, Vixey refuses to talk to him, but Big Mama intervenes with the song "Appreciate the Lady" and directs Tod in being himself and to give Vixey another chance. And so they get along very well once he admits his lack of survival skills. Vixey is now aware of his inability to survive in the wild and helps him adapt. She allows him to be her friend and stay with her in the forest. And just like that, begin to develop a romantic connection.
The next morning, the vengeful Amos and Copper trespass into the game preserve to hunt Tod without anyone knowing. Amos finds a shadowy path on the way to a pond, sets up three leg-hold traps along it, and hides them with leaves. The next morning, Tod and Vixey emerge from Vixey's burrow, having spent the night there. They both remark about how happy they are with one another and playfully chase each other into the forest. As they come to the trap-laden path, Vixey becomes worried and refuses to go on, but Tod just shrugs it off. She warns him to be careful as he goes down alone. As he walks, he becomes unsettled. His foot uncovers one of the traps and as Amos cocks his shotgun, his ears perk up the noise and he steps backward. Luckily, he narrowly escapes the traps, turning and running as fast as he can whilst Amos' gunshots ring out and Copper takes off after him and Vixey as the next chase begins. He buys her more time to escape then waits for Copper to come closer. As the hound approaches, Tod distracts him, snarling at him. After a brief fight, Tod sprints back to Vixey's burrow with Copper behind his tail. He safely enters it, but Copper is too big to follow him inside and begins thrashing and clawing his way into it. Tod and Vixey attempt to exit out the other end, but are stopped by Amos taking aim at them. After failing to shoot them, he takes a match and some straw and creates a fire in the back way, blocking their escape. He then joins Copper at the front, ready to shoot them both. Vixey coughs and tells Tod that they're trapped and that she's scared. Nevertheless, he tells her that it is their only chance and they sprint as fast as they can out the back, narrowly avoiding the flames to Amos' astonishment, putting him in pure shock. They scale a mountain with a waterfall nearby as Copper and Amos follow them up to the top where they escape by going across an old fallen trunk.
Once the hunting duo is at the top of the hill, Amos takes aim at a bush, thinking Tod and Vixey are in it, but finds that the chase climaxes when he and Copper inadvertently provoke an attack from a large disturbed sleeping grizzly bear who they accidentally antagonize. Amos fires only one single shot, and only hurts the bear, who swipes at him and sends him falling down the ravine, losing his hat, and dropping his gun on a tree just out of his reach, but being forced to walk backward, and getting his foot caught in one of his own traps. Copper then jumps in between him and the bear and bravely tries to protect his master and attacks the grizzly bear. Amos frantically tries to free himself, but is not strong enough for the trap's grip which still holds his foot as tight as possible as whilst Copper fights the bear as this vicious battle continues to go on for a while and Copper manages to hold on for a while until the bear hits him to the ground and knocks him out. When the battles end, he is soon overwhelmed. Tod, hearing Copper's yelping echo looks back and sees the horror of him being nearly killed. At the moment in which the bear closes in and is about to kill Copper, Tod intervenes, rescues him, and jumps on the bear's back, but continues to battle with him, and ends up leading him to the old bridge above the waterfall. Just as he comes close to Tod, he raises his paw and hits the sprinters of the old log which breaks and sends them both falling down the waterfall with the fallen trunk. The bear presumably dies, while Tod is barely able to make it ashore.
Copper approaches Tod as he lays in the lake, amazed at his bravery, despite past events when Amos appears, having freed his foot from the trap and takes aim at Tod. Copper steps in front of his childhood friend and refuses to move away. After several seconds, Amos lowers his gun and leaves with Copper, but not before he and Tod smile goodbye. At home, Widow wraps a cast around Amos' leg while Chief and Copper rest. Before resting, Copper smiles as he remembers the day when he became friends with Tod. Up on a hill, Vixey joins Tod as he looks down on the homes of Copper and Widow. As the film fades out, a voiceover of young Tod and Copper affirming their everlasting friendship is heard.
- Mickey Rooney as Tod
- Keith Coogan as Young Tod
- Kurt Russell as Copper
- Corey Feldman as Young Copper
- Pearl Bailey as Big Mama
- Jack Albertson as Amos Slade
- Sandy Duncan as Vixey
- Jeanette Nolan as Widow Tweed
- Pat Buttram as Chief
- John McIntire as Mr. Digger
- John Fiedler as Porcupine
- Richard Bakalyan as Dinky
- Paul Winchell as Boomer
- Jimmy MacDonald as the Bear
- Billy Bletcher as Squeaks sneeze (archive audio)
Production of the film has begun in 1977. It has marked a turning point in the studio: Walt Disney's "nine old men" did initial development of the animation, but by the end of production the younger set of Disney animators completed the production process. To craft the film, then Disney CEO Ron W. Miller has decided to mainly use new talent to make their debuts with the film, as the pioneers of the company, referred to as the "Nine Old Men", are nearing retirement. It may have been the last film Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, and Wolfgang Reitherman, considered "legends" of Disney, have worked on.
The animators and screenplay writers are primarily new, as were the film directors Art Stevens, Ted Berman, and Richard Rich. Wolfgang Reitherman was the producer, Richard Rich the production supervisor and Larry Clemmons was the head of the story team. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston did much of the early development of the main characters. The newer generation of animators, such as Don Bluth, Ron Clements, Glen Keane, and John Musker, would finalize the animation and complete the film's production. These animators have moved through the in-house animation training program, and would all play an important role in the Disney Renaissance of the eighties and nineties.
However, the transition between the old guard and the new resulted in arguments over how to handle the film. Reitherman has had his own ideas on the designs and layouts that were to be used, however, the newer team backed Stevens, except Don Bluth, who has felt Disney's work was stale. He walked out, taking eleven others with him, and formed one of his own animation studios. The exodus of the animators forced the cancellation of the film's original Christmas 1980 premiere while new artists had been hired.
Early in production, Don Bluth left Disney, taking 11 Disney animators with him. This studio, which eventually becomes Sullivan Bluth Studios, was Disney's main rival through the 1980s and has produced The Secret of NIMH and a number of other well-known films. With 17% of the animators now gone, production on The Fox and the Hound had been delayed. Bluth had animated Widow Tweed and her cow, Abigail, and his team have worked on the rest of the sequence. Four years later the film had been finished. Approximately 360,000 drawings, 110,000 painted cels, and 1,100 painted backgrounds made up the finished product. A total of 180 people, including 24 animators, have all worked on the film.
In the original screenplay, Chief had been originally slated to die the same as in the novel, but Stevens decided that he doesn't want to have an on-screen death and modified the film so that he survives, like Baloo in The Jungle Book and Trusty in Lady and the Tramp.
The directors on the film were Ted Berman and Richard Rich, as well as Art Stevens, who had been a codirector. Berman previously had credits as a character animator for the 1961 film, One Hundred and One Dalmatians and writer for the 1977 film, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. He later went on to be codirector for the 1985 film, The Black Cauldron.
Rich had been a Disney employee since 1972 but this was his first major assignment. He also served as a co-director for The Black Cauldron. He later founded Rich Animation Studios. Stevens was previously credited as a character animator for the 1953 film Peter Pan, the previously mentioned One Hundred and One Dalmatians and the 1973 film Robin Hood. He also previously directed the 1977 film, The Rescuers.
When John Lasseter was hired at the Disney Animation studio, his first job was to animate the introduction of Copper. He also collaborated with Glen Keane on the climactic fight scene.
Other new animators who have worked on this film are:
- John Musker and Ron Clements (story artist and animator): Producer-director team of The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Treasure Planet, The Princess and the Frog, and finally Moana.
- Tim Burton (animator, assistant & development artist): Director and/or producer of several acclaimed films.
- Jerry Rees (animator): Director of The Brave Little Toaster.
- Brad Bird (animator): Director of Warner Bros.' The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and previously of The Simpsons.
- Chris Buck (animator): Director of Disney's Tarzan, Frozen, and Frozen II.
- Don Bluth (animator): Director of The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, The Land Before Time, and All Dogs Go to Heaven.
- Kelly Asbury (assistant animator): Director of Shrek 2 and Gnomeo & Juliet.
- Jeffrey J. Varab (character animator, special effects supervision): Character animator for films like FernGully: The Last Rainforest, Rock-a-Doodle, Felidae, All Dogs Go to Heaven, and Casper.
- Nik Ranieri (character clean-up): Animator for Roger Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, later supervising animator on Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Hercules, and The Emperor's New Groove.
- Virgil Ross (character animation supervision): Worked on Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore. He is better known for his work with Friz Freleng at Warner Bros. Cartoons.
- Ennis McNulty and Dave Bennett (character animation supervision): Supervising animators in Disney animator Rick Reinert's unit.
- Main article: The Fox and the Hound (video)
The film premiered in theaters on July 10, 1981. It was later re-released to theaters on March 25, 1988. Its first home video release, on VHS format, came on March 4, 1994, as the last video of the "Walt Disney Classics" collection (it has not been included in the "Masterpiece Collection", despite appearing in a promotional advertisement for the videos). On May 2, 2000, it was released on Region 1 DVD for the first time under the "Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection". A 25th-anniversary special edition DVD, featuring a remastered version of the film and a disc of extras, has been released on October 10, 2006. A Blu-ray release was announced for 2011 to celebrate the film's 30th anniversary. Both it and The Fox and the Hound 2 have been included in this release. This Blu-ray release included it in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. As opposed to the Gold Classic Collection and 25th Anniversary Edition DVD's, they only had a Pan and Scan version of the film.
Although the film was a moderate financial success, reactions from film critics were mixed. Critics of the 1980s, while offering praise for the animation, are disappointed in the story and that the predominantly young creative staff, many of who have only recently joined the company, have produced a movie that seemed very conservative in both concept and execution. Since then, it has become a hit for its conservative style. It has a "fresh" 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 26 reviews with a 6.6 score, with a consensus that states, "The Fox and the Hound, is a likable, charming, unassuming effort that manages to transcend its thin, predictable plot". Among users, it scored 78%, with a 3.5/5 rating.
Leonard Maltin in his book The Disney Films noted that the film has had "good news/bad news" for Disney. The good news is that Disney's young animation team seemed to be in "firm control." The fight scene between Copper and the bear, by Glen Keane, in particular, received great praise in the animation world. The bad news, according to Maltin, has been that the film relied too much on "formula cuteness, formula comedy relief, and even formula characterizations," causing a step back for the studio. Maltin suggests that perhaps this safeness came from the fear of displeasing the memory of Walt Disney. Overall, he considered the film "charming" stating that it is "warm, and brimming with personable characters" and that it "approaches the old Disney magic at times."
Craig Butler from All Movie Guide stated that the film has been a "warm and amusing, if slightly dull, entry in the Disney animated canon." He also called it "conventional and generally predictable" with problems in pacing. However, he praised its climax and animation, as well as the ending. His final remark is that "Two of the directors, Richard Rich and Ted Berman, would next direct The Black Cauldron, a less successful but more ambitious project."
In The Animated Movie Guide, Jerry Beck considered the film "average", though he praises the voice work of Pearl Bailey as Big Mama, and the extreme dedication to detail shown by animator Glen Keane in crafting the fight scene between Copper, Tod, and the bear.
However, the film has its fair share of praise, too. Richard Corliss of Time, praised it for an intelligent story about prejudice. He argued that it shows that biased attitudes can poison even the deepest relationships, and its bittersweet ending delivers a powerful and important moral message to audiences.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times also praised the film, saying that "for all of its familiar qualities, this movie marks something of a departure for the Disney studio, and its movement is in an interesting direction. The Fox and the Hound is one of those relatively rare Disney animated features that contains a useful lesson for its younger audiences. It's not just cute animals and frightening adventures and a happy ending; it's also a rather thoughtful meditation on how society determines our behavior."
Cart of Variety.com called the film "...A solid beautifully crafted animated feature..." Vincent Canby of the New York Times said, "...A pretty, relentlessly cheery, old-fashioned sort of Disney cartoon feature, chock-full of bouncy songs..."
TV Guide gave the film four out of five stars, saying that "The animation here is better than average (veteran Disney animators Wolfgang Reitherman and Art Stevens supervised the talents of a new crop of artists that developed during a 10-year program at the studio), though not quite up to the quality of Disney Studios in its heyday. Still, it has a lot of "heart" and is wonderful entertainment for both kids and their parents. Listen for a number of favorites among the voices."
Michael Scheinfeld of Common Sense Media gave the film's quality a rating of 4 out of 5 stars, stating that it "develops into a thoughtful examination of friendship and includes some mature themes, especially loss."
The film has gained a considerable following and it was awarded a Golden Screen Award in 1982. It was also nominated for a Young Artist Award and the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film.
- This is the last film to have any involvement from Wolfgang Reitherman, who was known to be the director for all the Disney films between The Sword in the Stone and The Rescuers, he worked as a producer for this one.
- This was the first Disney film Tim Burton worked on in his career with Disney, although he was uncredited as an animator.
- This was the last animated Disney film to use the old Buena Vista logo. The name would only be used on the closing credits until it would be replaced by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
- This was the last Disney film to have all the credits in the opening and only say "The End, A Walt Disney Production". Closing credits with pop songs and/or instrumental music would be used from now on.
- This was the last Disney film in which Don Bluth was involved. From now on, he would establish Sullivan Bluth Studios (AKA Don Bluth Entertainment) to release such successful franchises as The Secret of NIMH and All Dogs Go to Heaven.
- This was the last video in the Walt Disney Classics line. Starting with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, all other Disney Canon titles would be released in the similar line, the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection.
- Early copies of the 1994 VHS release have only The Lion King teaser trailer. Later copies have The Lion King teaser trailer and The Return of Jafar trailer.
- This is the last film Disney released under the name "Walt Disney Productions". The studio would go by "The Walt Disney Company" from now on.
- This is the last film Disney produced by itself, before becoming a distributor to films by other production companies, namely Pixar.
- Maltin, Leonard (2000). "Chapter 3: Without Walt", The Disney Films, page 275.
- Maltin, Leonard (2010). Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, page 490. ISBN 0-451-22764-6.
- "The Fox and the Hound (1981)". Retrieved on August 7, 2015.
- Corliss, Richard (July 20, 1981). "Cinema: The New Generation Comes of Age". time.com.
- Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1981). "The Fox and the Hound Movie Review (1981)", rogerebert.com. Retrieved on May 4, 2016.
- "The Fox And The Hound: Review". Movies.tvguide.com. Retrieved on August 7, 2015.
- Michael Scheinfeld. "The Fox and the Hound Movie Review". Retrieved on August 10, 2016.