The Fox and the Hound is a 1981 American animated film 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. The 24th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film tells the story of two unlikely friends, a red fox named Tod and a hound dog named Copper, who struggle to preserve their friendship during their childhood despite their emerging instincts and the surrounding social pressures demanding them to be adversaries.
The film is directed by Ted Berman, Richard Rich and Art Stevens and features the voices of Kurt Russell, Mickey Rooney, Jack Albertson, Pearl Bailey, Pat Buttram, Sandy Duncan, Richard Bakalyan, Paul Winchell, Jeanette Nolan, John Fiedler, John McIntire, Keith Coogan, and Corey Feldman. At the time of release it was the most expensive animated film produced to date, costing $12 million. A direct-to-video followup, The Fox and the Hound 2, was released to DVD on December 12, 2006.
After a young red fox is orphaned, Big Mama the owl, Boomer the woodpecker, and Dinky the finch arrange for him to be adopted by Widow Tweed. Tweed names him Tod, since he reminds her of a toddler. Meanwhile, Tweed's neighbor, a hunter called Amos Slade, brings home a young hound puppy named Copper and introduces him to his hunting dog Chief. Tod and Copper become playmates and vow to remain "friends forever". Slade grows frustrated at Copper for constantly wandering off to play and places him on a leash. While playing with Copper at his home, Tod awakens Chief. Slade and Chief chase him until they are confronted by Tweed. After a brief argument, Slade says that he will kill Tod if he enters his farm again. Hunting season comes, and Slade takes his dogs into the wilderness for the interim. Meanwhile, Big Mama, Boomer, and Dinky explain to Tod that his friendship with Copper cannot continue, as they are natural enemies, but Tod refuses to accept this.
As months pass, both Tod and Copper reach adulthood. On the night of Copper's return, Tod sneaks over to meet him. Copper explains that while he still values Tod as a friend, he is now a hunting dog and things are different. Chief awakens and alerts Slade, a chase ensues and Copper catches Tod. Copper lets Tod go then diverts Chief and Slade. Chief maintains his pursuit onto a railroad track where he is struck by an oncoming train and wounded. Copper and Slade blame Tod for the accident and swear vengeance. Tweed, now realizing that her pet is no longer safe with her, leaves him at a game preserve. After a rough first night, Tod adjusts to life in the forest when Big Mama introduces him to a female fox named Vixey.
Slade and Copper trespass into the preserve and hunt Tod. He and Vixey narrowly escape and Slade and Copper inadvertently provoke an attack from a bear. Slade trips and gets caught in one of his traps, dropping his gun slightly out of reach. Copper fights the bear but is no match for it. Not willing to let his old friend die, Tod rushes in and fights the bear until they both fall down a waterfall. With the bear gone, a bewildered Copper approaches Tod as he lies exhausted near the bank of a waterfall-created lake. When Slade appears, ready to kill Tod, Copper, having realized that Tod is truly his friend, positions in front of Tod, and refuses to move away. Slade, now realizing that Tod saved both of them, lowers his gun and leaves with Copper. Tod and Copper share one last smile before parting.
At home, Tweed nurses Slade back to health while the dogs rest. Copper, before resting, smiles as he remembers the day when he first became friends with Tod. On a hill, Vixey joins Tod as he looks down on the homes of Copper and Tweed.
- Mickey Rooney as Tod
- Keith Mitchell as Young Tod
- Kurt Russell as Copper
- Corey Feldman as Young Copper
- Jack Albertson as Amos Slade
- Pearl Bailey as Big Mama
- Sandy Duncan as Vixey
- Dick Bakalyan as Dinky
- Paul Winchell as Boomer
- Jeanette Nolan as Widow Tweed
- Pat Buttram as Chief
- John Fiedler as Porcupine
- John McIntire as Grumpy Badger
Daniel Mannix's novel The Fox and the Hound dealt with the quest of a hunter and his dog Copper to shoot Tod after he killed the hunter's new dog Chief. The novel was mainly about Tod's life in the woods. While he was raised by humans he was not childhood friends with Copper and none of the animals spoke. 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, it became a parable about how society determines one's role despite his or her better impulses.
Design and animation
Production of the film began in 1977. The film 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. Wolfgang Reitherman was producer, and championed staying true to the novel, and Larry Clemmons was head of the story team. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston did much of the early development of the main characters. The newer generation of directors and animators, such as Don Bluth (who previously worked on films like Sleeping Beauty and The Sword in the Stone) and started with John Lasseter, John Musker, Ron Clements, Glen Keane, Tim Burton, Brad Bird, Henry Selick, Chris Buck, and Mark Dindal, would finalize the animation and complete the film's production. These animators had 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 had his own ideas on the designs and layouts that should be used, but the newer team backed Stevens. Animator Don Bluth declared Disney's work "stale" and walked out with eleven others to form his own studio. With 17% of the animators now gone, production on The Fox and the Hound was delayed. Bluth had animated Widow Tweed and her cow, Abigail, and his team worked on the rest of the sequence. The exodus of so many animators forced the cancellation of the film's original Christmas 1980 premiere while new artists were hired. Four years after production started the film was finished with approximately 360,000 drawings, 110,000 painted cels and 1,100 painted backgrounds making up the finished product. A total of 180 people, including 24 animators, worked on the film.
In the original screenplay, Chief was slated to die the same as in the novel, but Stevens did not want to have an on-screen death and modified the film so that he would survive, just like Baloo in The Jungle Book, and Trusty in Lady and the Tramp.
The Fox and the Hound opened in theaters on July 10, 1981. The film was considered a financial success. It was re-released to theaters on March 25, 1988.
In The Animated Movie Guide, Jerry Beck considered the film "average", though he praises the voice work of Pearl Bailey as Big Momma, and the extreme dedication to detail shown by animator Glen Keane in crafting the fight scene between Copper, Tod, and the bear. In The Disney Films, Leonard Maltin also notes that the fight scene between Copper, Tod, and the bear received great praise in the animation world. Maltin felt the film relied too much on "formula cuteness, formula comedy relief, and even formula characterizations". 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."
Richard Corliss of Time Magazine, praised the film for an intelligent story about prejudice. He argued that the film shows that biased attitudes can poison even the deepest relationships, and the film's bittersweet ending delivers a powerful and important moral message to audiences.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago 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."
The film 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 likeable, charming, unassuming effort that manages to transcend its thin, predictable plot".
Its first home video release, on VHS format, came on March 4, 1994 as the last video of the "Walt Disney Classics" collection (it was not included in the "Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection"). On May 2, 2000, it was released to 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, was released on October 10, 2006.
The Fox and the Hound was released on Blu-ray on August 9, 2011 commemorating the film's 30th anniversary. The film was released in a 3-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack alongside its direct-to video followup The Fox and the Hound 2 in a 2-movie Collection Edition. The film features a new digital restoration and new bonus material. A DVD only edition was also available on the same day. The film is presented for the first time in 1.66:1 widescreen and features 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The sequel is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and features the same sound as the first film.
The film was awarded a Golden Screen Award (German: 'Goldene Leinwand') in 1982. In the same year, it was also nominated for a Young Artist Award and the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film.
The Fox and the Hound is the soundtrack album for the film, mainly composed by Jim Stafford. It was released in 1981 by Walt Disney Records.
As well as adaptations of the film itself, comic strips featuring the characters also appeared in stories unconnected to the film. Examples include The Lost Fawn, in which Copper uses his sense of smell to help Tod find a fawn who has gone astray; The Chase, in which Copper has to safeguard a sleepwalking Chief; and Feathered Friends, in which the birds Dinky and Boomer have to go to desperate lengths to save one of Widow Tweed's chickens from a wolf.
A comic adaptation of the film, drawn by Richard Moore, was published in newspapers as part of Disney's Treasury of Classic Tales. A comic-book titled The Fox and the Hound followed, with new adventures of the characters. Since 1981 and up to 2007, a few Fox and the Hound Disney comics stories were produced in Italy, Netherlands, Brazil, France and USA.
A direct-to-video followup, The Fox and the Hound 2, was released on December 12, 2006. The film takes place during Tod and Copper's youth, before the events of the later half of this film.
- Official website
- The Fox and the Hound at the Internet Movie Database
- The Fox and the Hound at the TCM Movie Database
- The Fox and the Hound at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- The Fox and the Hound at AllMovie
- The Fox and the Hound at Box Office Mojo
- The Fox and the Hound at Rotten Tomatoes