When looking back at my memories of watching Disney movies as a child, I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of them were all joyous. I remember vibrant moments of laughter, dancing, singing and just general happiness whenever I pressed play on the VHS in the basement of my childhood home. These movies are almost wholly responsible for shaping me into the positive and lively person that I am today, and I am sure that many other people reading this article feel the same way. Most Disney movies are movies that you can watch over and over again with your loved ones and capture a momentous feeling of joy overtime. But this is not one of those movies.
Looking back and re-watching the film, it is quite easy to see that The Fox and The Hound is unlike any Disney movie ever made. While there is music in it, it is definitely not a musical. While there is love in it, it is definitely not a romance. And while there are happy moments in it, it is definitely not a happy movie. To this day, Disney has yet to release another movie that features the same emotional weight, sadness, and bold themes as The Fox and the Hound.
I ask my friends, colleagues and new people entering my life, “What is your favourite Disney movie?” almost monthly, and I have never heard anyone answer with The Fox and the Hound, and it is easy to see why. This movie follows Todd, an orphaned fox recently taken in by Widow Tweed, and Copper, an optimistic puppy – ok, well, a hound dog – who lives with his master Amos Slade. As one would expect from a Disney movie, these two become fast friends and go on some exciting adventures together as kids. However, as one might not expect from a Disney movie, we get to see how they and their friendship change as they grow up into adult animals. Alas, we also get to see how the inexorable forces of society force these two once best friends apart. And yet…
I love this movie. Yes, it’s true that The Fox and The Hound doesn’t make me want to stand up on the table and belt out my favourite Disney song, nor does it make me cry with its beautiful happy ending, but some of my very first memories of Disney movies come from this movie.
Let’s get this out of the way: the animation and soundtrack are middling at best. The animation gets the job done and the soundtrack makes sure that you aren’t listening to dead silence for 80 minutes, but you can’t even compare them to what many see as the best Disney movies. However, special notice has to be given to “Goodbye May Seem Forever,” an incredibly sad and melancholy song (I almost hesitate to even call it that as a lot of the lyrics are spoken), that put me on the verge of tears every single time I heard it. This song always made me wonder, “When is my mother going to put me in a forest and leave?” A little but dumb, but hey, I was eight.
Unfortunately, the supporting characters don’t fare any better than the animation and soundtrack. Vixey, Todd’s lady friend near the end of the movie, is boring and the side story with the birds spousing inaccurate advice while chasing a worm is superfluous and is only there to pad the running time. You know the supporting cast is bad when you could take them out of them movie and virtually have the same main plot occurring.
I am happy to report, however, that the main cast and main themes the movie incorporates are strong enough to carry the film across the finish line. Todd and Copper are both compelling leads, trying to understand why their once strong friendship does not work any longer, while also trying to please their respective ‘families.’ Widow Tweed and Amos Slade are obviously the embodiment of the ideals that Todd and Copper would like to rebel against, but can’t, and while they might not be the most fleshed out of characters, they are never heavy handed with their beliefs, so it never feels like the movie is trying to force feed you a lesson. Lastly, we have my favourite character in the movie, Chief, Copper’s grumpy old mentor. Like his owner Amos, Chief takes hunting seriously and wants Copper to do so as well, as he knows that he will not be around forever, especially as his strength starts to go at the end of the movie. Without a doubt, it is the main cast that sells this movie for me.
The Fox and the Hound deals with some rather weighty subjects, especially for an 80 minute family film. It talks about friendships, family loyalty, moral boundaries, racism, growing up, and societal pressure that all don’t make sense. As a child, many of these themes went straight over my head, but thinking about this movie as an adult, I am floored. The Fox and the Hound lays its cards on the table, and while it does not give answers to some of the questions it raises, it lets the audiences think of them and ponder possible solutions. I know I was confused as to why a fox and a hound dog couldn’t be friends when I was a child, and even as an adult I extrapolate this binary to bigger societal issues and I am still confused. No matter, who we are, why can’t we just get along? Like I said, weighty stuff for a family movie.
All in all, The Fox and the Hound will never be remembered as one of Walt Disney Animation’s all time greats. It just does not have the mass appeal of something like Frozen or Beauty and the Beast. But it has fans. We are small, but we are here and we are loud. The Fox and the Hound swings and misses a couple times when it comes to certain film aspects like a memorable soundtrack and actual, useful side-characters, but when it hits, it goes far. It won’t be for everyone, but it is definitely for me. For those who haven’t given this one a chance ever or for a long time, I implore you to give it a go. Who knows? As an adult, this one might hit you with more force than you ever thought it could.
Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden