*This is a user-submitted post by Jordan Hashemi-Briskin*
For one thing, this was the first Disney feature to tell a story with an overt message to it—more specifically, how circumstances and society influence people to hate, fear, or simply distrust anyone who is different from them. Tod and Copper become fast friends when they first meet, but as time passes, they are forced apart, with Copper having to commit himself fully to his role as a hunting dog, which leads him to turn against his old friend. (Fortunately, when Tod risks his life to protect Copper at the end of the story, the hound returns the favor by persuading Amos Slade not to shoot the fox who had just saved their lives, proving that Copper has learned to let go of the prejudices imposed upon him.) These same themes would be discussed again in later films (Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Zootopia), but there’s no denying that Disney likely wouldn’t have been confident enough to tackle such thought-provoking issues had it not been for this one. And that message is still relevant today, as our society has been torn in half by people who are unwilling to accept others’ differences.
In addition to its thematic choices, this film marked the dawn of a new era for Walt Disney Animation Studios. In the decade after Walt’s passing, the studio struggled to live up to the standard that their departed leader had set. Crucially, the Nine Old Men—the core group of animators who had lent their talents to the films released during Walt’s lifetime—were nearing retirement, and they understood that they would need to train a new generation of animators to keep the art form alive. The Fox and the Hound would be the last film to involve the remaining members of the old guard and would serve, along with The Black Cauldron, as the first big test for the artists who would later create the films of the Disney Renaissance (not to mention those from the rival studios of DreamWorks, Blue Sky, and Pixar). Audience members who know the history of the studio will undoubtedly see this transition reflected in Copper’s maturation into a fully-fledged hunting hound under the guidance of senior dog Chief, eventually taking his mentor’s place at Amos’ side. And in recent years, as the animators who cut their teeth on The Fox and the Hound have begun either leaving Disney to work on independent projects or retiring completely, another generation of young artists has arisen to take their place.
Forty years on, The Fox and the Hound has clearly stood the test of time, speaking to profound truths about human nature and marking a milestone for Disney animation, where the old masters passed on their knowledge to a new generation of artists, who would take the studio to new heights. As such, its importance within the broader history of Disney, and animation in general, should not be overlooked.
Have you watched The Fox and the Hound? Does it deserve more attention?
Edited by: K. Conley