A woodland creature and hunter’s pet strike up an unusual friendship in the 1981 Walt Disney Animation Studios film, “The Fox and the Hound.” Tod is an abandoned fox who is adopted by an old widow who likes to take care of things. Copper is a puppy who has been adopted by a hunter who wants to train him how to hunt. The pair strike up a friendship that goes against the laws of nature until Amos Slade trains Copper to hunt. Copper doesn’t want to hunt Tod, but begins to hate the fox when his companion Chief is injured trying to catch Tod. It leads to Tod being taken to the game preserve, a big hunt between Amos, Copper, Tod and Vixie; a fox Tod met at the preserve; a Copper saving Amos from a bear, Tod saving Copper from a bear and Copper saving Tod from Amos. In the end, they are still friends, even if they can’t live next door to each other anymore.
This was one of my favorite Disney films as a child. It was a present for my sister and the pair of us would watch it over and over again. When she left for college, I continued to watch the old VHS tape she left at my parents’ house. I loved the story of the friendship; was heartbroken when Tod lost his best friend and then his home; and was riveted by the climax in the forest and how Copper and Tod stood up for each other when they needed it most. It was some of the best Disney storytelling I had ever seen and is a favorite of what many consider a Dark Age for Disney animation.
There was a time when I thought this was one of the saddest Disney films of all time; but, in reality, it was just part of the formula that has made Disney films so classic. We’ve seen Cinderella’s dress destroyed, Pinocchio nearly die, the Tramp fight off a rat that attacked a baby and many other instances that were equally as sad. Plus, Disney would go even more traumatic when we actually see Mufasa’s dead body after the stampede in “The Lion King.” It’s definitely a sad moment when Tod loses everything, but it doesn’t hit as strongly as it did when I was a kid.
This film should be recognized as a classic on par with many films from the Golden Age, the Silver Age and the Disney Renaissance. The animation is beautiful, the storytelling is wonderful and the action will have you on the edge of your seats. It was released during an unfortunate slump for Disney in terms of box office success, but this film proves the quality was still there. Maybe it’s time we look back on that timeframe of animation a little more fondly.