The Disney animated features produced in the 1970s and 1980s (up to The Little Mermaid) are sometimes thought to be “Innocuous Disney” or “Inconsequential Disney.” The films are certainly professionally done with beautiful animation and good production values, but the stories often seem less than inspired, and sometimes star voices seem to be doing the heavy lifting instead of a really riveting story or superb music. One such pleasant but unmemorable effort is 1981’s The Fox and the Hound, a sweet story of relationships altering over the course of years as affections and priorities change. Since the filmmakers gave something of a short shrift to the story of friendship between the two protagonists when they were younger, a made-for-home video sequel was produced in 2006 detailing an adventure shared by the pair before they grew up and are forced to go their separate ways. As most of these things go, it’s got a few good points, but the quality of the animation can’t compare to the original, and the voices for the returning characters aren’t quite as appealing as before.
The Fox and the Hound/The Fox and the Hound II (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Ted Berman, Richard Rich, Art Stevens; Jim Kammerud
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1/1.78:1
Running Time: 83/69 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: August 9, 2011
Review Date: August 8, 2011
The Fox and the Hound – 3.5/5
The Fox and the Hound II – 3/5
In the original film, a baby fox (Keith Mitchell) is left orphaned when hunters kill his mother. With the wise owl Big Mama (Pearl Bailey) guiding things, the foundling is taken in by Widow Tweed (Jeanette Nolan) and named Tod. The inquisitive youngster meets his next door neighbor his own age, the hound pup Copper (Corey Feldman), and they become instant friends. Trouble is, Copper’s owner is an irksome old man (Jack Albertson) who uses his shotgun first and asks questions later. The two enjoy some carefree days together, but there comes a season when Copper is taken for a seasonal jaunt in the woods to learn his duties as a hunting dog, and when he (now with the voice of Kurt Russell) returns the next year, he understands that the relationship between Tod (now with the voice of Mickey Rooney) and him will never be the same.
The script by Daniel P. Mannix, Larry Clemmons, and six others seems a bit hesitant to confront the harsh realities of the world in which the fox and the hound live. (It was the film’s lack of grittiness which allegedly forced animator Don Bluth and eleven others to bolt from the studio and start anew elsewhere.) Truth to tell, we only see momentary tidbits of the two at play as youngsters: swimming together or playing hide and seek, so that really close friendship is more hinted at than actually shown. Perhaps if the storytellers had focused more on Tod’s heartbreak at Copper’s conversion, the film might have had more of an impact. The film also has Pearl Bailey’s Big Mama around mainly to sing the bulk of the music score. She’s fine but never seems to be an integral part of the story past the opening sequence nor do two intrusive secondary bird characters Dinky (Richard Bakalyan) and Boomer (Paul Winchell) constantly on the lookout for a caterpillar meal. Romance halfheartedly enters the story in the form of Vixey (Sandy Duncan), but that, too, isn’t given the attention it merits as the film focuses more on the betrayed Tod staying true to his feelings of friendship and trying to save Copper (and his master) from a grizzly bear.
The 2006 sequel is another matter altogether. With a much lower budget (which must have mostly gone for a very appealing song score and to pay such stars as Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, Patrick Swayze, and Vicki Lawrence to lend their voices to the film), the film focuses almost entirely on its musical elements (the story involves Copper (Harrison Fahn) becoming starstruck and becoming part of a doggie crooning quartet headed for the Grand Old Opry replacing the über-diva Dixie (Reba McEntire) whose demands have forced quartet leader Cash (Patrick Swayze) to look for a replacement). With Tod (Jonah Bobo) basically reduced to a cameo in his own film, the movie instead serves up a lively country music score which features Reba’s “It’s Lonely at the Top,” Josh Gracin (dubbing the singing voice of Patrick Swayze) sensational with “Hound Dude,” and Trisha Yearwood’s off-screen warbling of the plaintive “Blue Beyond.” The doggie group has two numbers: “Friends for Life” and “We Go Together,” both toe-tapping winners. The story (filled with frequent slapstick antics) and animation are rather lackluster, but the singing and the new characters give the film its only real distinction.
The Fox and the Hound – 4/5
The Fox and the Hound II – 4.5/5
The original film is framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. At its best, the animation is superb with much eye-catching detail and beautifully saturated color. Sharpness, however, has a peculiar way of varying throughout the presentation. While much of it is razor-edged just as one might expect, there are establishing shots and some close-ups which have a strange amount of momentary diffusion which disappears in the very next shot. It’s quite a disconcerting variance within scenes. On the other hand, there is no banding, and the colors are beautifully contained and never bloom. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The 2006 sequel is framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The animation is much less detailed owing to a much reduced budget, but sharpness is consistent throughout the presentation. Color seems rather flat throughout and doesn’t pop off the screen as it does in the best animated films. The presentation is pristine, however, with no dust specks or banding. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
The Fox and the Hound – 3.5/5
The Fox and the Hound II – 4/5
Both films are encoded with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The original film does not present much of a surround presence (owing likely to its stereo origins), but the music score occasionally wraps into the surrounds even if ambient sounds in the film stay firmly frontcentric. One particular sequence set near a waterfall does give the LFE channel something to do. Dialogue resides firmly in the center channel and is always easily discernible.
The sequel offers a much more sophisticated surround sound experience with highly directionalized dialogue throughout (often very effective), ambient sounds split between channels, and, of course, that country-flavored music score by Joel McNeely and the individual songs gaining extensively from the surround encode.
Disappointingly, while the Blu-ray disc offers both films on the one disc, none of the previous DVD releases’ bonus features have been ported over to the Blu-ray. To watch those, one must put in the individual DVD discs also contained in the package.
“Unlikely Friends” offers a look at animals in real life (and in Disney animated films of which there are many clips) which one might ordinarily think are natural enemies and yet here pairing up in unusual situations. In 1080p, this vignette runs 7 ½ minutes.
The disc offers promo trailers for The Lion King, Spooky Buddies, Dumbo, Bambi II, Mars Needs Moms, and Tinker Bell and the Mysterious Winter Woods.
The DVD of The Fox and the Hound offers these previously released features:
- “Best of Friends” sing-a-long with Pearl Bailey’s vocal and the lyrics printed in karaoke fashion.
- “Passing the Baton” which showcases the younger generation of Disney animators being trained by three of Disney’s legendary animation masters.
The DVD of The Fox and the Hound II contains these previously released features:
- “You Know I Will” music video sung over the closing credits by Lucas Grabeel.
- “The Making of the Music” featuring Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood along with the songwriters writing and recording their vocals for the movie.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Not a Disney classic in the truest sense of the word, The Fox and the Hound doesn't make a particularly auspicious debut in high definition either though the presentation is certainly good (bot not great). With the Blu-ray not containing the ported-over extras from previous releases of both films, the package seems a bit slapdash and not up to the usual (but not always impeccable) standards of Disney animated releases.