With the help of a smooth talking tomcat, a family of Parisian felines set to inherit a fortune from their owner try to make it back home after a jealous butler kidnaps them and leaves them in the country.
When an adopted fox and a to-be hunting hound become inseparable friends as pups, their friendship grows stronger every day in their "childhood." But as they grow older, they grow farther and farther apart, to the day when the two old comrades' bond is put to the ultimate test.
The best Disney Animated feature of its generation
Halfway through production, Don Bluth mutinees, taking most of Disney's best animators with him. Another bunch resign. One dies. Drawings are stolen. Production is delayed endlessly. You would think that if ever a Disney feature were destined for disaster, this was it. Instead, 'Fox and the Hound' is probably the best Disney animated feature of its generation. You could clear a space about 10 years either side of it before you ran into something that gave it serious competition.
We start with an orphaned fox kit - pardon me as my jaw doesn't drop in amazement. There have been, what - TWO Disney films where both parents survive? And, well, he is adopted by an elderly widow named Tweed, he develops a friendship with a hunting dog owned by Widow Tweed's crochety neighbor, and he starts to grow up, and life suddenly becomes very difficult, dangerous, and emotionally complicated.
I won't give it away, in case you haven't seen it, but for my money this movie has close to the saddest, most desolate, tear-jerking scene in any Disney film I can think of. But don't worry, it bounces back well and truly. This is a long way from being a morose film. In fact it's an excellent balance of drama, action, pathos and humour. My only minor complaint is that there are a couple of comic sidekicks in this movie that are pretty annoying and contribute just about nothing to the story.
Coming after 'The Rescuers', 'The Fox and the Hound' might have been the start of a Disney resurrection, but perhaps Bluth's departure really was a body blow. As it is, 'Fox and the Hound' is a moment of beauty and brilliance in the otherwise pretty murky first 20 or so years after Walt's death.
Although it didn't cause much of a stir at the time, it has developed a deserved base of loyal fans in the twenty-three years since it was made.
The film tackles themes of conflicting loyalties, friendship, love, identity, and somehow does it with a minimum of schmaltz and a maximum of heart. It's one of Disney's best, and you owe it to yourself to see it.
9 out of 10
Historical Note: Mickey Rooney plays the adult Tod, the fox in 'Fox and the Hound'. According to Rooney's 1991 autobiography, when he was 5 years old he wandered into an office at Warner during breaks between shooting in one of his child-star films, and introduced himself to a bloke who turned out to be Walt Disney, and who was in the process of drawing a new mouse character, who he decided on the spot to name after Mickey. It just tops it off nicely, doesn't it?
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