Disney brings the tale of interspecies friendship to DVD in a new 25th Anniversary edition.
A fox is trying to escape from a hunter with her baby and she doesn’t get away and leaves the pup an orphan. He’s found by the owl Big Mama (voiced by Pearl Bailey) and she hatches a plan to make sure that he’s cared for. She and her two bird friends Dinky (Richard Bakalyan) and Boomer (Paul Winchell) arrange for the Widow Tweed (Jeanette Nolan) to find the fox pup.
She names him Tod and takes him into her home as a pet. Her neighbor Amos Slade (Jack Albertson) is the hunter responsible for Tod (Keith Coogan) being an orphan. Amos has brought a new puppy named Copper (Corey Feldman) to his place, much to the chagrin of his older hound Chief (Pat Buttram). Not knowing that they’re supposed to be enemies, Tod and Copper become fast friends.
This friendship leads to a chase that ends in Amos and the Widow Tweed having a big fight. The Widow decides that Todd needs to be away from Amos, so she takes him to a game preserve. Meanwhile, Amos, Copper, and Chief go on their annual hunt and will not be back till the spring. When they do return both Tod (now voiced by Mickey Rooney) and Copper (Kurt Russell) have grown up and try and rekindle their friendship. This leads to a chase and Chief is injured, Copper dissolves their friendship, and Amos swears he will get revenge on Tod.
Fox and the Hound is a project that harkens back to the classic days of Disney. Indeed it was the last picture that the legendary animation team of Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas would work on for Disney. It would also be one of the first pictures that some later famous Disney names would cut their teeth on, including Glen Keane, Ron Clements, and John Musker.
In some ways, you can say that the success that was coming with the Little Mermaid was begun on this picture. The movie is quite enjoyable with some classic Disney touches, such as Dinky and Boomer chasing a worm for comic relief. The vocal cast is quite wonderful, with special kudos going to Pearl Bailey as the wise owl.
The Fox and the Hound is presented in fullscreen. Special features include the usual Disney fastplay system. Unfortunately, for a 25th Anniversary edition this DVD does feel a little light. First there’s the 6 minute “Passing the Baton: The Making of the Fox and the Hound” in the Backstage Disney section. It has interviews with animators Randy Cartwright, Glen Keane, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ron Clements, and John Musker.
It has “New” in front of it, but Clements and Musker’s young appearance (compared to them on the Little Mermaid Platinum Edition) lead me to think that this was done in the 80s. The Fox and the Hound art gallery is also here.
Under the Games & Activities section is the DVD storybook New Best Friends (I think this was on the old release) and the new Friendship Forest Game. Finally there are two bonus shorts – the 8 minute “Lambert the Sheepish Lion” and the 8 minute “Lend a Paw” Pluto cartoon.
Though that sounds like some nice features (much better than the original release), a commentary or new interviews with the new crop of animators would’ve been most welcome. I’m also thinking that this transfer is the same as the original release – no mention is made of remastering.
The movie is good, but I was hoping for a better set of special features. The featurette does put the film in the right historical context, but it would’ve been nice to hear some current thoughts from the interviewees (the new crop, Johnston and Thomas are unfortunately no longer with us).
Especially since Clements and Musker have gone on to become directors in their own right. I don’t have the original release so I can’t tell you if the quality is improved, but this release does offer some special features (though I wanted more). If you are a fan and don’t have the original DVD then you’ll definitely want to pick this one up.