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The Fox and the Hound

The Fox and the Hound
It takes a minute to get going and the story is a little busier than it needs to be, but the final 15 minutes of the 1981 Disney gem The Fox and the Hound almost make up for everything that's wrong with the film.

This is the story of Tod, an orphaned fox raised by a kindly widow who befriends a baby hound named Copper, who, despite nature, become friends, but the reality of who they are forces them apart as we see one of them accept their natural order and the other doesn't. Unfortunately, circumstances eventually put Tod and Copper's friendship to the ultimate test.

Based on a novel by Daniel P Mannix, this story directly addresses a subject that has been addressed on the periphery of a lot of other Disney films, but was never really the center of the story before. This is the story of two animals who become friends before they learn they are supposed to be natural enemies and must choose nature over friendship.

Way too much time is spent on exposition. Almost ten minutes of screentime is spent watching Tod's mother trying to protect her son and eventually losing that battle. As always with Disney, there are comic relief animals around who have nothing to do with the story who slow things down, not to mention four musical numbers that add nothing to the story, but the friendship at the core of this movie is so solid, we wait patiently to see if these two are really going to be torn apart.

The story and its accompanying animation are so well integrated that the emotions of the story are at the forefront when they're supposed to be and left to viewer interpretation when they're supposed. Once Tod and Copper grow up, it's difficult to tell where Copper's loyalties actually are, adding an underlying mystery to the proceedings. A romance for Tod during the second act is contrived and rushed. The story tends to wander, but when it focuses exclusively on Tod and Cooper, it hits a bullseye. And it all comes to a head in an almost heart stopping finale that brings all kinds of surprises.

It was impressive that because we met Tod and Cooper as babies, child actors initially provide their voices and they are replaced by adult actors as the story progresses. Real thought went into the casting of Corey Feldman as Young Tod and Keith Coogan as Young Copper, effectively replaced by Mickey Rooney and Kurt Russell as the adult versions of the characters. Solid work from Pearl Bailey as an owl named Big Mama, Jeanette Nolan as the widow who raises Tod and Jack Albertson as the farmer who owns Copper. Patience is required for this one, but it's rewarded in spades.