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The Fox and the Hound (1981)/The Fox and the Hound 2 (2006)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/9/2011

All Ratings out of
The Fox and the Hound
Audio: 1/2

The Fox and the Hound 2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/17/2011

When we think of Disney animation, what words come to mind? Consistency? Tradition? If you really examine the history of animated feature films from the studio, you'll see that those words aren't accurate, as the company has gone through several cycles of output which varied in quality. The 1970s and early 1980s were a tumultuous time for the studio, and it looked as if their days of turning out classic films were behind them. Sure, movies like The Rescuers and The Great Mouse Detective had their moments, but they couldn't match up to Disney's classic output. One movie which came out during this period which has stood the test of time is The Fox and the Hound.

As The Fox and the Hound opens, a mother fox, who is being pursued by hunters, leaves her cub in a field...and then she's shot. Big Mama (voiced by Pearl Bailey), an owl, feels sorry for the cub, and she makes sure that Widow Tweed (voiced by Jeanette Nolan) sees him. The old woman adopts the cub and names him Tod (voiced by Keith Coogan). Meanwhile, the local hunter, Slade (voiced by Jack Albertson), gets a hound-dog puppy and names him Copper (voiced by Corey Feldman). The two animals soon meet in the woods and become fast friends and playmates. Then, Slade goes away for his annual winter hunting trip and takes Copper with him. The story then leaps ahead to the spring. Tod (now voiced by Mickey Rooney) has grown into a handsome fox who misses his friend. However, when Copper (voiced by Kurt Russell) comes home, he's not a fully-trained hunting dog. The two friends are now adversaries, which causes problems for both animals and humans.

In all honesty, The Fox and the Hound isn't a great movie. The subplots, such as the one involving two birds attempting to catch a caterpillar, aren't very engaging and feel like filler. The same can be said for the songs which are performed by Pearl Bailey. Of course, she's a legend, but the songs feel out of place here and don't move the story along.

But, the central story, concerning two friends which come from different worlds, still works (as it should, since seven writers worked on the movie). Baby Tod is incredibly cute and the scenes in which the two animals interact are effective. The story, as it is, is rather touching and poignant. Tod and Copper simply want to play and have fun, but society (Slade) says that they can't. Stripped of their youthful innocence and ignorance, Copper chooses sides and the two become enemies. The finale actually includes some mild surprises, although things are wrapped up nicely in the end.

It would be seven years before Disney animation returned to classic form, but The Fox and the Hound is a film which shouldn't whither away into oblivion. The animation is nicely detailed (when characters move, it's very smooth) and again, the story has touching moments. If nothing else, the movie should be a good catalyst to discuss peer pressure and social structures with kids.

The Fox and the Hound offers no creativity when it comes to female fox names on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at 35 Mbps. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing no grain and only mild defects from the source material. The right side of the screen shows some white lines which are obvious at times. The colors look very, most notably the deep greens of the forest and the image is never overly dark or light. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are fairly good and detailed, most notably when the characters are in the forest. The subwoofer effects are notably good during the finale, but the surround sound is rather weak.

The Fox and the Hound 2 apparently takes place sometime in the middle of the original film, as Copper and Tod are still young.

In the movie, Copper (voiced by Harrsion Fahn) is sad because he isn't doing very well at his hunting training. Despite Tod's (voiced by Jonah Bobo) attempts to cheer up Copper, the puppy feels that he's not good at anything. Desperate to lift this buddy's spirits, Tod drags Copper to a fair which has come to town. There, they hear "The Singing Strays", a doggie vocal act lead by Cash (voiced by Patrick Swayze) and Dixie (voiced by Reba McEntire). Copper is immediately taken by their sing and begin to sing along with them. Following an argument between Cash and Dixie, Cash decides that the group is better off without her and he invite Copper to join the band. Copper is overjoyed that he's finally found something at which he is good, but Tod feels that his friend is leaving him behind. (Things get worse for Tod when he's told that he can clean the group's bowls.) Dixie is irate over the fact that she's been replaced by a puppy. What will have to happen for everyone to be happy?

The Fox and the Hound 2 is an odd entry into the direct-to-video animated sequel genre and at 69-minutes, it feels more like an episode of a TV show than a feature-length movie. For starters, making a sequel to The Fox and the Hound seems like an unusual choice. I realize that the film has its fans, but it's certainly not the most well-known Disney theatrical film. The story isn't incredibly deep, but there's little character introduction at the beginning and the movie seems to assume that we've seen the original movie.

And then we have the overall makeup of this film. The Fox and the Hound dealt with the relationship between the two animals and placed a great emphasis on animal instincts and life in the country. Thus, the shift to singing animals in a carnival is quite jarring. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's not what I was expecting from a sequel to The Fox and the Hound. When the story reaches the carnival, the movie turns into a musical and there are several musical sequences, both with the dogs performing and musical montages. As someone who does not enjoy country music, I found the songs to be annoying. The introduction of Cash and Dixie really takes the focus off of Tod and Copper, giving one the sense that the filmmakers didn't have a full "Tod and Copper" story in mind and felt the need to bring in more characters. There is an attempt to create tension between Tod and Copper and further explore their relationship, but there's also no sense of urgency to the story, thus most viewers will be ambivalent about the outcome.

Those oddities aside, The Fox and the Hound 2 does have some good points. The animation looks very good and doesn't have the slightly cheap feeling which has tainted some of the other entries into the sequel group. The backgrounds look great and the characters have a nice amount of detail. The story focuses on friendship, loyalty, and following ones dreams, and aside from a character who brandishes a gun, there is no objectionable material. The voice acting is fine and in addition to the voices mentioned above, Vicki Lawrence and Stephen Root also lend their vocal talents to the movie.

While there's nothing technically "wrong" with The Fox and the Hound 2, I'm not sure that it will please many viewers. Younger Disney fans may not be familiar with the original film and thus may not have much interest in the sequel. (After 24 minutes of the movie, my daughters asked if they could go outside and play.) Fans of the original movie may be dismayed at the lackluster story in which Copper and Tod have been placed. In any event, only die-hard Disneyphiles should hunt down a copy of this one.

The Fox and the Hound 2 made me glad that dogs can't really sing on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The image is a tad soft at times, but the picture is crisp and the colors look great. The picture shows no stuttering in the animation. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Unlike the first film, the surround sound is noticeably good hear, as various sounds fill the rear channels. The stereo effects are very detailed and we hear even the slightest sound from the front channels. The subwoofer effects are also well-done.

The Fox and the Hound/The Fox and the Hound 2 set contains a few extras, spread across the three discs. "Unlikely Friends" (7 minutes) uses other Disney movies, such as Bolt and 101 Dalmatians, to examine other movies where animals which don't belong together become friends. This also includes a real-life look at odd animal pairs. "Passing the Baton" (7 minutes) is a making-of featurette for The Fox and the Hound which includes comments from the animators and describes how the film proved to be a turning point at Disney as the older animators were replaced by a new crop of filmmakers. We also get some behind-the-scenes footage of Pearl Bailey in the recording studio. There is a "Sing-Along" for the song "Best of Friends". "The Making of the Music" (10 minutes) focuses on the music of The Fox and the Hound 2, including comments with the musicians and music supervisors, including Reba McEntire. The final extra is a MUSIC VIDEO for the song "You Know I Will".

Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long