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Featured Blu-ray review: The Fox and the Hound One and Two

August 14th, 2011

The Fox and the Hound and The Fox and the Hound 2 - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

This week both The Fox and the Hound and The Fox and the Hound 2 were released on a single Blu-ray. The original film came out in 1981, which is considered by many to be in the low point of Disney's animation history. The follow-up was released direct-to-DVD 25 years later and did acceptable business on the home market, but was not a real hit. (Earlier that year, Bambi 2 was released and it sold three times as many units.) So now that these two films are coming out on Blu-ray, are they worth picking up? Or is this truly a low point best left alone?

The Fox and the Hound

The film begins with an adult fox and a baby fox being chased by hunters in the woods. It isn't long before the hunters catch up with them, but while the parent is killed, the kit gets away. Big Mama (Pearl Bailey), a wise owl, decides along with her two friends, Boomer (Paul Winchell) and Dinky (Dick Bakalyan), that this young fox should be raised by a local farmer, Widow Tweed (Jeanette Nolan). When Widow Tweed sees the fox, she immediately adopts him and gives him the name Tod. Meanwhile, her neighbor, Amos Slade, returns home with a new hunting dog, Copper, much to the annoyance of his older hunting dog, Chief (Pat Buttram).

Shortly afterward, Tod and Copper meet and become friends. They play in the woods near their two owners' farms, but it isn't long before Copper gets into trouble for running off too many times and is stuck on a leash. That's when Tod decides it's a good idea to play in their yard, despite Chief being there. Fun and games end when Chief wakes up and tries to catch Tod, while Amos joins in the hunt with his shotgun. If not for a last minute reprieve by Widow Tweed, Tod would have been done for. That's when Tod gets an education from Big Mama about hunters and hunting dogs and how their friendship has to end. But Tod doesn't think his friend will ever change.

Come the spring, a now adult Copper and an adult Tod learn that even the strongest friendships might not be able to survive when everyone else expects them to be enemies?

From the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, Disney was really struggling to find a way back to their glory days of animation. The Fox and the Hound isn't up to the level of the classics, but it is still a pretty good movie. The story is not overly complicated, but it does have a good message for the kids watching. The animation is good, but the studio was in a transitional period at the time. It doesn't have the same look as the classics, because it was way too expensive to have an army of animators paint each individual cell, while the technology hadn't caught up to allow fewer animators to produce the same level of effects. Arguably the best part about the movie was Pearl Bailey's performance and Big Mama, especially her singing.

Overall, if you liked films like The Great Mouse Detective or The Black Cauldron or other Disney animated films of the era, this one is also worth checking out.

The Fox and the Hound 2

The film takes place within the timeline of the first film and features an adventure of Tod and Copper (now voiced by Harrison Fahn). In the beginning of the film, they see that the fair is coming into town, complete with a truck advertising Fried Butter. (I bet the writers didn't think that would come true, but the Iowa State Fair was serving that this weekend.) One of the featured acts is a band called The Singing Strays, made up of a group of singing dogs: Cash, Dixie, Waylon & Floyd, and Granny Rose (Vicki Lawrence). (Plus there's their owner, Lyle.)

After hunting lessons go poorly for Copper, Tod decides the best thing for them is to go to the fair to cheer up. That's when Copper hears the Singing Strays again and falls in love with the music. When Dixie throws a Diva fit, the rest go on stage without her, and Copper steps in and wows the crowd. This of course makes Dixie even madder; a young pup singing her part. So she quits the band. Cash doesn't have time for this, as there's a Talent Scout from the Grand Ole Opry coming in to see them sing, so he offers the job to Copper full time. There's just one catch: Copper needs to be a stray. Since singing is the first thing Copper's found that he's good at, he decides to tell a little white lie and says he's a stray.

Since you know the first film doesn't end with him having a successful singing career, you know this won't end well.

When Disney bought Pixar and John Lasseter became the head of animation for the entire studio, he canceled all of the direct-to-DVD sequels. Films like this are the reason why. While the movie is not exactly bad... actually it is. It's barely an hour long, but it still manages to feel padded. The songs don't manage to move the film forward, but instead slam on the breaks. And there are too many songs for the music to be a problem. The animation looks cheap, especially the computer generated portions. The voice acting has too many names and not enough inspired performances. But more importantly, it's completely unnecessary. The film focuses more on The Singing Strays than Tod and Copper's friendship, so much so that there's little reason to make this film part of the The Fox and The Hound franchise.

If you liked The Fox and the Hound, just watch it again.

The Extras

This Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack comes with both movies on two separates DVDs, and one Blu-ray with both movies. There are different extras on the DVD compared to the Blu-ray. (Perhaps they ran out room on the Blu-ray.)

The Fox and the Hound has The Best of Friends Sing-Along, which is exactly what is sounds like, and Passing the Baton, which is a seven-minute featurette talking about how this was the film that transitioned from the Nine Old Men to the new group of animators who helped revitalize the studio. The Fox and the Hound 2 has a music video for "You Know I Will" and a making of featurette about the music.

The only extra on the Blu-ray is a seven-minute clipfest about unlikely animal friends that features a bit of information, but a lot more clips from Disney movies.

As for the technical presentation, we have some mixed news. Firstly, when it comes to The Fox and the Hound, this is a huge step up from the DVD, but it is not a remastered edition and you can tell. It looks very good with a high level of detail, but there's a bit of film grain there, while the animation isn't as detailed as with some of the classic films. The colors are bright, the contrast is mostly strong, although sometimes shadows swallow up too many details. There are some problems with the source material that it present and obvious in the film, but you can't hold that against the transfer. The Fox and the Hound 2 is a far newer film, so it does not have as many problems with grain or shadows, but it is also cheaper so the level of detail was not as high. The colors were great, on the other hand. The audio for The Fox and the Hound is clear, but uncomplicated. The Fox and the Hound 2 has a lot more activity in the rear speakers, especially the music, but there are also some good directional effects.

On a side note, the DVDs are stacked together, which is a really bad idea. And since DVDs don't have the scratch resistant coating that Blu-rays have, it's just asking for scratches

The Verdict

The Fox and the Hound is not among the Disney animated classics, but it is worth checking out and the upgrade to the audio and video is enough to make it worth buying for many. On the other hand, to buy that film, you also have to get The Fox and the Hound 2, which at its best is unnecessary. If you like both films, then it is definitely worth picking up. Personally, I would wait till you can grab it for under $20. Black Friday sales are not that far away.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Fox and the Hound, The Fox and the Hound 2