My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.
The Plot: An adopted fox cub and a coonhound puppy become fast friends, but their upbringing forces them to become natural enemies.
The Songs: "Best Of Friends," "Lack Of Education," "A Huntin' Man," "Appreciate The Lady," "Goodbye May Seem Forever"
A Little History: This was the last Animated Classic to showcase the talents of Disney's Nine Old Men. Both Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas retired soon after working on preliminary designs for the characters, and were replaced by a younger team of animators – including Don Bluth, Ron Clements, John Musker, and Glen Keane – who stepped in to finish the film. Production actually began in 1977, but creative differences between the old guard and the new kept the project in turnaround. Producer Wolfgang Reitherman's initial designs were rejected by team members who supported directors Ted Berman, Richard Rich, and Art Stevens instead. Then in 1979, a disgruntled Don Bluth quit the studio to form his own company, taking 11 others along with him; his sudden departure forced Disney to scrap Fox And The Hound's targeted 1980 Christmas release date while they searched for new talent. By the time production finally wrapped, over 180 people had worked on the film, and yielded 110,000 painted cels and 1,100 painted backgrounds, at a cost of $12 million. Glen Keane storyboarded the climactic bear attack all on his own; many of the film's animators would go on to lead successful careers, such as Tim Burton (Batman, Edward Scissorhands), John Lasseter (Toy Story, future chief creative officer at Pixar and Disney Animation Studios), and Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles). The movie's plot differs greatly from Daniel Mannix's original novel: in the book, Tod and Copper are never friends, Chief is killed by the train while chasing Tod, Tod dies from exhaustion while being chased by Copper, and the animals never speak. Chief was also supposed to be killed during the film, but Art Stevens balked at the idea, deciding it would frighten young children (see also Lady And The Tramp).
How It Broke New Ground: The first animated feature released in Dolby Stereo.
How It Holds Up Today: Another attempt by Disney to recapture the charm and wonder of their earlier Classics, this one a parable on social norms and how they shape our personalities. It owes a lot to Bambi, as a matter of fact: both tell stories set (mostly) in the forest, with animals forced to experience Life's Hard Truths and a Fall From Innocence; both feature protagonists whose mothers are killed by hunters; and both feature lovable side characters who serve as a counterpoint to the main action. But where Bambi utilized multi-plane cameras to give the backgrounds an illusion of depth, the makers of Fox And The Hound rely on a flat, two-dimensional style that robs the story of its intended beauty. (It's certainly more colorful than The Rescuers, I'll give it that. But the animation itself looks just as dull.) Fans of the film tend to be divided in two - those who find the movie's first half cloying and sticky-sweet (or vice versa), and those who enjoy the complexities and suspense of its latter stages. You can guess which camp I fall into, though it must be said that the climactic grizzly encounter offers an exciting preview of Disney's greatness to come (animator Glen Keane would go on to supervise the designs for Ariel, the Beast, and Rapunzel in Tangled). If only the rest of the movie struggled as hard to keep up.
Hold tight, Disney fans – there's more to come. Need to play catch up? Click on the following for: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, Fun And Fancy Free, Melody Time, The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad, Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady And The Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred And One Dalmatians, The Sword In The Stone, The Jungle Book, The AristoCats, Robin Hood, The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh, and The Rescuers. Please comment! Let me know what you think!