Case Number 21979

THE FOX AND THE HOUND / THE FOX AND THE HOUND 2 (BLU-RAY)

The Fox And The Hound
Disney // 1981 // 83 Minutes // Rated G
The Fox And The Hound 2
Disney // 2006 // 69 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // August 9th, 2011

The Charge

Two friends that didn't know they were supposed to be enemies.

Opening Statement

"Listen good, Tod, 'cause it's either education or elimination."

Facts of the Case

The Fox and the Hound tells the bittersweet story of a doomed friendship between two animals. The fox (Keith Mitchell) is a friendly little lad named Tod, who has just been adopted by the kindly Widow Tweed (Jeanette Nolan, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance). The hound (Corey Feldman, The Goonies) is a cheerful pup named Copper. He's just been adopted by hunting enthusiast Amos Slade (Jack Albertson, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), Widow Tweed's next-door neighbor. The hound will one day be trained to hunt foxes, but for now Copper and Tod are the best of friends. Alas, as the fox and the hound grow older (and are voiced by Mickey Rooney and Kurt Russell, respectively), things get complicated. Can a friendship survive the way of nature?

In The Fox and the Hound 2, we take a trip back to the carefree, youthful friendship of Copper (Harrison Fahn, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs) and Tod (Jonah Bobo, Zathura). While Tod had demonstrated considerable talent in a variety of areas, Copper feels self-conscious about his seeming lack of any remarkable skills. During a trip to the county fair, Copper makes a surprising discovery: he's a great singer! Soon, Copper finds himself jumping into show business and joining a band of howling southern canines. It all goes well at first, but Tod quickly gets jealous and allows his emotions to get the better of him. Meanwhile, the slippery Dixie (Reba McEntire, Reba) manages to take advantage of both of our young protagonists.

The Evidence

The novel The Fox and the Hound certainly doesn't seem like Disney material -- it's intensely bleak stuff, with one character after another being killed on the way to a bloody, tragic ending. Disney made major changes to almost every aspect of that novel in their family-friendly version of the story (basically, there's still a fox and there's still a hound, but that's about it), yet it still manages to be an atypically downbeat tale for the studio. The film remains perhaps the most well-regarded Disney effort of the era, and for good reason: the animation is a little sharper than many of the animated films that surrounded it, the story has a surprising measure of emotional depth and the tale is gentle enough for young viewers without condescending to them.

The Fox and the Hound boasts some of the most tender moments in any Disney film; the early scenes of childhood bonding are made all the more resonant by the scenes of heartbreak that come later. While I think Disney might have made a more effective film had they hewed just a shade closer to the bleak realities of the novel, the studio essentially went as far as they could go without abandoning younger viewers. The comic relief of the dim-witted birds Dinky and Boomer is amusing enough, and the lightweight romantic elements between Tod and Vixey are charming, but they feel like distractions from the core idea of the story.

There's something very affecting and persuasive in the film's portrait of the relationship between the title characters; the anthropomorphic aspects of the characters are intriguingly fused with the more practical side of life in the animal kingdom. In other movies, creatures that would traditionally eat each other get along smashingly, but this one has the innocent young Copper forced to confront the considerable influences of nature and nurture. Things never get too bleak, but there's a measure of weight in this tale that marks most of the studio's better films. I suspect it will remain beloved for many generations to come, though its laid-back pacing may make certain youngsters of the modern era squirm in their seats a bit.

Those squirmers are far more likely to appreciate The Fox and the Hound 2, a rather embarrassing tarnishing of the first film's legacy. This isn't exactly a surprise, as Disney has cashed in on so many of its beloved properties with crummy straight-to-DVD sequels. Still, The Fox and the Hound 2 doesn't so much feel like a movie as it does a deleted scene stretched out to feature length (it's much too long even at 69 minutes...and 8 minutes of that running time is taken up by the end credits). Basically, young Copper and Tod get into some antics at the fair, participate in a few countryfied musical numbers and call it a day. Taken on its own terms, it's an inoffensive bit of fluff that adults will ignore and very young viewers will enjoy. Still, when viewed as part of a double-bill with first film, The Fox and the Hound 2 very nearly becomes unbearable. Thankfully, Disney isn't charging any more for this set than it does for its single-feature Blu-ray releases, so The Fox and the Hound 2 may be regarded as a bonus feature of sorts.

I've had nothing but words of praise for most of Disney's hi-def animated releases thus far, whether they're Diamond editions or otherwise (this set is merely dubbed a "30th Anniversary Collection"). However, The Fox and the Hound is the first Disney transfer that has disappointed me a bit. While the film is mostly free of scratches and flecks, there are moments of print damage and colors are inconsistent. More problematically, the image dips into severe softness on occasion, which is surprising given how sharp and clean some scenes are. The video score basically wobbles a great deal from scene to scene (even shot to shot), and while this is vastly better than the sort of half-baked transfer Don Bluth's films have received thus far, it's a disappointment from a studio that has set a much higher standard for itself. The Fox and the Hound 2 looks great, but the cleaner, simpler animation just isn't much fun to look at. I miss the lovingly hand-drawn flaws present in the first film; the super-neat look of the sequel only emphasizes its artifice. Audio is strong on both tracks, though one must note that The Fox and the Hound is a much gentler, more low-key track than The Fox and the Hound 2. The former offers clean dialogue, sturdy music and understated sound design in a satisfying yet front-heavy fashion, while the latter offers frantic chaos that will give your entire speaker system a workout.

Supplements are quite disappointing, both in what we have and in the manner in which they're presented. As both films are packed onto a single Blu-ray disc, the only feature that disc sports is a dumb little featurette called "Unlikely Friends." However, the set also contains DVD copies of both of the films (presented on separate discs) which contain some extra material. The only thing really worth checking out is the brief "Passing the Baton" featurette on the DVD copy of The Fox and the Hound -- the only extra that disc contains. The DVD copy of The Fox and the Hound 2 offers a sing-a-long, a featurette on the music and a music video.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Just to repeat myself: The Fox and the Hound 2 sucks. Don't waste your time with it, even if it is included free of charge.

Closing Statement

The Fox and the Hound is a very fine little movie and I'm pleased to own it in hi-def. However, the inclusion of the crummy The Fox and the Hound 2 and the middling transfer prevent me from giving this set as enthusiastic a recommendation as I would like to.

The Verdict

The Fox and the Hound is free to go, but we're calling animal control on The Fox and the Hound 2.

Review content copyright © 2011 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice, The Fox And The Hound
Video: 80
Audio: 90
Extras: 20
Acting: 95
Story: 95
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, The Fox And The Hound
Video Formats:
* 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated G

Distinguishing Marks, The Fox And The Hound
* Featurettes
* DVD Copy

Scales of Justice, The Fox And The Hound 2
Video: 85
Audio: 90
Extras: 20
Acting: 78
Story: 45
Judgment: 60

Perp Profile, The Fox And The Hound 2
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 69 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated G

Distinguishing Marks, The Fox And The Hound 2
* Featurette
* Music Video
* Sing-Along
* DVD Copy

Accomplices
* IMDb: The Fox and the Hound
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0082406/combined

* IMDb: The Found and the Hound 2
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0465997/combined