One of Disney's more underappreciated animated efforts, 1981's "Fox and the Hound" is a lovely, touching and memorable animated picture. The story revolves around an orphaned Fox cub named Tod (Mickey Rooney), whose mother is killed by a hunter in the woods. Spotted shaking under a fence by Big Mama Owl (Pearl Bailey), Tod is taken under the wing of Big Mama Owl, who comes up with a plan to get the fox taken in by a kind older woman living on a nearby farm.
Tod becomes fast friends with hunting dog Copper (Kurt Russell) and the two often play together around the farm. However, when the two grow older, they soon realize that they're meant to be enemies. It doesn't exactly help that Copper's owner is an irritable hunter who attacks Tod when he first spots him. Despite Tod's belief that Copper won't change, when Copper returns from a hunting trip, he's been trained to hunt - and Tod (as well as Tod's new lady fox friend) are the prey.
While "Hound"'s somewhat simple story results in the 83-minute film feeling a little long at times, this is still a moving story about friendship despite differences and how friendships can also, sadly, grow apart. It's been a little while since I've seen "Fox", and while the film does have its share of chuckles and amusing supporting characters, it's always a surprise how sad (not depressing, but emotional) the picture is on occasion, especially the ending.
The film's traditional animation is certainly quite beautiful, as the film marked a turning point in Disney animation history. While some of Disney's most legendary animators (Ollie Johnston and others) started off the film, they passed on the film at one point to a new generation (Ron Clements, John Musker, Glen Keane) of animators.
The film does have a few minor slow patches in the middle and the musical score isn't too memorable, but "Fox and the Hound" is otherwise a solid animated comedy/drama with a lot of heart.
VIDEO: "Fox and the Hound" is presented by Disney in 1.33:1 full-frame. Although the animated film has an intentionally somewhat soft look, the picture looks a bit crisper and cleaner this time around. There are still some minor instances of specks and narks, but these remained minor and infrequent. Colors looked warm and natural, with nice saturation and no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The film is presented here in Dolby Digital 5.1. Obviously, given that this is a family film and one from the early 80's, one wouldn't exactly expect an active audio presentation here. The presentation is about what one would expect, with minimal use of the surrounds and the majority of the audio spread across the front speakers. Audio quality was fine enough, with dialogue and effects sounding clear, but a little thin.
EXTRAS: The main supplement is a short new featurette ("Passing the Baton") about how a team of legendary Disney animators were involved with the film, but passed on the production to a new generation. We also get a couple of bonus animated shorts, a "sing-a-long" feature, gallery and interactive games.
Final Thoughts: The film does have a few minor slow patches in the middle and the musical score isn't too memorable, but "Fox and the Hound" is otherwise a solid animated comedy/drama with a lot of heart. This 25th Anniversary Edition provides somewhat improved audio/video, but minimal supplements. Recommended for those who haven't purchased the film on DVD yet, but those who own the prior edition don't really have much reason to upgrade here.
The Film A-