The Fox And The Hound is a great Disney movie that just falls short of being a real classic because it all feels a bit "been there, seen that". Yet it's still a very sweet movie with wonderful animation and some moments of heartache and fear that will still affect young children.
With three directors involved and lots of writers, the film follows the standard Disney formula almost to the letter but you can't really blame those involved for being set in their ways when it proves a winner time and time again. This particular tale is apparently based on the book by Daniel P. Mannix but, as is so often the way with Disney adaptations, there are very few similiarities between the book and the end result onscreen.
A small fox is hidden away by a parent who is being hunted and ends up in the home of Widow Tweed (voiced by Jeanette Nolan). This allows him to have a fairly happy and safe life. The fox, named Tod, even befriends, and plays with, a hound, named Copper, belonging to a neighbour. That all has to change at some point and Copper is taken away by his owner to learn how to track and hunt. Tod grows up while awaiting the return of his friend but is still naive enough to believe that nothing else will affect their friendship. Sadly, Copper knows better and when he returns he tries to explain to his friend that they can no longer hang around together. Tod doesn't want to believe this but is soon shown just how things have changed.
With Kurt Russell as the voice of Copper and Mickey Rooney as the voice of Tod, The Fox And The Hound almost feels like a bridge between two ages of Disney. The animation is as lovely as ever and the story is the stuff of classic Disney but the studio had a pretty tough time in the 1980s, not helped by the departure of Don Bluth and a number of other animators who helped birth and develop Sullivan Bluth Studios. In fact, production of this movie was delayed by a year because of the staff departures. Perhaps I'm simply projecting onto the film based on the little I know about the ups and downs of Disney but this certainly feels like one of the last old-fashioned outings that they got right just before faultlines began to run through the House Of Mouse.
However, none of that can detract from the fact that this is an endearing, amusing story with moments of great excitement and a cracking vocal cast that includes Paul Winchell (best known as the voice of Tigger), Richard Bakalyan, Pearl Bailey and Sandy Duncan as well as the stars already mentioned. I recommend it as one of the many great Disney films worth including in any collection of family entertainment.