Fox and the Hound: a misunderstood film?

fox n hound
‘We’ll be friends forever, won’t we?”

I have never met anyone who loves Disney’s Fox and the Hound as much as I do. I’ve spilled out my soul to fellow Disney fans about this 1981 film, but usually I get a response similar to this: “Yeah, it’s an alright movie, but definitely not one of my favorite Disney films.” Hm, I think there’s more to the film than that.

Fox and the Hound is coming-of-age film telling the intertwined and separate lives of two childhood friends, Todd the fox and Copper the hound. In the beginning, the two are “not even aware, [they’re] such a funny pair.” (best friends). However, they grow up to be enemies basically because of their chromosome-count differences. It doesn’t help that Copper is a hunting dog and Todd is a wild animal; their friendship was doomed from the start.

Because of that, Fox and the Hound is a tragedy. A beautiful tragedy. There are very few other Disney films that speak of such a heart-breaking and realistic message (before Pixar came along and summoned waterfalls from our eyes). Before Fox and the Hound, Disney films (for the most part) told viewers that their dreams would come true, they would marry a prince or princess, and maybe lose a parent or two in the process. Everything would be okay in the end, despite all the hardships. Disney films were sad and emotionally gripping before and after Fox and the Hound, but there is one key emotional difference.

Fox and the Hound is about losing a friend. No, not even a friend, your best friend. Many people would agree that best friends are irreplaceable and unlike anything else in the world. And the though of losing them–or maybe even worse– drifting away from them, is simply devastating. Watching Todd and Copper become best friends is one of the most beautiful moments in cinema (especially the “Best of Friends” sequence), and watching them slowly grow apart and become natural enemies is one of the most heart-wrenching moments in cinema.

As a child, the reality of eventually drifting away from my then best friends was incomprehensible. I didn’t realize (nor did Copper or Todd) that when people move or take a different path in life, it is naturally that these people become less important in life. it’s nothing personal, it’s just a harsh reality. Fox and the Hound handles this theme wonderfully.

What really makes this movie a classic is the ending. After Copper saves Todd from a bear attack, the two resume their respective lives: Todd return to the woods with Vixen (his girlfriend) and Copper returns to Amos’s farm. The film ends with a shot of Copper looking at Amos’s farm from the forest, with a voiceover of young Copper and Todd saying they will be friends forever. It’s nice to think the two will continue to be friends and occasionally visit one another, but that’s probably not the case. The movie leaves us with a message along the lines of: “the friendship itself has passed, but the memories remain.”

Fox and the Hound is an oft-overlooked Disney gem. It’s not a perfect film and some parts seriously weigh it down, i.e. the overlong Boomer and Dinky sequences. However, it is a unique animated Disney drama that presents its viewers with the wonders, challenges and realities of friendship.

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