Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Today is the release date of Disney's Fox and the Hound 25th Anniversary Edition two-disc DVD. The story follows a young fox named Tod who is taken in by a kind farm lady after his mother is killed. His next-door neighbour, a grumpy old hunter named Amos, bring home a new puppy, Copper, who is to be trained to be a great hunting dog. The two meet and become fast friend but all that is put to the test when Copper learns that it is his job to hunt and kill foxes like his best friend, Tod.

This movie debuted on July 10, 1981 and was a financial success but has be largely considered to be a Disney dud. Some critics praised the film for its dealing with prejudice attitudes while others condemn it for its sappiness, slow-pace and unhappy ending.

Today, a couple of groups are blasting Fox and the Hound, saying Disney is promoting homosexuality due to its two male stars and their friendship. These groups obviously don't remember that this film has Tod falling in love with Vixen. I think these claims are ridiculous.

But let's get back on track.

It's a surprise that this movie was even made considering some of the problems it faced.

First, Cliff Nordberg, of the post-WWII animators and one of Disney's head supervising animators at the time, died suddenly during production.

Second, several scenes of animation were stolen during a midnight break in and had to be redrawn or rotoscoped from pencil tests.

Third, animator Don Bluth resigned mid-way through production. He started his own rival company and took about seven Disney animators with him! That was about half the animating staff at Disney at the time!

But one of the most significant things about The Fox and the Hound was that it was the official passing of the torch from the original 'Nine Old Men' to a younger generation of animators.

The 'Nine Old Men' are the legendary animators that Disney hired in the thirties and were responsible for the major works of Disney from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to the Rescuers. They are Les Clark, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, Wolfgang "Woolie" Reitherman, John Lounsbery, Eric Larson, Ward Kimball, Milt Kahl and Marc Davis.

Though most of them had either past away or retired, Three of the nine, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and Woolie Reitherman, were still working with Disney during Fox and the Hound. Disney had been training a new crop of animators for a while and when Don Bluth and company left Disney changes had to be made.

Suddenly, other junior animators were shoved into the spotlight and new employees were hired. Amongst the crew working on this picture were, Glen Keane, Tim Burton, John Musker, Ron Clements, Brad Bird, Earl Kress, Don Hahn and future Pixar owner John Lasseter.

All of these events let everyone see that this was the beginning of a new Disney era. The torch was passed to this new, younger generation who would later go on to produce some of Disney's best work, including Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.

Today, the only living member of the 'Nine Old Men' is Ollie Johnston who is 94 years old and retired.


Katie said...

I didn't realize all that was happening behind the scenes of Fox and the Hound. I'm definitely of the opinion that it's one of Disney's lamest movies... but I guess with all that happening... it kind of explains it. Though that wouldn't really effect the story... and that was one of the main problems with the movie.

Those younger guys were so lucky to have worked with any of those older guys. They're so amazing.

coolshades said...

That's some pretty interesting info. I didn't know that Don Bluth worked for Disney before he started his own company. He made some pretty good flicks after he left...

I like The Fox and the Hound...it's a good tale of true friendship...

J said...

Nice write-up, Kurtis; I appreciate hearing the history.
This had to be one of my least favorite of the Disney movies growing up. I obviously would have been too young to accuse it of being overly sentimental and yet somehow that hits it.