Disney (Direct to DVD), Walt Disney Home Entertainment (December 12, 2006), single disc, 69 mins plus supplements, 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1/ DTS 5.1, Rated G, Retail: $29.99
During the days of their youth, Copper and Todd have their friendship challenged by Copper’s opportunity to join a canine singing group.
The Sweatbox Review:
When considering the crown jewels of the Disney animated line, 1981’s The Fox And The Hound does not register too strongly. In fact, I am hard-pressed to think of a less illustrious effort. Oh, it’s a decent little movie, but it never has reached the status of “animated classic”, despite what Disney’s hype machine might have one believe. It has a good story and some fine animation, but it lacks the pizzazz of the fairy tales or the comic adventures. Still, with Disney’s mad rush to provide follow-ups to all of its films, even The Fox And The Hound was apparently judged ripe for further exploitation.
When I first heard of this follow-up, I have to admit that it seemed like a very unlikely choice. Really, who would care? With all the stories left to be told about Basil Of Baker Street or The Rescue Aid Society, why would Disney choose to bring back Copper and Tod— especially after the original movie seemingly brought their tale of friendship full circle?
The solution to the latter quandary was to make this follow-up a “mid-quel”, a story that takes place during the original film. That way, the director had the opportunity to focus on the “cute and cuddly” versions of these characters, before the cold, cruel world threatened to ruin their friendship forever. No bittersweet resolutions allowed here. This whole movie is small kid-friendly, perfectly suitable for babysitting the little tykes while you prepare supper.
As The Fox And The Hound 2 picks up, we are reintroduced to those lovable friends, Copper the hound puppy and Tod the fox puppy as they chase a cricket through the fields. These buddies live out in the country, and are owned by two adversarial neighbors. While chasing the cricket, the two youngsters spy a circus caravan driving down the road. Copper is called away by his owner, a grumpy old man named Amos, who wants to train Copper to be a proper hunting dog. Unfortunately, Copper has not yet come into his own as a hunter, much to the disappointment of Amos. While Amos concedes that Copper is likely just too young yet, this doesn’t stop Copper from being crestfallen about his failings. Tod offers encouragement, insisting that Copper will yet find something that he is good at.
The two leave for the county fair in order to brighten Copper’s spirits. At the fair, they come across a singing dog act, The Singin’ Strays, led by an ambitious pair of canines, Cash and Dixie, who also have their own tempestuous relationship. Their differences lead to Dixie leaving the Strays, which opens up a spot in the group. At their next performance, Copper joins in the singing and he is quickly invited to hook up with the Strays. All this success comes too fast for Copper to consider properly, and he lies about being a stray so that he can stay on with the group. Meanwhile, Tod is feeling neglected as Copper soon finds himself keeping busy with rehearsals. Further conflict comes with Dixie’s jealousy of Copper, and she uses Tod as a pawn to help herself get back with the Strays.
Aside from all that, a talent scout from the Grand Ole Opry is known to be coming to the fair, and Cash desperately wants to put on a great performance so that the scout can help the Strays reach the big time. However, between Dixie’s leaving the group, her scheming to rejoin, and the threat of Copper’s secret being exposed, it appears that everything may be ruined for all involved. And at the heart of the story is whether or not Tod and Copper’s friendship will survive.
Of course, the problem with this being a mid-quel is that we already know generally how this will turn out, at least if one has ever seen the original film. That’s not really the point, though, as these movies have a way of ending happily regardless (with the possible exception of… the original The Fox And The Hound, of course). So, the real question is not so much how it ends, but how much fun one has getting there. Does the movie manage to rise above its questionable pedigree?
In many ways, it does. The animation by the Philippines’ Toon City Animation Inc. (with DisneyToon Studios Australia and others) is remarkably good. Toon City has been handling Disney product for several years now, and their experience shows. I have seen theatrical films with worse animation than this. The characters are consistently pleasantly drawn and they movie fluidly. The shading done on the characters is also surprisingly rich, and again challenges what is seen in some features (granted, there are not a whole lot of traditionally animated films coming out right now to compare this to, but still…).
The personality animation is aided greatly by a very strong voice cast, led by Patrick Swayze and Reba McEntire as Cash and Dixie. Jonah Bobo and Harrison Fahn provide good performances as Tod and Copper, sounding like kids, but still professional. Other roles went to Stephen Root, Jeff Foxworthy, and Vicki Lawrence. Additionally, the country songs are sung by the likes of Swayze & McEntire (they actually make a pretty good duo), Trisha Yearwood, and American Idol finalist Josh Gracin.
So, the movie looks and sounds good, but how’s the story? As is so often the case, this is probably the weak point. It’s not a bad story; it’s just not a very interesting one. With the outcome of the movie in no doubt due to its mid-quel status, it is really contingent upon the writers and director to entertain us with clever writing and funny business, and both of these are mediocre. It all looks slick enough, but never did I laugh out loud or find myself appreciating an overly witty bit of writing. Instead, I found myself looking at the display on my DVD player, wondering how much longer we had to go. The good thing is that the movie runs only an hour (not including the credits), so I really had no trouble hanging in there until the end. Also, one must keep in mind the target audience: kiddies. My girl didn’t want to watch the movie again immediately, but she was asking to 2 days later, so I suppose she liked it all right.
I should admit that part of my indifference to the movie was the accent on country music. To say that I hate country music would be overstating things (slightly), but I’m really not a fan. The soundtrack is quite dependent on country music, so I found myself cringing more than toe-tapping. Those who appreciate country music more than I will likely be able to enjoy the movie more than I did.
Fans of the original film will also note the change in tone. We tend to remember The Fox And The Hound as quiet and melancholy at times, but the more upbeat tone of this follow-up does fit in just fine when you consider the time frame being used. True, this film does little to explore the whole natural enemies-as-friends dynamic, but then that choice is entirely valid given the setting. I found the look of the film more jarring, as its slickness ironically makes the theatrical original looks scratchy and dated, even though it was of course very well animated. The stylistic changes are unlikely to bother the kids, however.
Is This Thing Loaded?
The first listed extra is a Music Video (3:36) by Lucas Grabeel, presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.
The same video format is used for the featurette The Making Of The Music: The Fox And The Hound 2 (10:09). Director Jim Kammerud explains that the music here is more a part of the setting than a means to advance the plot (though I would argue that it in fact succeeds as illuminating the feelings of the characters as well). Other performers, songwriters, and production staff also comment. Some unfinished animation and production art is seen, but mostly incidentally.
Under the “Games And Activities” heading, you may find Mutt Mix Master, which allows you to play around with one of the Singin’ Strays songs (no thrills for me, but my daughter toyed with it for about an hour, I think); and Disney DVD Game World: Demo, Disney Dogs Edition. For most adults, you will find your best enjoyment in the next bonus, the classic 1938 Goofy short Goofy and Wilbur, whose inclusion here seems to be justified by the presence of a cricket similar to that seen in the main feature.
This disc utilizes Fast Play, so you can avoid menu navigation is you don’t mind seeing the Previews first. Sneak Peeks are also viewable from the menu, and include Little Einsteins, The Little Mermaid III, Enchanted Tales, Tinker Bell, My Friends Tigger & Pooh, Peter Pan, Meet The Robinsons, Cinderella III , and Air Buddies.
DVD-ROM: The Mutt Mix Master can be played as a ROM activity as well.
The Fox And The Hound 2 gets the standard package, a keepcase with an identical but shiny and embossed slip sleeve. Disney has begun to use those double-snap style keepcases that Paramount has used for a while on some of their releases, which I question. Do you want those kids to be able to get to the discs or not? Personally, I find them annoying.
Ink And Paint:
No complaints here at all. With post-production work all tending to be digital these days, this was likely a straight-to-disc job. Consequently, there are no physical artefacts to speak of, and the compression work done on this short movie is also perfect. I saw no ripples, no squiggles, no break-up.
Not all of their Platinum titles get DTS, but The Fox And The Hound 2 does! Whether you listen in DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1, you will find a nicely active mix that is certainly more lively than what one can find in the original film. Comparisons aside, and despite my own personal dislike of country music, I have to say that the music and effects are all delivered quite well and make good if not overwhelming use of a 5.1 system, and that the music is certainly a strong point for the movie. Spanish and French listeners also get full 5.1 tracks.
Subtitles are only offered in English for the hearing impaired.
Among the Disney sequels and mid-quels, this is perhaps one of the least offensive. It does nothing to sully the reputation of the original, and has excellent production values. True, no one was screaming for it, but neither should fans find it too disagreeable. My lack of love for country music made the movie’s likeability an uphill battle for me, but most will find The Fox And The Hound 2 suitably pleasing for its one-hour runtime. The bonus features are pretty lightweight, but the video and audio are top-notch. I find the $30 retail price tag rather steep, but this makes for a decent rental if you are curious or have kids.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?