Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #24: The Fox and the Hound

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material.

***

We’re getting close to the halfway point now in this mad fool’s quest to review every one of the Disney canon classics, so now is as good a time as any to make a confession.

I’m full of it. I’m a fake. A fraud. A charlatan.

I don’t know anything about animation.

I  make it up as I go along.

Also, I was in Dallas that day, I'm a crack shot former Marine and my best friend is  a Cuban communist crow. You figure it out.

Also, I was in Dallas that day, I’m a crack-shot former Marine and my best friend is a Cuban communist crow. You figure it out.

Okay, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. What I mean is, I’m constantly learning as I do this. Every review I do, I’m basically sitting down to a movie I may not have seen for years (or in a few cases, never at all) and then researching on the fly. This means that a lot of my preconceptions of these movies are constantly getting blown apart, and it often feels like this one discrete group of films never runs out of ways to surprise me or to show me my own ignorance. That’s part of the fun. Take this week’s offering for example. I had this idea that the animation quality of the Disney movies declined terribly after Walt’s death, and wasn’t restored until the glorious Renaissance (praise to the great Renaissance!) of the late eighties/early nineties. I was convinced that pretty much every movie in the Mourning Era was an ungodly, poorly animated mess that wouldn’t pass muster in Soviet era Czechoslovakia.

I can't remember if this screenshot is from Rescuers or Aristocats.

I can’t remember if this screenshot is from Rescuers or Aristocats.

So then, imagine my surprise when I sat down to watch The Fox and the Hound only to realise I was looking at some of the most beautiful animation in the canon since…honestly? Sleeping frickin’ Beauty. I’m not saying it’s on par with that, obviously. I’m just saying you have to go back that far before you come to a movie with better animation. It’s a thing to behold. It becomes a little less surprising when you realise who was working on it though. Wolfgang Reitherman, who directed Sleeping Beauty and all of the Scratchy Era movies produced this film, his last for Disney before retiring. On animation duty were the last of the Nine Old Men; Ollie Johnston & Frank Thomas and a whole host of long time Disney veterans. But you also had the new generation of Disney animators which today reads like a “Holy Shit!” list of animation greats; Don Bluth, Tim Burton, John Lasseter, Glen Keane and Brad Bird.

This, but with animators.

This. But with animators.

“So” I hear you say “with such a dream team of animators working on it, this must be a fantastic movie right?”

Kitty

No. No. It’s really not. It’s kind of a hot mess. Part of the problem might be the source material. The Fox and the Hound, a 1967 novel by Daniel Mannix, doesn’t exactly scream “Disney”.

It screams “MISERY!” in case you were wondering. I don’t mean that it’s dark. Disney can do “dark”.

hello

I heard you’d started sleeping again.
Fuck that noise.

But “dark” isn’t the same as “bleak”. Disney does not do bleak. Disney does not do sad endings. A Disney movie will never leave an audience feeling worse about the world and their place in it than when they came into the cinema. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with hope. There’s nothing wrong with optimism. Depressing people is easy. People are naturally pessimistic (we’d scarcely have survived this long if we always expected everything to be fine) and we’re uniquely receptive to anyone who’ll tell us that everything is fucked. One of the hardest things in art is to create something beautiful and uplifting.

Now, I haven’t read Mannix’s book (I don’t think it’s in print over here) so I’m just working off the various synopses I’ve found online. This is IMDB’s description of the book’s plot:

“Almost every aspect from the novel was either changed or eliminated entirely. Tod had two vixens that he mates and has cubs with, all of whom are killed by the hunter, Tod intentionally kills The Chief by jumping out of the way of an oncoming train, Tod dies from exhaustion while being chased by Copper, the hunter was an old drunk and the novel ends with the hunter being sent to a retirement home and because dogs aren’t allowed he’s forced to shoot Copper.”

mickey_head

Yeah. It lacks cheer, is what I’m trying to say. Also, it has a body count that makes Hamlet look like Mr Rogers’ Neighbourhood. Also, Samuel Beckett once read it and burst into tears. To this day, it’s not clear if Mannix wrote a novel or a suicide note with some unusually detailed metaphors.  Clearly, a faithful adaptation of this book would be totally different from anything Disney had done before.

And there’s the problem. During the course of making this movie, there was a schism between those who wanted to follow the old Disney formula, and those who wanted to stick closer to the book and create a film radically different from the studio’s previous works. The conservatives, those who wanted to make just another Disney movie, were led by director Art Stevens whereas Wolfgang Reitherman (who had been directing and animating those movies since Pinocchio) was in favour of hewing closer to the book. Stevens pretty much won this battle, and the dispute ultimately led to Don Bluth deciding that Disney was a spent force creatively. Turning against his old masters, Bluth rebelled and left with around a fifth of the animators to found Don Bluth Studios.

This. But with animators.

This. But with animators.

So what happened when the bleak, nihilist vision of Daniel Mannix met the sunshiney kingdom of the House of Mouse?

Let’s take a look.

***

The opening credits are gorgeous. No music at first, just forest sounds and the wind as we pan over lush, beautifully painted forest backdrops. Then, slowly, the score starts to come through. Melancholy and sinister, it sets the tone beautifully. Already, this movie’s big influence is crystal clear. This film owes a big debt to Bambi.

We see a mother fox running through the forest with a tiny cub in her mouth being chased by dogs. She hides the cub behind a fence and then runs off. We hear a gunshot and, since we never see her again, can assume she…escaped and went to live on a nice farm. As for the fox cub…

Your mother can't be with you anymore.

Your mother can’t be with you anymore.

baby-tod-the-fox-and-the-hound-17938762-500-333

Are you my father?

No. I just like telling people they're alone in the world.

No. This is just what I do.

The cub is actually rescued by Big Mama, a friendly horned owl played by the great Pearl Bailey.

Ask any of the little chickies in her pen. They will tell you she's the biggest mother hen.

Ask any of the little chickies in her pen. They will tell you she’s the biggest mother hen.

Big Mama enlists the help of Boomer the woodpecker (voiced by Tigger’s voice actor Paul Winchell) and Dicky the dickybird (Richard Bakalyan) to get the fox cub noticed by Widow Tweed, the kindly farmer who lives nearby. Tweed takes the cub in and names him “Tod”.

Meanwhile, next door, a hunter named Amos Slade arrives home and greets his dog, Chief, voiced by Pat Buttram.

Yup.

Yup.

Amos tells Chief he’s got a surprise for him and Chief thinks it’s lunch. Instead, it turns out to be nothin’ but a hound dog. Which could still be lunch, but only in Korea. Anyway, Amos tells Chief he’s got to look after the pup, who’s named Copper.

And is just adorable. Isn't he? Isn't he? Yes he is!

And who is just adorable. Isn’t he? Isn’t he? Yes he is!

One day, Tod and Copper meet in the forest and quickly become friends. Big Mama watches from a tree as they play hide and seek and sings Best of Friends. Pearl Bailey does her best with it, but this song is pretty bad. It’s the kind of bland, smaltzy lyrics that you get in a lot of animated movies in the eighties.

The next day, Tod comes to visit Copper on Slade’s farm. Things go south quickly when Chief wakes up and chases Tod into the chicken pen. Slade thinks Tod’s trying to eat his chickens and things…escalate…and before you know it Slade is chasing Tod down the road in his car with his shotgun looking to Tupac his furry ass.

You ever dance with the Red Rooster in the pale moonlight?

You ever dance with the Red Rooster in the pale moonlight?

Tod jumps into Widow Tweed’s car as she starts out on her milk run and Slade opens fire on her. That turns out to be a mistake. Widow Tweed stops the car, grabs Slade’s gun off him and shoots up his car.

Dance with him? Who do you think taught the fucker how to mambo?

Dance with him? Who do you think taught the fucker how to mambo?

Yeah. I’m thinking the last time a man pulled a gun on Widow Tweed, she was still Mrs Tweed. For about five more seconds. Slade, not realising that he has fucked with the wrong broad and that he’s really lucky to have escaped with his moustache intact, tells Widow Tweed that if Tod comes near his farm again he’ll shoot him and that “this time I won’t miss.”

You couldn't hit him at point blank range. Smart money says you'll miss.

“I mean sure, I missed him at point blank range this time, but next time I won’t miss!”

Amos takes Copper and Chief up to the mountains to teach Copper how to hunt. Tod’s  sad to see him go, but Big Momma flies down and tells him that when Tod comes back he’ll be his enemy. She does this with the…song? Lack of Education. I put the question mark there because I’m not even entirely sure you can call it a song. It’s a weird hybrid, half spoken, half sung thing and  it’s near the top of my list of the worst Disney songs I’ve ever heard.

You know what? I listened to it. I actually listened to it. I thought to myself "No, I'm not going to just mock this on the assumption that it's terrible. I will give this a fair shot." You see, Doctor, it's all a misunderstanding! IT WAS THE SONG! THE SONG MADE ME DO IT! LET ME OUT OF HERE!

I said near the top.

And what’s worse, movie…you wasted your Pearl Bailey. You had Pearl, and you let her go to waste. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive you for that. Here, listen to her cover of Big Spender. Does that sound like a woman whose talents were put to good use in this movie? No, it does not.

Tod says that Copper will never change and that they’ll always be friends forever. Big Mama doesn’t actually call him a dumbass to his face, but you call tell she’s thinking it really hard (or maybe that’s just Pearl thinking about her agent).

Time passes, and a harsh winter settles on the farm. It’s so cold that it starts to have a rather strange effect on the local wildlife.

So cold...I think I see...BAHIA!

B-B-B-B-BAHIA!

Tod’s lonely without Copper, and he’s only too glad when spring rolls around and Amos, Chief and Copper return home. But Copper has changed.

Predator

Copper is now a fully trained hunting dog, and voiced by Kurt Russell to boot so you know he’s not to be fucked with. Poor Tod on the other hand is still an innocent domesticated fox voiced by…

MICKEY ROONEY!

MICKEY ROONEY!

Okay, I am shortly going to bash the ever loving shit out of this movie. Seriously. This movie is Apollo Creed and I’m Ivan Drago. If it dies, it dies. So let me take a few minutes to praise something I really like about this movie. It takes its time. It’s not afraid of quiet scenes and the characters have a lot more depth than in most Disney movies. And this scene where Tod and Copper meet again is quite beautifully played. Tod just wants to know that they can still be friends. Copper is obviously glad to see him, but warns him to stay away so that he won’t get hurt.

Try playing the theme to Brokeback Mountain over this scene. They go together like Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon, I wear to God.

Try playing the theme to Brokeback Mountain over this scene. They go together like Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon, I swear to God.

And I don’t normally try and read subtext into Disney movies. I think for the most part Disney is like Shakespeare, it’s all there in the text. But yeah, it really does work as an allegory for a gay relationship. In fact, I’m calling it. Tod and Copper are my third favorite gay Disney couple.

Still number one.

Right behind them.

But their tender reunion is interrupted by the forces of heternormative oppression Chief, who wakes up and charges Tod. Well, that’s more than even the number one box-office draw from 1939 to 1940 (spanning two decades) can handle, so Tod runs off with Slade, Chief and a reluctant Copper in hot pursuit. Copper finds Tod but says that he’ll let him go this one time.

Tod tries to make good his escape but he gets ambushed by Chief who chases him on to some train tracks on a bridge over a river. Now. This is a cartoon. And they’re on traintracks. So what mode of transportation absolutely has to appear within the next minute?

Your answer of "Giant Robot Spider" is as awesome as it is wrong.

Your answer of “Giant Robot Spider” is as awesome as it is wrong.

Okay, so it’s around here that the movie slips on the soap in the bathroom of stupid and goes head first down the marble stairs of idiocy, hitting it’s head on every step before rolling to a halt, bleeding, comatose, naked and wet in the hallway of too-damn-dumb-to-live. As Copper and Slade watch in horror the train tears towards Chief and Tod.

Jiminy Jellickers!

Jiminy Jellickers!

(NOTE: Mr Rooney, if you’re reading this then I must apologise that the only references from your nearly ninety years in the business are from a single episode of The Simpsons. This, unfortunately, is how my wretched generation rolls. Forgive me.)

Tod manages to avoid the train by…

Tod manages to avoid the train but Chief gets hit and knocked clean off the bridge. And yes, he gets knocked off by the train. He doesn’t jump. Remember that. He falls a good, oh, sixty feet. On to a rock. Copper finds his lifeless body and sees Tod looking down from the bridge. And Copper…goes nuts. Honestly, that’s the only logical explanation.

Copper yells at Tod that he’ll get him for “this” if it’s the last thing he does.

I'll never forgive you for driving that train!

I’ll never forgive you for driving that train!

Look, you can argue he’s distraught or upset or whatever and…fine. I guess. But this isn’t just a momentary thing. This is the major inciting incident of the movie. Copper spends the rest of the movie tracking Tod for the sake of vengeance and it just doesn’t make logical sense. How is this Tod’s fault? There is literally no way even the most grief-stricken brain could blame Tod for this, and certainly not days after the fact when he’s had a chance to think things through. Now, in the book pretty much the same thing happens but with some key differences.

1) Tod in the book is not voiced by Mickey Rooney and so is free to be kind of a dick. He deliberately taunts Chief repeatedly by going near him but outside of the range of his leash until Chief goes berserk, snaps the rope and tears after him.

2) It’s implied that Tod deliberately lures Chief onto the train tracks rather than being chased there by Chief as in the movie.

3) The animals in the novel don’t talk and behave far more like real animals, without the human level of communication and understanding they have in the book. So it’s more believable for Copper to develop a hatred of Tod for causing Chief’s  death.

But yeah. This is my big problem with the movie. The central conflict just doesn’t make sense.

Well anyway. Widow Tweed finds Tod in the forest but realises that it’s just too dangerous to keep him on the farm. So she drives him way out into the forest, and is forced to abandon the closest thing she has to a child so that he at least has a chance of survival wait just a damn minute here!

Oh my God. Spielberg you whore! Again! That's two strikes, buddy.

Oh my God. Spielberg you whore! Again! That’s two strikes, buddy.

Okay, in fairness, parental abandonment scenes can be absolutely brutal and they don’t milk it too much here. They milk it. Yes. But it’s bearable. Just about.

Hold it together Mouse. Hold it together.

Hold it together Mouse. Hold it together.

She leaves Tod in the forest and he’s left with nothing to do but take shelter from the rain and watch the recycled animated squirrels from Sword in the Stone as they leap cost-effectively from tree to tree.

By recycling, we can all do our part! The power is yours!

By recycling, we can all do our part! The power is yours!

Tod tries to find a place to stay and ends up shacking up with a rather friendly porcupine voiced by John Fiedler (Piglet in Winnie the Pooh). In fact, he’s maybe a little too friendly. Not that I’m judging, Tod. I too have been a homeless teenager lost in the big world. The Unshaved Mouse knows that a bed is a bed.

Back at Slade’s farm, Amos and Copper see Widow Tweed driving home and Slade figures out that she’s left Tod in the game preserve and he tells Copper that they’ll get him. Because Amos Slade also thinks that Tod was driving the train and has gone into full Captain Ahab mode.

Is Amos, Amos? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm?

Is Amos, Amos? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm?

They go back into the cabin where Chief is wait…WHAT THE CLOSE UP MOUTH WHORE FUCK!!!!???

???????

???????

He still…

HE’S STILL ALIVE?

HE’S STILL FUCKING ALIVE…

NO!

NO! NO! NO!

YOU DO NOT GET TO DO THAT MOVIE! HE WAS HIT BY A FUCKING TRAIN (and I cannot believe I have to even finish this sentence) AND THEN HE FELL SIXTY FUCKING FEET OFF THE DAMN BRIDGE!

ON! TO! A! ROCK!

HE’S DEAD! HE IS NO MORE! HE HAS CEASED TO BE! HE HAS RUN UP THE CURTAIN AND BEEN SENT TO THE DOG POUND INVISIBLE! HE’S BOUGHT THE FARM! HE’S POPPED HIS CLOGS! HE’S CHEWED HIS LAST SLIPPERS! IF EVERY BONE IN HIS BODY HADN’T BEEN MUSHED TO JELLY HE’D BE PUSHING UP THE DAISIES! HE’S A STIFF! HIS METABOLIC PROCESSES ARE NO MORE! BEREFT OF LIFE HE RESTS IN PEACE!

THIS IS AN EX-DOG!!!

You know what? I take it back. THIS is the moment where the movie completely goes off the rails. And they knew it too. This was the major point of contention during the creation of the film. Some of the crew thought that killing off a major character would be too traumatic for the poor lickle children in the audience, while others felt that the poor lickle children might actually like a film that made a lick of goddamn narrative sense.

Sir, you insult my intelligence!

Sirs, you insult my intelligence!

There is so much wrong with this, I mean…

Let’s leave aside the question of where Amos Slade got a dog that can survive being HIT BY A TRAIN…

Sorry, sorry. I’ll try to keep calm. Fuck it. Maybe Slade found Chief in a rocket ship.

You will bow down before Krypton's Humane Society Jor-El! I swear it!

You will bow down before Krypton’s Humane Society Jor-El! I swear it!

Okay, it’s utterly stupid, but I’ll let it go. But ask yourselves. What possible motivation do Amos and Copper now have for hunting Tod? They didn’t have one before, sure, but if we stuck our fingers in our ears and hummed really loudly we could pretend they didBut now? They’re trying to avenge the death of someone WHO’S STILL ALIVE! And it’s not like he’s been crippled for life! He’s got a cast on his leg for Christ’s sake!

"Ow, it really hurt my leg when that train hit me." said NO ONE EVER.

“Ow, it really hurt my leg when that train hit me.” said NO ONE EVER.

You put a cast on someone’s leg when there’s an expectation that it will heal. He’s going to be fine! Copper has sworn vendetta on Tod for mildly inconveniencing his near indestructible Kryptonian buddy.

Now, you may remember that I had no problem with the fact that they decided not to kill off Trusty in Lady and the Tramp. But that was different. That was near the end of the movie and it was done so as not to sour the happy resolution. The reveal that Chief is still alive happens halfway through and it is not a small problem. This is a fundamental flaw in the core relationship of the movie, namely that it now makes no goddamn sense. Oh, and to make it worse, when Chief comes looking for some sympathy Amos tells him to get back inside before he breaks his other leg.

So…it’s only bad when Tod does it? Hell, it’s only bad when Tod happens to be in the same place where some random guy in a train does it?

Amos Slade? I hate you. I would piss on you if you were on fire, but only the parts that weren’t burning.

Sigh. Okay. In the game preserve, Big Mama flies over to the game preserve to check up on Tod. Instead, she meets up with Vixey, a young female fox.

What we in the Disney-watching business refer to as "furry bait".

What we in the Disney-watching business refer to as “furry bait”.

Disney universe rules state that there can only ever be two foxes in existence at any one time (they’re kinda like Sith), so Vixey is obviously very interested to hear that there’s a young male fox about her age in the area. Big Mama offers to set them up if Vixey will help her look. Because she’s got a little motto, it always sees her through. If you’re good to Mama, she’ll be good to you.

I like Chicago. So sue me.

I like Chicago. So sue me.

Meanwhile in the porcupine’s lair…

Okay, you know what? I’m just going to show you the scene as it happens and let you be the judge.

12

eyes

4

5

"WHAT HAPPENED?!"

“WHAT HAPPENED?!”

Bed’s a bed Tod. No one’s judging you. Although the fact that you don’t remember makes me very suspicious of this porcupine. He and Tod will not be making my list of favorite Disney gay couples.

Number three, if anyone's interested.

Number four, if anyone’s interested.

Big Mama flies down and asks Tod if he had a good night and he’s all “What? Who talked? What have you heard?!” but she introduces him to Vixey. He tries to impress her by showing how well he can fish but he ends up making an ass of himself.

Vixey can’t help laughing at him and Tod loses his temper and calls her a “silly, empty headed female”.

Shit just got real

Thankfully, Vixey doesn’t take that kind of shit and tells him to screw off. Big Mama tells Tod that he can’t talk to Vixey that way and Tod sighs “Aw raspberries.” because he’s a nineteen forties card sharp dressed as a fox as part of some elaborate  con to beat the Vegas house. Big Mama smooths things over by singing Appreciate the Lady, the best song in the movie which means pretty much jack shit. It’s pleasant enough to listen to, but the lyrics are just insultingly basic. God, I miss the Shermans.

Anyway, Tod and Vixey settle down together and everything is just groovy. But then…

Dun! Dun! Dun!

Slade and Copper arrive the forest on a mission of stupid, stupid vengeance. Copper finds Tod’s path to the lake, and Slade sets a shit ton of traps for him, saying “Amos you old coot, the devil himself couldn’t have done it better!”

"El Gallo Rojo" begs to differ.

“El Gallo Rojo” begs to differ.

Tod and Vixey manage to avoid the traps, but cornered in their den by Copper and Amos and fair is fair, it’s a tense and exciting scene. They escape out the back entrance and make for the waterfall with Copper and Amos close behind.

Okay movie. I’ve put up with your stupidity long enough. C’mon. Give me something. Something to justify your existence. You’re a Disney movie! Give me just one solitary moment of awesome! YOU CAN DO IT BOY!

BEARFUCKING YES!

Alright, it’s completely out of left field and it’s kind of a deus ex machina but I don’t care. A goddamn bear has just appeared in this movie and it’s kicking ass, chewing gum and taking names and it’s all out of gum and names and ass which leaves only AWESOME.

The bear attacks Amos and he shoots it but that only makes him mad. Seriously, even the bear can’t believe how stupid that was.

Oooh...yeah, you're going to regret doing that.

Oooh…yeah, you’re going to regret doing that.

Amos gets pimp slapped down the mountain and gets his foot trapped in one of the traps and the bear moves in to finish him off. Copper tries to save Amos and attacks the bear and this is just such a frickin’ amazing fight scene I feel like I’m suddenly watching a different movie. I love this fucking bear!

His scars are glowing! HE'S GOT FUCKING LAVA BLOOD! I LOVE THIS BEAR!

His scars are glowing! MOTHERFUCKER GOT LAVA BLOOD! WHAT Y’ALL GOT?!!

Anyway, Copper gets whalloped by the bear and it looks like it’s all over. What? Chief can take a train to the nuts and walk it off but you get hit by a bear and suddenly you come over all weak-kneed? You suck, Copper. But then Tod arrives in the nick of time and distracts the bear, leading him up to the waterfall. The bear lunges and they both go over the falls.

This. But with animators. Animating. A fox and a bear.

This. But with animators. Animating. A fox and a bear.

Of course, waterfalls are morally selective. Lethal to villains, but totally harmless to heroes. So unfortunately, the bear is now dead. Rest in peace.

BEAR

He’s mauling the angels now.

Well, maybe not totally harmless to heroes. Tod washes up on the shore, battered and barely able to move. Copper finds him, and is followed by Amos. Amos takes aim at Tod, but Copper stands between them, refusing to let Amos shoot his friend. It’s a powerful moment, well done, and you will get no snark from me.

Amos, probably realising just what an asshat he’s been, finally gets the message and leaves Tod alone and he and Copper head home.

Back at the farm, the movie closes with Widow Tweed and Amos having mended their fences as she tends to his injured foot over his protestations. Chief notes that he’s making a lot of a fuss over a little injured foot and…yeah, I think he’s earned the right to say that.

The Dog Who Lived.

The Dog Who Lived.

The last shot is of Tod looking out over the farm, while the memory of his promise Copper that they’d be friends forever  echoes in his mind.

Number One.

Number One.

Scoring

Animation: 16/20

My God, such an improvement over The Rescuers. Clean movements, very little scratchiness, some of the most beautiful backgrounds we’ve seen since the Restoration ended and some very, very nice character animation.

The Leads: 15/20

Young Tod and Copper are genuinely adorable. And more time is given to developing the relationship of the two leads than we usually get.

The Villain: 04/20

Amos Slade would be boring if he wasn’t so poorly motivated, petty, completely unthreatening and all around pathetic.

Supporting Characters: 13/20

Dinky and Boomer are fun, but Pearl Bailey is wasted as Big Mama. A mixed bag all in all.

The Music: 05/20

These songs honestly would not feel out of place in a Care Bears movie. There, I said it.

FINAL SCORE: 53%

NEXT WEEK: The game’s afoot! Join the Unshaved Mouse as he reviews Basil the Great Mouse Detective…

Yeah. It's his ultimate revenge. He sent you to a universe where you could never fulfil your one true destiny, reviewing all the Disney movies.

Mouse…do you feel that?

What? That nameless terror crawling out of the very core of the earth itself, cutting through me like a winter’s frost? Yeah, what’s up with that?

It's time. The hour of your most terrible trial. The Disney movie that none dare speak of. The Black Cauldron.

It’s time. The hour of your most terrible trial.
The Disney movie that none dare speak of.
The Black Cauldron.

The Black Cauldron? I’ve never heard of it.

Really? You've never heard of the movie that none dare speak of? Well glory be!

Really? You’ve never heard of the movie that none dare speak of? Well glory be!

God, you’re an asshole. Walt, are you going to tell me what’s going on?

Those damn fools. After my death, my power slowly dwindled. The movies got worse and worse.

Those damn fools. After my death, my power slowly dwindled. The movies got worse and worse.

Well I don’t know, I think the overall quality may have gone down but there were still some very good films in between…

Shut up Mouse! The movies got worse, and in their desperation, my heirs turned to someone whose dark powers they hoped could replace my own. A being of fathomless evil. They turned to him...

Shut up Mouse! The movies got worse, and in their desperation, my heirs turned to someone whose dark powers they hoped could replace my own. A being of fathomless evil. They turned to him

Who…

chile-chaiten-volcano

So. You are the Unshaved Mouse.

So. You are the Unshaved Mouse.

Who…

What are you?

You do not need to know my name, any more than a lamb needs to know the name of the butcher that slits it's throat.  This is all you need know. You will review my movie. You shall proclaim me the greatest Disney villain of all. And then you shall die.

You do not need to know my name, any more than a lamb needs to know the name of the butcher that slits its throat. This is all you need know: You will review my movie. You shall proclaim me the greatest Disney villain of all. And then you shall die.

Shall we begin?

Shall we begin?

NEXT UPDATE: 21 March 2013

Neil Sharpson AKA The Unshaved Mouse, is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger living in Dublin. Pray for him.

43 comments

  1. Glad to see someone who agrees with me on the subject of Chief surviving. To me, it’s the worst decision ever made in a WDAS film. THe crux of the conflict just doesn’t make any goddamn sense if he is alive. Copper and Slade have basically sworn eternal vengeance over a broken leg which is ridiculous. Doesn’t help that I thought his ‘death’ scene is a good one and got utterly ruined.

    I have a feeling you are going to bash the hell out of The Black Cauldron which pains me as I like it quite a bit.

  2. Great post! Can’t wait to see what you do with “The Black Cauldron”.

    One thing I love about Amos Slade was that he was voiced by Jack Albertson, most famously known as Grandpa Joe from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”.

    Btw unshavedmouse, did you watch Doug Walker’s “Dreamworks-uary”? And if so, what did you think of it?

    1. I found myself agreeing with him a lot more than with the Disney movies (he doesn’t like Lion King . WTF??!). I absolutely love Kung Fu Panda. I thought the latest Nostalgia Critic was a real return to form.

      1. While I didn’t agree with Doug on The Lion King, I thought he was pretty fair and I could respect it. The same cannot be said for Confused Matthew;s review of The Lion King. If you didn’t like Doug’s review of that movie, you would LOATHE Confused Matthew’s.

      2. Hmmm…I haven’t seen Shark Tale so for least favourite I’d say Shrek 3. Favourite…I know Kung Fu Panda is better but I’m actually going to say Road to El Dorado. Love that film. Least favourite and favourite Disney movie? Well, that probably would everyone a lot of time but you’re going to have to wait to find that out.

  3. Christ on a unicycle, this movie. When my brother was little there were only two things he liked more: Thomas the Tank, and Cars. Although I liked Widow Tweed, and that ‘Beat it!’ badger, there are a few things about the movie that have always bothered me.
    1. I live in rural Australia where foxes are a HUGE menace to wildlife, so I found it pretty hard to like Tod, even though he was cute. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that he was murdering the birds’ friends and families offscreen.
    2. As you pointed out, Slade’s vengeance makes no logical sense. He’s going way out of his way, taking an enormous risk to himself and Copper and the whole damn forest by lighting that fire in the foxhole. The chances of finding Tod in the wild seem so low that Slade comes off as ridiculous for even trying. Also, it always seemed like sloppy work to me when Slade and Copper go into the reserve and Slade says something like, “No hunting, no fishing. Well, we’re not going to do that. We’re just going to catch ourselves an old fox.” I reckon the park rangers, and anyone else who understands English, would probably count ‘catching an old fox’ as hunting.
    3. The songs.
    4. Chief’s survival makes Copper look like a total dick for pursuing Tod, given all the ‘friends forever’ stuff that went on at the start.
    5. It just seems to go against the whole Disney vibe. The overall message came off to me as being “even if you can see past your differences, you can never be friends because that’s just how the world is.”
    Anyway. Looking forward to ‘The Black Cauldron’. I had it as a picture book as a kid but I put down my dislike of it to the way animated movies always lose something once taken out of context like that.

      1. Stay strong, Mouse. When it all gets too much, look at screenshots of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and hum ‘Bare Necessities’ until the pain goes away.

  4. I have read the Fox and the Hound novel (finally) and I pretty much liked it. You can always request it through your library if you really want to take a look at it.

  5. I really adore both this movie and The Black Cauldron – they are flawed, yes, but part of my childhood. How can you hate the songs here? “When You’re the Best of Friends” is such a jaunty little ditty – I’ve been humming it to myself every day since you put up the review for The Rescuers and I saw the preview for this one. And if “Goodbye may seem forever” doesn’t make you cry, you have no soul.

      1. I must be soulless too. The songs here are WRETCHED IMO. I wish they had cut “Goodbye May Seem Forever”; I think the parting between Tweed and Tod would have played out better in silence than with a half-hearted song. “Best of Friends” has a melody I can actually recall, but the lyrics are cloying. If I were to ever submit something of that quality, then I’d be accused of Hallmarking it.

  6. I’m a little surprised that you didn’t mention that Disney recycled at least 2 sound effects from Old Yeller, a live-action Disney film.

    1. Amos’s gunshot used in this film is identical to Travis Coates’s.

    2. When Chief chases Tod through the woods, his barking sounds exactly like Old Yeller’s when he is chasing the raccoons out of the cornfield.

    Just wanted to share that. It’s something I’ve always noticed as a kid.

      1. Oh! There’s another one; the growling and snarling that Copper uses when he is trying to dig Tod and Vixey out of their burrow and when he fights the bear is the same growling and snarling that Old Yeller use when he is fighting the hogs off his master, and finally, when he is battling the wolf.

  7. This movie has a special place in my heart on the virtue of being the first one I can remember seeing in theaters. It’s not the first one I actually saw (my parents started very young with me), but the first one I remember.

    I agree, that Chief survives is a cop out. But that Copper blames Tod for the incident totally makes sense. Because if he wouldn’t blame him, he would have to blame himself for not doing his job and letting Tod escape. Copper feels guilty and instead of dealing with the guilt he shuffles it off to Tod.

    What I like about Amos Slate as villain is that he is one of the few who actually changes his mind towards the end. Well, he barely is one in the first place, he is a hunter after all, it’s his job to kill…when he enters the “no hunting” area is the moment he really becomes a villain in my eyes.

    As Disney movies goes, this is certainly one of the better ones. The bear is naturally the most memorable part along with the scene when Tod is left in the wood (though I HATE the english version of it…the German Lyrics somehow work way better and sound less cheesy, plus, the dubbing his this slight chuckle when the widow remembers the better times, which really brings across what she is giving up.(and yes, I cry everytime when I see the scene)

  8. Fantastic review as usual Mouse. I agree with everything in this review. The movie was good until the end where Chief gets his leg broken. The whole scene and conflict does not make sense, and makes the film weaker instead of stronger. The side characters and songs are not very memorable, but other than that, this film is decent.

  9. For me, this film felt like a much weaker Bambi, without half the maturity or pretty visuals. I liked the part where Todd and Copper were kids, but once they grow up, we go into inane territory. Like, they seriously thought kids would be traumatized by Chief getting mowed down by a train? Because they totally didn’t survive the dark stuff that happened in other Disney films? For me, this is among the weakest films in Disney’s animated canon. Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH is a thousand times more coherent, beautiful, and compelling.

  10. You say Pearl Bailey’s voice was wasted – in fact, so were the actions she made while recording the songs. In the footage of her, she moved much more animatedly than the herky-jerky Big Mama Owl.

  11. I have a feeling it’s telling that most of the movies in this period are ones I’ve seen maybe twice, tops. The Renaissance is full of ones I’ve got near memorized, same with the scratchy era, and even the non-package 40s to 50s ones I don’t watch at least star faces I can recognize instantly. This one almost never appears in my conscious.

    That animator list, though. Wow, if this movie was practice for some of my favourites these guys worked on, maybe it deserves more of my respect. I mean, for all we know, if Burton hadn’t worked on this movie starring Tod, he wouldn’t have been inspired to make the movie starring Todd that I enjoy a whole lot more.

    That picture of the Coachman didn’t load, but I still knew it was the Coachman. I’ve become that attune to this blog. And if the book’s ending wasn’t fit for Disney, what exactly do you call Old Yeller?

    Ha ha, I can just see Tod’s comeback to Slade’s Red Rooster line. “Well, I was *trying* to do that until you interrupted me, thanks a lot!” Though I think Tweed’s was better.

    Classic Monty Python reference. Darn Amos must’ve somehow gotten his hands on Asteroth’s spell. …Wait, is Trusty’s owner ever shown? Maybe he’s related to Copper and that’s how he didn’t stay dead after that cart-crushing. Or maybe he did find an indestructible alien dog that crash-landed on earth. Worked well enough for Lilo, right?

    I bet Basil’s pretty ticked off at Tod for stealing his thunder with the end of that bear fight sequence. Can’t wait to see him chew him out for it next revie… Yeah, I thought something was missing. Ulp. Love how the presence of the King even affects the outro of this one. *shudders*

  12. So, I found your blog via TGWTG when I was looking for Doug’s Disneycember review of Pocahontas, and I loved your review, and I was delighted to find you have the same opinion of Hunchback as I do. I dabbled a bit in your reviews from the Renaissance Era and finally just said, “OK, I’m all in, time to start reading straight through, in order, from Snow White!” I always say, you know you’re addicted to a reviewer when you start watching/reading their reviews of movies you haven’t even seen! So, I’ve finally gotten all the way here in your reviews of the cannon (even though I’ve never actually watched The Fox and the Hound), and I have to say, your frustrations with the nonsensical character motivations in this movie are so eerily parallel to my frustrations with the central conflict & character reactions in Pocahontas that it’s downright scary!

    http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/blogs/latest/entry/how-do-you-solve-a-problem-like-pocahontas-part-2

  13. A while ago, I was talking with a fan of Fox and the Hound, and I brought up the point that it makes no sense for Chief to survive the train incident, nor that Copper is after Tod for it. This is what she has to say, and I think it makes sense.

    “no it doesn’t make sense for anyone to live after falling from that distance after getting hit by a train, of course. They just let him live to prevent backlash after the whole Bambi’s mom thing. Like “look, kids, the dog’s alive now shut up, oh and tell your parents to buy our stuff!”.

    I interpret Copper going after Tod because he finally disobeyed his Master to the point that it got someone he cared about hurt. So now he’s trying to be what he’s “supposed” to be to make up for it, which unfortunately means being the villain for a while. Amos never cared for Tod anyway, he’s a fox after all, so what happened with Chief is just one more reason to try to kill him. Foxes are tricky, they’re known to purposely lead predators astray, so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for Amos, an experienced hunter, to make the assumption that Tod did this on purpose somehow.”

  14. I have only watched this movie once, and I just couldn’t like it. I found it too depressing. Oh well, maybe I can give it a second chance some day in the future…

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