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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.
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.
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.