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Fox Hound And The Hound, The / The Fox And The Hound II (1981/2006) Print E-mail
Friday, 12 August 2011
ImageProbably Disney’s least beloved classic, “The Fox And The Hound” makes its Blu-ray debut.  The film went through numerous development challenges beginning in 1977.  Animators came and went, studio politics stood in the way, and so much more.  When the film finally made its debut in 1981, it just didn’t have the panache that early Disney films had.

The tale of “The Fox And The Hound” wants to be the story of “Bambi,” but tries to be different.  In fact, were the script development to be perfected, the film most likely would have been another “Bambi.”  Alas, the plot here is simple and straightforward, but lacks the Disney emotion.  The story and character development picks up a bit in the latter part of the film, but never reaches its heart-wrenching potential.  As with early Disney animations, “The Fox And The Hound” does take on darker thematic elements, such as death, hunting and betrayal.

Copper and Tod are a hound and fox, respectively.  While still a youngling, Tod’s mother is killed by a hunter, portrayed in a way that is identical to “Bambi.”  He is taken in by a local elderly woman and domesticated.  Meanwhile, Copper is brought home by Amos Slade, the next-door neighbor, to be raised as a hunting dog.

Copper and Tod strike up a friendship as pups.  Like a fox, Tod causes mischief and constantly begs for trouble from hunter Slade.  After just a short while, Slade packs up and takes his two dogs, Chief and Copper with him for the winter hunt.  In Disney fashion, the season change eventually reaching back to spring.  The animals of the forest emerge and Tod waits for Copper to return.  He is warned that the two are natural enemies, but Tod is reluctant to believe that Copper could become a hunting dog and enemy.

Sure enough, Copper returns a full, fledged hunting dog.  He is torn between his once friendship with Tod and doing what he has been trained to do.  When Chief catches wind of Tod a chase ensues and Chief gets hurt in an accident.  Amos and Copper vow to hunt and kill Tod.  For this reason, Tod’s caregiver takes him away to the animal preserve forest.  It is here that Tod will find his mate and discover who he was meant to be. While “The Fox And The Hound” isn’t perfect, it is still beloved by many early Disney enthusiasts.  And for no other reason that I can think of other than money, money, money, Disney put out a direct-to-video sequel in 2006.

“The Fox And The Hound II” is what is known as a midquel.  It takes place somewhere in the middle of the original film.  Smartly, Disney has bundled the midquel with the original on Blu-ray, as one would be hard pressed to ever purchase this film separately.  Aside from moving from hand drawn animation to digital, the midquel is flatter than a biscuit.

The story isn’t actually about Copper and Tod at all.  In fact, the story revolves mainly around The Singing Strays, a group of hounds that howl at the moon and long for a talent scout to discover them.  Cash and Dixie lead the group but clash at every turn.  When Dixie quits, Copper jumps in with an undiscovered talent.  It doesn’t take more than a moment for Copper to get swept up in potential stardom, leaving Tod to do the dishes, literally.

Tod’s jealousy and Dixie’s conniving ways get Copper kicked out of the band, and destroy the local fair.  The film finishes with some reconciliations and that’s that.  The film is pure fluff but children will likely gobble it up.  However, its 70-minute runtime will not give parents much a break.

This 2-movie collection Blu-ray does not get branded by Disney as part of their Diamond Collection.  And it is clear why.  Both films are housed on one Blu-ray disc, which isn’t really a bad thing considering the short runtimes of each film.  The video quality is not at the level of Disney, but considering the source tribulations, this is going to be the best that the original film looks without a complete restoration.

The original film is not all that it can be in terms of video quality.  However, it is still better than many.  However, it is easily the worst of the Disney animated classics.  Contrast levels are inconsistent and contribute to a murky image throughout the film.  Likewise, black levels are overbearing.  Colors are generally pleasant, but they are hindered by the contrast level.  Noise in the image is intact, providing some fine texture.  Details are not as good as when the animation is fully restored, but they are much improved over the standard DVD.  The softness that does appear in image sources back to the original print.  The most notable issue with this release is a vertical line that comes and goes from the right edge of the screen.  The good news is that most of you will not see this line.  The film is presented in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, and many TVs use over-scanning to expand the image.  So while you should see black bars down the sides of the image, by default you may have a full widescreen image.  Adjustments for this can be found in your TV’s menu.

The midquel has a much cleaner video transfer given it is 25 years more recent.  The digital animation looks horrible, but that it is a personal judgment.  Surprisingly, a reported $24 million was spent on this direct-to-video project.  Despite my personal tastes, the video transfer is clean and effortless.  There is no significant banding or blocking of any type.  Again, personally I don’t like to see animation where the characters never appear anchored to the foreground or background.  In terms of video transfer quality, this midquel is near perfect for what it is.

The original film receives 3.5 stars and the midquel receives 4.5 stars.

Bother films come with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track.  The surround mix for the original 1981 film will be unobtrusive for many listeners.  However, if you listen closely, the front and rear soundfields have a clear divide, leaving the listener split.  This is caused by the bleeding of the music from the front channels into the rear channels.  There is far to much correlation between the front and rear soundfields that the sound elements bounce front to rear.  This is not the fault of the transfer but in the original remix design.  As for the transfer, the dialogue is clear and anchored to the centered.  The dynamics are better than they have been in the past.  Noise and hiss has been dutiful removed without resulting in tons of artifacts.  The transfer sounds good, but the original sound mix design contains flaws.

The midquel has a much more engaging audio track.  Being of recent time, the audio was original designed in 5.1.  While there are some campy direct-to-video sound design moments, the end result is actually an immersive transfer.  Effects are constantly in the rears channels.  Dialogue moves around the speakers appropriately.  Music and ambience provides a great sense of envelopment in the rear soundfield.  Children will be drawn in by the immersive properties of this audio track.

The original film receives 3.5 stars and the midquel receives 4.5 stars.

The special features in this package are a bit of a head scratcher.  There are really no bonus materials on the Blu-ray disc aside from a few sneak peeks and “Unlikely Friends,” which is unbearable.  The other four bonus features are located on the two DVD discs also included in the package.  However, no PiP or audio commentary is included anywhere, so this isn’t so much an issue for me.  However, I’m sure many of you will feel cheated.

Note: There are two DVD discs in this packaged.  They are stacked together on the left side, appearing as one disc.

“The Fox And The Hound” and “The Fox And The Hound II” are not terrific Disney classics, the latter not one at all.  However, there are surely fans of the original film out there.  The video transfer of the original film is underwhelming, in desperate need of a full restoration.  The audio qualities of the two films are far superior in transfer nature to that of the video.  This set is really on for true fans of the collection.

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