Somewhat recently, a whole slew of older Disney movies have come available on Netflix. A lot of them are the older animated ones, and the combination live action/animated ones from the 70s and earlier. Think Aristocats, Pete’s Dragon, and some of the wholly live action ones like The Parent Trap.
There are movies you grow up loving, because you remember them as you age and, as they hold up to repeated viewings, you re-familiarize yourself with them every few years, and remember why you loved the film all over again. Some of it is nostalgia, and some of it is just that the movie stands up after all the years.
I had no memory of the Fox and the Hound other than a vague sense of unease, like I knew it was one that I’d seen but never been overly fond of, but I couldn’t have explained why. I had seen someone post a scene from it on Imgur.com a few days before and, as I had some time while I was home sick a few weeks ago, decided to check it out.
As I mentioned, there are movies you grow up loving. I am convinced that every generation views the newest generation’s entertainment as some how lesser than their own; sort of an outgrowth of the ‘kids these days!’ mentality, which is usually accompanied by a world-weary eyeroll. We’re all guilty of it; I know I myself have done it. And then some things are enjoyed multi-generationally, as parents and older siblings/family members introduce children to things they themselves grew up with. Sometimes there’s a bit of culture shock: a child (or anyone, to be honest) who grows up watching very modern entertainment might be deeply upset by something like Bambi, The Black Cauldron, or The Dark Crystal.
I am here to tell you that I cried through MOST of The Fox and the Hound, and it sure wasn’t the cold medicine. There were several times when I bawled out loud, to my sniffling boyfriend, ‘How is this a CHILDREN’S movie??!?!?!?’
I mention these not because I am condemning the movie, or think it is anything but fine filmmaking. But JESUS. If you saw it when you were about 5, haven’t seen it since, and think to yourself ‘Hey that’s a children’s movie! I will watch it with my small child!’ then perhaps you might want to watch it yourself first.
To wit, here are a few things that happen:
– In the first 5 minutes, Tod’s mother is killed after hiding him at the base of a fencepost. She laid the little bundle of her baby down, gave him a last look, and then ran off. My tear ducts immediately began production.
– Amos tries repeatedly to shoot Tod.
– A dog gets hit by a train. SERIOUSLY. He doesn’t die, but the dog falling down a rocky hillside to land in the water was pretty goddamn upsetting. Tissues were again deployed.
– The Widow Tweed drives Tod into a game preserve and leaves him there, to keep him safe. Her taking his collar off KILLED. ME.
– Amos and Copper go into the game preserve for the express purpose of hunting Tod. They leave traps all over the place for him, and watching him pad amongst the leaves, juuuuuuust missing the traps was nerve-wracking.
– Amos sets fire to the treestump where Tod and his mate, Vixey, live. They struggle to escape and are almost burned alive.
– Tod, Copper, and Amos all fight with a bear. The ensuing fight leaves Amos wounded and trapped by his own fox traps, and Copper knocked aside. Tod takes it upon himself to save Amos and Copper, doing his best to fight and distract the bear.
– Copper positioning himself between Amos and an exhausted and wounded Tod, refusing to allow his oldest friend to be harmed.
I certainly enjoyed the movie, I just wasn’t expecting to to punch me in the gut the way that it did. I totally underestimated it because I had filed it under ‘lesser Disney’ of the 70s, when they had run out of Princesses and were doing a lot of animation recycling. Basically, I forgot that it doesn’t matter what medium a good movie is in, if it really is a good movie.
I think the most interesting and perhaps the hardest lesson of all in the film is the fact that even though Tod saved Amos and he and Copper could become friends again, Tod remained in the forest with his mate. The wild was his place, and he was not a pet. Of course there are efforts to domesticate the fox, and plenty of anecdotes about them living with or near people, but they are still largely wild animals.
Long story short, The Fox and the Hound is a masterful piece about putting differences aside in the name of friendship. There are a few charming songs and cute moments, including a subplot with a caterpillar and some hungry birds. As always, you would be the best judge of what’s appropriate for your children (or yourself!).
Just, you know, keep some tissues handy!
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