Powerful Friendship: The Fox and the Hound

             There were a lot of factors we considered before moving across the country to Alaska, positive and negative. We thought about the extreme climate difference, being far away from family, the increased expense. One thing I didn’t consider was that we were moving to the land of my two biggest fears: earthquakes and crabs.
            My terror of crabs may or may not come as a surprise to you. I love Sebastian, but real crabs terrify me. You can blame my Aunt Julie; I do. While we were on a beach at night, she told me a terrible story about a giant crab that came out of the ocean every night to eat little girls with long brown hair and green eyes (ahem, my precise description). I’m had nightmares and an intense fear of them ever since.
            I wasn’t afraid of earthquakes until I was in one during middle school. We were living in Indiana, not exactly known for its fault lines. It was early morning(ish), during the summer. We lived in a two-story house with a basement and I had a canopy bed. I awoke to the whole house shaking, and my bed moving across the carpeted floor. I immediately called my best friend (on her house phone, because when we were middle school age, kids of that age didn’t have cell phones). Her mom answered, and I told her what had happened. They lived just behind us, and she said they didn’t feel anything. “Maybe it was just a big truck,” she said. Then I called my dad, while turning on the news. I told him what had happened, and he said they had felt a little shake but figured it was just a big truck. That’s when the news returned from a commercial, saying we’d had an earthquake. My friend’s family didn’t feel it because their house didn’t have a basement.
            I’ve handled tornadoes and hurricanes, no problem. Severe thunderstorms? As long as there’s no injury, I love them. During either of those events, you can take action. You know where you’re ‘safe place’ in the house is for tornadoes, you have your radio, flashlights and bottled water there. When the siren sounds, you grab your pets, favorite childhood stuffed animal and run for the closet. With hurricanes, you know they’re coming. You can put sandbags out, or evacuate. But with earthquakes? You don’t have any warning, you have to gather your pets and get under a door frame or a table. It’s very difficult to do that when you have a neurotic, claustrophobic collie. Closets were hard enough, but under a table? He won’t hear of it.
            This morning I was shaken awake to my walls, windows and doors rattling. Nala and Layla, who had been asleep on either side of my legs (I call this trapped cuddling, because I’m trapped). Layla jumped up and stared at the doorway to the hallway. Nala sat up and looked around. James grabbed my shoulder and said, “Are you alright?!” Then Charlie sauntered in from the living room, yawned and walked to my side of the bed. Then he gave me a look that said, “Hey Mom, guess what? The couch just gave me massage!” He was totally calm. The dog who jumps up when someone walks within a five-foot radius of him is apparently totally cool with the GROUND MOVING with no warning. I will never understand him.
            I’d been putting off watching The Fox and the Hound because, quite frankly, it’s my cry movie. It’s the movie I put on when I’m sad for no reason and feel like a good cry will do me good. It’s hard to get past the heartbreaking scene of the widow releasing Todd, but the message of the film is beautiful and deep, which makes the cry-fest worth watching the movie.
            I didn’t really realize it until watching it this time how tragic the whole story really is. You become friends with someone you’re supposed to have an antagonistic relationship with, but then you both get in trouble for it. You risk it again, and again, and then a third party gets injured while trying to hurt you and your friend blames you. This causes the person you love most in the world, who raised you and kept you safe, to release you into an environment that you’ve never experienced. Just as you get settled and find a shot at happiness, that friend searches you out with the intent of harming you, and you defend him, risking your own life. Finally he sees the light and protects you from harm, yet both of you walk away without saying goodbye. It’s just so dang sad.
            It doesn’t help that Todd tries over and over to be the greatest best friend ever, and Copper responds with lukewarm reactions. It’s all fun and games until the master calls him home, and then he’s just gone. They’re separated for a winter, and suddenly Copper is a hunting dog and won’t even be friends with Todd?  That’s just not cool. Todd risked himself repeatedly just to be Copper’s friend, and Copper doesn’t want to be that anymore because he’s something else? I’m thoroughly disappointed with Copper, even though Kurt Russell is the voice actor for him.
            I do appreciate that it’s clear that Amos didn’t kill Todd’s mother—he was out buying Copper when the hunting party killed her. I’d forgotten how selfless she was, hiding Todd and then running towards the hunters to protect him. She sacrificed herself so he would live. I did find an alarming number of similarities between Fox and the Hound and Bambi, from the mother dying to the thunderstorm frightening the protagonist. The water color-esque backgrounds, water reflections, and changing seasons segment all link back to Bambi as well.
            The scene in which I always lose it is when the widow drops Todd off in the forest, watching him shrink and look at her confusingly in the rear view mirror. I held my dog Nala to me, crying into her velvety black fur. I can’t imagine having to let one of my dogs go, even for their own safety. They’re a part of my family, and I can’t imagine life without any of them. My worst nightmares are something terrible happening to them that I can’t stop. Part of my fear of earthquakes is the difficulty in training them to get under tables or in door frames when the ground shakes. When I lived in an area with tornadoes and wasn’t home, I worried a tornado would hit and they wouldn’t be in the safest room in the house. Perhaps I’m just a worrier, but I can’t help but be concerned for their safety.
            That’s why the release scene is so difficult for me. I don’t know how she could just drive away. It wasn’t even Todd’s fault; Chief is the one who didn’t lay down on the tracks like Amos said. He also shouldn’t have been chasing Todd in the first place. Just because something feels instinctual doesn’t mean it’s right.
            The deep bond of friendship and having to choose where your loyalties lie is a very grown-up concept to be explored in an animated film. The book upon which it is based is even more sad and heartbreaking than the film, because Todd and Copper are never friends, and both die. Todd dies from exhaustion from being chased by Copper, while Copper dies when his master shoots him, because he’s moving to a nursing home and can’t take him with him. I thought the movie was heartbreaking until I read the summary of the book. The book seemingly aimed to show a comparison between an industrialized world and increased promiscuity. I still prefer the movie, and don’t plan on ever reading such a pointlessly sad book.
Bravery– about time!
            The animation studio was going through quite a shift during the making of this film, from its 1977 beginning to its 1981 release. In 1979, Disney animator Don Bluth recruited other disgruntled Disney animators, supposedly discontent because Disney films weren’t as charming as they used to be, and started his own studio. He began many different ventures that ended in bankruptcy, but did succeed with some of his films. His departure left the remaining Disney animators in a bit of a lurch, as they were in the midst of producing two-feature length animated films. Both Fox and the Hound and Black Cauldron were completed, despite the sudden departure of several young animators.
            Although Fox and the Hound may have been delayed, it did well when it was released. It marked a lot of lasts for the Disney studio. It’s the last film that Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, two of Walt’s nine old men, worked on. It’s also the last film to have all the credits roll during the opening sequences, as opposed to our modern closing credits. Finally, I get a break! I much prefer closing credits to opening. Now Disney even does cutesy little things to get you to stay and watch the credits. I like watching the movie when I first put it in, not ten minutes later when all the names have drifted by.
            Like in Lady and the Tramp, a main character was spared from death due to fear of how traumatic it would be for children. Chief, who only breaks his leg in the final version, was originally killed by the train. Thankfully that got reduced to the leg breaking, as I don’t think I could ever watch either movie again if one of the dogs died. I watch Disney movies to escape from the sadness and reality of the world, not be reminded it’s there.
            Our three rambunctious pups are loving that it’s springtime in Alaska again. Of course, it’s May. But yesterday, we saw temperatures of 67 degrees, which is quite warm for here any time of year. No wildflowers have taken over yet, but dandelions are popping up. If you ever hate dandelions, move to Alaska for a year or two. Even those yellow weeds are a welcome sight after six months of cold and snow. Weeds representing hope and enemies becoming friends; I may have a connection there!
            It’s rather a good time to end my film project, as people prefer to spend as much time outdoors from May to September in Alaska as possible. When the sun is shining, no one wants to be inside—and the sun shines from four a.m. to midnight. I’ve only got three movies left, and I’m sad to see this project end. I’ve loved watching the Disney films and learning about Walt. Every now and then a bit of genius touches your life, and you’re forever changed because of it. Walt was truly a genius, and he’s touched my life and restored my hope through animated films more times than I can count. Since I’ve been a toddler, every time I’m sick, or sad, or just need a laugh, I put in a Disney animated feature and my day improves. That’s a powerful kind of hope, indeed.

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