Movies of My Yesterdays: The Fox and the Hound

While as a Disney feature this eventually became part of our collection (I think it may not have arrived until after our late switch to VHS), I never really appreciated it much as a child. It’s slow, quiet, sad, and not all that much really happens. It’s one of my least-watched Disney movies for the amount of time I had access to it.

The Fox and the Hound. Walt Disney Pictures 1981.

When Widow Tweed finds a fox kit orphaned by a hunter, she takes him into her home, names him Tod, and raises him as a pet. The hunter on the property neighboring her dairy farm, Amos Slade, has just acquired a new puppy named Copper he intends to have his older dog Chief help train in hunting. Copper happens to meet Tod independently from his trainer and the pair instantly bond, unaware of the fact that Copper’s purpose in life is to catch foxes like Tod for his master. When Tod comes to visit Copper on Slade’s property, Chief wakes up and chases Tod, resulting in the upsetting of Slade’s chickens, and Slade tells Widow Tweed that he’ll kill the fox on sight if he ever trespasses again, then takes his dogs on an overwinter hunting trip. Warned by his owl mentor Big Mama that Copper will come back a hunting dog, Tod insists they’ll still be friends. But when Copper does come back, he tells Tod that things are different now and he can’t come around anymore, then Chief wakes up and chases Tod again, with Slade bringing Copper in pursuit. Copper gives Tod one chance to escape, but Chief finds Tod and gets into a nearly mortal accident trying to catch him. With Slade exploding at Widow Tweed about her fox nearly getting his dog killed, Tweed realizes she has to give Tod up and leave him at the game preserve, where he should be safe, though completely unprepared for his new life. But the law against hunting in the game preserve doesn’t deter a man and dog on a quest for revenge.

This story likely requires an adult’s understanding to fully appreciate. I just didn’t have the patience for it as a kid. The Boomer and Dinky chasing Squeaks parts seem to be the main appeasement to the younger audience, and even as a kid they felt extraneous because they were pretty much completely separate from the main plot and also there weren’t enough of them to sustain my interest. As an adult they’re almost jarringly out of place now. However, I’m in a much better place to ride along with the complicated emotions of the actual story.

I imagined that the book was a treasured children’s novel, so I looked it up, and it looks more literary than I pictured. The summary mentions that you see the human world in the background evolving over the years, and that sounds like some fascinating detail that I think I have to read now. Wikipedia notes that the movie was “heavily modified from the source material”, and it definitely does sound like that was more than just turning the death of Chief into a broken leg.

I also didn’t appreciate the art style. It’s not as rough-sketched as 101 Dalmations, not as vintage as the Snow White, and not as modern as the post-CAPS animation of movies like The Great Mouse Detective and the Disney Renaissance movies. But what it does have is possibly the peak of what that style of animation could do without a major shift in the supporting technology. I was particularly impressed by the effects animation in places.

These days, when we talk about “adult animation”, we tend to mean animated shows with humor inappropriate for children. But this is adult in that it almost completely fails to work for children because it’s not really talking to experiences children are ready to relate to. At least, it didn’t work with me as a child, but I’m much more prepared to pick up what it’s laying out now. And it still has more of a plot than Bambi.

Stargate

Stargate. Metro Goldwyn-Mayer 1994.

Before watching the movie:

I can probably count on one hand the number of episodes of Stargate: SG-1 I’ve seen, and still have room for the number of episodes of Stargate: Andromeda and Stargate Universe. I think there are two other series now? It was the Star franchise I cared least about.

So Stargate and the Stargates have always been a thing that the show has expected viewers to know about in everything I’ve seen. I’m interested in seeing how the concept is introduced for the very first time, from the very beginning.

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Miracle

Miracle. Walt Disney Pictures 2004.
Before watching the movie: I’ve heard many references to the “Miracle on Ice”, but only ever the broad strokes, that the US men’s hockey team in the 1980 winter olympics was not expected to beat the Soviet team, but they did. Those broad strokes leave out why anyone would still care about what happened then, and the closest I’ve seen to any explanation past the cold war rivalry has been “it’s an underdog story. The Russians were known for fielding dominant teams.” So here’s an underdog movie. Continue reading

Captain Ron

Captain Ron. Touchstone Pictures 1992.

Before watching the movie:

Full disclosure: I went and found this movie because it was mentioned on an episode My Brother, My Brother, and Me. I don’t recall what question led one of the brothers to bring up “when Martin Short inherited a boat and knew nothing about sailing in Captain Ron, he went out and found Kurt Russell”, but all I needed to hear to be interested was “Martin Short inherited a boat knowing nothing about sailing”.

I wasn’t entirely prepared for the personality clash set up here, but it’s not terribly surprising. Martin is a straight-laced man dumbfounded by Ron’s party animal ways. That’s a pretty standard setup, and those are types they slot into well.

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Big Trouble in Little China

Big Trouble in Little China. 20th Century Fox 1986.
Big Trouble in Little China. 20th Century Fox 1986.

Before watching the movie:

I’ve had this on my radar for a long time, but I never noticed the bad guy is a wizard until I read the description quite recently, even though now that I look there is clearly a wizard looming in the background on that poster.

A martial arts movie starring Kurt Russell isn’t terribly attractive to me, but bringing magic into the mix grabs my attention. I don’t have high hopes for it being respectful of Asian cultures, but I don’t think it will be a factor that ruins my enjoyment.

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Escape from New York

Escape From New York. Goldcrest Films International 1981.
Escape From New York. Goldcrest Films International 1981.

Before watching the movie:

I’ve been meaning to see this for a while now, but I kept finding the sequel and not this one. So New York is a prison/wasteland, and Kurt Russell has to get in and get out. That’s pretty much it. About fifteenish years in the future, basically the present but with slightly better tech and more ridiculous premises. Continue reading

The Best of Times

The Best of Times. Kings Road Entertainment 1986.

Before watching the movie:

This is an interesting approach to a nostalgic high school sports movie. Normally, such a movie would either actually have high school characters through whom the writers and audience can wax nostalgic, and the main stories I’ve seen where adult characters want to recapture their youth, either they just reconnect with old friends or time travel is involved. Here, a bunch of adults stage a rematch of The Big Game as adults, around fifteen years later.

They’d be in their late 20s/early 30s by my reckoning, so they should still be young enough to do it decently, but not as well as they used to. Before I did the numbers, I was expecting late 40s, old enough to be firmly in middle age and midlife crises. Not that I was a star athlete in high school, but I’m now realizing the ages I can expect to see are basically what’s coming up next for me. That’s a chilling thought to go into a comedy with.

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