Few companies throughout the history of the world have been so shameless in their pursuit of the almighty dollar as the Walt Disney Company. After breaking the mold in 1934, Disney has never shied away from creative marketing and release strategies to wring every last dollar out of its most beloved pieces of intellectual property. Each week, we’ll look at the House of Mouse’s various sequels, prequels, spin-offs and various misadventures relegated from the silver screen to the small screen. Is there any artistic merit to be found? Or was each film mostly conceived as an excuse to print more money? Join me as we search for the answers from the wonderful world of Di$ney.
Why does this exist?
Put your hand up if you recall the plot of Disney’s 1981 film The Fox and the Hound. Now put your hand down because you’re a damn liar. It’s true that kids that had seen the film when it was first released — or at home a few years later — were old enough to reproduce and might have had a fondness for the characters to show the film to their kids. But the studio had so many more notable and more memorable classics that eclipsed the tale about the talking dog and the talking fox. The film never even warranted an attraction at Walt Disney World.
It’s hard to argue that Disney’s entire home-release filmography has been anything but cash-motivated, but few films have felt as blatant as The Fox and the Hound 2. Without knowing anything about the original film, all you have to do is look at the sequel’s running time to discern the level of investment that Disney had in the project. Disney+ lists the film as 73 minutes but this includes a walloping 12 minutes of credits.
What’s going on here?
I don’t know how, but I was wholly unprepared for the number of films in this series that seem to take place between the events of the original film. This film is no exception. I get it; cuddly baby animals are more engaging for kids than their grown-up counterparts. And kids likely won’t question the continuity issues that arise when the sequel’s narrative is supposedly sandwiched at some point during their original journey. Thankfully, when you have an original property as disposable as The Fox and the Hound, audiences are less likely to pick through the film with a fine-toothed comb.
Yes, Tod the fox and Copper the basset hound are still puppies throughout The Fox and the Hound 2, despite growing to adult size by the end of the original film. Tod and Copper come across a traveling band of singing dogs. Copper wants to join the band because the only dog friend that he has is Chief, who is mean to him. Meanwhile Dixie, the band’s lead female singer, and Cash, the male lead singer, clash because a talent scout will be at their next show, and Copper replaces Dixie. Tod feels left out because the band takes up the majority of Copper’s time and begins to resent him. Since the original film brought the unlikely duo together, the sequel apparently must break them up.
Tod and Dixie commiserate over their shared dislike for the group and plot to sabotage their next performance. Wacky hijinks ensue, involving a runaway Ferris wheel, and of course the titular animals mend their ways and become friends again.
How much of the original is preserved?
You would think, with the advances in CGI technology and Disney’s continued reliance on it, that the film would have integrated those moments more organically. You would be wrong. Instead, The Fox and the Hound 2 seems to have used the majority of its budget in recruiting major celebrities to its voice cast. Patrick Swayze, Reba McEntire, and Jeff Foxworthy all play major roles. Could the film have skated by with voice performances from lesser celebrities? Sure, but then the film would have virtually nothing on which to sell itself.
These films we’ve covered were on a real hot streak lately, and part of that is surely due to the lack of original songs. I have to imagine that Disney was able to lure a country star like McEntire by letting her perform a song. The songs aren’t bad, and there are some fun visuals that harken back to the best of the Lion King sequels, so thankfully their inclusion doesn’t ruin the film.
Does this ruin the original film?
Because the original film was pretty flexible in its narrative, a sequel was essentially an open sandbox of potential. You want adorable talking animals? You got it. You want adorable talking animals voiced by minor celebrities who also sing? Congratulations, you’ve hit the jackpot. You want a uniquely compelling narrative that explores the boundaries of friendship that you’ve never seen before from Disney? Well, you can’t win ’em all.
- Next Time: Will Cinderella III: A Twist in Time be another entry in the already crowded sci-fi / time travel / princess genre?