Cinema: The New Generation Comes of Age

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THE FOX AND THE HOUND A Walt Disney Production

It begins with no music, just a whipsaw wind. Through the gauze of dusk forms a cluster of stars—no, a spider's web —the filigree work of predestination, trapping every animal who will pass through this forest. A fox sprints over the tall grass, fear in her eyes, an infant fox dangling from her clenched teeth. A gunshot sounds; a flock of birds rises from the grass. The fox is dead, her infant an orphan. Happy summer, boys and girls! This is the new Disney cartoon feature.

How curious: in a season when the brightest American film makers hope to provoke nothing more complex than a belly laugh or a body blow, the Disney organization has produced a movie that confronts the Dostoyevskian terrors of the heart. In tone, The Fox and the Hound is a return to primal Disney, to the glory days of the early features when the forces of evil and nature conspired to wrench strong new emotions out of toddlers and brooding concern from their parents. The Fox and the Hound lacks the craftsmanship and concise wit that brought a dozen or more characters to idiosyncratic life in the earlier films. The comic relief is perfunctory at best, the five songs are just barely hummable, and the picture takes a while to get started. But if there is no magic here, there is something almost as rare: a moral weight that gives Daniel P.

Mannix's tale of thwarted friendship a sweetly somber air.

Tod, the orphan cub, is taken in and raised by kindly Widow Tweed, whose farm occupies a patch of rural terrain somewhere in the American midcentury. Down the road a pace is the shack of Amos Slade, a grizzled old hunter who keeps a grizzled old hound dog named Chief and a cheerful hound pup, Copper.

The film tracks the entwined lives of Tod and Copper, first as frolicking youngsters, then as troubled adversaries all too aware of the genetic imperative. The title states the dilemma succinctly: Tod is a fox, and Copper a hound. One must be chased, caught and killed by the other. These are the roles they were born—and perhaps must die—to play, and no childhood bond can change them.

So The Fox and the Hound is a chase movie, an essay in dramatic movement comprising approximately 360,000 drawings and 110,000 painted eels, projected at 24 frames a second. As Tod and Copper learn more about themselves and each other while on the run, so the young Disney artists making their feature-film debut here realize the emotive and kinetic power of animation in the chase sequences. They are as finely shaped and paced as the desert drive in Raiders of the Lost Ark—and almost as violent. More important, they suggest a dimension of conflict within as well as between the antagonists. Will Tod escape not only the surly Chief but his old friend, now a deadly nemesis? Will Tod defend Slade, who has sworn to kill him, against the attack of a huge, ferocious bear? Will Tod and Copper ever be friends again?

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