Disney's mining of their vaults takes a new turn this month with this Blu-ray/DVD combo pack that includes both the original theatrical feature along with its direct-to-video sequel. They've tried a couple of these two-fer Blu-ray packages with theatrical releases in the past year, specifically Tron/Tron Legacy and Fantasia/Fantasia 2000, but to my knowledge this is the first Blu-ray combo of theatrical and direct-to-video content. It's not the last though, as The Lion King release on the horizon will have an option to purchase as a bundle with its two video sequels. That's great for hardcore fans who want every offshoot of particular properties, but just added expense for consumers looking for classic theatrical films only. Luckily, at least in the case of this property, the cheaply-produced sequel stands up well to the original film, making for an enjoyable and worthwhile total package.
After 30 years, the original film may move a bit slow for our ADHD generation, but it's still a heartwarming and bittersweet tale about growing up that has much to offer. The story focuses on Tod, a young orphan fox rescued and raised by a kindly farmer lady in the country. Quick trivia: the voice of the young fox is Corey Feldman, less than 10 years old at the time of production. Meanwhile, the farmer lady's cantankerous next-door neighbor, a surly hunter, brings home an adorable coonhound pup named Copper to raise as a hunting dog. Sure enough, the inquisitive Tod eventually stumbles across Copper's path, and the two youngsters become fast friends until inevitably parting ways as their true natures take hold in adolescence. When Tod is returned to the wild and Copper is put on the hunt, their old friendship is put to the test, leading to a moving denouement as they find their final reconciliation.
So how did Disney approach a sequel to a film that clearly had no more room to go? By making it a prequel instead. Well, rather, returning to the childhood of the two stars, after they met but before they parted ways. That means there's no dramatic friction in the film, just two pals who might as well have just been either a couple of foxes, hounds, or any other nondescript animal. This time around, the plot centers on Tod's wish to join "The Singin' Strays", a group of harmonizing dogs hoping to make it to the big time at the Grand Old Opry. That opens up lots of opportunity for country music and dancing animals, and the production team makes full use of it. Meanwhile, Copper is relegated to a roadie position with the group and begins to resent Tod's fun, leading him to sabotage the group's efforts until recognizing the error of his ways and tracking down an Opry scout. It's a pretty flighty tale that abandons the more naturalistic animal roles of the original, but as wholesome, toe-tapping entertainment for youngest viewers it's mostly pleasant and unobjectionable.
The original film has been digitally restored for Blu-ray release, and it looks and sounds great. Colors are vibrant and consistent. Line detail is so fine that it looks like brushwork at times, no imperfections are present. The soundtrack is upped to a full-bodied 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio format that makes the woodland scenes particularly immersive. The sequel was originally released just five years ago, so no restoration was needed but it still stacks up nicely next to the technical heights of the original. Both films are contained on one disc, which apparently left little room for bonus features since there's only one throwaway included that briefly explores unlikely friendships in the real animal world. Viewers looking for other additional content will need to refer to the two DVDs included in the combo pack (one for each movie), where there's a karaoke version of Pearl Bailey's "Best of Friends" song from the original film, a look at the passing of the torch from old-school Disney animators to the next generation during the film's production, along with a music video, and footage of the musical artists recording for the second film.
The Fox and the Hound 2-Movie Collection is available on 3-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, 2-disc DVD set, and digital download on August 9th, 2011.