The Fox and the Hound appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. In regard to the dimensions, it seems completely unclear whether or not 1.33:1 crops the original theatrical ratio or not. The DVD's case just states that it offers a "fullscreen 1.33:1” aspect ratio. Some Disney DVDs discuss whether how their ratios relate to the original theatrical dimensions, but we get no such help here.
IMDB indicates that the film's aspect ratio was 1.75:1. That may well be correct, but at this point, I don't think I'm going to find a definitive answer. As for the image itself, I didn't note any significant indications that the sides were ever cropped, but I must acknowledge that I thought the picture seemed a little more cramped than I'd like at times. It wasn't so claustrophobic that I can say for certain information was lost, but it seemed much more debatable than with many other Disney titles. For example, The Aristocats looks to offer a fullframe transfer that suffered from no cropping of the sides. Honestly, I wish Disney would just issue all their animated films in the theatrical dimensions and not create these stupid discussions.
In any case, Fox provides a fairly average picture. Sharpness usually looked crisp and detailed, but it could be rather soft and hazy on many occasions. This wasn’t true solely of wider shots, which are the normal culprits. A number of closer images also appear ill-defined. At least I noticed no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges, and edge enhancement seemed minimal. The print used was pretty clean. Grain could be a little heavy, but only a few minor examples of specks or marks appeared.
Colors tended to be muted but appear reasonably accurate and well-saturated. I thought the film’s natural palette probably should have been a bit brighter, though I felt the tones were more than acceptable. Black levels actually looked quite good - especially in the rich and deep fur of the bear at the end - and shadow detail seemed nicely opaque but not overly so. This “25th Anniversary” transfer improved on its DVD predecessor but it still suffered from some concerns.
The same can be said for Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Fox And The Hound. Admittedly, I didn't expect too much of a mix that's now 25 years old, but this one still seemed pretty bland. The soundfield didn’t give us a lot of material. Music showed general stereo imaging in the front, while effects were a minor factor most of the time. Some vague instances of elements cropped up from the front sides and rears, but you shouldn’t expect much action to engulf you. This was a soundscape that broadened matters in a moderate way at best.
Audio quality also seemed pretty unspectacular. Dialogue appeared clear and intelligible but usually came across as a little muted and flat. Effects were similarly bland and lack life, though they seem easily recognizable as what they're supposed to be. This mix offered bass response that could be too prominent at times. For instance, gunshots overemphasized the LFE channel, as did thunder. The music appeared smooth and listenable but didn't present much spark. Granted, the fact that the tunes were all pretty low-key doesn't help, but I still found the score and the songs to lack much dynamic range. This track wasn't bad for a film from 1981, but it does nothing to make it sound notably better than other movies from that era.
How did the audio of the 25th Anniversary DVD compare to that of the original 2000 release? I thought the new track opened up the spectrum a bit, and it also showed moderately stronger fidelity. The original mix was awfully bland, whereas this one seemed a little more engaging. Neither picture nor audio on the 25th Anniversary DVD blew away their 2000 counterparts, but decent improvements occurred.
Only a few extras round out the set. Sing-Along Songs lets us do the Karaoke thing for “The Best of Friends”. As expected, this shows the appropriate scene in the movie and runs the lyrics along with it. Yawn!
“Games and Activities” provides two elements. Forest Friendship Game offers one of Disney’s many tedious “hide and seek” games. These provide nothing more than inane exercises in random guessing. This game’s a waste of time.
We also get a DVD Storybook entitled “New Best Friends”. As with most efforts of this sort, you can read along with a narrator or do it all yourself. We get a tale about young Tod and Copper along with a new pal. It’s decent fun for the kiddies.
“Backstage Disney” presents two components. Passing the Baton runs six minutes, 38 seconds and mixes movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from animators Randy Cartwright, Glen Keane, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ron Clements, and John Musker. We learn how Fox acted as a transitional film as Disney moved from its older animators to a new breed. We hear how these changes worked and get a sense for the studio’s changes as well as some production notes about Fox. “Baton” is too short for my liking, as I’d prefer a more in-depth look at this fascinating subject. Nonetheless, we get a decent overview of the various issues.
A Fox and the Hound Art Gallery offers 14 pages of material. These include “Concept Art” by Mel Shaw (16 stills), “Storyboard Sketches” (5), “Behind the Scenes” photos (19), “Publicity” elements (4), “Merchandise” (2), “Attractions” at Disneyland (6). This isn’t a dynamic collection – we could use a lot more character art – but it features some nice elements.
Next come two Bonus Shorts. These include:
Lambert the Sheepish Lion (1952, directed by Jack Hannah): The Stork misdelivers a lion to a mother lamb. She raises him as her own despite complications. Sweet and charming, this one takes another often-used theme to good effect. 8/10.
Lend a Paw (1941, C. Geronimi): Pluto tries to deal with the presence of a kitten he inadvertently rescued from a river. It’s a cute offering that works fairly well. 7/10
A few ads open the DVD. We find promos for Cars, The Fox and the Hound II, Peter Pan, and Meet the Robinsons. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with trailers for Cinderella III: A Twist in Time, Enchanted Tales, Tinker Bell, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Air Buddies.
I genuinely like Disney animation, and I consider myself enough of a fan that I want to own each of their films on DVD. That is the only reason why The Fox and the Hound will remain in my collection. It's not a terrible movie but it seems to accurately represent the malaise felt at Disney for quite a few years; it's watchable and occasionally entertaining but generally bland and dull. The picture and sound quality of this DVD are decent but no better than that, and we can a mediocre set of extras. Add all that up and you have a DVD that's best left for Disney completists only.
Should those completists who already own the prior DVD release “upgrade” to this one? That’s a tough call. Yes, it improved in all areas, as we got better picture and sound plus a few new supplements. However, none of these domains showed tremendous growth, so the 25th Anniversary DVD didn’t turn into a real winner. If you really like Fox, double dip for the new one, but if it’s just on your shelf to complete your collection, you’ll likely be just as happy with the old one.