The beginning of this film starts off oddly quiet. Sufficiently quiet that I was fussing with my TV wondering why the sound wasn’t working. The pre-credits play and I’m not hearing anything. If I turned it up a ways, then I can hear some animal noises is that really…. OH CRAP! Sudden music! Turn it down!
Fox is running from hunter carrying its child. Gets shot and and it’s Bambi all over again.
So we have this poor orphaned fox that a nice owl and some birds decide to help get adopted. Pretty nice of them considering foxes eat birds. But they bring an old widow over and she adopts him. This sounds like a horrible idea to me given it’s a wild animal and has those pesky instinct things. Not that foxes can’t be domesticated. In fact they have been.
A Russian scientist, Dmitry Belyayev, conducted an experiment to try to recreate something akin to the domestication of the dog from wolves but with foxes. Every generation, only those that were the most tame were allowed to reproduce. As you’d expect from Darwinian evolution, tameness became a trait within the population. As it turned out, the initial experiment got Belyayev into quite a bit of trouble as holding to Darwinian evolution was a heresy in the USSR.
An agronomist named Trofim Lysenko had promised to triple crop yields with a technique known as vernalization which he claimed to have invented. In reality, the technique was decades old and nowhere near as effective as he claimed but it was sufficient to win him a great deal of respect from the government. His “accomplishments” then got picked up by the Soviet propaganda machines which created a feedback loop giving him even more prestige. However, Lysenko didn’t truly know what he was doing but still found himself leading the entire crop production for the nation. Scientists disagreeing with him were often fired, imprisoned, or even executed.
Fortunately for Belyayev, he got off light and only lost his position as head of the Department of Fur Animal Breeding at the Central Research Laboratory of Fur Breeding. However, in the 1950’s he resumed research under the pretense of studying physiology and in 1959 began the experiment in earnest. Although Belyayev passed away, the experiment is still ongoing and sells the domesticated foxes as pets, albeit for several thousand US dollars.
But the point is that pet foxes are something that take generations of very directed breeding to achieve. Taking one home is not the best idea.
Which is why we can’t be too upset with the widow’s crotchety neighbor who finds the fox (now named Tod) a nuisance. However, he’s just picked up a new puppy named Copper who he’s going to train to be a proper hunting dog with the help of his well seasoned dog Chief.
For some reason though, the neighbor keeps Chief on a chain but leaves Copper entirely free. He runs off and meets Tod. They play and become friends. But apparently too much freedom is too much and the neighbor puts Copper on a chain too. When Tod shows up to see why his buddy is missing, it causes a big to do culminating with Tod jumping into the widows truck while the neighbor shoots at him and it repeatedly thereby failing gun safety 101.
In a nice display of a woman being able to handle herself, the widow takes his gun and blows out the neighbor’s radiator with it but he still swears vengeance!
And so he promptly leaves with Chief to teach Copper how to hunt.
Next thing you know, they’re all growed up and home. Tod stops back to say hi, but Copper’s having none of it and tells him to get gone and there’s another big tussle culminating with Chief getting hit by a train which upsets Copper since he now finds Tod responsible for his mentor being injured and now he swears revenge too.
Knowing that Tod is in danger, the widow releases him in a nature preserve where hunting is not allowed, but crotchety old neighbor man don’t care about that. So he takes him and the dogs to go finish things. Meanwhile, Tod has met a pretty lady fox. They’re getting all swoony when trouble shows up. Another kerfuffle.
Surprise! It’s a bear!
Bear attacks the neighbor who steps in his own trap. Copper’s apparently only good for finding things. Not fighting them. But Tod saves them all. Hooray!
In the end, the old widow ends up patching the neighbor’s leg, laughing lovingly at him. Apparently the guy still gets the girl in this one even though he quite directly threatened her life.
Oh, and there was a whole sub-plot about the birds trying to eat a worm that ends up turning into a butterfly. I guess that’s supposed to be one of those metaphors about how people change. Even though the only character that really did change (other than the butterfly) was Copper who kind of ended up a jerk.
Great story Disney!