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Animation / Vuk the Little Fox

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Vuk (a.k.a. The Little Fox) is a Hungarian animated film from 1981, produced by Pannonia Film Studio. It is based on a novel by Hungarian author István Fekete. The novel was also translated into German, but never in English. However, the Animated Adaptation was released with English dub. The film was originally released as a four-episode Mini Series on the Hungarian national television in 1981, but then got a cinematic release the same year. The (edited) English dub has been screened in the United States on Nickelodeon.

The story is about a young fox, whose family was killed by a human hunter, and is raised by his uncle. He learns to hunt, learns the necessary skills to survive in the forest, and gets revenge on the hunter who killed his family.

Vuk, along with Cat City, is often considered one of the most beloved classics of Hungarian animation.

In 2008 an All-CGI Cartoon sequel called Kis Vuk (released in English as A Fox's Tale) was created based on a novel written by István Fekete's son, in which none of the creators of the original cartoon were involved. The sequel is one of the most hated animated films in Hungary; see the YMMV page for more details.

This book and film provide examples of:

  • Adam and Eve Plot: Invoked by Karak, when he tells Vuk and Vixen that they "still have things to do. The human might've killed me, but the free foxes must not perish." Subverted in that Vuk and Vixen are far from being the last foxes in the forest.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: The two geese act like complete fools under alcoholic influence (although it is implied that they aren't particularly bright when they're sober, either).
  • All Animals Are Domesticated: Averted in the original, played straight in the sequel (for everybody's great dismay).
  • Animal Talk: There are two languages in the world: Human and Animal. Also at least some animals (dogs most prominently) understand Humans but despite talking to his animals (as people in real life do) the Hunter doesn't seem to understand them.
  • Animated Adaptation: The animated film is this to the book.
  • Anti-Hero: Vuk. He's a vicious predator who eats other sapient animals and steals from a human, but he only does these to survive, while he's also courageous and would do anything for his mentor Karak and his mate Vixen.
  • Artistic License – Ornithology: In the film, the bird fledgeling that the crow chases is coloured like a great tit. Its siblings are sitting in a nest on a branch, looking at the chase. However, great tits nest in cavities rather than on branches.
  • Babies Ever After: The film ends with Vuk and Vixen having their own litter.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Despite all the animals killed by the foxes, and by the hunter's guns, not one drop of blood is seen. Most egregious example is when the dogs and the hunter fell into the fox traps. However they're seen in thick bandages later.
  • Bookends: The movie begins with the litter of Vuk's parents. It ends with an almost identical scene with Vuk and Vixen having their own litter. The dialogue between Vuk and Vixen also mirrors the dialogue between Vuk's parents Kag and Iny, and the animation of the fox cubs is reused in the two scenes.
  • Bowdlerise: The film was released on VHS in North America twice. The first VHS is an uncut, accurate dub of the original, even mentioning on the back that the film contains words like "stupid" and "idiot" which would be good to discuss with very young children. The second VHS (which reads "NEW, EDITED VERSION" on the cover) has been cut by 15 minutes to remove any elements of violence and death. Mild insults were also dubbed over (for example, 'stupid' became 'silly'). This edited version was broadcast on Nickelodeon's "Special Delivery" block in the late 1980s.
  • Bumbling Henchmen Duo: The Hunter's two dogs try their best to catch Vuk and protect their master's livestock, but the fox regularly outsmarts and humiliates them.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: For the Hunter what he did to Vuk. For historical / cultural context: The Big Bad of this movie committed something completely mundane to provoke the anger of the hero as in Hungarian villages small woodland predators like foxes were (and are) considered vermin and it's common practice to hunt and kill them... and even considered a good thing to do if they start preying on people's livestock (chickens, geese etc.).
    • In conjunction: Vuk's father committed the very natural act of hunting for easy prey... which happened to be human property.
  • Butt-Monkey: Vahur (Barny in the english dub) the fox hound is regularly outsmarted and humiliated by Vuk, enraging his human master and becoming the laughing stock for the other dogs.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Foxes always refer to humans as "Simabőrű" ("Smooth-skins", referring to their hairless skin). They also have different words for each animal species (apart from their own): "Tás" for ducks, "Csusz" for lizards, "Szú" for hedgehogs, "Vahur" for dogs, etc. These serve both as names for the species as a whole, and individual members of the species (e.g. there is an individual dog named "Vahur", but Karak also says that the hunter's house is guarded by "vahurs").
    • It actually seems that either only foxes and dogs have personal names or they're the only ones bothering to tell. Vahur's case is interesting, because its either A Dog Named "Dog", but that unlikely because his owner calls him Vahur too (and humans don't speak animal), or for some reason he (or a similarly named dog) was the species namer.
    • Another exception from this rule is Marci the rooster. Foxes call roosters "Kurri", and Marci (being a human name) was probably given to this specific fowl by his owner.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Addressed in one of the most brutal ways in the history of children's cartoons: the protagonists are carnivores, and many animal characters, even those who have spoken lines, or even have their names given, are killed and eaten by them. This is treated as a part of life, and nobody makes a moral issue about it.
  • Catchphrase: Vuk is an acronym for "Vadászom. Utamból. Kotródj!" (I'm hunting. Out. Of. My way!), for which the old Vuk was named after. The Meaningful Name acronym part Lost in Translation in the english dub, where the Catchphrase became "If I can see it, I can catch it."
  • Cats Are Mean: Although Nyau the feral cat is a minor character, she's rather unfriendly to Vuk...although compared to other predators in this movie, she's downright civil to him.
  • Chasing a Butterfly: Vuk, as a young predator, tends to chase after everything he sees. He almost falls off the cliff when he attacks a lizard while his uncle is asleep.
  • Child Prodigy: Vuk is repeatedly compared to his grandfather, who "was the first among the foxes"
  • Composite Character: The vixen in the movie is an amalgamation of two characters from the book: Vuk's sister Iny (whom he rescues from the hunter's cage) and his future mate Csele.
  • Creepy Crows: A crow appears in the middle of the film, who swears revenge on Vuk after he tears out three of his tail feathers, revealing his hiding place to the hunter.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Invoked even in the theme song.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Vuk is named after his grandpa.
  • Death of a Child: Vuk's siblings are killed along with his parents.
  • Disneyfication: Despite the above mentioned Carnivore Confusion, a lot of the novel's brutality is toned down in the film, and much comedy is added.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Or at least easily outsmarted by foxes.
  • Dub Name Change: Vuk became Vic in the English dub, and his wife Vixen was renamed Foxy. The hunting dogs are renamed Barney and Fido in the dub as well.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The hunter is only ever called A Simabőrű (The Smoothskin, animal talk for human) or occasionally Vadász úr (Mr. Hunter).
  • The Faceless: All human characters, including the main antagonist, the hunter. However, we get a brief shot of a picture of the hunter, on which his face is visible.
  • Famous Ancestor: Vuk's grandfather, also named Vuk, was the "greatest of all foxes".
  • Feather Fingers: Some bird characters, like the crow or the geese, can make very humanlike gestures with their wings.
  • Film of the Book: Based on one of István Fekete's most well-known books, somewhat softening the violence but keeping the overall plot and the poetic language.
  • Generation Xerox: Vuk to his grandpa, and one of Vuk's cubs to him.
  • Gossipy Hens: Ironically, not the chickens, but the village dogs who gossip about Vahur and Fickó's bad luck with protecting the hunter's farm from Vuk multiple times. At one point Vahur starts a false rumor about another dog to cover up his own humiliation.
  • Green Aesop: István Fekete's general intended Aesop is "Respect nature, strive for balance, but know that nature can be cruel and killing/death is unavoidable." Not that idealistic or family friendly but still green.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Each and every character is right in this book/movie from his/her/its point of view. The Sympathetic P.O.V. makes it the Heroic tale of a fox fighting back but it could just as easily be told as the tragic tale of a human failing to protect his farm from the forces of nature, or a literal "Shaggy Dog" Story of some dogs trying to live their life and doing their duty just to become hapless victims caught in the middle of the conflict etc..
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Karak in the movie, jumped out from under the brushes to distract the hunters, and save Vuk and Vixen.
  • Humanlike Foot Anatomy: The foxes and the dogs are drawn with plantigrade hind legs (i.e. they walk on their soles instead of their toes).
  • Humans Are Bastards: Oh, so much. They are always present as a faceless threat to the animals.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Vahur and Fickó crosses over to this near the end of the movie.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The crow that swore vengeance on Vuk makes good on his word when he tries to alert the hunters to the collective foxes. When Vuk, Karak and Vixen ultimately escape, the hunters reward the crow for his treachery by hunting him instead.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: Sut had to bite down his tail, to escape from a fox trap.
  • Lost in Translation: Many of the jokes in the Hungarian version were missed in English. Also the Catchphrase, see above.
  • Mama Bear: Íny, Vuk's mother in the novel. She permanently disfigured one of the hounds sent in their burrow.
  • The Mentor: Vuk's uncle and wise mentor Karak, who teaches him valuable lessons about surviving in the wild. He also suffers Mentor Occupational Hazard.
  • Never Say "Die": The English dub is inconsistent with this. Vic (Vuk) makes reference to his parents, siblings and uncle being "taken away" but not "killed" (indeed, one watching the edited dub might assume his parents and siblings were simply captured). On the other hand, a dying Karak uses the "d" word while explaining to Vic and Foxy (Vixen) why he sacrificed himself.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Vahur and Fickó will never be able to clean themselves of the shame Vuk and Vixen put them into.
  • Only Sane Man: Vahur feels like he's the only sane dog, Surrounded by Idiots, when he and the dim-witted Fickó has to take care of the two drunk geese.
  • Papa Wolf: In the original novel, Kag, Vuk's father fought and killed one of the hounds the hunters sent in his burrow. It's implied in the film that there he put up a fight too, but since the same dog reappears unharmed later in the movie, it seems to have been a Curb-Stomp Battle in the dogs' favor.
  • Parental Substitute: Karak to Vuk.
  • Polyamory: The hens all refer to the rooster as their husband. It's a Running Gag that one of them calls him "my husband" only to be corrected by another hen that he's "our husband".
  • Predation Is Natural: The protagonist is a fox who hunts other animals. Although the prey animals are also portrayed as capable of emotions and speech, at no point is his predatory behavior seen as villainous.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: This trope is in full action. Since the story focuses on Vuk, he is treated as a good guy, despite killing a lot of (apparently sentient) animals for food, and systematically destroying a man's property. At the same time, the hunter is treated as the Big Bad, even though he just kills foxes to protect his livestock. Justified, since Vuk would not survive otherwise.
  • Recycled Animation: The animation of Vuk and his siblings at the beginning of the film is identical to Vuk and Vixen's kits at the end of the film. It's not primarily for budget-cutting purposes, but rather serves the narrative purpose of book-ending the film.
  • Reused Character Design: The two drunk geese look very similar to Matyi's Non-Human Sidekick in Dargay's earlier film, Lúdas Matyi.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Fox cubs.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Vuk systematically destroys the Hunter's life and livelihood (at the end he has no livestock apart from two badly injured dogs (so lost most if not all his wealth), is crippled and at least the movie implies that even his wife left him). Although he already has a reason to hate the Hunter for killing his parents and siblings, it's Karak's death that initiates the rampage.
    • Cycle of Revenge: Before that, the Hunter killed Vuk's family in revenge for his animals / defense of his farm.
  • Shifted to CGI: The sequel is in 3D with no signs of the original designs.
  • So Proud of You: Karak to Vuk, at one point.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Vahur/Barney again, while guarding the geese, with Fickó/Fido. The geese were drunk, and with Fickó he had the following exchange
    Vahur: Two hounds on the job. Dog No.1. -that's me- guards the goose on the right. Dog No.2...
    Fickó: Who's that?
    Vahur: My goodness, what a fool I have to work with?
  • Those Two Guys:
    • Vahur and Fickó, the fox hounds are always together, providing comic relief as they get thwarted by Vuk.
    • Also, the two geese, who have only one scene, but a very memorable and hilarious one.
  • Twinkle in the Eye: Vuk has a twinkle in both of his eyes when he spots his prey. Justified as he's a fox whose eyes glow in the dark.
  • Xenofiction: It's the world from the point of view of foxes. Almost Nature Documentary about foxes meets an inverted Animal Nemesis story.