"Goodbye" may seem forever. "Farewell" is like the end. But in my heart is a memory, and there you'll always be.
- If there's one thing Disney is notorious for, it's for having no shortage of sad moments in their movies, but even then, The Fox and the Hound is easily one of their most tearjerking movies yet.
- The novel it's loosely based on is no walk in the park, either.
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- The gassing of Tod's first litter, and the mother's reaction:
The vixen was there. She had dug up the bodies of the cubs and laid them out in a row. Their coats were damp where she had licked and licked, trying to restore them to life. Beside the biggest pup was a fresh-killed chicken she had gotten from the barnyard, hoping the odor of his favorite quarry might bring him back to consciousness. All night she worked over them, and it was not until morning and the blowflies came that she would admit the tragic truth. Even then, for days afterward she returned to the den, hoping upon hope that a miracle had happened and that the cubs would once again run out to greet her.
- Tod's first mate's horrible death in a leghold trap.
- The ending. The ending. Tod - the Great Fox - is finally dead, killed in a last hunt by the hunter and Copper, the last of his hunting dogs. Copper's master has a surge of popularity, but soon after has to go to a nursing home where pets aren't allowed. The master is forced to shoot Copper to avoid abandoning him.
...and in this miserable, fouled land there was no longer any place for fox, hound, or human being.
The Disney movie
- The beginning when Tod's mother, running away from a hunter with the young kit in her mouth, sets Tod down by the fence and then gives him a couple licks — as if saying good-bye — before running for the hill and getting shot as soon as she's out of view. It's even worse when Big Mama has her Oh, Crap! moment.
- The song "The Best Of Friends".
- When Amos takes Chief and Copper on a hunting trip, Copper's initially excited and raring to go. But when he looks out from the car he can see Tod staring at him nearby and starts howling mournfully. Made even more tragic by the fact that it's the last time they see each other while they're young before Copper grows up to become a highly trained hunting dog.
- The scene where Tod reunites with Copper, after the latter had spent the winter evolving into a prime hunting dog.
- After noting how big they've both grown, Copper says that Tod shouldn't have come.
Copper: It's great to see you again, Tod... but you shouldn't be over here. You're gonna get us both into a lot of trouble.
Tod: Hey, I just wanted to see you. We're...we're still friends, aren't we?
Copper: Tod... those days are over. I'm a hunting dog now.
- Upon hearing this, Tod recoils in disbelief... then hangs his head and closes his eyes, crushed by the finality of Copper's statement. The crestfallen look on his face is just... heartbreaking.
- Chief's Disney Death. Even if you knew that Disney couldn't bring themselves to kill him off, it's still gut wrenching.
- Both Amos and Copper angrily vow to take down Tod for this. It would count as a Kick the Dog for them, but they are so visibly gut wrenched by what's happened to Chief. When confronted by an emotional Amos, Tweed knows she can't protect Tod anymore. Amos loves his dogs.
- The "Goodbye May Seem Forever" sequence in which Mrs. Tweed abandons Tod in the wild out of fear that Slade will eventually kill him (he even threatens her with "You can't keep him locked up forever!").
- The abandonment scene is made even worse by the fact that Tod has no concept of why she is doing it, is initially delighted to be out for a car ride on a sunny day, and even after she removes his collar, tries to follow her. And in the song, she even speaks about how she really doesn't want to do this.
- She looks back one last time with a tear in her eye with the most heartbroken expression on her face, too.
- Worse yet is that, if you think about it, it's a Call-Back to the beginning of the film when Tod's real mother pretty much does the same thing at the cost of her own life. It's really a slowed down, drawn out sequence meant to show all of the likely emotions (sadness, loss, anguish) that were running through Tod's mother's mind... on top of the knowledge that she was about to die.
- Keep in mind that this is all the day after Tod's best friend disowns him and swears revenge against him for an accident that wasn't his fault. From Tod's point of view, almost everyone he loves is suddenly rejecting him.
- The fact that Tod has no survival skills to speak of, making this a very poor and cruel decision, and Tweed may or may not be aware of this. Both possibilities are heartbreaking.
- The fact that we do not see the two of them reunite in any manner by the end of the story just makes all of the above that much harder to bear, with Tod seemingly accepting that he cannot return to his former life with his loving owner.
- Tod's disastrous first days in the forest. His only friend at this point is a porcupine who offers him shelter from the rain. Also, the den he tries to enter beforehand turns out to be the home of a cantankerous Bad Ol' Badger, who's upset with Tod for entering the den (and inadvertently destroying it the next day) since he's protecting it the best he can from trespassers. The fact that the badger shows No Sympathy for Tod being new to the forest doesn't help.
- Tod and Copper face off in the climactic sequence, snarling with fangs bared and ready for battle. As much as it's a thrilling scene, it's also heartbreaking that the two childhood friends have come to this.
- The part where Copper defends a barely conscious Tod after his fall. From his own master no less. If that didn't push you to tears, the small whimper (complete with a Puppy-Dog Eyes variant) he gives to Amos will.
- And just before that, when Copper finds Tod in the water. Tod's been on the run from Amos Slade and Copper. He's fought Copper and wounded him several times. He dove through flames. He battled a bear that weighed a hundred times what he did, and won, just to save the friend who was trying to kill him. When he sees Copper, the look on his face is a very sad acceptance of the fact that he's completely out of fight and at Copper's mercy.
- Also the fact that Copper is amazed that the very fox that he tried to kill saved him and Amos Slade from the bear, and now feels genuinely remorseful for what he's done to him.
- The wordless, slow smiles they give one another before beginning to walk off in separate directions...and then, when they pause to look back at each other, one last time.
- The Meaningful Echo of one of the earlier lines is played again at the very end:
Tod: Copper? You're my very best friend.
Copper: And you're mine too Tod.
Tod: And we'll always be friends, forever, won't we?
Copper: Yeah, forever!
- Imagine your friendship being torn apart because society says it's not natural. That's the hard tragedy of Tod and Copper's arc.
- When Copper steps into protect Amos from the bear, Amos tearfully lets out Copper's name. His dog did save his life but he knows that Copper standing up to a bear will get him killed. He's the Big Bad of the movie but you can feel for him in this scene since the only thing on his mind is saving himself and his dog from the bear.