Why Disney insists on mining its past successes and foisting off cheap sub-par direct-to-video sequels to its consumers I can’t guess.  That’s not entirely true, clearly they feel as though they can make money off of these tactics, but it’s my belief that the bad feelings they engender in the long term more than offset any short term gains.

Enter into Disney’s ever-expanding direct-to-DVD exploitations their latest, The Fox and the Hound 2.  This movie takes place when Tod and Copper are still young, thereby fitting it somewhere, uncomfortably, within the time span of the first film (before Copper goes off and becomes a good hunting dog).  The original seems to leave little room for this movie to actually take place, and consequently I will leave the original out of any further discussion of this “sequel.”  While the names of the characters may be the same as in The Fox and The Hound, the situations and events belie the possibility of them truly existing within the same universe.

The movie follows Tod and Copper as they run off to see the fair.  Once at the fair the stumble upon the Singin’ Strays, a group of dogs who will be performing.  The two lead Strays, Cash and Dixie (Patrick Swayze and Reba McEntire respectively) are at each others throat and Dixie storms off.  During the Singin’ Strays next performance, Copper begins to sing along and soon finds himself as part of the group.  Naturally, this strains the relationship between Tod and Copper as the former becomes a hanger-on to the latter’s new group of friends. 

Cash’s motivation throughout the whole movie is to have the Singin’ Strays perform their best in order to get a chance to make it big.  Predictably, at the fair there is a talent scout who can get the Strays an opportunity to sing at the Grand Ole Opry.  Meanwhile, Dixie keeps arguing with Cash and ends up hatching a plot to get herself back into the group and get Copper out.  In his upset Tod helps her and Copper gets booted from the group. 

Tod ends up feeling terrible about his actions and in the end, everyone is happy and forgiving.  The Singin’ Strays will even get the chance to perform at the Opry.

Because there is a musical act as a part of the film, it is a natural for this to end up as a musical, which it indeed is.  The songs are all country, and fun enough, but nothing to write home about. 

As for the visuals, there are moments during the movie when the animation looks wonderfully vibrant and well done.  However, there are also times when it looks less good, and backgrounds and stationary objects have a completely different look and feel than the animated characters do.

Extras on the DVD include a music video with Lucas Grabeel (of the exceedingly popular High School Musical) and a behind the scenes look at how the music was created, how it ties in with the animation, and how it drives the story.  There are also two interactive features available on the DVD, the first is “Mutt Mix Master” in which the viewer can remix the Singin’ Strays, telling the program different levels for the vocals and background instruments.  The other interactive feature is a playable demo of “Disney DVD GameWorld Dogs Edition” which is a digital trivia board game that has players (up to 4) answer questions on various Disney dogs.  Lastly there is a classic Goofy short entitled “Goofy and Wilbur.”

The film is nothing special, but will no doubt prove enjoyable enough for young children.  It definitely has the feel of a television episode however, and not a feature film.  If Disney had opted to not place this work as a sequel to The Fox and the Hound and had instead chosen to make the characters look different and give them different names it would be far more palatable.  Maybe I’m just cynical, but I’d bet that this wasn’t done simply because it wouldn’t sell anywhere near as many copies without that The Fox and the Hound name.