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20. 'The Fox and the Hound' (1981)
Best character: Big Mama Owl -- as the name suggests, the chief source of comfort and wisdom in this sometimes tough-minded film, beautifully voiced by Pearl Bailey.
Best movie moment: The climactic fight between hound dog Copper and a wild bear, with fox and erstwhile friend Tod coming to the rescue, before they both tumble down a waterfall. Marked by frightening aggression (all those teeth!) and genuine peril, It's one of the most tense and vividly realized set pieces in any Disney feature. and scared the life out of me as a three-year-old.
Why it's one of Disney's best: The four-year production of this unusual fable was tortuous one that brought many aesthetic and stylistic conflicts among the studio's animators to a head. It's not hard to see why: based on Daniel P. Mannix's downbeat and decidedly adult novel about pride and territorialism among animals, this felt like the studio's attempt to reconcile the modernism of the near-contemporary "Watership Down" with cosier anthropomorphic antics. The result is one of their most moving and adventurous films -- turning it into a story of problematic friendship across species lines took it far from the source, but into a realm of social allegory with huge moral and emotional stakes. I wept buckets as a child; I still do now.
- Guy Lodge