I loved The Fox and the Hound as a kid. I remember watching it while my parents and their colleagues packed up the house, so we could move across town. The TV and VCR were among the last things packed. Besides the awesome action and moral, one of the reasons I liked it so much was Tod’s human, Widow Tweed.
She was voiced by the talented actress, Jeannette Nolan– who had been in film for nearly 40 years at this point. She played tough frontier and mountain women, too– most notably in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and The Twilight Zone episode “Jess-Belle.” She could do sympathetic, unsympathetic… you name it. She brings a ton of energy, style, and brass to this animated woman.
It’s believable that this dairy farmer would take in an orphaned fox kit. When she interacts with Tod and names him the audience gets a sense of how lonely she was. She can’t stay mad at him when he accidentally causes a ruckus in the barn.
But she has a ton of grit. When her neighbor, Amos, starts shooting at Tod (and by extent Tweed– the fox was in the back of her truck), she slams on the brakes and stands in the path of the oncoming car! She doesn’t back down– whether from his yelling, the older dog Chief’s snarling, the fact that she might very easily get hit. She puts up with Amos’ sexism (he only ever calls her “woman”) and kicks him out of her house when he barges into her house looking for Tod after Chief gets a broken leg.
Realizing that Tod can’t be safe living next door to Amos and his dogs, she then makes the difficult, heartbreaking decision to release him on the game preserve. She has a lovely monologue during the drive that expresses perfectly how she feels, without becoming maudlin. But she never wavers when she has to drive away. Tod’s collar and leash comes off. She hugs him and goes away. Interestingly the movie never has the fox express any feelings of betrayal or abandonment at being left in the wild– maybe he realized, too, that this was the best option.
Tweed makes a final appearance in the movie’s closing scene. Amos, fresh from his ill-fated attempt to kill Tod on the game preserve, has had to swallow his pride and ask her for help with the foot that was caught in one of his own steel-jaw traps. And she helps him, though she’s not above having some fun at his expense at the same time.
The result is a tough, good old woman. We don’t see many characters like her nowadays. Actually, they were thin enough on the ground in 1981. Clearly something is wrong with this picture.