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Keith Coogan of "The Fox and the Hound" recalls his days at Disney Studios

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Keith Coogan of "The Fox and the Hound" recalls his days at Disney Studios

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If you watched TV during the late 1970s / early 1980s, you undoubtedly saw Keith Coogan at some time or another. As a child, Keith made appearances on virtually every big television program of the day. We're talking about one-hour dramas like "The Waltons," "Eight is Enough," "Knight Rider" and "CHiPS." Not to mention sitcoms like "Morky & Mindy" and "Laverne & Shirley."

"Aaron Spelling took a liking to me. So I also made appearances on a lot of his shows back then. 'Love Boat' and 'Fantasy Island,' " Coogan recalled. "On the episode of 'Fantasy Island' that I shot, I kind of lived every Disney fan's dream. In that I had my very own amusement park to run."

Why was Keith such a popular child performer back then? Maybe it was because of the lessons that he learned from his famous grandfather, Jackie Coogan. What with having made his screen debut in Charlie Chaplin's first feature-length film, "The Kid," Jackie was basically Hollywood's first child star.

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in "The Kid." Copyright
1921 First National. All rights reserved

"To be honest, my grandfather never really helped me prepare for any of the roles that I landed. He wouldn't run lines with me. He always insisted that that was my job. That - as a professional working actor - it was my responsibility to do my homework, so to speak. To show up for each & every job on time knowing my lines well in advance," Coogan continued. "He was also quite insistent that I have control over all of the money that I earned while acting. Which - given what happened to him back when he was a kid - was completely understandable."

So how then did Keith wind up as the voice of Young Tod on Walt Disney Animation Studios' 1981 release, "The Fox and the Hound" ? To be blunt, Coogan doesn't really recall much about the early aspects of this project.

"It was just like any other audition, really. I'd actually been in Disney's ADR booth before to loop dialogue for some of the TV shows that I'd performed in. So I went in, read the sides that they gave me, and then went on my next gig," Keith remembered. "It wasn't 'til a couple of weeks later that I found out that Disney had selected me to voice Young Tod."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But once Coogan found out that he had actually landed this role in "The Fox and the Hound," that's when he got excited.

"You've got to remember that this is my first part in a feature film. What's more, it's my first voiceover gig," Keith said. "So I have some very happy memories from the time that I worked on 'Fox and the Hound.' "

What's more, this animation voiceover gig was just the first of a half-dozen parts that Coogan would audition for & eventually land on Disney-produced projects. Take - for example - "Gun Shy." Which was basically the Studios' short-lived attempt at producing a TV series that was based on "The Apple Dumpling Gang" movies.

Copyright 1983 Walt Disney Productions. All rights reserved

"On that show, I wound up working with Barry Van Dyke. Who played Mr. Donovan, the gambler that Bill Bixby originally played in the first 'Apple Dumpling' movie," Keith stated. "Now what was kind of interesting about that was - previous to 'Gun Shy' - I had shot an episode of 'Super Train' with Barry's Dad, Dick Van Dyke. So it was kind of cool - what with me being a member of a show business family - to then get the chance to work with two members of another show business family."

But what Coogan mostly remembers about "Gun Shy" was that it was shot on the Disney backlot's Western street. Which gave this then-12-year-old all sorts of fun places to explore.

"That part of the Disney backlot was just amazing. It had a stagecoach office, a prison, even a two-story hotel," Keith explained. "Mind you, I didn't get to spend a whole lot of time on the backlot. Disney only shot six episodes total of 'Gun Shy.' And I was only in four of those. In the first two episodes of this TV series, my part was actually played by Adam Rich from 'Eight is Enough.' "

Film crew shooting on Western Street on Walt Disney Studios' Western Street.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Coogan then went on to work on some of the very first feature films that were produced at Walt Disney Studios after Michael Eisner became the big cheese at the Mouse House. Chief among these were "Adventures in Babysitting" and "Cheetah." Keith also appeared in one of DreamWorks SKG's first box office successes, "Toy Soldiers."

But as adulthood reared its ugly head, Coogan decided that it was high time that he broadened his horizons. Which is why Keith enrolled in Santa Monica College, where he majored in Drama and minored in English Literature. Later on, Coogan attended Los Angeles City College, where he then learned everything he could about Java Programming. Which really comes in handy these days, given the blogs that Keith runs.

As for acting ... Coogan still keeps a hand in. Most recently, he appeared on the Web series "Crafty" as well as the feature film, "Cats Dancing On Jupiter." And while he's out making the rounds at auditions, he sometimes run into his old "Fox and the Hound" co-star, Corey Feldman (who voiced Young Copper in this 1981 Walt Disney Productions release).

Copyright 1981 Walt Disney Productions, Inc.
All rights reserved

"I can't say that we're good, close friends. But given that we were both working as child actors in Hollywood around the same time and because of our link through 'The Fox and the Hound,' we talk whenever we see each other," Keith said. "And I can tell you that Corey is just as proud of this movie as I am. I mean, how often do you get to be a part of something that's as timeless as Disney's 'Cinderella' ?"

Which brings me to the most obvious question: What does Coogan actually think of "The Fox and the Hound" ?

"I think it holds up pretty well. What with what was going on at Disney Animation Studios at that time, with the new guard taking over for the old guard, it's a film that occupies an interesting place in Disney Company's history," Keith concluded. "More to the point, it's got a great third act with lots of action & dramatic twists.  And if you don't tear up at that scene in the finale where Adult Copper steps in front of Adult Tod in order to prevent Amos Slade from shooting the fox, you're a cyborg. That part of the movie gets to me every single time that I watch it. And I worked on the thing!"

Copyright 1981 Walt Disney Productions, Inc. All rights reserved

If you'd like to revisit this memorable moment from that 1981 Walt Disney Production, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment just released "The Fox and the Hound" and "The Fox and the Hound II" on Blu-ray and DVD.

Your thoughts?

The Fox and the Hound / The Fox and the Hound Two (Three-Disc 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray / DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging)

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  • I think Fox and the Hound II, as well as every II and III Disney straight to video sequel should have never been made.  They are a pox on society and a travesty.

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