The 1981 film The Fox & the Hound turned out to be the last animated movie Ollie Johnston worked on. After decades of superb character animation Ollie's work still had that magic touch. But as he told me, drawing didn't came as easily to him as it used to years earlier. It actually started in the previous film The Rescuers. He remembered working on a specific scene with the character of Penny, the orphan girl. His drawing hand was starting to give him a little trouble, from time to time it wasn't holding steady. "I just couldn't animate the scene, the fielding and size felt wrong, so I gave it to someone else to do."
It is hard to imagine how Ollie, under those circumstances, was still able to produce top notch character animation. These heartfelt key drawings of Copper still show his strong personal engagement with the character.
Images Heritage Auctions.
More drawings from The Fox & the Hound by Ollie as well as Frank Thomas here: