The Incredible Journey
By Danny Brogan,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Classic Disney animal adventure about friendship, courage.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Friendship, teamwork, perseverance, and courage are strong themes. The relationship between the cat and dogs -- despite being different animals and breeds -- has positive messages of inclusiveness and empathy. The kindness of strangers. The love and bond between pets and their owners.
Positive Role Models
The three animals all look out for each other, helping each other when they are in need. The family who the animals belong to have plenty of love and affection for them. Most of the other humans they come into contact with are kind and generous. But some take a dislike to them and aggressively chase them away.
Violence & Scariness
Some animals are shot at with guns -- although none of them are hit, it is enough to scare the animals away. A duck hunt sees a duck being shot dead in the sky and a dog retrieve it. There are some aggressive scenes between animals. A cat hisses and claws at a bear when protecting a dog. The cat is later chased by a lynx before a gunshot scares the big cat away. Spoiler alert: A cat falls into a river and is washed away, presumably to its death -- it later emerges that it has survived. The animals constantly face the threat of starvation. In an effort to find some food, a cat catches a fish and a dog catches a rabbit -- the latter is seen lifeless between the dog's jaws. After trying to catch a porcupine, a dog ends up with the porcupine's spikes in its face, causing much distress.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Toward the end of the movie, a character is seen smoking a pipe and another a cigarette. Another character is seen rolling up a cigarette.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Incredible Journey is a heartwarming, 1963 Disney live-action movie -- based on Sheila Burnford's novel -- with positive messages around friendship and perseverance. It was later remade in 1993 as Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. The movie centers around a cat and two dogs as they travel across the Canadian wilderness in search of home. As opposed to the 1993 remake, the animals are non-speaking, but they do encounter humans along the way, and there is a touching narration throughout. There are some moments of peril that may trouble younger viewers -- with the trio facing the constant threat of starvation and other animals. Spoiler alert: In the movie's most distressing scene, Tao, a Siamese cat, is swept into a river and is presumed dead -- but he later emerges alive. Animals are shot at but never hit, apart from a duck hunting scene in which a duck is shot dead from the sky. Some aggression is seen between different animals including when a bear tries to attack Bodger, an English bull terrier, and a lynx chases Tao. Luath, a Labrador retriever, ends up with porcupine spikes in his face, causing him much distress. There is some smoking toward the end of the movie, befitting the time period.
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The Incredible Journey
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What's the Story?
THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY tells the remarkable story of three pets -- a cat and two dogs -- as they try to find their way home across the Canadian wilderness. While traveling the hundreds of miles, the trio encounter kind -- and not so kind -- strangers, a protective bear, an aggressive lynx, and a spiky porcupine. Can they defy the odds and make it back to the family that loves them?
Is It Any Good?
Made in 1963, this heartfelt Disney movie remains a joyous celebration of friendship and courage played through the eyes of a cat and two dogs. This is a movie that transports you to a more innocent time, championing the importance of friendship and looking out for one another. With CGI a decade away from first being seen in a movie, The Incredible Journey is impressively choreographed. The action among the animals often resembles a nature documentary rather than a family movie.
Comparisons will naturally be made to 1993's Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, which opted to give voices to its furry stars. But by relying on just the natural behavior of the animals, the original arguably sucks you in more than the remake. Some of the acting of the human characters is at times wooden and jars the natural flow of the animal's adventure. But Rex Allen's narration is a soothing accompaniment to a feel-good movie, as told through a Siamese cat, an English bull terrier, and a Labrador retriever.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the friendships depicted in The Incredible Journey. What examples can you give of Tao, Bodger, and Luath helping each other? The trio are all different species and breeds, with different personalities, but this doesn't impact their friendship. Why do you think that is? How do your relationships with your friends compare?
Courage, perseverance, and teamwork all play a huge part in the movie. Why are these such important character strengths?
Did any of the scenes upset you? If so, which ones?
Why are pets so important to us? What can they teach us about life?
How did this movie compare to the 1993 remake, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey? Which did you prefer and why?
- In theaters: November 20, 1963
- On DVD or streaming: January 13, 2015
- Cast: Émile Genest, John Drainie, Tommy Tweed
- Director: Fletcher Markle
- Studio: Buena Vista
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 80 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
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