The Incredible Journey (1963) – Fletcher Markle

Based on the novel by Sheila Burnford, Walt Disney brought The Incredible Journey to audiences in 1963, playing like one of their nature films with the occasional foray into the human characters, the tale follows a trio of household pets, Luath, Bodger, and Tao Cat as they head through the wilderness of Ontario, Canada to reach their home.

Luath is a retriever, Bodger is a bull terrier, and Tao Cat is a Siamese. There is great footage captured with the trio of animals that really bring the dramatic story, narrated by Rex Allen, to life. That being said, they should have simply made Bodger a female, because it’s very obvious she is.

The animals’ family has temporarily gone away on a working tour, so they allow the animals to stay with their good friend instead of boarding them while they’re away. Sure they are well looked after and loved, but man, they really want to get home. When an opportunity presents itself, off they go, setting off across the wilds to reach their beloved family.

The three animals genuinely seem to get along, and you buy the relationships that the narrative imposes on them. There’s also a number of things that had me gasping aloud and proclaiming this is a horrible movie, in no order, they are having the pets interact with a bear, which swats Bodger!, the poor cat gets carried away by a river (don’t worry, he’ll be ok), chased by a lynx, and poor Luath get a faceful of porcupine quills (they’re fake, but man that dog is not happy about them).

The film ends up being pretty captivating, and the animals just seem to be who the story says they are.

The humans involved happily only show up occasionally through the film, and give us a bit of a weepy ending. Who doesn’t want to see a boy and his dog reunited? There are silly moments with some of them, and those trying to locate them before the news has to be broken to the family that their animals are gone.

(I got that story when I was a young boy, and our beagle mix Scamp got too big for my parents to handle, so we left him in New Brunswick with family and I was eager to get back later in the year to see him, only to learn that he was gone. Had he run off, trying to find his way back? Got hit by a truck? I never found out…)

I was pleasantly surprised by this film, loved the natural feel of it, and got really upset to see the animals confronting dangers in their journey home. It really was incredible.

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