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Film: Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey is a 1993 film produced by Disney. It is live-action with voiceover narration and loosely based on an earlier film called The Incredible Journey, itself based on a 1960 book of the same name by Sheila Burnford. The film was the first one directed by Duwayne Dunham, who would go on to direct such films as Little Giants (1994) and Halloweentown (1998).

It follows a golden retriever (Shadow), an American bulldog (Chance), and a Himalayan cat (Sassy) as they trek through the wilderness of the American northwest to be reunited with their owners. Shadow was voiced by Don Ameche, Chance by Michael J. Fox, and Sassy by Sally Field. The film was a modest box office hit, earning $41,833,324 in the United States market, making it the 34th most successful film of its year.

There was a sequel released in 1996, Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco. Ameche had died back in 1993, and Ralph Waite replaced him in the role of Shadow, while Fox and Field returned to their previous roles. The film was less successful than its predecessor, earning $32,772,492 in the United States market and landing the 53rd spot on a list of the most successful films of the year.


This movie contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Of a sort. The cat in the novel is a short-haired Siamese, while the film's cat is a long-haired Himalayan.
  • Adult Fear: Numerous examples.
    • In the first film, we see a couple searching for their little girl in the woods.
    • In the second film, another couple watches their house burn while their young son is inside. Shadow saves him, but it was a close thing.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude
  • Ass Kicks You: Chance's encounter with a porcupine.
    He bit me with his butt!
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Chance.
  • Badass Grandpa: Shadow's an older dog, but that won't stop him from trekking across the wilderness to get his boy back.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Chance learns this the hard way by scaring a couple of bear cubs who were trying to steal his fish. Their mother is none too pleased with him.
  • Big Eater: Chance. A notable example is at the beginning of the film, where Chance manages to eat the entire wedding cake before the newlywed Seavers got a chance to cut it, much to the attendee's shock (and one old man's amusement). Chance later ends up regretting eating the cake when he is forced to vomit it out, apparently due to it disagreeing with his system.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Sassy. Just makes you love her more.
  • Call Back: Early in the film, Sassy shows Chance the perfect way to get food: act like you don't want it. He tries it himself while they're lost in the woods.
    Chance: How did Sassy do this? I don't want it, I don't want it, I don't want it- [a crayfish grabs his lip] AYE! AYE! AYE! I don't want it! I don't want it!
  • Calling Me a Logarithm: When Chance unintentionally gives Shadow a Eureka Moment.
    Shadow: Chance, you're a genius!
    Chance: I am not!... What's a genius?
  • Cats Are Mean: Averted. Sassy is snarky, but kind and heroic.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: Sassy lives up to her name.
  • Cats Are Superior: Sassy is quite arrogant and condescending to Chance, often talking about how cats are superior to dogs.
    Sassy: Cats rule and dogs drool!
  • Chekhov's Gun: As a prank in the beginning of the film, Chance pounces on a seesaw with Sassy on the lower end and catapults her onto the sandbox. Chance later does something very similar with a rock version, this time against a monstrous Mountain Lion that is very hungry, and in order to get rid of it for good.
    • When Kate is leaving, she writes a note, but after closing the barn door, it then focuses on the note landing on a nearby haystack, indicating that it would become important later on. That's because the male rancher who is housesitting finds an outdated penned note in its place and thus mistakeningly believed that she was taking Shadow, Chance, and Sassy to the vet. A scene only available on televised airings of the movie also has her discovering the note on the haystack while she was going to the barn with the male rancher to find out what was going on.
  • Comical Overreacting: Sassy after Chance pushes her off of the seesaw and into the sandbox.
    Sassy: He threw me in the big litter box! Call the vet now! I've never in my life! I think my fur is falling out! I'm losing my fur!
  • Composite Character: Used oddly with the dogs as compared to the book - the two characters essentially switch ages and breed types, with personality following breed type. Shadow is Luath's breed type (retriever) and stone-cold determined personality with Bodger's age, and Chance is Bodger's breed type (bully breed, though Bodger's an English bull terrier and Chance is an American bulldog) and goofy personality with Luath's age. In both versions, the younger dog gets the porcupine quills to the face and it's the older dog who almost seems like he hasn't made it home at the end.
  • Covers Always Lie: One cover shows both Shadow and Chance attempting to save Sassy from a river by pulling her onto a piece of timber. In the movie, only Shadow jumps in to try and save her, and no timber is involved.
  • Disney Death:
    • Sassy goes over a waterfall.
    • Shadow becoming trapped after falling through the floor of an old shack. Initially we're led to believe he doesn't make it home with Sassy and Chance, but he comes over the hill just as Peter turns away.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sassy, naturally.
  • Determinator: Shadow, as evidenced by this dialogue:
    [Kate leaves for the stock drive, locking the animals inside the fenced-off front yard before doing so]
    Shadow: Something is keeping Peter from coming to me, so I'm gonna go to him.
    Chance: You guys kill me! She locked the gate, remember?
    Shadow: I don't care about gates. I'm going home!
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Chance. Sassy is a big believer of this largely because of him.
    • Averted with Shadow.
  • The Door Slams You: Shadow "rescues" Chance from the pound this way by pouncing the fence right in front of the pound personnel.
  • Establishing Shot: When Shadow, Chance, and Sassy make it to the top of the first mountain, they (and the audience) get a good look at just what lies ahead for them.
  • Fat Bastard: Foote, the only staff member of the pound who genuinely antagonizes the animals.
  • Female Feline, Male Mutt: Sassy being the feline with Chance and Shadow being the dogs.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Friend to All Living Things: The birdwatcher who eventually rescues Sassy.
    • In a scene shown only on television, he plays the saxophone which the animals listen to.
  • Gender Flip: The character Sassy is based on is male in the original novel.
  • Heroic BSOD: Shadow and Chance, at the same time, after they fail to stop Sassy from plummeting over the waterfall, thinking she's dead.
  • Heroic Dog: Both Shadow and Chance have their moments, but a big subversion comes about halfway through the movie when Shadow fails to save Sassy when she falls in the river, not that he didn't do everything he could.
    • Sassy also gets a heroic cat moment when she engineers a plan to get everyone out of the animal shelter.
  • Hoist by Her Own Petard: Sassy refuses to cross the river where it was shallow, out of a stubborn desire to not get wet at all. The "bridge" she uses to cross the river breaks, sending her into the rapids... and over a waterfall.
  • The Homeward Journey
  • Hypocritical Humor: Sassy refused to sleep in the dirt.
    Chance: Well, look who's down in the dirt with the dogs. Morning, honey.
    [licks Sassy]
    Sassy: Ugh! Dog breath! Blah!
  • I Meant to Do That: Chance runs into a small tree after calling Sassy fat.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: Poor Sassy goes over one. She survives.
  • I Warned You: Peter was worried Shadow will think he'll abandon him. After hearing about the pets running away:
    Peter: (to his step-dad) I told you he'd think I abandoned him! But you made us come anyway!
  • I Will Find You: Shadow to Peter.
  • It's All My Fault: Shadow blames himself for Sassy's death, and he shouldn't made her come. Chance told him that she chose to come on her own. But Shadow tells him that he's responsible for her and Chance's safety as much as with Peter.
  • Mama Bear: A rather literal example: Chance scares away two bear cubs who were stealing his fish. He later regrets this decision and barely escape with his life when their mom arrives.
  • Meadow Run: Two adorable examples, one when Shadow and Chance reunite with Sassy and once when the pets reunite with their humans.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Subverted. It looks as though Shadow won't make it — he even gives Chance a "you have to go on without me" speech — but he gets home.
  • Missed Him by That Much: The trio escapes from the pound just as the family is pulling up to get them.
    • Shadow gets the feeling that they ought to turn back, but shrugs it off and keeps going.
    • They also cross a trail that cuts through the road the family is driving on, missing them by seconds.
  • Mood Whiplash: As Shadow, Chance, and Sassy run together after having gotten separated, Chance trips and yelps "Whoops, gopher hole!"
  • Mystery Meat: There's a short scene where Shadow and Chance discuss what they think hot dogs are made of. Chance doubts that they're made of dog, while Shadow doubts that they're even made of meat. Both agree that they taste the best when they fall in the dirt.
  • Mythology Gag: Before they take their stepdad's last name, Peter, Jamie, and Hope's last name is Burnford, same as the writer of the original book.
  • Off Screen Moment Of Awesome: We do not get to see how Shadow manages to get out and go home after falling and getting injured and trapped in in an old cavern.
  • Old Dog: Shadow.
  • The Other Rainforest: Their incredible journey takes them across the western United States, shot mostly in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Parental Bonus: As Chance is chewing on a shoe, he offers a piece to Sassy:
    "No thanks, I'm not into leather."
    • After Chance gets himself injured by a porcupine:
    Shadow: Oh, Chance, you really are a bulldog, aren't you?
    • "Whatever you do, don't lick yourself."
  • Pinching Pain: Chance gets pinched in the lip by a crawdad while fishing.
  • Pounds Are Animal Prisons: Played with; the animals see it as this, but the handlers really do have their best interests at heart.
    • Justified that Chance has been to one when he was a puppy. So he has a lot of "experience" in these types of places.
    • One handler (the one Sassy ridicules for his weight) shows subtle shades of not liking animals at all, which drives home the trope.
  • Poor Communication Gets Your Pets Lost: Probably unavoidable: the animals had no idea what was going on (more than once it's shown they don't understand human speech or some human actions, such as the phone to the ear) and so of course wouldn't understand why they'd been left in this strange place while their people drove off without them.
    • And Kate picks a quite unfortunate place to break off her note about the animals, so that when one of the papers goes astray, the first half implies she's taken them with her on a cattle drive. This results in a heavy delay in the search for them.
  • Pun: "I hate fast food."
    • "I can't believe it. Catcalls."
  • The Quincy Punk: A mohawked example is briefly shown getting booked in a San Francisco police station.
  • Recognizable By Sound:
    [Chance is heard barking from a distance]
    Hope: I know that bark! It is him!
  • Rousing Speech: Chance gives Shadow this to get him to climb out of a pit.
    • With a little bit of What the Hell, Hero? at the beginning.
      Chance: [to Shadow] You pushed me this far, now I'm pushing you the rest of the way! You know, back in the woods, even when things looked really bad, I always thought we'd make it because I thought you were too stubborn to quit! Well, you're not going to quit, not now, not when we're this close!
  • Scenery Porn: You get to see just how beautiful the Sierra Nevada Mountains are as the pets make their way home.
  • Shout-Out: When Chance flings the cougar (or, as he called it, "Arnold Schwarzakitty") into the air, he yells, "Hasta la vista, kitty!"
  • Smelly Skunk: Chance got inflicted with this trope during their journey home.
  • Team Dad: Shadow
  • That Poor Cat: Invoked when Kate accidentially stepped on Sassy's tail during the chaotic attempt at feeding Chance.
  • Shadow, Chance and Sassy Come Home
  • Undying Loyalty: Shadow to Peter.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Chance and Sassy. The two practically never stop bickering and complaining about each other, but when push comes to shove, they try as hard as anyone else to help the other out.

Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco

  • Badass Adorable: The younger dog in Riley's gang.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Parodied when Sassy wakes up next to the flea-ridden dog Stokey.
    Sassy: Aah! You're the ugliest thing I've ever seen!
    Stokey: Yeah, well, that's not what you said last night!
  • Big Damn Heroes: Chance gets one near the end.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Just like in the first movie, Chance pulls a prank on Sassy at the beginning of the movie (this time by trapping her in a play-cylinder and pushing it into garbage cans) before rushing off to Jamie's baseball game (and unintentionally ruining it). Chance later does something very similar near the end, this time against Ashcan and Pete to defeat them for good, and at a construction site.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Chance and Sassy frequently try to out-quip each other.
  • invoked Dude, Not Funny!:
    Riley: They send you to place called the lab. And that sounds bad.
    Sassy: What's so bad about a lab that takes dogs away?
    Shadow: Don't push it, Sassy.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The co-driver of the Blood Red Van, when Riley's gang, Shadow, and Sassy sit right in the path of the Blood Red Van after they captured Chance., was reluctant to run over them, despite his boss telling him to "show 'em who's boss!"
  • Fantastic Slur: Riley and his gang use the word "pet" to describe cats and dogs who have owners.
    Riley: The dude's a pet!
    Chance: What's that supposed to mean?
  • Flower Pot Drop: Sassy knocks a flower pot off of a shelf on top of one of the mean stray dogs.
  • Freudian Excuse: Riley was bought as a gift, then abandoned when the kid he was supposed to be a present for didn't want him. Needless to say, there's a reason he's bitter.
  • Heroic BSOD: Chance didn't take Delilah's I Did What I Had to Do speech well.
  • He Would Do The Same for Me: This exchange after the fire scene.
    Scratchy Dog: You're pretty brave for a — a pet.
    Riley: Brave, huh? Listen, you think a human would do that for you?
    Shadow: My boy Peter would.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Not only did a spoiled fat boy not want Riley (when he was a puppy), but his parents left him in the streets rather than take him back to the pet store they bought him from.
    • Did anyone else notice that Jamie, who was the sweetest, cutest little lump of "boy-and-his-dog" adorable ever in the first movie, just seems to hate Chance and everything about him in this one? He gets better, of course, but only after he thinks Chance has been hit by a semi.
    • Actually, it wasn't just Chance, he also hated the fact that he had to go to Canada with his family and miss baseball, and was also insulting of his family as well. However, after Chance got lost, he apparently regretted it.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Delilah, realizing they can't be together, tells Chance he doesn't belong, calls him a pet, and goes back to her boyfriend. She immediately regrets it after seeing Chance all heartbroken. Riley even said the same thing and tells her its not gonna work out because of their different upbringings, Delilah understands but it still doesn't make her feel any better. In the end, she doesn't care anymore and went back to Chance. And she's starting to see that not all humans are bad.
  • Insult Backfire:
    Sassy: Canines, the feline's still hungry!
    Shadow: We're all still hungry, Sassy.
    Chance: Yeah, you gotta live with it, babe. This is the city. Only the strong survive.
    Sassy: Well, then you're a goner.
    Shadow: Will you two quit bickering?
  • I Shall Taunt You: Chance insults Ashcan and Pete so he can lure them into a trap.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The Blood Red Van.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Chance got them lost, but he "justifies" it because he believed that their family was sending them to "the bad place".
    Chance: Oh, so this is my fault? I just saved us from the bad place!
    Sassy: No, you just got us lost again!
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Chance is understandably reluctant about making another long journey home.
    "You remember what happened before? Huge mountains, stinky skunks, porcupines — not me, pops!"
  • Older and Wiser: Chance... kind of. He also still has the scars from where he got nailed by a porcupine in the first movie.
    • He now knows that the "squirrel having a bad hair day" is a porcupine, and the smelly animal from the hollowed log is a skunk.
  • Parental Bonus:
    Sassy: Chance, you put the bull in bulldog.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    Dog catcher: Don't you see what's happening here? They're turning against us!
    Co-driver: What?
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The co-driver quits after running away from the dogs.
  • Secret Handshake:
    Chance:Show me the secret paw-shake.
    Delilah: Secret paw-shake? They didn't show any secret paw-shake.
    Chance: Ah, they didn't, huh? Good, cause there ain't one.
  • Shipper on Deck: Sledge accepts Delilah and Chance.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Chance and Delilah.
  • The Fake Cutie: Sassy acts less bratty around humans.


Hocus PocusFilms of the 1990sThe Hour Of The Pig

alternative title(s): Homeward Bound; Homeward Bound The Incredible Journey
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