A genre common in The Nineties
, although it originated many years prior to that. You know the type: A group of modern-day kids end up somewhere in the remote wilderness and have a thrilling Coming of Age Story
out there. Common plot elements include:
- The kids are siblings, most likely a Brother-Sister Team, with their ages ranging from about ten to fifteen or so. They have difficulty adapting to life in the wilderness and make pop culture references here and there. The girl tends to be the eldest.
- The villains are Evil Poachers. They come in two varieties: menacing killers and Home Alone-esque idiots (it was the '90s, after all).
- If the kids' parents show up, expect at least one of them to be a scientist studying the area.
- One or both of the parents are lost out in the wilderness. Obviously, they need to be rescued by inexperienced children.
- The difficulties of wilderness survival are Played for Drama once or twice, with a Hard To Light Fire or an anxious search for berries, then downplayed thereafter.
- The kids experience a series of death-defying (and typically improbable) stunts. Bonding ensues.
- The kids discover a cute animal and befriend it since All Animals Are Domesticated. The poachers want to kill it.
- The kids befriend a local native, who is Always Male. He shows them his ways, helps them survive and tells them about how the poachers are ruining the environment. The kids learn that Other Cultures Are Cool Too.
- If it's animated, the creatures hunted by the poachers will be Talking Animals, making the poachers even more unsympathetic.
- If the children are stranded in the remote wilderness or on an abandoned island, it can also be an example of a Robinsonade.
Expect the film to contain several wide shots of the wilderness
(which was probably filmed at least partially in British Columbia
) accompanied by "epic-sounding" music. The tagline will
contain phrases such as "magical adventure" and "unforgettable journey".
Films which very clearly fit into this genre:
- Walkabout (1971) may be the Trope Maker
- Cheetah (1989)
- The Rescuers Down Under (1990) although it should be mentioned that unlike many other examples, the boy protagonist of this movie actually lives in the Australian outback and therefore know his way around in the wilderness.
- A Far Off Place (1993)
- The Amazing Panda Adventure (1995) is your standard-issue one of these. That is, aside from a bizarre scene in which the young boy and girl (thankfully not siblings in this case) decide to get naked... well, not so much "decide" as "panic and strip while trying to get rid of the leeches", but still rather unexpected.
- Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog (1995): It's about a boy and his dog, and there's no poachers, but otherwise, yeah.
- Alaska (1996): Complete with Braids, Beads and Buckskins-wearing, Magical Native American mentor.
- True Heart (1997)
- Flight 29 Down
- The Wild Thornberrys (1998 - 2001) is basically the animated-series version of this genre, but for a slightly younger demographic.
- While we're on the subject of cartoons... The Rugrats Movie! The main cast gets lost in the woods and try to get home. And they're BABIES!
- The Coral Island is both a book, and much earlier than any of these (1857), but fits the basic description. It's what Lord of the Flies was intended as a Deconstruction of.
Films which contain some elements of this genre, but may not necessarily be part of it:
- Literary Example: Baby Island (Was this ever made into a movie?)
- Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977) The Peanuts gang has a white water race down a river in the wildnerness and encounter numerous perils and hazards along the way with Charlie Brown learning a little bit about leadership and getting some self respect-though it isn't much.
- The Land Before Time (1988) could almost be a complete example, execpt that the "kids" in this case are juvenile dinosaurs, and the villain in question is a predatory T-rex that is stalking them.
- The Gods Must Be Crazy II (1989)
- In a roundabout way Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) is sort of one, except the "wilderness" in a backyard... but the kids have been shrunk and a few other "classic" elements of this show up.
- Wild America (1997)
- Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) has some elements of this genre.
- Literary example: My Side of the Mountain, presents the most realistic wilderness epic (with a happy ending) possible. A very long time is spent recounting the vast amount of research the main character did to prepare for his stay in the woods.
- Literary semi-example: In the Sovereign Stone Trilogy, Children of Dunner who are called to become Dominion Lords are required to hunt through the wilderness to find Dunner's grave. One of the main characters went through it with his sister(though it is only described in passing).
- Literary example: the Stephanie Harrington series is about an adventurous girl, the daughter of two scientists, who is a colonist on the planet Sphinx. Something of a Reconstruction of the genre, as her first adventure in the wilderness results in her almost being killed, and the adults see to it that she is better supervised and receives the type of training that will allow her not to die a senseless death in the vast wilderness of Sphinx. The local natives also pull double-duty as the cute animals Stephanie must protect from the poachers who refuse to consider the 'cats as sentient beings.
- It's only partially in this genre because after the original short story (which formed the core of the first book when expanded upon later) really involves Stephanie having to survive on her own at all (with the help of Climbs Quickly, the Treecat she befriends). Most of the rest of the books take place at the Harrington homestead or in more metropolitan settings on Sphinx, such as Twin Forks.
- The Bones on Black Spruce Mountain by David Budbill. Yet another example of the author having shown his work by depicting all the research and knowledge necessary to live safely in the wilderness—and this is for a trip just a few short miles away from home, for less than a week! Despite the occasional hazards and dangers the boys in the book face (particularly when climbing the titular mountain and weathering a terrible storm), the book is generally not filled with death-defying escapes due to the knowledge they have gained from camping and their next-door neighbor who acts as The Mentor. There's also no befriending of cute animals or danger from poachers and such. The book does, however, have a very mature theme to it worthy of a Newbery Medal, with the meaning of friendship, family, loneliness, and despair being explored; and the boys, who are not related but one of which has been adopted by the other's parents, do bond even more as a result of the journey.
Films or books which deconstruct this trope:
- Lord of the Flies.
- Life of Pi is like Hatchet except it's set on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean and has a tiger. The protagonist's family is killed, and he resorts to acts of increasingly extreme savagery and brutality in order to survive.
- The Blue Lagoon
- Arguably, Christopher McCandless, as documented in the biography (and film) Into The Wild tried to pull this off in real life. He was a upper-class college graduate who gave away all of his money to charities, hitchhiked across America, then tried to live through the winter in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness. The subversion comes in when he was found dead the next spring, having accidentally poisoned or starved himself to death.