12:00 AM – The Incredible Journey (1963)

I grew up in the 1990’s and like all kids from that era, I loved Disney’s Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. So you can imagine my surprise as I got older when I discovered that it was a remake of a 1960’s Disney animal film, The Incredible Journey. Like other films of this era, the animals don’t talk and have their thoughts revealed through a narrator (Once again, Rex Allen).

Two dogs, Bodget and Luath, and a cat named Tao are left in the care of a family friend far from home when the Hunter family takes a trip. Confused by their situation, the trio break free and face a dangerous journey back home that’s full of obstacles, including bears and a lynx cat.

While The Incredible Journey is a fine film, it has been completely eclipsed by the remake. The voices of Michael J. Fox, Sally Field, and Don Ameche brought so much humor and heart to the 1993 version that there’s little point in going back to revisit the original, except for some beautiful shots of the Canadian countryside.

Recommendation: Skip this one and watch Homeward Bound instead. It’s currently streaming on Hulu.

1:30 am – Jungle Cat (1960)

Jungle Cat was the 14th and final entry in the True-Life Adventures series, which began over a decade prior in 1948 and won eight Academy Awards for Walt Disney. However, the lasting effect of the series was immense and scenes from all of the films, including Jungle Cat, were recycled over and over through episodes of The Wonderful World of Disney and educational films that are still being shown in schools.

Of all the True-Life Adventures, Jungle Cat has the most in common with the modern Disneynature features because its narrative largely focuses on the same family of jaguars. Set in the jungles of South America, the felines are the true stars, while the camera often deviates to highlight many of their neighbors, including exotic birds, monkeys, and anteaters.

Some of the most amazing imagery ever captured in the True-Life Aventure series is on display in this film. It’s shocking to see the jaguars provoking large crocodiles and they prove their might when they actually kill one. But the moment that is hardest to forget is when they drag an anaconda out of a river, tearing apart the giant water predator just for fun.

Recommendation: Jungle Cat is one of the finest True-Life Adventure films and is one of the highlights of the evening.

2:45 am – Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar (1967)

Long before the term “cougar” was used to describe middle-aged women on the prowl, Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar made an entire generation of kids fall in love with these mountain cats. Filmed entirely on location in Canada, this Rex Allen narrated film is one of the better ones, in large part due to a likable human cast.

Charlie is an orphan cougar who is rescued by a man named Jess. While he grows up around people in his logging town, he also grows to miss the company of his own kind. When he reaches maturity, he returns to the wild. But without the skills he would have learned from his mother, he eventually needs Jess’ help in order to end his loneliness.

Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar features a lot of moments that would make modern animal rights activists cringe, but is still a great example of how Disney used animals to tell fantastic stories. It features some breathtaking cinematography and it’s easy to see why it was so fondly remembered. Fans of Disney’s animated classic, The Jungle Book, will be interested to know that Charlie was originally released to theaters on a double bill with that feature.

Recommendation: If you had to chose between Charlie, The Incredible Journey, or The Hound that Thought He was a Raccoon, I would choose Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar.

4:15 am – Napoleon and Samantha (1972)

Jodi Foster makes her feature film debut in this 1972 Disney animal movie. And while it’s not as fondly remembered as her later Disney work, such as Freaky Friday or Candleshoe, the young actress is already showing signs of her amazing abilities here. Kirk Douglas’ son, Michael Douglas, continues the Disney family tradition with a starring role in his only Disney work prior to Marvel’s Ant-Man (Kirk starred in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1954).

A boy named Napoleon lives with his grandfather, a former lion tamer who takes an elderly lion in shortly before passing away. Fearing that he will be placed in an orphanage, Napoleon runs away with his best friend, Samantha. But when the two get in more danger than they ever thought possible, they will have to seek the help of an out-of-work stranger in order to survive.

There’s a lot of heart in Napoleon and Samantha, with a few tears early on in the film. The story loses some traction midway through and a wanted-man subplot feels like it comes out of nowhere towards the end, but it’s a decent film from an era of mostly forgettable Disney pictures. MGM fans may recognize the lion who played Major as he is none other than Leo the lion from the opening to all MGM films from 1957 to the present.

Recommendation: If you’re a Jodi Foster fan, you should set your DVR for Napoleon and Samantha. All others aren’t missing much by skipping this.

That's a wrap on March's Treasures from the Disney Vault. This is not the first time that Leonard Maltin has chosen to showcase some of Disney's animal features, and there's certainly more films like these to warrant a revisit in the future. However, I do hope that the next Treasures from the Disney Vault shifts gears a little bit. Might a suggest an evening of turn-of-the-century programs like the Mickey Mouse short The Nifty Nineties and the features PollyannaSummer Magic and The Happiest Millionaire?