Eleven-year-old Napoleon Wilson (Johnny Whitaker) lives with his grandfather (Will Geer). They adopt a lion named Major when by chance they meet an old clown who can't take him back to Europe. He has bad teeth and only drinks milk so they put Major in the chicken cage to look after him. When his grandfather dies of old age, Napoleon asks a young grad student named Danny (Michael Douglas) to help bury his grandfather. Uncertain about his future Napoleon runs off with the lion, a pet rooster, and his friend, Samantha (Jodie Foster), to try to find Danny, now a goat herder who lives in the mountains, and so Napoleon can avoid being sent to an orphanage. Along their way, the two children encounter many dangers. Napoleon nearly falls off a cliff, but Major manages to pull him up with a rope. They have to cross a river which Major does not like, being a cat who's afraid of water. The rooster is chased by a mountain lion but soon the tables are turned and the cougar is chased up a tree by Major. While Napoleon is out looking for wood he comes across an angry bear that chases him back to where Samantha is resting with Major. At first, Major is too tired and wants to sleep while Samantha desperately tries to wake him. But as soon as the lion hears the roar of the bear and stands up to challenge his opponent. The two beasts fight hard but the lion easily defeats the bear and chases him away. Eventually the children find Danny's cabin and he takes them in with the hope of convincing Napoleon that orphanages really aren't that bad. Danny leaves the kids with a man he recently met and attempts to find Samantha's family to notify them but he is arrested and accused of kidnapping the children. While at the police station, Danny notices a photo of the man he left the kids with, who happens to be a dangerous psychopath and escapes to rescue them. He steals a motorcycle and the police chase him all the way back to his cabin where they find and arrest the wanted man. When things are back to normal, Napoleon takes Major and tries to run away again to live with the Indians but Danny catches up. Danny explains that the Indians don't really live out in the wild anymore and that Napoleon should give foster care a try with a promise that Major could stay in the mountains and live with him. Napoleon agrees and they go back to Danny's cabin.
Major (whose full name is Major Leo McTavish) was a film veteran, having appeared in Tarzan movies with Mike Henry and the television series with Ron Ely, as well as being used as the MGM logo's Leo the Lion since 1957.
- Michael Douglas as Danny
- Will Geer as Grandpa
- Arch Johnson as Chief of Police
- Johnny Whitaker as Napoleon Wilson
- Jodie Foster as Samantha
- Henry Jones as Mr. Gutteridge
- Vito Scotti as Clown Dimetri
- John Crawford as Desk Sergeant
- Mary Wickes as Clara
- Ellen Corby as Gertrude
- Rex Holman as Mark
- Claude Johnson as Gary
- John Lupton as Pete
- James MacDonald as the Bear
- Directors: Bernard McEveety
- Writers: Stewart Raffill
- Producers: Stewart Raffill, Tom Leetch, Winston Hibler
- Rated: G (General Audience)
- DVD Release Date: July 6, 2004
- Run Time: 92 minutes
Foster was mauled by a substitute lion used in the movie, named Zambo, on the set and still has scars on her back and stomach. "I was walking ahead of him. He was on an invisible leash, some piano wire. He got sick of me being slow, picked me up and held me sideways and shook me like a doll." "I was in shock and thought it was an earthquake. I turned around and saw the entire crew running off in the other direction. The trainer then said, 'Drop it' and he opened his mouth and dropped me." The incident left her with a lifelong fear of cats.
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