Greyfriars Bobby

image for Greyfriars Bobby

Short takes

Parental guidance under 6 (themes, some mildly scary scenes and possible lack of interest)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Greyfriars Bobby
  • a review of Greyfriars Bobby completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 2 September 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 6 Parental guidance recommended due to themes, some mildly scary scenes and possible lack of interest.
Children aged 6 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Greyfriars Bobby
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: The content is very mild in impact
Length: 87 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in 1865, this Disney version of Greyfriars Bobby is based on the story of a faithful Skye terrier who, it is said, sat on his master's grave for 14years until he died himself. Bobby didn't actually belong to Auld Jock (Alex Mackenzie), but he thought he did. When Jock returns to Edinburgh from Gauldbrae Farm he leaves Bobby behind with a local family – but Bobby walks over 8 miles to follow his master, eventually finding Jock collapsed on the street. Jock wakes up and takes Bobby to an old lodging house where, unfortunately, he dies of pneumonia.

Bobby follows the coffin to Greyfriars kirkyard, the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Church, and there he stays. He's looked after and fed by the kindly local publican, John Trail (Laurence Naismith), and the local children. Bobby gets into trouble, however, with the nightwatchman, James Brown (Donald Crisp), who repeatedly tries to move Bobby out as dogs are not permitted in the churchyard. However, Mrs Brown (Freda Jackson) takes pity on Bobby and finally persuades her husband to allow him to stay. John Trail and James Brown end up getting into an argument about who owns Bobby and who should pay for his licence. Eventually, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh (Andrew Cruickshank) gives Bobby a collar and keys to the city allowing him to roam freely. A statue to Bobby remains to this day.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Abandonment of a pet; Loyalty of animals.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Bobby jumps up on a man seated in a cafe, making him spill his soup. The man gets angry and throws Bobby down.
  • A man yells at Bobby and shakes his stick. A cat hisses at Bobby.
  • Jock is jostled by drunkards on the street.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • 19th century Edinburgh is quite grim. Children live in poverty and many men are homeless or sleeping rough.
  • Bobby runs through the streets of Edinburgh in the rain while thunder cracks.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Jock walks along the road unable to focus properly and is jostled by drunks. He falls down in the street, where Bobby finds him.
  • A funeral is seen where they bury Jock in a coffin.
  • Many children live in poverty and are hungry. John Trail helps them by giving them food and offers them jobs to earn some money.
  • Timmy is one of the children, who walks with crutches. He has polio and will never be able to walk properly. Mr Trail helps him also by paying for an education.
  • A policeman tries to take Bobby because he isn't a licensed dog.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Some drunkards are seen wandering on the streets.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • A policeman calls the children “young savages”.

In a nutshell

Greyfriars Bobby is a charming family Disney classic, loosely based on the story of Greyfriars Bobby. Filmed in 1961, it is now quite dated and the dialect may be difficult for young children to follow. Younger children may also lose interest fairly quickly, therefore, it is not recommended for those under 6 years of age. However, the film does hold some enduring charm and good messages for older children who are able to watch it through.

The main message from this movie is that dogs are extremely loyal and faithful pets.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Kindness and compassion.
  • Charity and helping those less fortunate.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • What life was like in the 19th century and how children had to work in those days.