Way back in the ealry 1980’s, I still remember when my parents signed up for…… cable TV. Oh, the multitude of viewing options. Besides watching Godzilla and kung-fu films on the weekends on Fox and WPIX in the New York area, I used to watch a lot of Nickelodeon, MTV, and Disney. Disney had a lot of cartoons, shows, and movies, including The Journey of Natty Gann. Now, if I remember correctly, this particular film wasn’t shown on the Disney Channel. It came out in the theaters, but it was heavily promoted on the Disney network. It looked interesting enough, but my parents weren’t about to take us to see a movie in an actual movie theater. We never did that sort of thing.
Well, 27 years later, I finally got to see The Journey of Natty Gann. Can you believe it? Of course, I still haven’t seen E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, and a host of other 80’s films, but I’m working on it. So, what’s this film about? Um, instead of writing up a whole summary, I’m going to excerpt something I read on the IMDB entry:
Natty Gann (played by Meredith Salenger) is a twelve year old Depression era girl whose single-parent father leaves her behind in Chicago while he goes to Washington State to look for work in the timber industry. Natty runs away from the guardian she was left with to follow Dad. She befriends and is befriended by a wolf that has been abused in dog fights, hops a freight train west, and is presumed dead when her wallet is found after the train crashes. Dad gets bitter and endangers himself in his new job. Meanwhile Natty has a series of adventures and mis- adventures in various farmhouses, police stations, hobo camps, reform schools, and boxcars.
That’s basically it in a nutshell. It was interesting to see this slightly more realistic depiction of the Great Depression (people complaining nowadays should really stop their bitchin’, seriously.) I didn’t think this film was particularly all that. The acting was alright, but I never felt all that invested in the storyline. While the “wolf” in this film (played by “Jed” the dog”) was okay, but I didn’t quite buy him being wild and yet so friendly. I suppose that’s what makes this more of a children’s movie. However, it’s not quite a children’s movie with the adult-ish themes that come up.
BTW, the film is only available in DVD, and it’s a pretty horrible transfer. Apart from the stereo sound, it’s pan-and-scan (yet they filmed all this great Northwest / Canadian geography) and the film quality is very grainy. Bizarre. It gives the impression that this film isn’t much beloved by Disney, so they rushed out a DVD transfer.