The Journey of Natty Gann
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America is in the depths of the Great Depression. Families drift apart when faraway jobs beckon. In this masterful, atmospheric adventure, a courageous young girl (Meredith Salenger) confronts overwhelming odds when she embarks on a cross-country search for her father. During her extraordinary odyssey, she forms a close bond with two diverse traveling companions: a magnificent, protective wolf, and a hardened drifter (John Cusack). A brilliant, moving tapestry, woven of courage and perseverance.
A sleeper when released in 1985, The Journey of Natty Gann has since become an enduring family classic. While following a familiar Disney formula (the perilous adventures of a girl and her pet wolf), director Jeremy Paul Kagan adds something fresh at every turn, aided by a first-rate cast and beautifully scenic locations. Then-promising newcomer Meredith Salenger is perfect in the title role--a scrappy kid in Depression-era Chicago who travels cross-country to the Pacific Northwest, hoping to find her father (Ray Wise), who had been forced to leave her with an awful landlady while he took a logging job in Washington. Natty befriends the wolf and a fellow drifter (John Cusack, in an early role), and her journey is a memorable one, intense and realistic but still appropriate for kids. Although Salenger's subsequent film career has been modest (she later graduated cum laude from Harvard), Natty Gann remains a worthy claim to fame. --Jeff Shannon
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Natty's father (Ray Wise) finds the only work he can during the depression and reluctantly leaves Natty with someone who turns out to have no love or compassion in her heart for anyone but herself. He has gone to Washington to cut trees and leaves a letter promising to send for her, along with a locket containing a picture of her dead mother. But when no word arrives she runs away to find him, riding the rails. Ray Wise gives a fine performance as a loving father forced by the depression to leave the daughter he adores in order to support them both and survive.
The great beauty of the Pacific Nortwest is the backdrop for a beautifully filmed and realistic journey of a time and place long gone. It is not the rose-colored journey one might expect from a Disney film, however. The people and places are real and she is met with both kindness and cruelty, including a brief scene when she hitches a ride with a pervert who tries to molest her.
She meets Cusak early on in this film and later when their paths cross again they tramp together, feelings for each other beginning to form. Meanwhile, due to a chain of events which causes her father to believe Natty dead, he is devastated and takes a very dangerous job. A wolf becomes Natty's friend and they travel together, looking out for one another. Though this may sound corny, it is handled in a realistic and believable way.
When Cusak finds work in California she must continue on to find her father. But there are sweet moments when she writes to him and we hope that somewhere down the line they will be together. There are some truly touching scenes which make this memorable, and an excellent film for parents to enjoy with young adults. Sort of forgotten today, this is a really special film I highly recommend.
So, for the life of me, I can't understand why this film only exists in North America as a pan & scan copy. It's a poor transfer, and the screen ratio HURTS the film, which is full of many wide shots.
Do like I did, use the 'contact us' link at Disneystudioshelp dot com page and send them an email telling them you want a widescreen release, a blu-ray, a full restoration!
If enough like-minded people email them, maybe it'll start an avalanche. Who knows! It might not do any good, but at least you'll feel good letting them know this DVD is crap quality.