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1 review, 18 user ratings

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Journey of Natty Gann, The
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by Scott Weinberg

"Great little Disney movie; atrocious Disney DVD transfer."
4 stars

Everybody has their favorite "forgotten" Disney flicks. For some, it's the mysteriously unloved "Black Cauldron" animated feature; others cling to childhood favorites like "The Black Hole", "The Watcher in the Woods" or "Pete's Dragon". Me? I'm a Natty Gann fan. Though itís not likely to win any awards for paving new ground, "The Journey of Natty Gann" is one great family flick, easily one of Disneyís finest live-action releases of the 1980s.

It's 1935, Chicago, and Sol Gann (Ray Wise) is having a tough time providing for his teenage daughter. Following the promise of a well-paying (but stunningly hazardous) lumberjacking position, Sol is forced to leave his beloved Natty (Meredith Salenger) behind before making the trek to Washington. Under the mistaken impression that her Dad has abandoned her for good, Natty promptly hits the backroads and begins a colorfully exciting quest to reunite her small family. Along the way, our plucky heroine is befriended by a vicious-looking - yet surprisingly loyal - wolf, and a good-natured vagabond (and would-be boyfriend) named Harry (played with rascally charm by a young John Cusack).

Natty's journey sees her coming across a variety of unsavory Depression-era characters, most of whom aim to see the wayward lass remanded to some dank old orphanage. With the help of Harry and her beloved wolf, Natty makes one daring escape after another, always resuming her westward trek to find her Dad. The poor girl has to withstand some truly horrifying travails during her perilous pilgrimage, but (since we are talking Disney here) thereís nothing too intense for preteen moviewatchers.

If the 'point A to point B' road-flick aspect of The Journey of Natty Gann seems a bit pedestrian, there are more than enough worthwhile components which elevate the movie above many of its ilk; the outdoor photography is nothing short of breathtaking (though virtually disemboweled by the horrendous pan and scan transfer this DVD offers), the depression-era production design is uniformly fantastic, the (sometimes quite dark) 'moral lessons' are offered with a minimum of Disney-esque schmaltz, the performances are strong across the board, and the action bits are realized with style and flair. Like I said, this is a tight little movie.

If your kids are past that "weíll watch anything" stage and youíre looking for a quality family flick that doesnít preach or pander, you should absolutely consider The Journey of Natty Gann worthy of a rental. However, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PURCHASE THIS DVD.

I hate to say it, because this is a movie I really enjoy, but itís important to send the folks at Disney a small message. And that message is simply this: Full Frame/Pan and Scan releases are tantamount to artistic vandalism, and we the consumer refuse to support the butchering of someone else's art solely in the name of misguided market research.

Or something like that.

See, many studios are under the mistaken impression that pan and scan transfers are acceptable for lesser-known family flicks, since there's no real demand for these titles and itís cheaper than giving an old movie the anamorphic treatment. So the few movie lovers who care for a title like this one are forgotten in favor of the faceless masses who buy a film because "it fills my whole TV screen!" Ignorance may be bliss, but it's hell on those who actually give a crap.

It's a crying shame that a great little movie like The Journey of Natty Gann - one that contains some truly majestic outdoor photography and impressive set design - will never again be released in its original theatrical aspect ratio... simply because nobody cares enough to deliver a quality transfer. But if a pan and scan transfer would cause me to dissuade you from buying what Iíd consider a truly fantastic little film, thatís gotta say something.

Another fondly remembered Disney flick absolutely flushed down the toilet by a pathetic full frame transfer. Sad news indeed.

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originally posted: 05/02/04 12:56:52
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User Comments

5/16/16 Melody N/A 5 stars
11/17/12 mintonmedia As adult and "unDisney" as a G-rated, ultimately "cute" film can get 4 stars
4/08/11 5th Period Business Class Worth watching for an inclass movie 4 stars
9/30/08 Jeannie A beautiful movie; story, acting and cinematography!Have watched the video many times. 5 stars
3/09/08 not applicable Excellent film !!! 5 stars
2/18/08 Pamela White impressive journey in the depression, great locations for film 5 stars
2/17/08 Kristen Great movie. The pan & scan is horrible. Disney must offer this in widescreen. 4 stars
12/23/07 deb one of the movies i can watch over & over on tv 4 stars
8/22/07 ekk Worth watching again 5 stars
8/16/07 your mom one of my favorite all time movies 5 stars
3/24/07 James P I thought it was a good "coming of age" movie that showcases Salenger and Cusak very well. 4 stars
11/04/06 Dominick Amazing film- beautiful cinematography - great actress Meredith Salenger. beautiful 5 stars
6/29/05 rj Not pleased with the vulgar language. It was entirely unnecessary. 3 stars
4/21/05 yua its a very great movie!with adventure+romance, you wont regret watching it! 5 stars
9/02/04 Terri Incredible flick!!! One of my favorite movies! Bought the DVD; seems fine to me 5 stars
5/04/04 John charming and well written - much better than you'd expect! 4 stars
5/04/04 R.W. Welch Off-beat road pic has decent writing and performances, very few dead spots. 4 stars
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  27-Sep-1985 (PG)



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