Natty Gann again


When I was a little girl, there were a couple of movies that I watched over and over again. All of them were taped straight off TV – back when Sunday nights meant family movies on ABC, back when VCR’s had the pop-up compartment for the videotape, back when we lived in San Jose, CA.

I knew – and still know – every word (dialogue and lyric), every dance, and every nuance to “The Sound of Music.” I watched some portion of it every single day from age 4-6. I also obsessed over “Annie”; how could I not? I thought the idea of being an orphan was romantic (sorry, Mom and Dad), and the opening song, “Maybe,” remains one of my favorite melodies to this day.

And then there was a 1985 Disney film called “The Journey of Natty Gann.” I have not watched it since probably 1989, and had totally forgotten about it until about a month ago. As soon as I thought of it, I added it to my Netflix queue, and finally re-watched it last night.

I never realized how formative this movie was for me.


Here’s the plot summary, taken from IMDB:

Natty Gann 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.

Natty Gann’s sense of adventure, fear, courage, longing for home, and love for dogs convinces me that I absorbed so much from this movie. I only wish that John Cusack had been my first kiss.

A couple of things that struck me, this time around:

  1. In 1985, a “PG” rating allowed the words “damn” and “shit.”
  2. In 1985, a “PG” rating allowed kids being hit in the face.
  3. In 1985, a “PG” rating allowed dog fights and blood.
  4. In 1985, a “PG” rating allowed sexual predators and dangerous men.

See – now you HAVE to watch it. It’s so exciting!

Go back and watch a movie that you haven’t seen since early childhood. I’m convinced that you’ll be struck with something – something deep inside of you, something formative, something that you never realized had a source.

I mean, honestly. Why else would I have a secret-yet-unsquelchable desire to name my firstborn “Fievel”?



  1. Ginger on February 12, 2009 at 12:26 PM

    1. I was talking about this movie in the office LAST WEEK.
    2. No one had ever heard of it.
    3. You should ask my co-workers how loudy I just screamed “Natty Gann!!!”
    4. My movie to rewatch will be “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken.”

  2. [not the] Best Blog Ever on February 12, 2009 at 12:34 PM

    I, too, loved “Annie” and “The Sound of Music” as a kid. I also absolutely loved and could quote “The 10 Commandments,” which is a little weirder. :)

    Did you know they didn’t even have the PG-13 rating until at least after “Top Gun” came out in I think 1987. I couldn’t believe that was PG, but there ya have it…

  3. rachel on February 12, 2009 at 12:52 PM

    I can honestly say that John Cusack was my first celebrity crush, all due to Natty Gann.

  4. Mary on February 12, 2009 at 12:54 PM

    I used to LOVE this movie, Ann. And I never knew that was John Cusack! Also on the top of my list around the same time, Curly Sue. Apparently I liked to glimpse into the life of girls with unstable family lives…

  5. Tad on February 12, 2009 at 2:00 PM

    I recently rewatched Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, folloed by re reading “Treasure Island” I can’t say I had a real connection with any one character in either story, but I do know that ever since I first read/watched those two stories, I’ve always wanted to have a sea-fairing adventure. Or atleast an adventure in strange and exotic places.

    I loved the scene in “Natty” where she’s meating the ringleader of the criminal gang and the wolf growles at the guy and he comments about Natty bringing her dog with her, and she say’s “He a WOLF!” and they all get scared.

    Bad Ass! I could see you doing that with a big anough dog.

  6. Lindsey on February 12, 2009 at 2:04 PM

    My movie that I want to rewatch from my childhood would be The Secret Garden. There was something about that movie that I just loved as a child and all the mystery. LOVE IT!

  7. Sarah Kate on February 12, 2009 at 3:08 PM

    Oh My Gosh!!!
    I remember that movie! Also memorized “Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins.” Our Sunday night ritual as a family was to watch the Sunday night ABC Disney movie, tape it, and have it at home to watch whenever. We also ate popcorn for dinner.
    What a great memory!

  8. Devon on February 12, 2009 at 3:09 PM

    Annie, I loved Natty Gann too! Your post prompted me to check IMDB to see what “Natty” (Meredith Salenger) is up to these days. I found that she is starring in a 2009 release called “Race to Witch Mountain” in which she plays a character named “Natalie Gann”. hmmm.

  9. Lindsey on February 12, 2009 at 4:03 PM

    Actually I would have to say my favorite movie was A Little Princess. I couldn’t remember the name until just now!

  10. faryle on February 12, 2009 at 4:39 PM

    I’ve never seen this movie but I will definitely add it to my list because how dreamy is John Cusack? A Little Princess is one of those childhood movies that I watched over and over again. I so had the VHS that came with the locket and totally wore that for a good year.

    And P.S. the cover of Natty Gann VHS is like the epitome of Photoshop Disaster. Where did that hand come from? Love it.

  11. Tad on February 12, 2009 at 6:34 PM

    I remember when a couple f-bombs would get your movie rated “R”.

  12. Nicole on February 12, 2009 at 11:40 PM

    To this day, I still want a dog with long floppy ears to name Falkor. When I was a kid I was obsessed with the movie The Never Ending Story. I thought the luck dragon was the coolest thing.

  13. Joel on February 13, 2009 at 9:57 AM

    Yes, I too watched this movie many times, probably hunched in my make-shift fort in my living room, only allowing a small opening where I could peer out and watch this flick. I just remember men climbing big trees and probably a lot of beef stew was consumed (in the movie, not in my living room fort). Those were the days.

  14. Marcia on February 14, 2009 at 9:02 AM

    I just LOVE:

    1. OLD MOVIES! LOVE “The Sound of Music”.. could watch it over and over again. Believe it or not, I’ve never seen “Annie” or “Natty Gunn” but I think I will watch them asap.

    2. JOHN CUSACK — My husband knows. It’s okay.

    3. YOUR NEW WEBSITE!! ..and reading your blog. I’m glad you have found a new home on the internet that is ALL YOURS!! :-)

    4. YOU!! Wish we had more time to catch up the other day….. maybe we should try dinner one night.. and a good glass of red too!

Leave a Comment