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The Journey of Natty Gann is a 1985 Walt Disney Pictures film starring Meredith Salenger and John Cusack in one of his earliest major roles.
It's 1935, and with The Great Depression in full sway, finding a job is a matter of life and death, so when single dad Sol Gann gets an offer to travel to the state of Washington to work as a logger, he can't possibly afford to refuse - even though it means leaving his daughter Natty behind in Chicago until he can afford to buy her a train ticket to come join him.
Unfortunately, that takes time, and in the meantime everybody but Natty herself starts coming to the conclusion that she's been abandoned. When she realizes that she's about to be handed over into the custody of the state, Natty takes off on her own, hopping a train and heading west to try to find her father herself, no matter what obstacles she runs into along the way.
The film includes examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: Mostly averted. While many of the adults Natty meets are unhelpful, so are many of the kids, and a few adults - such as Charlie the blacksmith and the woman at the milling operation - go out of their way to help her reunite with her father.
- Air Vent Passageway: Natty escapes the reform school via some kind of vent, anyhow.
- Amplified Animal Aptitude: Wolf appears at times to be the smartest character in the whole film. Most notably, the first time Natty encounters him again after helping him escape into the woods, he brings her a freshly-killed rabbit, leads her across the wilderness to a farmhouse, and protects the farmer's chicken coop from foxes for no apparent reason beyond repaying the farmer and his wife for helping Natty.
- Androcles' Lion: Natty wins Wolf's friendship by helping him escape the dogfighting ring and later giving him some of her food.
- Attempted Rape: G-rated version. A guy who gives Natty a ride in his truck tries to get way too friendly.
- The Blacksmith: Charlie.
- Big Badass Wolf: Wolf, first shown killing a Dobermann during a dogfight.
- A Boy and His X: A girl and her wolf.
- Canine Companion: Wolf again.
- Daddy's Girl
- Deadpan Snarker: Harry.
- Death Seeker: After he thinks Natty was killed in a train accident, Sol starts volunteering for the most dangerous jobs available.
- Establishing Character Moment: Several:
- Natty is first seen sneaking off to a bathroom to smoke a cigarette with several boys of about her age, and getting into a fistfight with one when he calls her father a "commie."
- Harry saves Natty from falling under the wheels of a moving train, and though he's curt to her himself, he admonishes the other men in the train car to stop scaring her.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Wolf always knows when trouble is coming.
- Gentle Giant: Charlie the blacksmith.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Subverted. Charlie has nasty burn scars covering one whole side of his face, but he's one of the nicest and most sympathetic adults Natty meets on her journey.
- The Great Depression
- Heroes Love Dogs: Prior to rescuing Wolf, Natty is also seen adoping a stray puppy, which dialogue indicates is only the latest one that she's tried to bring home.
- Heroic BSOD: Sol doesn't take it well when he thinks that Natty has been killed.
- Heroic Dog: Wolf again.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Harry, whose jerk veneer is pretty thin.
- Missing Mom: Natty's mother died at some point prior to the film.
- Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Charlie.
- One of the Boys
- Plucky Girl: Natty.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: It doesn't even take a change of clothes; Harry is visibly startled the first time he sees Natty after she's had a chance to wash her face and comb her hair.
- The Shill: Natty serves as an impromptu shill to help a street vendor make a sale.
- Shoo the Dog: Ultimately, Natty encourages Wolf to return to the wild.
- Tomboyish Name: "Natty" is short for "Natalie Sue."
- Too Dumb to Live: The guy who tries to molest Natty while he's driving a truck.
- Train Station Goodbye: At a bus station instead of a train station, when Harry departs for California.