In the mid 1980s, Disney was trying to revive its kids film business, and launching the career of young actress Meredith Salenger with The Journey of Natty Gann.
Written by Andrew Bergman and Jeanne Rosenberg, and directed by Jeremy Kagan, the film was historical, putting the main character, 12 year old Natty Gann played by Salenger, in the Great Depression.
With her lumberjack father trying to find work in 1935, he travels with to Washington State, leaving his daughter to survive on her own under the care of Connie played by Lainie Kazan, the hotel manager where the two had been living.
Overhearing Connie reporting her as an abandoned child, Natty heads off a journey of her own, to go find her Father. Involved in a train car crash, she’s thought to be dead, but continues on her journey protected at times by Jed the wolf and Harry, a young drifter, played by John Cusack and a mountain man.
Opening in September 1985, the film hoped to make a big splash on the box office, but despite positive reviews the film was shunned by kids and teens for being too sentimental and old-fashioned for their notice.
Cusack, who had finished several teen movies, was transitioning into adult roles and left the teen movie genre behind him, while Salenger never made it into the big time after this Disney film.