We’ve taken two fairly random screen captures from the 1985 movie Journey of Natty Gann, ones we know were shot in an area we’re very familiar with and frequent, and then track down the locations seen to record how they look today. You might say this is a tall order (or maybe even a pointless one), but finding things is one of those talents that seems to come naturally to us. It is what we do. And we have so much fun doing it.
It’s very common for US movies to be shot in Canada. The reasons for this are many – it can be done cheaper for one and that’s a big enticement. Then there is an endless supply of suitable locations – you need urban, you need mountains, you need rural, you need vast expanses of wilderness, you need whatever, a giant mix of backdrops all close by each other, it’s all here. Case in point are the two filming locations seen in this report, found in the Crowsnest Pass of Alberta, which in reality are not that far apart, but that represent two entirely different setting within the film. Neither is terribly important in the story, but we’ll track down them down anyway.
In the first capture, we see Natty heading towards some mountains. She’s run away from her guardian and is on a cross-country journey to find her father. She travels far and wide and experiences many adventures along the way.
The location seen has a very wilderness feel about it. Had the cameras been turned to capture any other angle, we’d see we’re not terribly far from civilization however. To their back would be (not far away) a highway and train tracks. To the left would be a big gas plant (torn down in 2014). Today a metal fabrication firm is just off camera to the right. For the film crew it was easy to get to, but the angle makes us feel like we’re in the middle of nowhere. This is done a lot in films. Make it look wild and remote but be sure the crew trucks can make it to the site easy.
Mountains seen in behind, by the way, included (l to r) Mounts McLaren and Parrish and Chinook Peak.
As you can see nothing much has really changed in the thirty years since that film what shot here. Not surprising I guess, these big masses of rock are forever.
In the next set, Natty (near impossible to see in the capture) drops down a hill between two old houses.
She’s come to what appears to be a coal-patch town, and the location where they filmed it fits the role perfectly, as in fact, it, Coleman, was just such a place (the Pass and coal are synonymous). These houses seen will only appear for a moment. Finding them was a piece of cake, we just had to find the street with a hill, that hill, in back and viola.
This style of house is pretty typical of the of the town. Most were built by coal companies, the driving forces that fed the local economy in the first half of the twentieth century. These mines are long gone (there is talk of them returning) but their legacy, these former company houses for example, remain.
While the buildings have changed somewhat since the film, new siding has been added on each for example, they still retain their overall look. This timelessness is one reason we like the area so much. Thirty years later and not much is different.
And so we have it, two then and now sets showing scenes that in the overall scheme of things mean little, coming from a movie, as good as it is, we liked it, that few people have ever seen. So why bother doing this?
It’s a blast! That’s why.
For these then and now posts we do not crop or shop the now photos to make them line up better. What you see is pretty much as it comes form the camera. We’ve developed quite an eye for the technique and this alone accounts for how well most of them turn out. They’re never perfect, nor should they or could they be, but we get them close. And that’s what counts.
We’ll be doing more then and now posts inspired by this film in the coming months. Another movie shot in the Pass is Silver Streak (1976) and it has provided us good fodder for these types of reports as well.
Images from the movie Journey of Natty Gann are copyright Disney Studios.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: September, 2014.
Location: Crowsnest Pass, AB.