New release of The Call of the Wild puts Yukon back in spotlight

'You can't buy advertising like that,' says Paul Robitaille of the Klondike Visitors Association, about the latest film adaptation of Jack London's Klondike tale, The Call of the Wild.

It wasn't filmed in Yukon, but local tourism promoters hope movie fans will come see the real Klondike

Harrison Ford and a computer-generated Buck in the latest film adaptation of Jack London's famous Klondike tale, 'The Call of the Wild.' The film was released this week. (20th Century Fox/The Associated Press)

In the trailer for The Call of the Wild, the latest cinematic adaptation of Jack London's famous novel, Harrison Ford's voice sets the scene.

"The Yukon is a dangerous place. You never know what's coming," Ford says. 

The Call of The Wild opened in theatres this week. It stars Ford as a grieving outdoorsman who bonds with a burly dog named Buck, in the Canadian Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s.

While only the backdrops were actually filmed in Yukon — and inserted behind actors filmed in a Hollywood studio — the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) in Dawson City says it could inspire tourists to come check out the real thing.

"That would be fantastic. I think that regardless of what you think of the movie itself or the book itself, it does draw visitors to Dawson on an annual basis," Paul Robitaille, marketing and events manager for the KVA, said about London's tale.

'People worldwide ... love Jack London,' said Paul Robitaille of the Klondike Visitors Association. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

"People worldwide — Germans, Russians, Americans — love Jack London, and they flock to Dawson to kind of see what inspired The Call of the Wild, White Fang, amongst his other works."

This is the third big-screen version of The Call of the Wild. A 1935 version starred Clark Gable, and another in 1972 starred Charlton Heston. 

"We expect that it'll reignite the popularity of Jack London, and of course the KVA, we run the Jack London Museum which is one of our attractions and we get a few thousand people that go there every year — so we hope to get a few more people to come there," said Robitaille.

Charlton Heston wore a sealskin parka in the 1972 version of The Call of the Wild. Here he reacts to seeing Dawson City in the distance. (Universal Pictures)

"You can't buy advertising like that, especially for a territory where we live. And for a destination like Dawson City, it's enormous. So I think that it's a great thing right now," said Robitaille.

'Everybody likes a good story about dogs'

Yukon historian Michael Gates agrees. He said he is looking forward to seeing the new movie.

"I guess everybody likes a good story about dogs, and combine that with the gold rush and you know it's probably a winning combination," he said. 

Gates hopes it will be somewhat accurate in portraying the Klondike Gold Rush.

"It'll certainly renew people's awareness of the Yukon and the Klondike," Gates said.

"If we're lucky, they will even recognize the fact it was in Canada and not the United States." 

Dawson City in 2016. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)


  • An earlier version of this story stated that none of Call of the Wild was filmed in the Yukon. In fact, the film includes shots of Yukon locations digitally inserted behind actors filmed in-studio.
    Feb 22, 2020 6:05 PM CT


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