What is it about the quaint, white painted, green shuttered, turn-of-the century house nestled in the lush fields of Prince Edward Island that draws legions of fans from far and wide to the world of Anne Shirley?
The homestead that was the life-long home of Marilla Cuthbert and Matthew Cuthbert is a simple house, furnished with only the bare essentials. However, to a disadvantaged child like Anne, with no one in the world to care for her, the charming farmhouse looms, from the instant she sees it, like a refuge on a far-away cloud. Located in the unspoiled countryside near the maritime town of Avonlea, the Cuthbert’s homestead was like no other place Anne had ever lived in before.
Green Gables takes on a metaphorical significance in Anne’s reality throughout her entire life. The condition of the property almost seems to mirror her persona, as events in her life continue to unfold against its background. In the first Anne of Green Gables film, the house holds a charm and emotional chemistry that wields a magical existence in Anne’s life as she is brought into womanhood by the Cuthberts. In Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, the building is abandoned and dilapidated, reflecting a time of war, uncertainty and confusion, as events in the world at large threaten Anne’s happiness. In Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning, Anne considers selling the old homestead, but when the weather-beaten house once again yields a magical secret, she has an unexpected and fortuitous change of heart which allows her to bring closure to the unsettled events in her past.
The fact that the cinematic image of Green Gables remains such a strong icon in all the Anne films speaks volumes about the importance of home and the strong relationship that evolve under its protected haven. Anne’s coveted home signifies security, family and community – all of the essentials that bind humans together in happiness in this mortal world. Green Gables is not only a home for Anne, it symbolizes the doorway to her life and her very survival.
Anne’s world attracts willing audiences and fans of the novel to the things we all want most in life. The image of Green Gables is the distillation of the very best of the human condition. All of our common hopes, desires and dreams are wrapped up in everything it symbolizes.
Finding the locations to stage his ideal version of Anne of Green Gables was a challenge for Kevin Sullivan. The first film had to capture four seasons, and it was unrealistic for the cast and crew to travel to PEI several times a year.
It was a summer drive in Uxbridge that led Sullivan to his Green Gables. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw rolling hills crested with pine trees and a quaint, picturesque farmhouse. Sullivan had found the idyllic world he had seen in his mind. With a quick paintjob, the farmhouse became the rear side of Green Gables.
Sullivan traveled to numerous locations throughout Southern Ontario to capture the spirit of Montgomery’s series. He wanted to create the picturesque, storybook-like atmosphere of Prince Edward Island that Maud wrote about in her books. The magic of film allowed him to take elements of many different places to create one entirely unique and well designed environment.
Filming A New Beginning presented many new challenges, in that the team needed to find locations that would replicate the atmosphere established in the first three films. To achieve this, they integrated elements of location photography and set design with CGI sequences to create a beautiful backdrop for this new saga in Anne’s life.
Despite the various obstacles encountered in finding the perfect approach to capturing the essence of the required settings, the Anne series lovingly showcases the natural beauty of Canadian landscapes, be they towns, forests, meadows or rivers.