Fly Away Home
|Fly Away Home|
|Directed by||Carroll Ballard|
|Produced by||Carol Baum|
|Written by||Robert Rodat
|Based on||Father Goose: One Man, a Gaggle of Geese, and Their Real Life Incredible Journey South (autobiography)
by Bill Lishman
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Edited by||Nicholas C. Smith|
The Saul Zaentz Film Center
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Fly Away Home (aka Flying Wild and Flying Wild, Father Goose) is a 1996 family drama film directed by Carroll Ballard. The film stars Anna Paquin, Jeff Daniels and Dana Delany. Fly Away Home was released on September 13, 1996, by Columbia Pictures.
Fly Away Home dramatizes the actual experiences of Bill Lishman who, in 1986, started training geese to follow his ultralight and succeeded in leading their migration in 1993.
In New Zealand, 13-year-old Amy Alden (Anna Paquin) survives an automobile accident but her mother dies. Amy is taken back to her new home in Ontario by her estranged father Thomas Alden (Jeff Daniels), an inventor, artist and sculptor, who later introduces her to his girlfriend, Susan (Dana Delany). Initially hostile towards her father and Susan, Amy eventually grows fond of both.
After a construction crew destroys a small wilderness area near the Alden home, Amy finds goose eggs left behind by their parents. Without Thomas, Susan, or her uncle David (Terry Kinney) knowing, she takes the eggs and sticks them in a dresser located in her father’s old barn to incubate. When she comes back from school, she discovers the eggs have hatched but Thomas allows her to keep the brood of Canada geese chicks. When the birds imprint on her as their Mother Goose, she asks for help from local game warden Glen Seifert (Jeremy Ratchford) on how to care for the geese.
Seifert comes over to the Alden house, warning that all domestic geese must have their wings pinioned (clipped) in order to render them flightless. When he attempts this on one of the geese, it upsets Amy. Thomas throws the game warden off his property. Seifert threatens that if the birds start flying, he will have to confiscate them. Thomas learns if the birds are not taught to fly properly, as they have no goose parents to teach them, they will not survive during the oftentimes brutal Canadian winter.
Thomas decides to use a pair of ultralight aircraft to teach the birds to fly. When the birds fail to follow him, he comes up a new plan: teach Amy to fly and the birds will follow her because they already do the same thing on land due to Amy being imprinted as their mother. Susan is alarmed because the previous day, Amy had hopped in one of Thomas’s aircraft and almost killed herself when the aircraft crashed.
Thomas, Susan, David and Thomas’s friend Barry (Holter Graham) attempt to teach the birds to fly, with success. David travels to North Carolina, to talk to a friend who owns a bird sanctuary about the plan. His friend initially finds the plan both ludicrous and impossible, but also mentions that if no birds reach the sanctuary by November 1, it will be torn down by developers who plan to turn it into a coastal housing development.
Amy and Thomas practice flying the aircraft, but Igor (the weakest of the geese, and who has a limp) accidentally hits the front of Amy’s aircraft and is injured, falling down and landing in an isolated forest. While the group goes off to search for the bird, Glen, keeping his promise to confiscate the birds and who witnessed the Aldens practicing for the big flight, comes to the Alden barn and takes the geese. The next day, after breaking the geese out of the game warden's headquarters, the group sets off on their quest to migrate them.
Making an emergency landing at a U.S. Air Force base in upstate New York on the south shore of Lake Ontario, Amy and Thomas almost get arrested. They become national news, with residents cheering them on and offering the two a place to stay at night at each of their stops. Thirty miles before reaching the bird sanctuary, Thomas’s aircraft crashes in a cornfield and he tells Amy to finish the journey by herself. After Amy takes off and begins to head toward the sanctuary, Thomas hitchhikes with a local group of hippies who take him to the bird sanctuary. While waiting for Amy, Thomas, Susan, Barry and many hippies, tree huggers, townspeople and animal enthusiasts stand up to the large crowd of developers who are waiting to start the excavation of the site.
Amy eventually appears with the geese, much to the joy of the townspeople and Amy’s family, but to the dismay of the developers. The townspeople and the Aldens celebrate their victory. All 16 geese, including Igor, returned to the Alden's farm the next spring safely and all on their own.
- Jeff Daniels as Thomas "Tom" Alden
- Anna Paquin as Amy Alden
- Dana Delany as Susan Barnes
- Terry Kinney as David Alden
- Holter Graham as Barry Stickland
- Jeremy Ratchford as Glen Seifert
- Deborah Verginella as Amy's Mother
- Michael J. Reynolds as General
- David Hemblen as Dr. Killian
- Chris Benson as Farmer
- Kevin Jubinville as M.P.
- Philip Akin as Air Force Reporter
- Gladys O'Connor as Farm Woman
To recreate the Alden home, principal photography took place in 1995, at two farms near Lindsay in southeastern Ontario. The township had also been the setting for A Christmas Story (1983), and later A Cool Dry Place (1998). The blacksmith shop constructed onsite for the filming of The Last Buffalo at Purple Hill, Ontario was re-used as part of the Alden homestead.
Two gliders were featured in the film: The UFM Easy Riser and the Cosmos Trike. The Easy Riser first appears as a foot-launched biplane hang glider. True to Lishman's real-life saga, modifications were made to improve the design including the addition of a motor and seat. Anna Paquin's character instead flies an A-frame Cosmos Trike with a mock goose head mounted to the noseplate of the airframe and a fabric wing covering painted to resemble feathers. The Cosmos Trike was reportedly chosen for its safety, superior engine power, and increased wing size (a feature that was needed to fly slow enough for the birds).
The four-day trip home for the geese that would take them to Lake Ontario, over the Appalachians to Pennsylvania, Maryland, finally settling on the North Carolina Shores, had principal photography actually filmed nearly entirely at Port Perry and Sandbanks Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada. Additional location shots were the city-fly-through in Toronto, Ontario standing in for Baltimore, Maryland (CGI aircraft). At the conclusion of the production, Lishman led the 60 imprinted "actor-geese" in migration, to winter at the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center off the coast of Georgetown, South Carolina.
While in production, the film was at first titled Flying Wild but was changed to Fly Away Home just weeks before its release in movie theaters. The original trailer has the title Flying Wild and can be found on certain copies of the Columbia Tri-Star Jumanji VHS Tape.
Director Carroll Ballard and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel previously collaborated on The Black Stallion and Never Cry Wolf with Fly Away Home being their third family film. Anna Paquin, who plays daughter to Jeff Daniels in Fly Away Home, would later play a love interest in The Squid and the Whale (2005). Upon the release of the Squid and the Whale, Jeff Daniels said that having had the previous experience made the filming a bit awkward for both of them.
For a modest budget, Fly Away Home returned US$25 million in the U.S. box office and US$31 million internationally. Audiences and critics enjoyed the evocative, uplifting family-oriented film which also received critical acclaim. Roger Ebert noted: "There are individual shots here almost worth the price of admission...[including] a stunning shot in which the towers of Baltimore materialize from the mist, and office workers see the little girl and her geese flying past their windows." Janet Maslin from The New York Times was similarly effusive, "Mr. Ballard turns a potentially treacly children's film into an exhilarating 90's fable."
The uplifting theme of the film was often cited; Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat extolled: "The movie adds excitement and emotion, turning into a celebration of the creative ways human beings and animals can serve, assist, and love one another."
Caleb Deschanel's visuals received notice and resulted in nominations for the 1996 Academy Awards and from the American Society of Cinematographers. Although unsuccessful in both competitions, Fly Away Home went on to win the 1997 Broadcast Film Critics Association Critics Choice Award as the Best Family Film, the 1997 Christopher Award (for family films), 1997 Young Artist Award in the category of Best Family Feature – Drama, and the 1997 Genesis Award for Feature Films. Anna Paquin was also nominated for the Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film – Leading Young Actress (the film was also nominated as Best Family Feature – Drama) and the 1997 YoungStar Award for Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Drama Film.
Home media release
Along with the VHS release of Fly Away Home in December 1996, a later 2001 special edition DVD included the exclusive featurette by Bill Lishman, Operation Migration: Birds of a Feather, along with two documentaries: The Ultra Geese and the HBO special Leading the Flock. The DVD also provided a link to Lishman's "Operation Migration" website. A companion CD audio recording of the music featured in the soundtrack was released in 1996. A Blu-ray edition of Fly Away Home was released on April 7, 2009.
- Lishman, Bill. "William Lishman- Film." williamlishman.com. Retrieved: May 9, 2011.
- "Ultralight Aircraft." williamlishman.com. Retrieved: March 20, 2010.
- "'Fly Away Home': Leading the Flock." HBO special, airdate: August 1996.
- Lishman, Bill. "Fly Away Home: Behind the scenes." operationmigration.org, 2011. Retrieved: May 9, 2011.
- Maslin, Janet. "Overview: 'Fly Away Home' (1996), Alternate title: 'Flying Wild, Father Goose'." The New York Times, September 13, 1996.
- "Jeff Daniels' Interview" on YouTube, March 31, 2009. Retrieved: May 7, 2011.
- "Fly Away Home (1996)." rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved: May 9, 2011.
- Ebert, Roger. "Fly Away Home". Chicago Sun Times, September 13, 1996. Retrieved: March 20, 2010.
- Maslin, Janet. "Fly Away Home (1996)." The New York Times, September 13, 1996.
- Brussat, Frederic and Mary Ann. "Film review: 'Fly Away Home'." spiritualityandpractice.com, 2009. Retrieved: May 9, 2011.
- "Eighteenth Annual Youth in Film Awards, 1995–1996." youngartistawards.org. Retrieved: May 7, 2011.
- "'Fly Away Home' on DVD." currentfilm.com. Retrieved: May 7, 2011.
- "Fly Away Records FLY-CD 79258." Soundtrack Collector. Retrieved: May 9, 2011.
- Fly Away Home (Special Edition DVD). Culver City, California: Columbia/Tristar Home Video, 2001.
- Hermes, Patricia. Fly Away Home: The Novelization and Story Behind the Film. New York: Newmarket, 2005. ISBN 1-55704-489-9.
- Lishman, Bill (as stated). Father Goose & His Goslings (Light Up the Mind of a Child Series). St. Louis, Missouri: San Val, 1992. ISBN 978-1-4176-3444-6.
- Lishman, William Alwyn. Father Goose: One Man, a Gaggle of Geese, and Their Real Life Incredible Journey South. New York: Crown, 1996. ISBN 0-517-70182-0.
- Fly Away Home at the TCM Movie Database
- Fly Away Home at the Internet Movie Database
- Fly Away Home at Rotten Tomatoes
- Operation Migration