Prancer (film)

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Prancer film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John D. Hancock
Produced by Raffaella De Laurentiis
Written by Greg Taylor
Music by Maurice Jarre
Distributed by Orion Pictures (1989, original)
MGM (2003, DVD)
Release dates
  • November 17, 1989 (1989-11-17)
Running time
103 minutes
Language English
Box office $18,587,135

Prancer is a 1989 family film starring Sam Elliott, Cloris Leachman and Rebecca Harrell and was directed by John D. Hancock.[1] It is set in Three Oaks, Michigan, where town exteriors were filmed. Filming also occurred at the Old Republic House in New Carlisle, Indiana, La Porte, Indiana, and at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois.[2]

The film was followed on November 20, 2001 by Prancer Returns, a direct-to-video sequel released by USA Home Entertainment for VHS and DVD. It was released on DVD by MGM Home Video with several repackagings in 2003 and 2004, and a new one on October 7th, 2014.


Jessica Riggs, (Rebecca Harrell) is an 8-year-old girl being raised by her older brother Steve (John Duda) and father John (Sam Elliot). Their apple farm has fallen on hard times. John is temporarily being helped by his sister-in-law Sarah (Rutanya Alda).

While walking home after a school pageant, Jessica witnesses a plastic reindeer falling from a Christmas decoration being hung above a street in her town. She concludes that the reindeer that fell was Prancer from the order given in the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (a.k.a. "The Night Before Christmas").

Afraid he will be unable to provide for Jessica, John discusses a plan for Sarah to take her in to raise her temporarily. Jessica overhears this, but initially doesn't know the full details. She and her friend Carol (Ariana Richards) go sledding and knock down some flowers at a house owned by Mrs. McFarland (Cloris Leachman). While walking home, Jessica encounters a live reindeer in the woods. It runs away, disappearing into the darkness. Later, while walking home from school, Jessica finds reindeer tracks and follows them into the woods again. She hears a gunshot, and continues to walk. John eventually finds her, but almost hits the reindeer who is now standing in the road. Noticing the animal is wounded, John grabs his rifle intending to shoot it. As Jessica pleads for her father to not shoot, the animal disappears.

Later while dreaming of Prancer, Jessica is startled awake by the scene of the reindeer falling from earlier. She hears a noise and sees the window to the barn outside has been open. Investigating, she finds the reindeer is now inside among other animals. Afraid her father will find him, she moves the reindeer to another outbuilding. Certain that he is the "real" Prancer, she takes it upon herself to nurse him back to health. She calls a veterinarian (Abe Vigoda) who initially refuses, but comes over to find the animal.

Jessica later tells a mall Santa (Michael Constantine) that she has Prancer, and gives him a Polaroid picture along with a letter to give to the real Santa before Christmas Eve. The man takes the picture and letter to the editor of the local newspaper.

Eventually Jessica apologies to the reclusive widow Mrs. McFarland. Jessica asks her if she can have a job to help pay for animal feed for the reindeer. McFarland agrees to pay her if she cleans a room in the house, and the two become friends. The newspaper editor inspired by Jessica's faith, writes an editorial which is then read by a local pastor in the middle of his sermon. Jessica finds out in church that she has been outed to the entire town, initially mad at her friend Carol who she thinks squealed. She then finds the editorial in the paper.

John, meanwhile, is reading the Sunday Paper. Before he finds the editorial, he discovers Prancer has let all the other animals out of the barn. While John tries to round up the animals, Prancer goes inside the home. Townspeople begin to converge on the farm, wanting to see the reindeer. John grabs his rifle, threatening to shoot the animal when a local butcher stops him, offering to buy the animal.

Jessica, afraid the butcher will kill Prancer, runs away in the night determined to rescue him. The butcher keeps the animal as a sales tool for his Christmas tree lot. Her brother Steve runs after her, telling her that he loves her even though they fight. She attempts to open the cage but falls, injuring her head.

Jessica stays in her bedroom, becoming despondent. John goes to her and she asks him to read a passage from "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus". He tells her that times may continue to be hard for a long time but while he could bear losing the farm, he won't lose her. He changes his mind about sending her away. John suggests they take Prancer to Antler Ridge, which would be the perfect place for Santa to pick him up. The townspeople gather outside her window and begin singing to cheer her up. Prancer is taken to Antler Ridge where he runs out of sight. Following his tracks up the ridge, John and Jessica notice they vanish at the edge of a cliff. The faint sound of sleigh bells can be heard, and a streak of light is seen rising to meet Santa's sleigh. Santa's sleigh flies across the full moon towards the Rigg's family farm - it's very first stop. Jessica tells Prancer goodbye, and to always remember her.



The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics, as it holds a 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 24 reviews.[3]



  1. ^ Caryn James (1989). "A Girl, a Reindeer and the Christmas Spirit". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Hancock, John D. (1989-11-17), Prancer, retrieved 2016-01-17 
  3. ^ "Prancer". 1989-11-17. Retrieved 2016-01-17. 

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