Prancer film poster

The poster for the film's theatrical release

Prancer is a 1989 Christmas film starring Sam Elliott and Cloris Leachman. It was directed by John D. Hancock. It is set in Three Oaks, Michigan, where town exteriors were filmed. Filming also occurred in LaPorte, Indiana, and at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois.

It was followed in 2001 by Prancer Returns, a direct-to-video sequel released by USA Home Entertainment.


Jessica Riggs (Rebecca Harrell) is an 8-year-old girl whose mother has recently died of an unknown illness and is in the not very adequate care of her rough, quiet, protective father, John (Sam Elliott). In the Christmas season, she finds a hurt reindeer who she believes to be Prancer and sets herself on nursing him back to health. A deep bond grows between them. She is helped by a friendly old veterinarian (Abe Vigoda), befriends the old town recluse (Cloris Leachman), and comes to forge a closer relationship with her older brother, Steve (John Duda).

Jessica and John often clash after he discovers Prancer living in the shed near their house and, despite his revealing brief moments of deep love for her, he does not understand her special love for helping Prancer. After a misunderstanding, he sells him to the local butcher temporarily. His walls of hard feelings begin breaking down and he and Jessica finally forge a deep, loving bond. She, after several emotional and physical struggles between her best friend, Carol Wetherby (Ariana Richards), her family, and the town, manages to cure Prancer and set him free, where he is seen flying into the sky to rejoin Santa's other seven reindeer on Christmas Eve.

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