"The movie "Prancer" remains the only major motion picture that has ever been filmed here ...," said Utica native Scott Anderson, now of Princeton.
Anderson, who was an infant during the filming, said because he and his family lived on Clark's Hill, which is seen in the film's finale, he started archiving local stories and photographs from Utica's Hollywood moment a few years ago.
"I have heard several recounts about the production, crews and actors while growing up in Utica and, now that I have children of my own, I have grown very fond of the movie," said Anderson. "I have collected much trivia about it and have even made contact with the movie's main actress – Rebecca Harrell Tickell – who played the young girl Jessica.”
"Prancer" tells the tale of an 8-year-old girl who is grieving with her father and brother over the death of her mother. The movie follows the despondent Jessica as she finds an injured reindeer she comes to believe belongs to Santa Claus' legendary team. Her determination to protect and nurse the animal back to health for a return to the North Pole before Christmas Eve is revealed onscreen with humor, conflict and empathy.
In the film's finale, Jessica's father (played by veteran actor Sam Elliott) suggests they take Prancer to Antler Ridge (in reality, Devil's Nose at Starved Rock) which, he says, would be the perfect place for Prancer to return to Santa. The father and daughter haul Prancer to Antler Ridge via truck where he disappears into the night.
Following his tracks, Jessica and her father are not so surprised to see the tracks vanish at the edge of a cliff. The soft sound of sleigh bells can be heard drifting down from the night's sky before a streak of light (Prancer) is seen rising to meet St. Nick's sleigh. Prancer and his fellow flying reindeer fly across the full moon as Jessica says her farewells to Prancer with the hopes he will always remember her.
Anderson said, in the film's final moments, "you can see Starved Rock's Lover's Leap in the background." Most of the film's other scenes were shot in Three Oaks, Mich.