The Story of Flicka
The Intricate Dance of a Family and a Wild Mustang
“The truth is, wherever a Settler left his footprint, there was a hoofprint beside it,” said the voice of Katy McLaughlin in the movie Flicka, set to be released in movie theaters nationwide on October 20, 2006. “A dog may be man’s best friend but the history of the west was written by the horse.”
In this movie the story centers around a beautiful black Wild Mustang filly named Flicka that Katy (played by Alison Lohman) comes upon one day while riding out in the woods on her family’s Wyoming ranch called Goose Creek Ranch Quarter Horses.
The name Flicka was inspired by one of the ranch hands. Gus was 39 and explained, “a flicka is a young girl; innocent… you can see in her face the beauty she will become. I think it’s Swedish. My mama used to call my little sister flicka.”
“In time, almost everything wild had vanished from the west,” said Katy. “Or so the people believed. A few wild horses, mistengos, hid away in the mountains. But people hunted them, sold them to slaughterhouses, said they ruined the land for cattle. Isolated and hungry, they were on their way to disappearing from the face of the earth.”
When Katy discovered Flicka it was all those feelings that came through and she saw this mare as a symbol, a way to save the Wild Mustangs, but it took a lot of patience for the mare to trust Katy. Yet it was the intricate dance of horse and girl and the interactions between the family members that bring the story to life.
THE FAMILY INTERATION
While the central theme is the girl and this Wild Mustang, the communication between the different family members is integral to how this family reconnects with each other. Flicka is as much an interplay of the actors with each other as it is a story about a girl and the horse she befriends.
Katy is wild and independent but enamored by the whole idea of owning a ranch and saving the wild horses that roam it. At one point during the movie Katy is watching Flicka in the wild running away from her. She feels “exactly what this young horse is feeling. If she can just ride fast enough, long enough, all the fearful things in the world will never catch her.”
Her brother Howard (played by Ryan Kwanten) has a totally different view and yearns to be part of a more urban lifestyle. Her dad, Rob (played by Tim McGraw) is the typical head of the family who rules with an iron fist but doesn’t recognize how like him his daughter is.
“He doesn’t need me, Katy. You’re the one he needs. He just doesn’t see it yet,” remarks Howard.
At one point in the movie when Rob and Katy are at each other her dad says “How do you know anything about that creature (referring to Flicka).”
Katy responds, “Because we are the same!”
It takes the bond between Katy and Flicka and the twists and turns of that connection that ultimately are what help the dad to finally understand Katy.
It is her mom Nell (played by Maria Bello) who helps along the way. In an attempt to get Katy to understand her dad she says, “Try and understand what it’s like to feel responsible for something you love so much.”
To her husband Rob she says, “Training her own horse will set a pattern to her days. She needs to feel good about something…about herself.”
And in yet another conversation she comments, “When are you gonna look at our daughter and see she’s you? And that’s why I love her so much.”
Rob grew up loving the rancher’s life but it’s been difficult yet this comment is what it’s all about for him. “I see those kids hanging out in the malls, sullen, lazy, no ambition, no dreams. This is the only way I know how to save our children.”
A WORD OF THANKS
Elizabeth Gabler, President of Fox 2000 Pictures, was the vision behind bringing Flicka to the Silver Screen. Gabler explained that as a little girl she “had seen the original film and the television series. It was something that was in my consciousness for many years.”
She took the preliminary steps to get a script written for the movie but that was around the time of the “big family boom and studios were having difficulty reaching that market. So, I had to put it on the shelf and it remained dormant for many years.”
It was Gil Netter, the Producer of Flicka, who approached her about exploring the possibility of redeveloping this film. They got Michael Mayer to direct the movie, redeveloped the theme to be more relevant to this day and age and the rest is history.
So, a word of thanks to those who believed in the concept of this movie and the value of bringing it back for today’s audiences to appreciate.
A BONDING OF ANIMAL AND PEOPLE
“It’s got characters that everyone can relate to,” explains Kwanten. “Whether it’s the overbearing but caring father, or the wild child daughter who’s just trying to be free and live her life; or whether it’s the son who’s got ideals of grandeur down the line; or the mom who’s trying to keep them all together. I think everyone can relate to some sort of aspect or character flaw within those people.”
American Humane Association, who oversees the safety of the horses on the movie set and whose representatives were involved with the entire filming of Flicka saw the script early and liked the message. “We saw that it was the story of a Wild Mustang and a young girl who bonds with this horse. The horse ultimately saves her. It’s an amazing bond through patience and love. In the end she convinces others that it is worth rescuing Wild Mustangs,” said Karen Rosa, Director of the Film & Television Unit, who has been involved with AHA for 14 years.
“American Humane has done a lot about the bonding of animals and horses and what is that bond between human and animal and why it is beneficial,” she continued. “It is definitely one of the messages of our organization. We embraced the movie when we got this script.”
AHA also worked with the head wrangler Rusty Hendrickson many times before. “His record is sterling and Fox did a good job choosing him.”
The movie closes with Katy talking about how people move around unsettled looking for something. She notes that what they are looking for is, “a place where they can be optimistic about the future … A place that helps them to be who they really want to be. Where they can feel like this life makes sense … A place where they can feel what I feel when I’m riding Flicka. Cause when we’re riding all I feel is free!”
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