Fly Away Homeis a 1996 drama and comedy film directed by Carroll Ballard , the director ofThe Black Stallion(1979). The film stars Anna Paquin , Jeff Daniels and Dana Delany . The story follows a young girl from New Zealand who survives a car crash that results in the death of her mother. The young girl is sent to live with her father on an Ontario farm, where she adopts a brood of baby Canada geese . When the birds are imprinted with her as their Mother Goose, she realizes that unless she and her father can teach the birds a migration route from Ontario to North Carolina , the birds will not be able to survive the winter. The solution comes in the form of ultralight aircraft that is used to guide the birds to sanctuary.
The film has mostly positive critical reviews, receiving an 85% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes .
The film was loosely based on the real-life experiences of Bill Lishman , a Canadian inventor, artist, and ultralight aircraft hobbyist. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Lishman openly wondered whether geese and similar birds could be taught new migration patterns by following ultralight aircraft onto which they had been imprinted . In 1993, after several years of logistical and bureaucratic setbacks, Lishman successfully led a flock of Canada Geese on a winter migration from Ontario, Canada to Northern Virginia, United States.
In New Zealand, 13-year-old Amy Alden (Anna Paquin) is involved in a car accident with her mother, which results in her mother’s death. Amy is taken back to her new home in Ontario by her inventor father Thomas Alden (Jeff Daniels), who later introduces her to his girlfriend, Susan (Dana Delany). While Amy is initially hostile towards her dad and Susan, she eventually grows fond of both.
After a construction crew destroys a small wilderness area of birds in the Alden family’s backyard, Amy decides to check out the scene only to find a bunch of 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 them. When she comes back from school, she discovers that the eggs have hatched and Thomas allows her to keep the birds.
After asking for help from a local game warden (Jeremy Ratchford) on how to help care for the geese, the warden comes over to the Alden house where he says all domestic geese must have their wings pinioned (clipped) in order to render them flightless. When the game warden attempts this on one of the geese, it upsets Amy. Thomas throws the game warden off his property where the warden threatens that if the birds start flying, he will have to confiscate them.
Thomas begins doing research and learns that if the birds aren’t taught to fly properly , they will fly off on their own and get lost. He enacts a plan to use a homemade aircraft to teach the birds to fly. When the birds fail to follow him, he comes up with the following 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 disgusted at hearing the news as, the previous day, Amy had hopped in one of Thomas’s aircraft and almost killed herself when the aircraft crashed.