Running Free A.K.A One Paw

Running Free is a drama which involves a young boy and his friendship with an Alaskan wolverine and the animal preservation issues that revolve around the heightened awareness of humane treatment of animals, especially in wilderness areas. When a young teenage boy, Garrett, accompanies his mother to the Alaskan wilderness for the summer, he lets everyone know that he is misrable there. His mother had thought that he would love a vacation in the wilderness while she worked at researching eagles, but Garrett is bored and petulant. An accident in which a wolverine gets into one of the cabins and knocks over an oil lamp causing a fire, results in the destruction of one of the guest cabins. Since there is no room for both his mom and Garrett to stay, his mom leaves Garrett to stay with their guide, Bunk. On an excursion into the wilderness, Garrett watches a pack of baby wolverines playing by the river. One slips into the rapids and Garrett saves him, thus beginning a wonderful relationship that totally changes Garrett's point of view about the wilderness and the concept of lasting friendship. Garrett names the little wolverine, One Paw, because of his one white paw. The boy feeds him, sleeps with the cub and hikes with him. When his mom returns, she believes she has no choice but to let Garrett keep One Paw. They have several exploits, including one in which Garrett believes that One Paw has been killed by a bear, only to find the clever cub returning to camp. But, the summer inevitably ends and Garrett must set One Paw free again into the wilderness. One Paw is able to survive in the wilderness and we see him in several situations either hunting or fishing. He is even able to chase off a wolf from a carcass and feast for himself. However, there are many in the area who would rather have the price that they can get for the wolverine, rather than befriend him. They reason that a domesticated wolverine will only raid cabins and become dangerous. When a helicopter pilot, Carl, goes after One Paw, he shoots the animal with a tranquilizer dart and even beats him with a stick when the animal growls. He finally captures One Paw, cages him in the helicopter and sets off for civilization. The clever animal is able to escape from his cage and attack Carl causing him to loose control of the helicopter. As the helicopter plunges to the ground, One Paw falls out of the plane. One Paw is unharmed and makes his way back to the wreckage where he only observes Carl and doesn't hurt him. Carl is rescued, but to avoid humiliation tells a bogus tale of the "killer wolverine." Later, One Paw has a run-in with a trapper whereby he gets snagged by a trap, but manages to escape when the trapper's dogs overturn his sled. Back in town, the trapper and Carl commiserate about the troublesome wolverine with one white paw and team up to hunt One Paw and kill him. During the hunt, they shoot at One Paw and another wolverine causing one to be wounded and one to be trapped in an avalanche. We eventually learn that One Paw survives their attack and Bunk steps in to insure that Carl is arrested for illegal aerial hunting. In spring, Garrett and his mom return to Alaska and Garrett reminisces about his friend, One Paw. Just when he is convinced that his friend has been absorbed by the wilderness, One Paw arrives to save Garrett's life and show off his own family of playful cubs. Garrett learns that friendship is forever.

  • Starring: Jesse Montgomery-Sythe, Jamie Lee Misfeldt, Michael Peña
  • Director(s): Steve Kroschel
  • Producer(s): Kroschel Films
  • Screenwriter(s): Steve Kroschel, Mary Beth Smith
  • Distributor: Trimark Pictures
  • Release Date: Wednesday, October 05, 1994

Featured Animal Action

Animal action is extensive and throughout the entire film. The wolverines seen in the film were born in captivity and trained by the director who is U.S.D.A. licensed and an experienced filmmaker of wildlife documentaries. Many of the scenes with the wolverines were merely filmed as documentary footage where the animals were released into a wilderness environment and photographed in their natural habitat. Any scenes that depicted violence to the animal, such as the scene where One Paw is caught in the trap, or where he is hit by the tranquilizer dart, were shot in cuts and utilized fake animals. Fake animals were also used in scenes depicting dead animals. When One Paw gets his paw caught in the trap, the scene was shot in cuts. A fake paw is shown in close up as the trap snaps down. The trap that is seen as One Paw struggles and finally springs free of the device, was rigged to allow the animal easy freedom and was in no way harmful to the animal. The animal was trained to release the device that opens the trap. When it appears as if Carl has shot One Paw and the animal spins as if hit, he was responding to the trainer's clapping command. Trained behavior was also used when One Paw manages to get free of the cage in the helicopter and then attack Carl. When we see the live animal in the helicopter he is in a body harness and his trainer is actually holding him. Most of the scene was shot on the ground and the actual struggle in the helicopter was filmed using a fake animal. When One Paw jumps out of the plane after attacking Carl, the scene was shot in cuts. A fake animal was thrown from the plane, but it was the real animal seen running away. As One Paw walks around the wreckage, we see what appears to be broken glass, but these pieces are actually made of plexiglass and are not sharp and fragmented as is real glass. In their first encounter when Garrett rescues the baby wolverine from the river, an extreme camera angle was used to give the appearance of a steep bank of the river. The cub actually only slid about three feet into the waiting arms of his trainer. The scene in which One Paw falls through the ice was shot in cuts. The ice was made of wax and the scene was actually shot inside a studio. In the scene after One Paw is tracked and supposedly killed by Carl and the trapper, we see the wolverine bleeding and dying. For this scene, both a live and a fake animal were used. The live animal was trained in pre-production to limp and did so when cued by his trainer. For the actual dying scene, an assistant, standing outside of camera range, was able to squeeze the stomach area of the fake animal to simulate the effect of gasping last breathes. The scenes where there were close-ups of One Paw seemingly either tranquilized or dying, the animal was actually being photographed while napping in a trailer that was painted a whitish blue to reflect more light and simulate the look of ice. The animal was very trusting of the trainer and grew accustomed to being photographed and eventually to ignore the photography being done as he was napping. For the scene where One Paw becomes engulfed by the avalanche, the scene was shot in separate sequences utilizing blue screen techniques and fake animals. The live animals were photographed against a blue acreen and in post production this was edited in with avalanche footage in which fake animals were used. When other animals were seen interacting with the wolverine, such as the chase with Bunk's dog prior to the fire, the bear attack on One Paw, or the fight with the wolf over the carcass, the action was all simulated play behavior and filmed in cuts. These animals were comfortable with each other, especially the dog and the wolverine. Other animals are seen briefly in the film to lend the appropriate atmosphere. They include a chipmunk, porcupine, otter, duck, fish, caribou and a flock of birds. American Humane was not on the set during the entire filming, but spoke extensively with the filmmaker and trainer and received a detailed video tape that documented the making of the film. A representative of American Humane visited the compound during the training for some of the critical fight scenes between the animals and videotaped the stunts.