Australian Screen

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Storm Boy (1976)

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clip 'Wild things should be free' education content clip 1, 2, 3

Original classification rating: G. This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

Mike (Greg Rowe) is overjoyed when Mr Percival, his pet pelican, returns after being set free.

Curator’s notes

Some of the most charming scenes in the film as boy and bird become inseparable.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows 'Hideaway’ Tom Kingsley (Peter Cummins) trying to comfort a despondent 'Storm Boy’ (Greg Rowe) after he has released the pelican Mr Percival into the wild. As Tom gruffly explains to his son that wild things should be free, Mr Percival’s call is heard. Storm Boy rushes up the beach toward the bird, while his father looks on. This is followed by a sequence showing Storm Boy and Mr Percival together, which demonstrates the bond between the two but also underscores how important Mr Percival is as a companion to Storm Boy.

Educational value points

  • The clip shows scenes from the feature film Storm Boy. Released in 1976, the film was an immediate commercial success in Australia and overseas. Based on a popular children’s book by Australian author Colin Thiele, it uses the overlapping themes of alienation, marginalisation and loss that connect Storm Boy, his father Hideaway Tom, Fingerbone Bill and the pelicans to tackle issues such as black and white relations, family and environmentalism.
  • Storm Boy’s dependence on Mr Percival and the symbiotic nature of their relationship are well illustrated. Until Mr Percival’s appearance, Storm Boy lives a secluded life with his reclusive father in an isolated coastal town, where he has no companions of his own age and his only entertainment is self-made. When Storm Boy rescues and rears Mr Percival, the bird provides the boy with companionship and an emotional bond.
  • The orphaned pelicans that Storm Boy rears and then sets free provide a powerful allegory about the use and respect of the natural environment, and the need for people to coexist with, rather than spoil, this environment. Hideaway Tom shows he understands this when he says 'Wild things should be free’.
  • The exteriors of Storm Boy were shot in the Coorong wetlands, south-east of Adelaide in South Australia. The wetlands cover 140,500 hectares and consist of a long, shallow lagoon more than 100 km in length that is separated from the Southern Ocean by a narrow sand dune peninsula. It is one of Australia’s most important wetlands, providing a habitat for many animals and a refuge for waterbirds.
  • The clip celebrates the pleasure Storm Boy takes in his environment. While he eventually has to accept the incursions of the outside world, the film suggests that the wetlands are as much of a sanctuary for the boy as they are for the wildlife, with the wetlands allowing him to pursue simple pleasures such as sailing a homemade wooden raft with Mr Percival.
  • Mr Percival is an Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus), common to Australian wetlands and recognisable by its distinctive elongated bill, with its massive throat pouch, which is used for feeding. Pelicans grow up to 1.8 m long with a wingspan that can extend to 2.5 m, making them Australia’s largest flying birds. Three pelicans were trained for several months before production of Storm Boy began.
  • Actor David Gulpilil is shown in the role of Fingerbone Bill. Storm Boy was one of the first Australian films to cast an Indigenous Australian as a central character and in a positive role. Fingerbone Bill teaches Storm Boy about the land, the sea and Indigenous people and the friendship that develops between the two offers an alternative model for black–white relations based on cooperation and respect rather than distrust.

Mike is walking along the beach with a sad face.
Mike’s father There’s no use fretting, son. Didn’t know you’d be upset that much. Anyway, wild things should be free.
Mike looks up and sees his pet pelican standing on a pole.
Mike He’s come back! Dad, he’s come back! Mr Percival’s come back!
Mike runs towards Mr Percival and the pelican flies off the pole to greet Mike.

Mike pulls out the sail on his boat and the pelican joins him out at sea.

Mike is on the beach with Fringerbone Bill and Mr Percival. Fingerbone Bill is twining grass into a cat’s cradle-like formation which he shows to Mike.
Fingerbone Bill This is where Mr Percival appear. See? What’s that, Storm Boy?
Mike It’s a pelican’s nest.
Fingerbone Bill Right.

In a succession of short scenes, we see Mike and Mr Percival playing and sharing each other’s company on the beach and in the water.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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