- This article is about the movie. For the book, see Saige Paints the Sky.
- Sidney Fullmer as Saige Copeland
- Mika Abdalla as Dylan
- Alana Gordillo as Gabi
- Alex Peters as Tessa
- Laurel Harris as Marina Copeland
- Kerr Smith as David Copeland
- Jane Seymour as Mimi
- Omar Paz Trujillo as Luis
- Rebecca Gibson as Principal Laird
- Stephanie Sy as Mrs. Applegate
- Kate Gajdosik as Mrs. Patterson
- Director: Vince Marcello
- Producers: Jean A. Mckenzie and Debra Martin Chase
- Executive Producers: Steven Brown and Gaylyn Fraiche
- Co-Producer: Erin Falligant
- Director of Photography: Jon Joffin, ASC
- Edited By: Paul Millspaugh
- Production Designer: Robb Wilson King
- Costume Designer: Mary Partridge
Early in the morning, Saige is drawing the landscape outside of her home using pastels. Saige's mother calls her—interrupting her concentration—and tells her to get ready for school. Saige gathers up her art supplies and heads indoors. She then quickly gets ready for her first day of fourth grade, picking out an outfit and accessories, and making sure to put art supplies in her backpack before coming down to breakfast. Saige's father, a hot air balloon pilot, shows the template of his hot air balloon that he will have at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, designed from sketches Saige provided. Saige is excited for the first day of school as she has not seen her best friend, Tessa Jablonsky, all summer since Tessa was at music camp. Saige's mother eventually gets her onto the bus for school.
Saige arrives at her first day of class at Mesa Grande Elementary and meets back up with Tessa. Delighted to see each other again, the two girls speak back and forth, finishing one another's sentences. Tessa then introduces Dylan Patterson, who was in a different class the previous school year; she and Tessa met and became friends at music camp. Saige tries to tell Tessa about her summer drawing but Dylan cuts her off, leaving Saige feeling ignored. The teacher, Mrs. Applegate, asks for the students to take their seats at two-person tables; Saige goes to sit by Tessa but Dylan sits next to her instead, and so Saige takes a seat at an empty table. Mrs. Applegate then introduces Gabi, a new girl who has moved up from South Albuquerque. Gabi takes the empty seat beside Saige. She introduces herself and says that she knows Mimi Copeland, Saige's grandmother, and has studied her art. She is an artist of her own, focusing mainly on anime style art and clothes design. Saige is slightly indifferent to her but friendly. Mrs. Applegate announces that art class has been dropped from the school's curriculum due to budget cuts, and this year there will be only music, while next year will be art. Saige is devastated.
After school, Saige goes to Mimi's house and meets up with Luis, Mimi's neighbor and friend. She sees Mimi out in the riding fence on Picasso, and she is doing a scarf trick where she lets two scarves unfurl as she rides. She and Saige go out on a ride and Saige discusses the lack of art. In Mimi's studio, she works on her mural while Saige works on her horse painting. Mimi praises Saige's texture and recommends she use a painting knife to further her blending techniques, but Saige declines. While eating with her parents, Saige continues telling Mimi about the situation, unenthusiastic about her first day of school being drastically different than what she hoped. Mimi proposes a school-wide protest against the school's decision to cut art. Saige is skeptical that she can do anything.
Later at school, Tessa agrees to go to Mimi's house with Saige instead of going to Dylan's house. Gabi invites Saige to her house, but Saige turns her down by saying she is busy. Tessa comes over to her house. They sing, paint, eat and play. Saige feels like she has her best friend back. As Saige is telling her grandmother about Tessa and her other friends, she hears a thud and Rembrandt barking. She runs into the studio to see Mimi on the ground; she has tripped over Rembrandt and badly injured herself. Saige runs towards Luis's house, who comes over and contacts an ambulance. Saige is hysterical at the accident. At the hospital, Mimi implores Saige to continue on with her protest. Saige agrees and promises to do so for her grandmother.
During lunch at school, Saige, Tessa, Gabi, and Dylan discuss plans on staging the protest, with Saige coming up with "A Day of Beige" after her visit to the hospital. Dylan suggests a press conference in order to gain more attention since her mother works as a news reporter, to which Saige reluctantly complies. The demonstrations are held as planned with all of the students wearing beige in protest but is nearly put to a halt as Saige and her friends are summoned to the principal's office to explain the situation. After a bit of a talk, Principal Laird gives the girls the permission to hold a press conference. The conference takes place, but upon being interviewed, Saige is overwhelmed with stage fright, and Dylan answers the reporters' questions in her place as Saige runs off. She is found by the principal, who tries to comfort her. Gabi, Dylan, and Tessa approach and ask if everything is okay—but then switch to how Dylan answered the questions. Saige swallows her discomfort.
Principal Laird tells the girls that even with a press conference and protest, the school board has informed her that there aren't any more funds to hire a full-time art teacher. Saige suggests that they instead hire a part-time teacher after school. Principal Laird says that this is plausible, but that they would need to earn $5,000 by mid-October to be able to add it into the budget this year—about six weeks away.
Saige discusses the situation Mimi, who suggests she hold a fundraiser at the annual balloon fiesta. Mimi also wants her granddaughter lead the parade in her place as she may not make it in time for the event. Saige worries that she might freeze up in front of people, but Mimi assures her that it will be alright.
The four girls get together to decide what should be done to raise the money in the time they have. Saige proposes they begin with things like lemonade stands. Dylan claims that odd jobs will not earn enough money, but Saige thinks she is wrong and they should try anyway. After a lemonade stand, car wash, and bake sale, very little has been earned, with Dylan looking more and more assured and Saige feeling more and more despondent.
At the after-school rehearsal for show choir (which Dylan and Tessa are part of), Gabi admires the performance, unlike Saige. After rehearsal (which ran over), Tessa gushes over how Dylan wrote the song they were performing to; Saige remains polite but indifferent. They ask how much money has been earned so far, and Saige says $83.77. Gabi is impressed but Dylan condescendingly remarks that another bake sale should get them the total. When Saige asks if she has any ideas, Dylan suggests they should do a concert at the fiesta, and she could write the songs. When Saige wonders what that has to do with art—which they are trying to restore back to classes—Dylan points out that music is in trouble too. She continues that music is more exciting with dancing and singing and that all that a person can do with art is "look at it" (inadvertently offending Saige). Dylan adds on that if Saige and Gabi don't want to be a part of the concert, they can make their own "art" fundraiser instead while Tessa can be in the concert with her. Tessa agrees that a concert would be fun and Saige suggests that they can just split up. Dylan says that she and Tessa need to go plan their own project and leaves. Tessa starts to leave, but stops and asks Saige if she is okay with the situation. Saige lies that she's fine, and Tessa only pushes a little before going off with Dylan.
Later at the ranch, Saige and her horse Picasso do a practice run, but Saige is frustrated from what happened with Tessa and can't concentrate on the ride, and can't get Picasso to do the parade gait. Luis says that has been enough practice and goes to get water for Picasso. While Luis is away, Saige finally gets Picasso to do the parade gait. Luis returns and praises her. Saige then tenses up and Picasso, sensing her feelings, falls out of the parade gait. Saige believes this is hopeless, and that if she can't even get Picasso into parade gait in from of Luis, she can't do it in front of hundreds of people. Luis shows Saige horse blinders and how they use them when they need to get Picasso to perform without distractions. He advises that Saige pretend she is wearing blinders and block out distractions.
Saige and Gabi haven't figured out an art fundraiser yet, and are worried that Dylan and Tessa's concert is getting more attention—over fifty kids have already signed up. Gabi invites Saige to her house, but Saige is reluctant and explains that she's going over Mimi's. Gabi states she can meet her there, then. Saige reluctantly agrees.
Saige and Picasso do another practice at the ranch. With Luis's suggestion of mental blinders, Saige gets Picasso to perform the parade gait in front of Luis. Proud, Luis states that she's ready tow work with scarves next practice. Saige agrees, but is secretly nervous and frustrated with the practice.
Gabi comes into the studio and is very impressed with the supplies and paintings as she has only used lower quality supplies. Saige tries to paint and ignore her, but finally gets frustrated and snaps at her, hurting her feelings. Saige realizes she was mean needlessly and apologizes; she explains that she feels the studio is a special place that only she, Tessa, and Mimi have been in—and now Gabi. As they talk, Rembrandt knocks Saige's still wet painting to the floor. Saige is distressed until Gabi points out some stuck dog hair on the easel. Saige realizes she can use the hair to add texture and paints it in, impressing Gabi. Saige then gets an idea for their fundraiser.
As Saige and Gabi try to tell the story the next day at school over lunch, Tessa is tense watching them get along. Dylan asks them to get to the point rather meanly; Tessa adds that they have music class after lunch. Saige suggests that art and music can be combined in the same way, for the concert. Dylan claims that they can't add art to music since she and Tessa already have their project ready. Gabi tries to elaborate the idea but Dylan remains stubborn, becoming abrasive when Saige attempts to discuss it. Saige asks Tessa for her opinion. After some thinking, Tessa agrees that Dylan has a point since their group has been working really hard on their songs for the concert. Upset, Saige accuses Tessa of just going along with Dylan, and that the "old Tessa" would have listened to what she had to say. Tessa becomes aggravated and Dylan tries to diffuse the situation by suggesting they leave. Saige suddenly flies into a rage against Dylan, expressing how she's sick of her because Dylan is annoying, self-centered, and takes over everything. Tessa furiously stops Saige's tirade. Shocked, she declares that the "old Saige" would never talk to anyone like that before walking off with a visibly hurt Dylan to rehearsal. Saige tries to apologize, but Tessa leaves, and a despondent Saige sits back down.
Later, Saige visits Mimi and tries to convince her to use the brush pens, but Mimi says that she can't do things like anymore. Saige tries to discuss doing art again, including coming to the parade. However, Mimi claims that she's not up to any of it, even going to the parade. Saige gets upset and confesses that things are worse than she has been admitting, but that the Mimi she knows wouldn't give up. Saige then runs off.
Another practice run with Picasso takes place and Saige tries to focus. As her parents and Gabi arrive to cheer her on, Saige freaks out, badly spooking Picasso to the point that Luis has to help her off horseback before she is hurt. Saige dismounts and throws her helmet on the ground in frustration, ranting that she can't do the parade ride so the Fiesta will be a disaster, doesn't have anymore ideas for the fundraiser, and isn't friends with Tessa since Dylan came along. Saige hysterically screams that she wants everything to go back to what it was like last year. Gabi is hurt—as she was not there last year—and quietly says she is going home. Saige begs her not to leave, but fails. When Saige's mother tries to comfort her, she runs off into the wilds, crying.
Sometime later, Saige and her father go up in a balloon ride. Saige muses that she doesn't understand why things change. Her father explains that change is good, and alludes it to plotting a balloon ride and that he can plot the course. He explains that Saige will need to accept the same changes in her grandmother and life, then suggests they see where the wind takes them.
The next day at school, Saige apologizes to Gabi for her freakout, admitting she's been having a hard time coping with so much change, and asks for forgiveness. Understanding Saige's feelings, Gabi accepts her apology and they reconcile. That afternoon, Saige apologizes to Mimi for her outburst, accepting that her grandmother needs to go at her own pace. Saige tries repeatedly at the scarf trick; Luis suggest they stop practice but Saige insists that she has to keep trying instead of giving up. Mimi watches through her bedroom window; Saige's perseverance inspires her to pick up the brush pens that Saige initially brought her in the hospital.
After practice, Saige goes to Mimi's studio. When deciding to work on her horse painting, she picks up the painting knife instead of the paintbrush. The blotting of the paint inspires Saige to be less photorealistic, and she paints faster and faster, ultimately modifying her art into a much more abstract, dynamic, colorful piece. As she finishes, Tessa arrives and compliments the painting, saying it's the best thing Saige has ever created. Saige is quiet until Tessa affirms that they should work together for the fundraiser, having learned Saige's passion for art is just like her passion for music. Tessa apologizes for not realizing how rude she was being in her new friendship with Dylan and admits she became jealous when seeing Gabi and Saige finishing each other's sentences. Saige also apologizes for lashing out instead of properly discussing her feelings. They reconcile and hug. Tessa reveals that the concert has fallen apart and there isn't going to be a fundraiser anymore; Dylan was so forceful and controlling about the event to the point where almost all the participants dropped out. Saige looks at Mimi's unfinished mural and gets an idea to restore the fundraiser performance.
In a montage, Saige works with the principal, show choir, school band, and others to help redesign the fundraising concert. In between, she works on an unseen art piece. During the painting of what appears to be the concert background, Dylan shyly approaches. Saige offers her the chance to help, since she already knows parts of the dance, which Dylan accepts. Admitting how she messed up with the concert, Dylan apologizes for taking over Saige's fundraiser, explaining that she was just so excited to be involved and ended up forgetting its goal to help both art and music. Dylan also admits that she makes jokes to cover up her nervousness, revealing that she gets nervous around Saige because of her friendship with Tessa, which made her jealous. Saige confesses that she was also jealous of Dylan's budding friendship with Tessa and should have communicated clearly instead of being quietly angry. She and Dylan make amends, and Saige suggests Dylan help Tessa with the new song and dance. Tessa and Dylan reconcile as well.
The 16th Annual Balloon Fiesta starts, and Saige nervously talks to Picasso. She then sees that Mimi had made it to the parade in her wheelchair. Mimi surprisingly pushes to her feet; she hadn't walked since the accident, although now she must use a cane. Saige admits she's worried that she will freak out and can't do the scarf trick. Mimi assures that Saige will do alright, and doesn't have to do the scarves. Mimi then shows Saige the art she's done with the brush pens, and how she was inspired by her granddaughter's perseverance. Mimi proclaims that Saige is her muse.
At the start of the Fiesta parade, the announcer explains that the usual grand marshal, Mimi, cannot perform so her granddaughter, Saige, is taking her place. Saige starts to walk out and thinks of "blinders" to help her focus. The parade starts off well; however, camera flashes cause Saige to panic and lose focus. She begins to have an anxiety attack, causing Picasso to stop. However, after taking a moment (displayed with encouraging inner voice-overs of her family and friends, concluding with Mimi's), Saige continues, and she successfully performs the scarf trick to the cheering crowd.
The fundraising performance starts with Principal Laird discussing the benefits of art and music in school education. She informs the crowd that they have raised about $2,000, but need at least $3,000 more to restore art to the school curriculum and implores for donations. Principal Laird then introduces the performance, "Living Art". As the first performer mimics painting the background, Saige gives the introduction voice-over from a microphone off-stage. "Living Art" then commences as a montage of students dance, using images from Mimi's unfinished mural as a theme of art brought to life (performing as the people and images in the painting). They perform a song written by Tessa and Dylan, "An Extraordinary World". Gabi is part of the performance and has designed the costumes. As the performance proceeds, the gathered funds rise. At the end, Gabi and Tessa implore Saige to come out and bow with them, as she helped design the performance. Once they drag her out, Dylan brings Saige a bouquet before she takes a bow with everyone.
The final tally at the end is $3,992—well short of the goal. Saige then asks to make a speech. Saige explains how she has faced a lot of fears—including public speaking and performing—and passionately talks about how much art means to her and many others since it gives them a voice. She receives a standing ovation, is complimented by family and friends, and the final push puts them over the donation goal, allowing an art program this year, to much rejoicing.
As the hot air balloons go up later that day, Saige points out her design to her friends, who are all coming up with her. Her father loads them into the basket, and they rise up into the air among the other hot air balloons.
- In the books, Saige is aware that her school will not be having art for fourth grade, but forgot and is reminded by Tessa; budget cuts have resulted in cycling art and music recently, and last year was art. In the film, Saige doesn't find out until the first day when her teacher makes the announcement, as this is the first year they will not have both classes.
- In the film, Mimi trips over her dog, Rembrandt, while Saige is at her house and Saige runs to get Luis for help. In the books, Mimi falls when nobody else is home and Saige only finds out from Luis and Carmen after she comes home from school.
- In the movie, Saige came up with the Day of Beige after she visited Mimi at the hospital and thought the walls were dull and boring. In the books, Saige came up with it after she saw a deer pop out from the brown grass while riding Georgia.
- In the books, Gabi and Saige put on a show with Picasso as part of the festival, which is raising money for art programs in schools together. In the movie, a performance of "living art" is held at the festival, involving all four girls.
- In the books, Saige's leading the parade on Picasso is not as big of a deal to her, and she spends most of her time training him to do tricks with Gabi. In the film, Saige spends her time training to do the "parade gait" and "scarf trick" with Picasso while also dealing with her severe stage fright and social anxiety.
- In the film, Dylan is directly antagonistic to all of Saige's ideas and dismissive the art program as it doesn't interest her. Saige eventually becomes so fed up with Dylan that she yells at her, causing Tessa to walk off. This leads to her later snapping at Gabi, and she must reconcile with each girl separately. In the books, this doesn't happen as Dylan is more of an acquaintance. Saige's frustrations are more internal with the change of Dylan as Tessa's friend, but there is no overt resentment or a falling out with Gabi.
- In the film, the after-school art class is definitively reinstated as a separate part of classes, but only after the money is raised at the performance. In the books, an after-school art program is stated to be implemented soon after the Day of Beige following discussions with the administration, and art lessons are integrated into other subjects.
- In the books, Saige has the balloon ride with Mimi alone, though she invites her friends to her birthday party. In the film, Tessa, Gabi, and Dylan come in the balloon with her.
- There is no plot regarding the selling of Mimi's horse, Georgia.
- Saige is much more adverse to change, to the point that she has many "freak-outs" about it. Her stage fright and performance anxiety is even more apparent in the film to the point of being severely crippling; Saige visibly hyperventilates and breaks down in tears several times because of it.
- In the film, Gabi is Latina and African-American (by virtue of her actress). In the books, she is described as having brown skin but is illustrated as a light-skinned Latina.
- Gabi is not shown to have the same love of dogs or other animals that she does in the books. Instead, her focus is on art, including clothing design and anime-style art.
- Saige is more indifferent to Gabi at the start of the movie than at the start of the books; it takes a while for her to open up and become friendly.
- Dylan is new to Saige instead of a known acquaintance. Her focus on music and stage performance is nearly to the exclusion of everything else. Dylan is also much more directly antagonistic to and dismissive of Saige's ideas, to the point that they have a fight in school.
- Mimi is initially much more defeatist in the movie and doesn't want to try to walk or do art. In the books, she actively tries to get back on her feet.
- Carmen, Miss Fane, Agnes Fane, and Celeste are not seen or mentioned in the movie.
- Gabi's family is not shown in the movie.
- Mimi does not have nearly as many animals; she only has Rembrandt, Picasso, and Georgia, the latter of whom is only seen once. Saige's family does not have a dog of their own. Mimi's cat, Stella, is also not in the movie.
- Mrs. Copeland was a redhead in the books but is a brunette in the movie.
Home Video Release
The movie was released on DVD and Blu-ray on July 2, 2013.
It was available as a DVD for $9.95 and as a DVD/Blu-Ray/digital copy/Ultraviolet pack for $14.95. American Girl retired these in 2020.
The movie aired on NBC on July 13, 2013.
Items Associated With the Movie
- Jane Seymour to film American Girl in N.M., abqjournal.com, accessed April 4, 2013.