Join Spirit, a wild young mustang, as he sets out on an action-packed quest against impossible odds to regain his freedom and save his homeland. In his courageous and thrilling journey across the majestic wilderness of the American frontier, Spirit forms a remarkable friendship with a young Lakota brave, outwits a relentless squadron of soldiers, and falls for a beautiful paint mare named Rain. Nominated for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award in 2002 and featuring the voices of Matt Damon and James Cromwell, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron boasts glorious traditional animation and a soaring, adventure-filled story that's perfect for the entire family.
I can't believe that 'Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron' is twelve years old. I remember really liking this film when it was released in theaters back in 2002. But I haven't seen the film in over a decade and was curious how well it would hold up. Fortunately, it does and I wish more animated movies were made in this style now. After the success of DreamWorks's 'Shrek', the animation studio decided to tell a different kind of story in a much different way than what mainstream audiences were used to.
This tale of courage, bravery, loyalty, friendship, and freedom is full of heart warming tenderness, that it's hard not to enjoy. Writer John Fusco ('Young Guns'), delivers a great script that is full of adventure. Fusco and directors Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook ditched the regular style of animation and used hand drawn cells mixed with CG to create the impressive look of 'Spirit'. Not only did they take that great approach, they refused to have their animalsspeak dialogue throughout the film. Instead, the animals make animal sounds and express themselves through their body language and a voice over narration by several actors from time to time.
It works to great effect. By doing this, you become more attached to the characters, as there is a more realistic sense about them and are forced to pay more attention to the animal character as a whole and watch every movement of their body to see what they're feeling. It's quite magical.
We meet Spirit as a young colt (narrating courtesy of Matt Damon) who lives with a great herd of horses out on the open range. He has a great life with his family. He grows up to be an impressive stallion and becomes the leader of the herd, protecting the others from various predatory animals. Well, if you thought cats were the only animals who were curious, think again. Spirit is a very curious animal and always loves to investigate his surroundings.
One evening, he sees some light in the distance near his herd and he chooses to investigate. The light he sees is a camp where humans are sleeping. Seeing that Spirit is a fine specimen of a horse, they capture him and bring him to 'The Colonel' (James Cromwell), who will tame him from the wild and use him in his war against the Indians. But Spirit refuses to be tamed and broken and tries to escape and refuses to be ridden by anyone. The Colonel punishes Spirit for trying to escape and ties him to a post for three days without food and water. Here, Spirit comes in contact with a young man named Little Creek (Daniel Studi), who has also been captured.
The two can sense that they are not meant to be slaves or tamed, and they form a bond and escape together. Little Creek brings Spirit to his village where Spirit meets a beautiful mare named Rain where she tries to teach Spirit that some humans are kind and gentle. But The Colonel is hot on their pursuit and the film becomes a cat-and-mouse chase scene for a while, up until a couple of climactic scenes show us the true courage of both Spirit and Little Creek.
The way 'Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron' is told is almost poetic. It's themes and morals tell a great story with excellent characters. I do feel that Matt Damon's narration was a little monotone and flat, and that several other actors could have done that voice over more justice, but I guess he was Mr. Fancy Pants at the time, and it was a way to lure people into the theater. The film as a whole is inspirational and heart warming to its core. These characters show just how loyal and courageous they are when facing the worst of times and how they defeat being chained up and tamed. 'Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron' is an epic tale of what it truly means to be free.
'Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron' comes with am excellent 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The image as a whole looks amazing. The detail is very sharp and has a lot of depth, showcasing the beautifully created landscapes in the old west. The colors simply pop right off the screen with a very earthy tone to them. The golden color of Spirit looks fantastic with the greens and browns of the landscapes looking luscious and real. The blue army uniforms also shine nicely. The black levels are deep and inky as well. There was an instance or two of some minor banding, but other than that, this looks great.
This release comes with a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio mix that sounds very good. The sound as a whole feels just a tiny bit underwhelming. Don't get me wrong, it sounds great, but it doesn't have that robust or lively sound that I expected from an animated adventure set in the wild west. The sound effects of stampeding horses, explosions, or trains moving all sound realistic and good, but it lacks that powerful punch that could fully immerse you in the middle of the action.
I guess they didn't want to scare the young children with loud noises, but the sound effects do have some effective directionality and pour through the rear speakers often. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand. It's perfectly situated and well balanced on the center channel. The score and songs pop and always add to the tone of the film, while never drowning out the dialogue or sound effects. The background elements of the wind or other nature sounds always sound clear and even. There was no evidence of any pops, cracks, or hissing either.
Audio Commentary - Directors Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook, as well as Producer Mireille Soria provide a fun and informative audio commentary on the making of this movie. They discuss its origins, pitched story plots, and characters. The also dive into some of the casting, the voice work, and some of the technical details of the animation process where they both used CG and hand drawn animation. Great listen.
Learn to Draw 'Spirit' with James Baxter (SD, 14 mins.) - Baxter was the movie's supervising animator and gives us a look at how 'Spirit' was hand drawn, complete with a supply list.
Animating 'Spirit' (SD, 7 mins.) - Here is a glimpse of how the animators combined the CG and hand drawn elements to create the characters.
The Songs of 'Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (SD, 10 mins.) - This bonus feature focuses on composer Hans Zimmer and singer Bryan Adams who both created the music and hit song for the film. We see them discuss what inspired them and some practice sessions.
Storyboards (SD, 17 mins.) - Here are four different segments of four different big scenes in the film with their storyboards presented on screen with optional director commentary.
International Star Talent (SD, 3 mins.) - Here is a very short look of some of the voice talent for the film capturing the characters in their own voice.
'Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron' is a great animated film with some wonderful technical marvels that you can feast your eyes on. The story itself is very heart warming and packs a powerful message. I still love this animated film and it still holds up after twelve years. The video and audio are very good with some decent extras. If you're a fan of the film, this is recommended.