Posted: 04/14/2002


Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron


by Paul Fischer

Beautiful new DreamWorks animated film features the voices of Matt Damon, James Cromwell and Daniel Studi, and is directed by Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook.

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Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is the animated adventure of a wild and rambunctious mustang stallion journeying through the untamed American frontier. Encountering man for the first time, Spirit defies being broken, even as he develops a remarkable friendship with a young Lakota brave. The courageous young stallion also finds love with a beautiful paint mare named Rain on his way to becoming one of the greatest unsung heroes of the Old West.

Traditional animation is alive and well in this visually arresting and compelling film, the perfect antidote to a crowded summer of spiders, death stars and men in black. While there is obviously room for these films, Spirit is not only perfect family entertainment, but takes the art of conventional animation to new cinematic heights. The mark of the perfect animated feature is to combine both visual depth with a strong sense of narrative, and both interweave here to create the perfect animated film. Full of rich texture, directors Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook and their team of artists and animators, have meticulously conjured up a world diverse in its beauty and harshness, a world that has elements of realism and a haunting sense of mythology and timelessness.

Screenwriter John Fusco has succeeded in creating a memorable protagonist in the wild mustang through whose the eyes the formidable battle between While and Native America unfolded. Somewhat riskier than most animated films, the characters of the film’s various horses refrain from uttering human dialogue, avoiding a cloying trait that is prevalent in many of Disney’s animal tales of the cartoon variety. The horses themselves move in a fluid, rhythmic manner, and their grace and volatility have been perfectly captured. While the film’s foreground is vivid enough, background work including stunning scenes of fire, snow and waterfalls are truly spellbinding and serve to enhance the film’s sense of landscape.

Hans Zimmer’s score is appropriately evocative, and the film’s story is crisp and engaging for young and old alike. The joy of Spirit is the ability to be swept up in its narrative, yet at the same time, awe-inspired by its shimmering artistry. Poignant, exciting and full of humor, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is not only a magnificent work of art, but a poetic and sublime piece of cinematic entertainment.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron opens May 24, 2002

Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.

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