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Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook
Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi
Writing Credits:
John Fusco

Leader. Hero. Legend.
Box Office:
$80 million
Opening Weekend
$23.213 million on 3317 screens
Domestic Gross
$73.12 million
Rated G

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Castilian Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin American Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Flemish Dolby Digital 5.1
Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Castilian Spanish
Latin American Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Castilian Spanish
Latin American Spanish

Runtime: 83 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 5/13/2014

• Audio Commentary with Producer Mireille Soria and Directors Lorna Cook and Kelly Asbury
• “Learn to Draw Spirit” Featurette
• “Animating Spirit” Featurette
• “The Songs of Spirit” Featurette
• Storyboards with Optional Directors’ Commentary
• “International Star Talent”
• DVD Copy


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Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron [Blu-Ray] (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 30, 2014)

2002’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron blurred the lines between computer-generated and cel animated films. The movie blended the two formats to a then-unprecedented degree, as it combined computer-created settings and participants with other hand-drawn characters. The results seem somewhat choppy and distracting at times, but Spirit generally offers an interesting experience.

Set in western America roughly circa the 1880s, we see the birth of stallion Spirit and watch him grow. Eventually he becomes the leader of the Cimarron herd, but when humans invade their valley, matters go downhill. Spirit (voiced by Matt Damon) feels curious so he checks out the men, but he inadvertently leads them back to the clan. His actions then allow the others to escape, but the humans capture him and induct him into the Army.

Then we meet a tough Colonel (James Cromwell) who tries to break Spirit. The horse intimidates the other men, but he doesn’t affect the Colonel, who orders him tied to a post without food or water for three days to make him crack. Eventually, it looks like this works, but we see that Spirit won’t be knocked down quite so easily.

The military also recently captured a native named Little Creek (Daniel Studi), and he gets the same tied-to-a-pole treatment accorded Spirit. When the horse tries to split, Creek gets away too, and the pair flee together.

They make it back to Creek’s camp, where Spirit meets a sexy mare named Rain. Little Creek ties the two together to train Spirit, which doesn’t break him, but it does lead him to warm up to camp life.

This causes complications, as Spirit can’t quite decide which life to accept. Should he stay with his love or should he return to his old camp? He clearly misses the latter, but he also cares for the former. The remainder of the flick deals with these issues as well as the continued problems caused by the encroaching military.

I wouldn’t call Spirit a classic animated film, but it does offer an unusual and generally engaging experience. It starts slowly but gradually becomes more involving and evocative.

Spirit certainly doesn’t seem like many other animated flicks you’ll see, mainly because the animals never overtly speak. Narration from Damon offers Spirit’s perspective on the events, but when the animals vocalize, they do so via realistic whinnies and snorts. That means none of the usual production numbers or wisecracking sidekicks.

Spirit doesn’t opt for total realism, however. They may not speak, but Spirit and his companions all come across like cartoon characters. Actually, that statement seems a little strong, as the animals don’t cross over into total artificiality. The movie makes them more expressive and thoughtful than we’d see from real critters, but it simply omits the speech one might normally expect in this kind of film.

I like the fact that Spirit varies the usual processes, though I admit I wish it’d gone farther. Damon’s narration doesn’t appear on a constant basis, and it seems generally unobtrusive. I think the flick would have been more intriguing without any voiceover, but I understand why the filmmakers would didn’t want to break too far from tradition. The narration bridges the two concepts and works reasonably well.

Spirit also uses the songs of Bryan Adams to “speak” for the lead character, and that method works less well. Adams provides the bombast heard in most of his work, and the tunes seem out of place in this flick. From his power ballads to the cheesy rocker that appears during the horse-breaking sequence, the numbers fit poorly with the action and cause distractions.

I also think the integration of 2D and 3D animation fares awkwardly – and hasn’t aged well since 2002. Some of the material blends together decently, but a lot of the time, the differences appear too obvious. This particularly affects some of the sets, which simply don’t match the cel animation well. For example, an otherwise very exciting river rescue sequence loses points due to the weak combination of elements.

Despite these various complaints, however, I like Spirit. The lack of speaking/strongly anthropomorphized animals creates something unusual and intriguing, and those components give Spirit a personality it might otherwise lack.

Although Spirit himself doesn’t show human tendencies, the movie generates a surprising emotional punch. Spirit bonds with characters both human and animal realistically, and these interactions create a compelling tone that makes various threats and dangers pack a nice impact.

In addition, the film offers some crisp action at times. When I first heard of Spirit, I honestly thought it looked like little more than an attempt to lure little girls into movie theaters. I figured it’d provide a soft and prissy flick, but that isn’t the case. Instead, some of the scenes show lively action sequences that help make the film more engaging for all audiences.

Ultimately, I think Spirit creates a generally involving and enjoyable piece of work. The movie displays too many weaknesses to approach the level of classic, but it does more right than wrong. It forms an engaging set of characters and appears well executed as a whole.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B / Bonus B

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though the transfer mostly looked fine, it seemed less consistent than I expected.

Sharpness often looked distinct and accurate, but exceptions occurred. I suspect that the integration of cel animation and CG work prompted some of these issues. Whatever the case, much of the movie displayed good clarity, but the movie lacked the consistent crispness I anticipated. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no issues, and I also noticed no signs of edge enhancement. As for print flaws, the movie showed no examples of any.

Spirit featured a natural landscape that came across nicely on this disc. The movie demonstrated distictive colors consistently throughout the film. Black levels looked dark and tight, and shadows were decent, though they could be a little dense at times. Though this remained a mostly solid image, the minor inconsistencies dropped my grade to a “B”.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Spirit also offered a fairly satisfying piece of work. For the most part, the mix remained oriented toward the front channels. Music showed nice breadth and stereo imaging, and effects demonstrated good movement across the spectrum. Elements appeared appropriately located in that domain, and they blended together well.

As for the surrounds, they came to life nicely on occasion. The scene in which the wranglers come after Spirit and the army attack on the Indian camp seemed lively and involving, as those segment used all five channels efficiently and engagingly. In addition, when the train rolled down the hill, it also showed solid material from all around the spectrum.

Audio quality appeared positive as a whole though not as good as it could have been. Dialogue came across as natural and warm, and I noticed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility.

Effects sounded crisp and distinct. They showed no distortion and they packed a nice punch when necessary, though I thought the bass response could have been somewhat stronger.

That latter element became a greater concern when I listened to the movie’s music. Hans Zimmer’s score generally demonstrated good dynamic range, but Bryan Adams’ songs seemed somewhat thin and lackluster. They lacked adequate bass response and were a bit tinny. Overall, the audio for Spirit lacked great range and naturalism much of the time, but the track still worked pretty well as a whole.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original 2002 DVD? Audio was a little warmer and fuller, but not to a large degree; both tracks showed the same weaknesses. As for the visuals, the Blu-ray looked tighter and more precise than the DVD. Even with the minor qualms I expressed, the Blu-ray was an obvious visual improvement over the old DVD.

Many of the DVD’s extras reappear on the Blu-ray, and we start with an audio commentary from producer Mireille Soria and directors Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook, all of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific track. I found it tough to make it through this commentary.

While the participants seem enthusiastic about the film, they fail to provide much real information about the project. They occasionally discus topics such as the flick’s genesis and the challenges created by the mix of 2D and 3D animation, but the vast majority of the track simply praises the film.

Oh my, do they tell us how much they love Spirit! I expect some of this sort of material, but the commentary for Spirit goes way over the top in that regard. Over and over the participants tell us how great various components are and how much they love different elements.

Frankly, the participants come across as awfully full of themselves, and this becomes a genuine turn-off. A good commentary leads me to like a movie more than I did before I listened to it, but this track really started to sour me on the flick after a while.

Learn to Draw Spirit with James Baxter lasts 13 minutes and 48 seconds and provides exactly what it describes. We meet Spirit’s chief animator as he goes through the four steps required to depict our star horse. Though mainly aimed at the kiddies, Baxter offers a surprisingly detailed look at the work required, and this program gives us a pretty nice art lesson.

Mostly a promotional piece, Animating Spirit offers a quick look at those elements. The seven-minute, two-second program brings comments from producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation head of technology Ed Leonard, director Kelly Asbury, digital supervisor Doug Cooper, 3D effects supervisor Wendy Rogers, 2D CGI supervisor Jane Gotts, senior supervising animator James Baxter, and horse consultant Dr. Deb Bennett. Much of the time, we’re simply told how ground-breaking the animation of Spirit is, but we do find a few useful bits, such as a sequence that depicts how some scenes combine cel and computer art.

Another featurette appears next with The Songs of Spirit. This nine-minute and 41-second piece follows the same format seen in “Animation”. We get comments from composer Hans Zimmer, directors Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook, singer/songwriter Bryan Adams, producers Mireille Soria and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and actor Matt Damon. The program includes a lot of the usual notes about how great everything is, but we see some good glimpses of the recording process and also learn a few nice bits about the work. In particular, Zimmer offers compelling remarks about the challenges he experienced.

Within the Storyboards section, we see filmed renditions of four scenes. These last a total of 16 minutes, 51 seconds. These offer a pretty good look at the planning process for some of the film’s action sequences.

We can watch these with or without commentary from the directors. They seem a little more informative here than during the main movie. We still hear too much simple praise for the work, but we also get some decent information about the filmmaking process and the way storyboards assist them.

In the two-minute, 31-second International Star Talent tells us a little about the movie’s actors and the various dubs done for other countries. We get notes from actors Hartmut Engler, Erik Rubin, and Vegard Ylvisaker. Don’t expect to understand what Engler and Rubin say, though; Ylvisaker gives his brief remarks in English, but the others speak their native languages and the disc provides no translation.

Not that it matters, as “Talent” exists to promote the movie and that’s it. Some of the shots from the studio seem decent, but this remains a forgettable piece otherwise.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of the film. It appears to duplicate the original 2002 release, though it may drop the DVD-ROM extras; when I ran the disc in my drive, I didn’t get any access to them.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron tried to offer something different for an animated film, and it occasionally succeeded. The movie felt derivative in some ways, but it nonetheless gave us a generally entertaining and compelling piece of work. The Blu-ray delivers mostly strong picture and audio along with a decent collection of bonus materials. Though not a great movie, Spirit entertains, and the Blu-ray represents it well.

To rate this film, visit the original review of SPIRIT

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main