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Brother Emsworth Sat May 11 20:41:51 2002
Spirit - 8.99 minus tax

SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON (2002) A Dreamworks Production. Directors: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook; Screenplay: John Fusco; Music: Hans Zimmer (songs by Bryan Adams); Animation supervisor: Kristoff Serrand; Senior supervising animator: James Baxter (Spirit); Supervising animators: Steve Horrocks, Jakob Hjort Jensen, Dan Wagner (Spirit), Pres Antonio Romanillos (Little Creek), William Salazar (Rain), Fabio Lignini (The Colonel), Simon Otto (Eagle), Alex Williams (Wranglers), Patrick Mate (Animals, Murphy), Erik C. Schmidt, Paul Newberry; Animators: Antony Gray, Dimos Vrysellas, Kathy Zielinski (Spirit), Keith Sintay; CGI animators: Angie Glocka, Owen Klatte; 2D Effects animators: Edward Coffey, Lenoard F. W. Green, Carl Keeler; Art director: Kathy Altieri; Layout: Guillame Bonamy, Tim Soman; Background supervisor: Kevin Turcotte; Backgrounds: Greg Gibbons, Carolyn Guske, Paul Shardlow;

Voices: Spirit: Matt Damon Little Creek: Daniel Studi The Colonel: James Cromwell Sgt. Adams: Chopper Bernet Murphy, Railroad Sergeant: Jeff LeBeau Soldier: John Rubano Roy: Charles Napier

ADR Voices: Michael Horse, Marcelo Tubert

"Spirit" is one of the few animated features to use horses as the principal characters (when used at all, they're usually in bit parts, as in "Sleeping Beauty" or "Beauty and the Beast.") The plot, such as it is, depicts events in the life of the titular mustang (actually unnamed until the last few minutes in the film), as told by the horse himself through first person narration. Spirit is raised from a colt as part of a sizable herd of wild horses living in an unspecified region of the west. Spirit grows up to lead the herd, but wanders off to explore a camp site one night, and after a long chase, is captured, having first steered them away from his mother and herd. Brought to a US cavalry fort, the horse refuses to submit, leading the hard nosed colonel to submit him to starvation. Still unbroken, the horse manages to escape, with a friendly Indian prisoner named Little Creek on his back. Spirit befriends Little Creek's mare Rain, but still refuses to allow anyone to ride him, even the patient Indian. Further conflict arises when the cavalray clears out the Indian village to make way for the railroad, and once again pursues the horse.

The narration, by Matt Damon, is kept to a minimum, as the horses communicate and display emotion through whinnies and through the expressive character animation. Eyebrows and eyelashes, not features normally associated with the equine set, are grafted on, the former to help give the horses personality and the latter to do the same while also signifyng which horses are female. The use of the horse's perspective and minimal anthropomorphization are amongst the film's strength. The plot is oddly slight, perhaps due to the minute principal cast and minimal dialogue, with the major conflict being quite broad and simple: the horse against those who seek to tame him. Spirit's rapid gallops, either free in the wild plains or while attempting to evade capture or peril, seem to almost replace the narrative. Considering how many recent features suffer from too much plot, however, this actually benefits the film most of the time. of Bryan Adams' songs, presumably intended to complement the animation in expressing the character's emotions, are actually more distracting than anything else. Particularly one cacophonous ditty, while the cavalry men attempt to ride Spirit, called "Get Off of My Back." The score, too, by the usually reliable Hans Zimmer, has a would-be majestic quality to it which succeeds on occasion, but too often blares against the ears with its piercing percussion. The backgrounds in several scenes have a murky quality to them, the supporting horses and humans often seem to fade into the backgrounds themselves, often seeming rather undistinguishable, and there was something oddly jarring about the wing movements of an eagle. The effects animation amost outshines the character work in some scenes, particularly the rustling of grass during Spirit's birth scene, and the use of shadows. Apart from the music, the film is quiet and unassuming in many ways, which is probably its strongest point, and a nice antidote to the frenetically paced, overly plotted, action packed summer blockbusters. Amongst the artists, its worth noting that background artist Paul Shardlow also worked on "Watership Down" and the "Den" sequence of "Heavy Metal," while James Baxter is a former Disney animator who supervised Belle in "Beauty and the Beast" and Rafiki" in "The Lion King," Alex Williams is another Disney alum and also the son of famed animator and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" animation director Richrad Williams, and CGI animators Angie Glocka and Owen Klatte began in stop-motion, working on the 80's "Gumby" revival and Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

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