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Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

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Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Music director

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron movie poster

Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook

John Fusco (screenplay)

Release date
May 24, 2002 (2002-05-24)

Bronze Wrangler for Theatrical Motion Picture

(Spirit), (The Colonel),
Daniel Studi
(Little Creek),
Chopper Bernet
(Sgt. Adams),
Jeff LeBeau
John Rubano

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Leader. Hero. Legend.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is a 2002 American animated western-drama film, produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by DreamWorks Pictures. The film was written by John Fusco and directed by Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook in her directional debut, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. In contrast to the way animals are portrayed in an anthropomorphic style in other animated features, Spirit and his fellow horses communicate with each other through sounds and body language. Spirit's thoughts are narrated by his voice actor Matt Damon, but otherwise, he has no dialogue. Spirit: stallion of the Cimarron was released in theaters on May 24, 2002, and earned $122.6 million on a $80 million budget.


Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron movie scenes


Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron movie scenes

In the 19th-century American West, a young Kiger Mustang colt, Spirit, is born to a herd of horses. Spirit soon grows into a stallion and assumes the role of leader of the herd, whose duty is to keep the herd safe. Spirit is a courageous leader but has great curiosity. Spotting a strange light one night not far from his herd, the stallion is intrigued and investigates. He finds restrained, docile horses and their human wranglers sleeping around a campfire. They wake up, and seeing him as a magnificent specimen, chase and capture him, taking him to a US cavalry post.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron movie scenes

At this time, the army is fighting the Indian Wars and taking over the soon-to-be western United States. Frightened and confused, Spirit sees horses used as 'slaves'. Then, he encounters "The Colonel", who decides to have the mustang tamed, refusing to believe the idea of Spirit being too stubborn, but Spirit manages to fight off all attempts to tame him. To weaken Spirit, The Colonel orders him tied to a post for three days with no food or water. Meanwhile, a Lakota Native American named Little Creek is also brought into the fort and held captive. Spirit is later supposedly broken in by the Colonel, who speaks his idea of how any wild horse can be tamed. However, Spirit gets a second wind and finally throws him off. The Colonel gets frustrated and tries to shoot him, but Little Creek (who frees himself from his bounds with a knife) saves Spirit from being shot. The two of them, along with other horses, escape the post. Little Creek's mare, Rain, meets them along with other natives who capture Spirit.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron movie scenes

After returning to the Lakota village, Little Creek tries to tame Spirit with kindness, but Spirit refuses to be ridden. Little Creek ties Spirit and Rain together and, when he tries to leave, she insists on staying, then shows him her world. Spirit begins to warm up to Little Creek and falls in love with the mare. At the end of their time together, Little Creek tries again to ride him, but Spirit is still unwilling. He then decides that Spirit will never be tamed and frees him. As Spirit asks Rain to come with him to his herd, a cavalry regiment led by the Colonel attacks the village. During the vicious battle, the Colonel tries to shoot Little Creek, but Spirit runs into the Colonel and his horse, deflecting the shot and saving Little Creek's life. However, Rain is shot by the Colonel, knocking her into the river. Spirit dives into the river to try to rescue Rain but is unsuccessful and they both plummet over a waterfall. Spirit finds Rain dying from her injuries and stays by her side until the army captures him. Watching Spirit being pulled away, Little Creek arrives, vowing to free him to satisfy his life-debt and follows the men after tending to Rain.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron movie scenes

Spirit is loaded onto a train and taken to a work site on the Transcontinental Railroad, where he is put to work pulling a steam locomotive. Realizing that the track will infringe on his homeland, Spirit breaks free from the sledge and breaks the chains holding the other horses. They escape, and the locomotive falls off its sledge and rolls down the hill back to the work site, causing an explosion. Little Creek appears in time and saves Spirit from the ensuing wildfire.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron movie scenes

The next morning, the Colonel and his men find Spirit and Little Creek, and a chase ensues through the Grand Canyon. Eventually, they are trapped by a gorge. Little Creek gives up, but Spirit manages to successfully leap across the canyon. Spirit's move amazes the Colonel; he humbly accepts defeat, stops his men from shooting the two, and allows Spirit and Little Creek to leave. Spirit returns to the rebuilt Lakota village with Little Creek and finds Rain nursed back to health. Little Creek decides to name Spirit the "Spirit-Who-Could-Not-Be-Broken" and sets him and Rain free. The two horses return to Spirit's homeland, eventually reuniting with Spirit's herd.

Voice cast

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron movie scenes

  • Matt Damon as Spirit
  • James Cromwell as The Colonel
  • Daniel Studi as Little Creek
  • Chopper Bernet as Sgt. Adams
  • Jeff LeBeau as Murphy and the Railroad Foreman
  • Richard McGonagle as Bill
  • Matt Levin as Joe
  • Robert Cait as Jake
  • John Rubano as the Soldier
  • Adam Paul as Pete
  • Charles Napier as Roy
  • Zahn McClarnon as one of Little Creek's friends
  • Michael Horse as a friend of Little Creek's
  • Meredith Wells as a Lakota girl
  • Donald Fullilove as Train Pull Foreman
  • Development

    Writer John Fusco, best known for his work in the Western and Native American genres (such as the films Young Guns and Young Guns II), was hired by DreamWorks to create an original screenplay based on an idea by Jeffrey Katzenberg. Fusco began by writing and submitting a novel to the studio and then adapted his own work into screenplay format. He remained on the project as the main writer over the course of four years, working closely with Katzenberg, the directors, and artists.


    Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was made over the course of four years using a conscious blend of traditional hand-drawn animation and computer animation in a technique the film's creators dubbed "tradigital animation." DreamWorks SKG purchased a horse as the model for Spirit and brought the horse to the animation studio in Glendale, California for the animators to study. In the sound department, recordings of real horses were used for the sounds of the many horse characters' hoof beats as well as their vocalizations. None of the animal characters in the film speak English beyond occasional reflective narration from the protagonist mustang (voice of Matt Damon). Many of the animators who worked on Spirit also worked on Shrek 2, and their influence can be seen in the horses in that film, such as Prince Charming's horse from the opening sequence and Donkey's horse form. Makers of the film took a trip to the western United States to view scenic places that they could use as inspiration for locations in the film. The homeland of the mustangs and Lakotas is based on Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and the Grand Teton mountain range. The cavalry outpost appears to be located at Monument Valley. The canyon of the climax looks like Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon.


    The instrumental score was composed by Hans Zimmer with songs by Bryan Adams in both the English and French versions of the album. The opening theme song for the film, "Here I Am" was written by Bryan Adams, Gretchen Peters, and Hans Zimmer. It was produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Another song, not included in the film itself (although it can be heard in the ending credits), is "Don't Let Go", which is sung by Bryan Adams with Sarah McLachlan on harmonies and piano. It was written by Bryan Adams, Gavin Greenaway, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, and Gretchen Peters. Many of the songs and arrangements were set in the American West, with themes based on love, landscapes, brotherhood, struggles, and journeys. Garth Brooks was originally supposed to write and record songs for the film but the deal fell through. The Italian versions of the songs were sung by Zucchero. The Spanish versions of the tracks on the album were sung by Erik Rubín (Hispanic America) and Raúl (Spain). The Brazilian version of the movie soundtrack was sung in Portuguese by Paulo Ricardo. The Norwegian versions of the songs were sung by Vegard Ylvisåker of the Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis.


    Based on 126 reviews collected by review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron has an overall approval rating of 69% and a weighted average score of 6.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "A visually stunning film that may be too predictable and politically correct for adults, but should serve children well." Review aggregator Metacritic gave the film a score of 52 based on 29 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Critic Roger Ebert, said in his review of the film, "Uncluttered by comic supporting characters and cute sidekicks, Spirit is more pure and direct than most of the stories we see in animation – a fable I suspect younger viewers will strongly identify with." Leonard Maltin of Hot Ticket called it "one of the most beautiful and exciting animated features ever made". Clay Smith of Access Hollywood considered the film "An Instant Classic". Jason Solomons described the film as "a crudely drawn DreamWorks Animation about a horse that saves the West by bucking a US Army General". USA Today's Claudia Puig gave it 3 stars out of 4, writing that the filmmakers' "most significant achievement is fashioning a movie that will touch the hearts of both children and adults, as well as bring audiences to the edge of their seats." Dave Kehr of the New York Times criticized the way in which the film portrayed Spirit and Little Creek as "pure cliches" and suggested that the film could have benefited from a comic relief character. The film was screened out of competition at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. Rain received an honorary registration certificate from the American Paint Horse Association (APHA), which has registered more than 670,000 American Paint Horses to date. She is the first animated horse to be registered by this organization.

    Box office

    When the film opened on Memorial Day Weekend 2002, the film earned $17,770,036 on the Friday-Sunday period, and $23,213,736 through the four-day weekend for a $6,998 average from 3,317 theaters. The film overall opened in fourth place behind Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Spider-Man, and Insomnia. In its second weekend, the film retreated 36% to $11,303,814 for a $3,362 average from expanding to 3,362 theaters and finishing in fifth place for the weekend. In its third weekend, the film decreased 18% to $9,303,808 for a $2,767 average from 3,362 theaters. The film closed on September 12, 2002, after earning $73,280,117 in the United States and Canada with an additional $49,283,422 overseas for a worldwide total of $122,563,539, against an $80 million budget.

    Home media

    Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was released on VHS and DVD on November 19, 2002. It was re-released on DVD on May 18, 2010. The film was released on Blu-ray in Germany on April 3, 2014, in Australia on April 4 and in the United States and Canada on May 13, 2014. The film was re-issued by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on Blu-ray and DVD on October 19, 2014. It includes a movie ticket to Penguins of Madagascar.

    Video games

    Two video games based on the film were released on October 28, 2002, by THQ: the PC game Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron — Forever Free and the Game Boy Advance game Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron — Search For Homeland.

    Television series

    A computer-animated television series based on the film, titled Spirit Riding Free, premiered on Netflix on May 5, 2017. The series follows all the daring adventures when Spirit, who is the offspring of the original, meets a girl named Lucky whose courage matches his own.


    Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron Wikipedia
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