When you consider the greatest animated movies of all time, I'm sure several Disney classics come to mind. But personally, one film that I think deserves more attention is Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron.
Released in 2002 by DreamWorks, the film follows Spirit, a Kiger mustang stallion, who is captured by the United States Cavalry during the American Indian Wars.
While in captivity, Spirit is restricted access to food and water for three days in an effort to break his resolve and make him easier to tame.
But the Colonel's efforts to break Spirit are stopped by a Lakota Native American named Little Creek, who frees Spirit and leads him back to his village.
Here, Spirit meets Rain, a horse bonded to Little Creek, who shows him how life could be if they remained together — with Little Creek looking after them.
Even after the kindness shown to him by Little Creek and the love he feels for Rain, Spirit refuses to be tamed. Little Creek accepts this and sets Spirit free to go back home to his herd.
Unknown to Spirit, the Colonel attacks Little Creek's village. Although Spirit rushes back and attempts to intervene, he ends up seeing Rain get shot and thrown into the river by the Colonel.
What follows is a heartbreaking journey of Spirit being recaptured and attempting to free himself, once again, so that he can go simply go back home.
Now, I won't spoil the rest in case anyone is looking to rewatch this masterpiece, but just know it's a happy ending.
Although this movie was released 20 years ago, the animation still holds up to this day. The backgrounds are visually stunning and instil a deep sense of nostalgia for that hand-drawn animation style that was more common in the 2000s.
Plus, unlike other animated films which portray animals in an anthropomorphic style, Spirit and the other horses communicate with each other through sounds and body language — just like real horses.
It's a point of difference that elevates this childhood movie into something else. Besides the few lines of internal dialogue, provided by Matt Damon, every other emotion — whether that be happiness, pain, surprise, annoyance or sadness — is communicated through Spirit's facial expressions or hearing the slight difference in the nickers and neighs.
One of the best examples of this is watching Spirit's transition from a colt to a stallion. As a young horse, Spirit is filled with pure and innocent joy — as seen by his excitement at seeing buffalo for the first time.
As he gets older, Spirit takes up leadership of the herd and the responsibility to protect them — but there are still moments where we see his cheeky side.
Spirit and Rain's relationship is something we also see develop later on in the movie. Despite not a single word being communicated by these characters, we can still sense their deep love and connection to one another.
The ability to tell this beautiful story with minimal dialogue is a testament to the animators, who worked on Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron over the course of four years and used a blend of traditional hand-drawn animation and computer animation.
Next, we need to talk about the movie’s soundtrack, which was composed by none other than by the legend Hans Zimmer himself.
"Here I Am", which is the film's opening theme song, stills makes me emotional to this day. Played during Spirit’s birth, it starts off slow and soft before building with power.
Then, there's "Get Off Of My Back", which is full of punch — just like Spirit was while he was fighting off the Colonel.
Oh, and we can't forget about "Can't Take Me", which is another heartbreaking banger that I still somehow remember all the words to.
Shoutout to Bryan Adams who sung all of these songs.
Combined with the animation and script, it's no wonder that Spirit was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. But despite this, and all of the work that the crew put into making it, this incredible movie still doesn't get the attention that it deserves.
I have countless childhood memories of watching Spirit — and even as an adult, I find it so comforting to watch. It's pure of heart, has a touching storyline and reminds me of the beauty and strength of animals — especially horses.
Spirit was my entire childhood and personally, I believe it is one of the best animated films of all time. Now, let's go rewatch it so we can cry together.
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