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*Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead.*

The tale of a mustang in the days of the Old West, when great herds of buffalo still roamed the plains and the railroad was growing, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron faces westward expansion from the perspective of a wild horse. A steady story, with strong animation and enveloping music, this film takes on animal characters and plot without excessive anthropomorphism, dumbing down, or unnecessary comic relief.

Released on the 24th of May, 2002, Spirit was written by John Fusco (Hidalgo), directed by Kelly Asbury (the Shrek franchise) and Lorna Cook, and starred Matt Damon as Spirit’s narrative voice, James Cromwell as the Colonel, and Daniel Studi as Little Creek.

The Story

John Fusco was hired to write a screenplay based on an idea from Jeffrey Katzenberg; Fusco took the project very seriously. First, he wrote a novel for Spirit‘s story, and then adapted his own work into a screenplay for the film. In a way, that explains the film’s flow, built atop fully detailed prose rather than starting from storyboards and screenplay.

Although written with the added appeal of minimal dialogue, Spirit’s own narrative voiceover remains a constant through the film, initially welcome but sometimes unnecessary. The story is simple enough and visual enough to keep the viewer informed and intrigued. The viewer watches Spirit travel from his own gorgeous homeland to a military outpost to a Lakota village to the expanding railroad construction. It’s a grand Western adventure in every sense, except that there’s nary a cowboy in sight…