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Spirit is a wild mustang in the wild west who encounters humans but refuses to be broken. He develops two special but very different relationships with a white man – an army officer who thinks he can break the horse as he can tame the west – and a young Lakota Indian who also thinks he can tame the horse, but realises that he and the horse are both meant to be free. 

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Although aimed squarely at young girls (6 – 12), this DVD [available to rent or buy] is notable for the enthusiasm and devotion to details that has gone into its production. It matches the film, which is enjoyable even by grumpy old critics. Not that I am one of those…

The collective creative grunt assembled to breathe life into Spirit can take a bow, even if some of us are picky enough to note how the film succumbs to inevitable doses of schmaltz despite its good intentions. Like the admirable fact that the horse don’t talk. Yes, there’s narration, and it’s the POV of the horse, and the horse is narrating – but that’s a far cry from a talking horse. I’m also picky about some of what Jeffrey K calls ‘tradigital’ animation; the love interest for Spirit is a fine young mare called Rain, whose features are certainly appealing. Except for her simplistic mouth. You’ll say that’s a tiny detail, but wait till you kiss a horse. Horse lips aside, there is much to admire about this work, and those who will admire it most purely are the kids. There is adventure and danger, fear and fury and a genuine affection for the horse. It’s fantasy at its best, carried along in handsome fashion by Hans Zimmer’s quality compositions. 

Zimmer’s interview on the DVD is one of the highlights for adults interested in this outstanding composer’s work. He is always good copy and this is no exception. Funny, too. Brian Adams lends a hand, too.

The learn to draw session with supervising animator, James Baxter is aimed at youngsters but it’s not bad for adults, either. Well, I like drawing. 

But the standout feature on the DVD for its target audience will no doubt turn out to be the much trumpeted Make a Movie feature, which enables the very young (as well as the technology-challenged oldies) to make simplistic movies with simple aides and tools called drag & drop. Backgrounds, characters and sounds can be dragged from the library and dropped into the edit suite. The demo spells it all out – six year olds will need supervision, but older kids will probably finish their first movie before parents have got clued up.

The movies are all variations on the Spirit theme, of course, as that’s what constitutes the raw materials. But it still raises the bar after Shrek’s Re-Voice feature, which gives you the chance to insert your own voice for various characters in various scenes. Now you can go one better – you can DIRECT! (Just remember this is in the DVD ROM section and it needs to be run on a computer for this to work. It doesn’t take long to self-install, but be sure you do this before any impatient kids are wanting to play with it. )

Fraught parents who need a safe electronic babysitter have found their dream. This thing will keep children creatively and entertainingly glued to the computer for ages. 

You (or they) can edit, store and even email your movie to a friend (as long as they have the DVD, too, of course, with the necessary program). In the adjacent Cimarron Cinema, you can create your own posters for the movie you’ve just made, print A4 invitations to the premiere, and then knock out a Spirit calendar for 2003. And marketing: how about a T shirt transfer? Done. 

Should the excitement of movie making wane, the games section can be attacked for a game of Goal, where Spirit kicks the footy ball, or a hillside Slide on a snowy slope….

And of course, there is the commentary track by producer and both directors, which begins with a brief word on the exceptional opening sequence as we follow an eagle over the awesome viastas of the Cimarron. Their commentary is not aimed at children, but it is certainly accessible to all, and often illuminating about the complexities that daunted them and the creative desires that drove them.

Published November 21, 2002

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CAST: Voices of Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi

DIRECTOR: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook

RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes (feature only)

PRESENTATION: aspect ratio: 2.35:1; Dolby digital 5.1; Languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese

SPECIAL FEATURES: audio commentary by producer and directors; music/composer feature; learn to draw segment; DVD ROM section with several games and Make a Movie special feature


DVD RELEASE: November 27, 2002

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