Western Animation: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
"They say the history of the West was written from the saddle of a horse, but it's never been told from the heart of one... not 'till now."
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is a film by Dreamworks Animation; one of their last traditionally animated features before they made the switch to CGI.The film is about a feral horse who is born on the American prairie and has encounters — both positive and negative — with the humans who also live there. Spirit is captured and taken away from his herd by American soldiers, resisting their attempts to tame him. At the camp he befriends an Indian named Little Creek, though their relationship is far from affectionate. Together they escape from the soldiers' camp, but the spread of the white man continues to plague them throughout the story.Besides the main story of a horse returning to his herd, the film is really about the domestication of the American wilderness. The Colonel, the main antagonist of the film, represents Western civilization invading the North American landscape and changing the land to suit its needs. Although Spirit ostensibly gets a happy ending, history really makes it a foregone conclusion...Compare Disney's Dinosaur, which has had many of the same criticisms leveled against it and was originally going to have the same format — a narrator, and lots of music, but no talking animals.
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron provides examples of the following tropes:
All There in the Manual: There was a book called Esperanza that was a prequel based around Spirit's parents. Spirit's dad is a black stallion named Strider
Alternate Animal Affection: The horses mostly nuzzle each other and cross necks to show affection. Little Creek gets a "hug" off Spirit in this fashion near the end.
Amplified Animal Aptitude: Well, naturally. The directors even lampshade this in the commentary for the train sequence. In terms of amplified animal athleticism, Spirit leaps about fifty feet across a canyon, and without his front legs snapping like twigs upon landing, though he did wind up crashing.
Cartoony Eyebrows: Although the horses are otherwise anatomically sound. But the man-eyebrows get distracting after a while in the same manner as Aladar's beak-lips. And generally speaking, to have that visibly white scleras, the horses would all have to carry certain spotting genetics which they don't show any sign of.
Clean Pretty Childbirth: We see Esperanza having contractions, followed by baby Spirit coming into view clean and neat.
Colonel Badass: The nameless Colonel is a variation; the film's focus on horses denies him any opportunity to show this trope in a more conventional fight, but he is a formidable enemy.
Conspicuous CGI: Shows up quite a bit, actually — the film was intended to be an about even blend of CGI and traditional animation. Sometimes it meshes well (Just try to spot, in the scene where Spirit's on a hill overlooking the herd, the moments in which he changes from a CGI render to a drawing and back to a CGI render) and sometimes it... doesn't. The locomotive in particular is pretty glaring. Even the early shot of the running herd is noticeable if you have a sharp eye and can tell hand-painted Cel Shading from the computer-automated kind.
Cut Song: At least two: "Brothers Under the Sun" and "The Long Road Home". The music for both appears in the film proper, and they're on the soundtrack (and "Brothers Under the Sun" also plays at the very end of the end credits).
Does This Remind You of Anything?: All the horses the Cavarly owns are dark brown. They hate their riders, long to be free and will run away from them at any chance given.
A Dog Named Dog: The main character is usually called "Mustang" until he gets properly named at the end.
Double Entendre: In the Norwegian dub, Spirit doesn't monologue "Mares..." in plural when Rain "scolds" him, but "Mare..!" instead. This is due to the Norwegian word for "mare" also being a rude name for women. The Norwegian Spirit basically calls her "bitch".
Double Meaning: The song "Get Off My Back" is meant both figuratively and literally in Spirit's case.
Interspecies Friendship: The title character appears to be friends with an unnamed bald eagle and he later befriends a human.
I Surrender, Suckers: When the Colonel rides Spirit in his attempt to break him, he proves too difficult to buck off and hangs on until Spirit gives up. As the Colonel then gives a gloating speech about how any horse can be broken, Spirits thinks "sometimes a horse has got to do what a horse has got to do", then immediately shocks the Colonel with a surprise buck, throwing him off.
Just Train Wrong: The Northern Pacific Railroad never built track in Nebraska, or connected with Utah; that was the Union Pacific.
Know When To Fold Them: Just after Spirit and Little Creek jump over the gorge, one of the Union soldiers aims to shoot them. But the Colonel makes him put down his gun, and wordlessly lets the horse and Indian go.
Later, around the film's midpoint, Spirit thinks he can finally go back to his homeland, with a proud section of "Run Free" blaring — when the mare he's tied to stops as abruptly as the music at the edge of the Lakota village.
One-Dimensional Thinking: Averted. Spirit has to escape a train falling down a hill behind him, and it's impossible for him to run to either side as they're covered with large piles of timber the entire way down.
The Oner: The oh-so-pretty opening tracking shot. It was one of the first sequences started during production and one of the last to be finished.
Pet the Dog: When the Colonel has witnessed Spirit's jump for freedom, he stops one of his soldiers from shooting him and signalizes to Spirit that he's free to go.
Pounds Are Animal Prisons: Played with —- as far as the wild horse is concerned, yes, stables are pony prison, but the horses at the regiment are seen to be treated more or less reasonably; Spirit is only maltreated insofar as he misbehaves. And the animals ridden by the natives are treated quite well, as are the horses used by the railroad; the man leading Spirit into and off the train is shown as reassuring and gentle with him.
Shown Their Work: Like the animators themselves point out; horses are one of the most difficult things you can draw, and not only did they have to draw horses all day long for a few years, they had to animate them as well. The result is nothing short of stunning.
Silence Is Golden: There are no talking animals in this film aside from a few narration parts from Matt Damon's character. The film had to have the animators pantomime conversations with the horses with their body language and the expression on their faces. The horses just neigh throughout the film. There also are not that many conversation scenes with the human characters.
Stock Footage: The final scene with Spirit and Rain galloping uphill and then watching the herd below together is actually the same scene from the beginning when Spirit does all of it alone, only with Rain pasted in.
That Makes Me Feel Angry: Fortunately, this mostly happens in the lyrics to the songs and the narration... but there are a lot of songs and a lot of narration...
Title Drop: In a sense. "Take care of her... Spirit Who Could Not Be Broken."
Tongue on the Flagpole: As a colt, Spirit gets his tongue stuck to a large icicle. He then snaps it off and carries it away with him.