Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)

(In French, Netflix Streaming, June 2016) While largely forgotten today, there’s a lot to like in DreamWorks Animation’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. It goes beyond the basic story-of-an-animal level to deliver a somewhat harsh take on western colonization, domestication and the relationships between Natives and Whites. The animation is beautiful, with imperfect but audacious integration of CGI and cell animation. It may be a bit too intense for very young kids (some of the action sequences are relentless, and the degree of cruelty experienced both by the horse protagonist and the native characters can be hard to bear) but it’s perfectly adequate for older kids and interesting to adults. Unusually enough, Spirit doesn’t anthropomorphize its horse characters too much (aside from some inner monologue, the animals don’t speak). It also avoids comic sidekicks and atonal comedy, making it feel somewhat more respectable than many other similar animal-centric movies for kids. Well worth discovering, Spirit is a film that almost measures up to much of what Disney had to offer at the time—and that does mean Brother Bear. Interestingly enough, Ryan Adams sings a translation of his own songs on the French-dubbed version.

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