Spirit - Stallion of the Cimarron: Music from the Original Motion Picture

Arranged by John Nicholas
Copyright © 2003 Cherry Lane Music Company
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Directed by Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook and produced by Mireille Soria and Jeffrey Katzenberg from a screenplay by John Fusco, DreamWorks Pictures’
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
goes to show that what is regarded these days as traditional animation is anything but traditional. With previous character animation—as in a 2-D (“traditional animation”) film—computer rendering had been relegated primarily to background “extras.” Here, even the lead characters, including Spirit, are sometimes computer animated, depending on the needs of the shot. In fact, there are perfectly seamless transitions from computer to traditional animation involving a single character in a single scene that no one but a seasoned animator would be able to discern. According to producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, “The computer is not the nemesis of traditional animation. What I wanted to do with this film was to take hand-drawn animation and marry it together with state-of-the-art technology to create a film that is the best of both worlds.”
After first meeting Spirit as a newborn colt, we follow him as he grows to become the leader of the Cimarron herd and takes on the responsibility of protecting them. One night he hears, drifting down from the hills, a harmonica playing “Red River Valley,” a sound completely foreign to the wild mustang. Looking to see the origin of this mysterious noise, Spirit’s eyes are caught by an unusual light in the distance, and he sets out to investigate it. The light turns out to be a campfire, and Spirit encounters man for the first time. A dramatic chase ensues, and Spirit is finally captured.
Spirit is sold to the Cavalry, where he meets the Colonel, who orders his men to “break that horse.” One by one, the soldiers try to ride Spirit, who responds with actions that speak louder than words. When Spirit finally gets his point across, the Colonel resorts to a different tactic—having Spirit tied to a post with no food or water. At that point, Spirit meets another “two-legged,” a young Lakota Indian brave named Little Creek, who, to Spirit’s bewilderment, is also being held captive by the Cavalry. With each other’s help, the pair make a daring escape from the fort, and Little Creek takes Spirit back to his village. There the mustang stallion meets Rain, Little Creek’s beautiful paint mare, and the two horses begin a tentative courtship.
But Spirit’s happiness is short-lived. In an attack on the village, Rain is mortally wounded, and soon after, Spirit is recaptured and loaded onto a boxcar on a train bound for points unknown. The recapture does what nothing before could: it breaks the seemingly indomitable will of the fiercely independent stallion. Yet, even in his despair as the train takes him farther from home, we hear the beginnings of his rallying cry. According to Director Asbury, “Spirit sees a vision of his homeland, his herd and his mother, and it reminds him that he does have something to live for...to keep fighting for. Freedom is everyone’s birthright, and it’s worth fighting for.”
Matt Damon
provides the first-person narrative voice for the character of Spirit at pivotal points in the story. “Jeffrey [Katzenberg] called and said he had an animated movie he’d like me to see and maybe take part in,” Damon recalls. “I walked in, sat down, and was totally blown away. There was so much to the animation and to the character that was already there on the screen. I told him I’d love to be a part of it.” Katzenberg remarks, “I can’t tell you how much Matt added to those moments when we hear Spirit’s thoughts in the movie. He brought a dynamic to this character that is just priceless.”
DANIEL STUDI “Little Creek”
“Little Creek and Spirit are two similar facets of the unsettled West,” says
Daniel Studi
, the young Native American actor who is the voice of Little Creek. “Here is this powerful horse who cannot be tamed and this young Indian who’s wild and full of fight. They end up stuck in the same position, both captives, and have to come together for their mutual well-being.” Though Studi is actually of Cherokee descent, he grew up learning the ways of all Native American tribes; thus he was able to give valuable input into the mannerisms and language of his character. According to Director Asbury, “Little Creek personifies living in and being part of the West.”
“The Cavalry Colonel”
James Cromwell
is the veteran actor providing the voice of the Cavalry Colonel who becomes a formidable adversary to both Little Creek and Spirit. “I think the Colonel is indicative of the breed at that particular time,” Cromwell comments. “They believed in a manifest destiny, the conquest of the West, and that all the people and creatures living on it ultimately would be subdued. The Colonel is hard-edged and full of himself, but he gets his comeuppance from a horse. What I especially liked is that the character has an arc, that he actually learns something from his encounter with this creature and becomes a little more compassionate.”
BRYAN ADAMS Singer/Songwriter
What Spirit is feeling is expressed throughout the film in songs by
Bryan Adams
. Adams says, “Basically, what we were trying to create was a musical, with the songs expressing the emotions of a horse. But the story was completed before the music, so the songs had to be very specific, which was exceptionally challenging for me as a songwriter. As a singer, my role was being a storyteller, trying to bring Spirit’s emotions to life through my voice.” Director Asbury says, “Bryan Adams has a very emotional, heartfelt singing style, which is appropriate for this because the songs tell the story from Spirit’s heart. In that way, Bryan is the heart of the film.”
also reunited Katzenberg with composer
Hans Zimmer
, whom he calls “without question, one of the greatest collaborators I’ve had making animated movies over the years.” Zimmer reveals, “Jeffrey called me up and said, ‘I want to make a movie about a horse in the Wild West…oh, and by the way, the horse won’t speak.’ That’s the great thing about working with Jeffrey; he’s someone who can keep up with me on these crazy adventures. Why get up in the morning unless you can have an adventure? In a funny way, for the first time on an animated film, I am a voice, which is a fascinating thing for me.”

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