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 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 'til now.

Spirit is a film by Dreamworks Animation, and it is thus far one of their last traditionally animated features.

The film is about a wild 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 (it is similarly pretty but boring) and was originally going to have the same format -- a narrator, and lots of music, but no talking animals.


This film contains examples of: Edit

  • Accidental Kiss: An interspecies example occurs early in the movie when a drunken wrangler is being mouth-examined by Spirit in his sleep and he apparently mistakes him for a girl.
  • All There in the Script: Spirit's mother's name is Esperanza.
  • 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.
  • Amusing Injuries: Poor Murphy. Even the horses were laughing at him.
  • Anti-Villain: The Colonel is cruel but not really evil. He even has the sense of honor and respect to let Spirit and Little Creek go once they've beaten him.
    • Except for one scene where he blatantly tried to shoot Little Creek while he was helplessly hanging on a rock and trying not to drown.
      • Truth in Television as far as Native American treatment went during the colonization-and it was more or less his job, Little Creek had attacked him and he probably recognized him from having been held prisoner and escaping, so the boy would have been considered a danger at that point.
  • Award Bait Song: The movie arguably has several of these, but there are two that fit best - "Here I Am", which is both the opening song as well as playing over the credits, and "I Will Always Return", which plays as the finale of the movie. And to top it off, BOTH are sung by Bryan Adams.
  • Big Badass Bird of Prey: The eagle.
  • Blue Eyes: Rain.
  • Call a Rabbit a Smeerp: Spirit refers to humans as "two-leggeds".
  • 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.
  • 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 [1] 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.
  • Cool Horse: Well, duh.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Spirit.
  • Determinator: "Spirit Who Could Not Be Broken", indeed.
  • Did Not Do the Research: Early trailers had to be withdrawn because they stated that horses lived in America long before man. Technically they did. In prehistoric times. They went extinct some time during the Ice Age. Those wild horses, ironically, were introduced to America by Spaniards.
    • Also, Spirit wouldn't have "inherited" leadership of the herd; he'd have left along with other colts and fillies to start a herd of his own. There would also be more foals in the herd. And those twin foals shouldn't really have lasted as long as they did in the wild, due to problems that may have occurred in the womb.
      • Though perhaps the fact that Spirit stuck around was a case of Fridge Brilliance-We never see his father, or any other confirmed stallions-does that mean he drove them all off upon growing up, or that his father died somehow?
      • Also the stallion isn't the leader of a herd, a mare is (called a Boss Mare). While the stallion does run the outer area of herd (his main job is to drive off predators), it's under the Boss Mare's orders.
  • Disney Death: The horse Rain. The character was originally going to die for good, but the creators decided to go for the happy ending.
  • Disneyesque
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Rain does a VERY good job of this for Spirit.
    • She totally sweeps him off his feet!
  • 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.
  • Dramatic Wind
  • Eagle Tracking Shot
  • Evil Overlooker: It's pretty bizarre to see the Colonel's face being used like this on some DVD covers, especially since he looks so damn benevolent.
  • Hazel Eyes
  • Held Gaze: Spirit and Rain have a deep gaze into each other's eyes under a tree. Spirit also does this with Little Creek about three times.
  • Heroic BSOD: Spirit, after Rain's supposed demise and his third capture. It takes him hallucinating about his herd and reminding him of what he is fighting for to knock him out of it.
  • A Hero Is Born: The first scene after the opening narration is Spirit's mother in the final stages of labour.
  • Inevitable Waterfall
  • Inferred Holocaust: Spirit returns to his herd, but history says guys like the Colonel eventually won. Today, the prairies are mostly farmland.
    • Not to mention that there was a railroad line scheduled to run across Spirit's homeland, and they certainly wouldn't abandon a project of this scale just because of two exploded locomotives, which means that sooner or later his herd would have to deal with trains passing by all the time.
  • Interspecies Friendship: The title character appears to be friends with an unnamed bald eagle and he later befriends a human.
  • Just Train Wrong: The Northern Pacific Railroad never built track in Nebraska, or connected with Utah; that was the Union Pacific.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: We can only assume that the Bald Eagle living in the middle of a dry upland prairie is only there due to DreamWorks' patriotic fervor.
  • Moody Mount: Spirit, Justified as he was taken from the wild and treated harshly.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: In "You Can't Take Me". It gets to finish near the end of the movie.
    • 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.
  • Nameless Narrative: The main character isn't actually named until the end of the film.
  • Nonhumans Lack Attributes: Subtly averted with Spirit. It's not big, detailed, or prominent, but it's there in a lot of shots, though not others[2]. Played straight with the other horses.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Pop Star Composer: Bryan Adams wrote the songs.
  • Rewritten Pop Version: In the film proper, "I Will Always Return" is about family and homeland, and its refrain at the end powers the triumphant conclusion. The credits version? A love song.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Spirit as a young colt.
  • Scenery Porn
  • Shoo the Dog
  • 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.
  • Tsundere: Rain, Spirit's Love Interest. Summed up hilariously by Spirit to anyone who knows anything about horses: "Mares."
    • Spirit too, to a degree.
  • True Companions: Implied by the herd.
  • Unreliable Narrator: This story is truly told through the perspective of a wild horse, and it shows in how he views humans.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Little Creek.
  • Xenofiction

Notes

  1. 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
  2. In particular, we get a huge face full of nothing while he's jumping the canyon towards the end