Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (also known as Spirit) is a 2002 American animated adventure film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by DreamWorks Pictures.[1] The film was directed by Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook (in their feature directional debuts) from a screenplay by John Fusco.[4] The film follows Spirit, a Kiger Mustang stallion (voiced by Matt Damon through inner dialogue), who is captured during the American Indian Wars by the United States Cavalry; he is freed by a Native American man named Little Creek who attempts to lead him back into the Lakota village. In contrast to the way animals are portrayed in an anthropomorphic style in other animated features, Spirit and his fellow horses communicate with each other through non-linguistic sounds and body language like real horses.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
Screenplay byJohn Fusco
StarringMatt Damon
Music by
Edited by
Distributed byDreamWorks Pictures[1][N 1]
Release date
  • May 24, 2002 (2002-05-24)
Running time
84 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$80 million[3]
Box office$122.6 million[3]

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was released in theaters on May 24, 2002, and earned $122.6 million on an $80 million budget.[3] It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, losing to Spirited Away.[5] The film also spawned a media franchise with a Netflix computer animation television series adaptation based on the film, titled Spirit Riding Free, premiered on May 5, 2017, followed by a feature-length film adaptation of the series, titled Spirit Untamed, set for release on June 4, 2021.


In the 19th-century American West, a young Kiger Mustang colt, Spirit, is born to a herd of wild horses. Spirit soon grows into a stallion and assumes the role of leader of the herd, whose duty is to keep the herd safe. Spirit is a courageous leader but has great curiosity. One night, upon spotting a strange light near his herd, the stallion decides to investigate the location, where he finds restrained, docile horses and their human wranglers sleeping around a campfire. They wake up and, seeing him as a magnificent specimen, chase and capture him, taking him to a US cavalry post.

At this time, the US army is fighting the Indian Wars and taking over the soon-to-be western United States. Frightened and confused, Spirit finds himself enslaved among other horses. Then, he encounters "The Colonel", who decides to have the mustang tamed, refusing to believe the idea of Spirit being too stubborn, but Spirit manages to fight off all attempts to tame him. To weaken Spirit, the Colonel orders him tied to a post for three days with no food or water. Meanwhile, a Lakota Native American named Little Creek is also brought into the fort and held captive. Spirit is later supposedly broken in by the Colonel, who speaks his idea of how any wild horse can be tamed. However, Spirit gets a second wind and finally throws him off. Frustrated, the Colonel attempts to shoot him before Little Creek (who frees himself from his bounds with a knife) saves Spirit from being shot as they, along with the rest of the horses, escape from the post. Little Creek's mare, Rain, meets them along with other natives who capture Spirit again.

After returning to the Lakota village, Little Creek tries to tame Spirit with kindness, but Spirit refuses to be ridden. Little Creek ties Spirit and Rain together, hoping she will teach him a thing or two. When Spirit tries to leave, she insists on staying, then shows him her world. Spirit begins to warm up to Little Creek and falls in love with Rain. At the end of their time together, Little Creek tries again to ride him, but Spirit is still unwilling. He then decides that Spirit will never be tamed and frees him. As Spirit asks Rain to come with him to his herd, a cavalry regiment led by the Colonel attacks the village and Rain runs off to find Little Creek. During the vicious battle, the Colonel tries to shoot Little Creek, but Spirit runs into the Colonel and his horse, deflecting the shot and saving Little Creek's life. However, Rain is shot by the Colonel, knocking her into the river. Spirit dives into the river to try to rescue Rain but is unsuccessful and they both plummet over a waterfall. Spirit finds Rain dying from her injuries and stays by her side until the army captures him. Watching Spirit being pulled away, Little Creek arrives, vowing to free him to satisfy his life-debt and follows the men after tending to Rain.

Spirit is loaded onto a train and taken to a work site on the Transcontinental Railroad, where he is put to work pulling a steam locomotive. Realizing that the track will infringe on his homeland, Spirit breaks free from the sledge and breaks the chains holding the other horses. They escape, and the locomotive falls off its wooden sledge and rolls down the hill, chasing Spirit back to the work site. The locomotive demolishes two wooden storage sheds and then slams into another locomotive, causing a massive explosion that sets the forest ablaze. Spirit attempts to escape the fire, but is trapped when the chain around his neck snags on a fallen tree. Little Creek appears in time and saves Spirit, and together they jump into a river to escape the flames.

The next morning, the Colonel and his men find Spirit and Little Creek. Spirit allows Little Creek to ride him and a chase ensues through the Grand Canyon. Eventually, they are trapped by a gorge. Little Creek gives up, but Spirit manages to successfully leap across the canyon. Spirit's move amazes the Colonel; he humbly accepts defeat, stops his men from shooting the two, and allows Spirit and Little Creek to leave. Spirit returns to the rebuilt Lakota village with Little Creek and finds Rain nursed back to health. Little Creek decides to name Spirit the "Spirit-Who-Could-Not-Be-Broken" and sets him and Rain free. After saying goodbye to Little Creek, the two horses return to Spirit's homeland and eventually find Spirit's herd, where he joyfully reunites with his mother.

The eagle from the beginning (that had been seen at various points throughout the story) reappears and flies upwards into horse-shaped clouds.




Writer John Fusco, best known for his work in the Western and Native American genres (such as the films Young Guns and Young Guns II), was hired by DreamWorks Animation to create an original screenplay based on an idea by Jeffrey Katzenberg.[6] Fusco began by writing and submitting a novel to the studio and then adapted his own work into screenplay format. He remained on the project as the main writer over the course of four years, working closely with Katzenberg, the directors, and artists.[7]

Animation and designEdit

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was made over the course of four years using a conscious blend of traditional hand-drawn animation and computer animation.[7] James Baxter said that the animation was the most difficult piece of production he worked on for a movie: "I literally spent the first few weeks with my door shut, telling everyone, 'Go away; I've got to concentrate.' It was quite daunting because when I first started to draw horses, I suddenly realized how little I knew." The team at DreamWorks, under his guidance, used a horse named "Donner" as the model for Spirit and brought the horse to the animation studio in Glendale, California for the animators to study.[7] Sound designer Tim Chau was dispatched to stables outside Los Angeles to record the sounds of real horses; the final product features real hoof beats and horse vocals that were used to express their vocalizations in the film.[8] None of the animal characters in the film speak English beyond occasional reflective narration from the protagonist mustang, voiced by Matt Damon in the film.[9] Many of the animators who worked on Spirit would later work on Shrek 2, as their influence can be seen for the character Donkey.[10] The production team, consisting of Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook, Mireille Soria, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathy Altieri, Luc Desmarchelier, Ron Lukas, and story supervisor Ronnie del Carmen took a trip to the western United States to view scenic places they could use as inspiration for locations in the film. The homeland of the mustangs and Lakotas is based on Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and the Teton mountain range; the cavalry outpost was also based on Monument Valley.

Traveling to all those different places, we were reminded that this is a magnificent country, so in some respects, it was a way for us to honor and to celebrate the grandeur in our own backyard. Geographically, we kind of threw convention out the window. We took the best from nature and gave it our own spin, and ultimately it served the story well.

— Lorna Cook, CinemaReview.com[11]


The instrumental score was composed by Hans Zimmer with songs by Bryan Adams in both the English and French versions of the album. The opening theme song for the film, "Here I Am" was written by Bryan Adams, Gretchen Peters, and Hans Zimmer. It was produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Another song, not included in the film itself (although it can be heard in the ending credits), is "Don't Let Go", which is sung by Bryan Adams with Sarah McLachlan on harmonies and piano. It was written by Bryan Adams, Gavin Greenaway, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, and Gretchen Peters. Many of the songs and arrangements were set in the American West, with themes based on love, landscapes, brotherhood, struggles, and journeys. Garth Brooks was originally supposed to write and record songs for the film but the deal fell through. The Italian versions of the songs were sung by Zucchero. The Spanish versions of the tracks on the album were sung by Erik Rubín (Hispanic America) and Raúl (Spain). The Brazilian version of the movie soundtrack was sung in Portuguese by Paulo Ricardo. The Norwegian versions of the songs were sung by Vegard Ylvisåker of the Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis.


Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was released in theaters on May 24, 2002.

Home mediaEdit

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was released on VHS and DVD on November 19, 2002.[12] It was re-released on DVD on May 18, 2010.[13] The film was released on Blu-ray by Paramount Home Entertainment on May 13, 2014.[14]

In July 2014, the film's distribution rights were purchased by DreamWorks Animation from Paramount Pictures (owners of the pre-2005 DreamWorks Pictures catalog) and transferred to 20th Century Fox[15] before reverting to Universal Studios in 2018.


Critical receptionEdit

Based on 128 reviews collected by review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron has an overall positive approval rating of 70% and a weighted average score of 6.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "A visually stunning film that may be too predictable and politically correct for adults, but should serve children well."[16] Review aggregator Metacritic gave the film a score of 52 based on 29 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[17] Critic Roger Ebert, said in his review of the film, "Uncluttered by comic supporting characters and cute sidekicks, Spirit is more pure and direct than most of the stories we see in animation – a fable I suspect younger viewers will strongly identify with."[18] Leonard Maltin of Hot Ticket called it "one of the most beautiful and exciting animated features ever made". Clay Smith of Access Hollywood considered the film "An Instant Classic".[19] Jason Solomons described the film as "a crudely drawn DreamWorks animation about a horse that saves the West by bucking a US Army General".[20] USA Today's Claudia Puig gave it 3 stars out of 4, writing that the filmmakers' "most significant achievement is fashioning a movie that will touch the hearts of both children and adults, as well as bring audiences to the edge of their seats."[21] Dave Kehr of the New York Times criticized the way in which the film portrayed Spirit and Little Creek as "pure cliches" and suggested that the film could have benefited from a comic relief character.[22] The film was screened out of competition at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.[23] Rain was the first animated horse to receive an honorary registration certificate from the American Paint Horse Association (APHA).[24]

Box officeEdit

When the film opened on Memorial Day Weekend 2002, the film earned $17,770,036 on the Friday-Sunday period, and $23,213,736 through the four-day weekend for a $6,998 average from 3,317 theaters. The film overall opened in fourth place behind Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Spider-Man, and Insomnia. In its second weekend, the film retreated 36% to $11,303,814 for a $3,362 average from expanding to 3,362 theaters and finishing in fifth place for the weekend. In its third weekend, the film decreased 18% to $9,303,808 for a $2,767 average from 3,362 theaters. The film closed on September 12, 2002, after earning $73,280,117 in the United States and Canada with an additional $49,283,422 overseas for a worldwide total of $122,563,539, against an $80 million budget.


Award Category Recipient(s) Result
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards[25] Top Box Office Hans Zimmer
Bryan Adams
Academy Awards[26] Best Animated Feature Jeffrey Katzenberg Nominated
Annie Awards[27] Animated Theatrical Feature Nominated
Individual Achievement in Storyboarding Ronnie Del Carmen Won
Larry Leker Nominated
Simon Wells Nominated
Individual Achievement in Production Design Luc Desmarchelier Won
Individual Achievement in Character Design Carlos Grangel Won
Individual Achievement in Effects Animation Yancy Landquist Won
Jamie Lloyd Nominated
Critics Choice Awards[28] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Genesis Awards[29] Feature Film' Won
Golden Globes[30] Best Original Song – Motion Picture Hans Zimmer (music)
Bryan Adams (lyrics)
Gretchen Peters (lyrics)
for the song "Here I Am"
Kids' Choice Awards[31] Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie Matt Damon Nominated
Golden Reel Award[32] Best Sound Editing in Animated Features Tim Chau (supervising sound editor)
Carmen Baker (supervising sound editor)
Jim Brookshire (supervising dialogue editor/supervising adr editor)
Nils C. Jensen (sound editor)
Albert Gasser (sound editor)
David Kern (sound editor)
Piero Mura (sound editor)
Bruce Tanis (sound editor)
Best Sound Editing in Animated Features – Music Slamm Andrews (music editor/scoring editor)
Robb Boyd (music editor)
Online Film Critics Society Awards[33] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards Best Animated Film Nominated
Golden Satellite Awards[34] Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media Nominated
Visual Effects Society Awards[35] Best Character Animation in an Animated Motion Picture James Baxter Nominated
Western Heritage Awards[36] Theatrical Motion Picture Mireille Soria (producer)
Jeffrey Katzenberg (producer)
Kelly Asbury (director)
Lorna Cook (director)
John Fusco (writer)
Matt Damon (principal actor)
James Cromwell (principal actor)
Daniel Studi (principal actor)
World Soundtrack Awards[37] Best Original Song Written for a Film Hans Zimmer
Bryan Adams (lyricist/performer)
R.J. Lange (lyricist)
for the song "This Is Where I Belong"
Best Original Song Written for a Film Hans Zimmer
Bryan Adams (lyricist/performer)
Gretchen Peters (lyricist)
for the song "Here I Am"
Young Artist Awards[38] Best Family Feature Film – Animation Won

In other mediaEdit

Video gamesEdit

Two video games based on the film were released on October 28, 2002, by THQ: the PC game Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron — Forever Free and the Game Boy Advance game Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron — Search for Homeland.[39]

Television series adaptation and separate film adaptationEdit

A computer-animated television series based on the film, titled Spirit Riding Free, premiered on Netflix on May 5, 2017.[40] The series follows all the daring adventures when Spirit, who is the offspring of the original, meets a girl named Lucky whose courage matches his own.[41][42]

The series itself currently being adapted into a feature film, titled Spirit Untamed, and is scheduled for a theatrical release on June 4, 2021 by Universal Pictures.[43][44]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ In 2018, the film's distribution rights were transferred from DreamWorks Pictures to Universal Pictures.


  1. ^ a b c "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  2. ^ "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (U)". British Board of Film Classification. May 17, 2002. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron Box Office". BoxOfficeMojo. Retrieved June 1, 2011.
  4. ^ "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  5. ^ "The 75th Academy Awards | 2003". Oscars.org | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  6. ^ Green, Susan (January 9, 2002). "A Reel Revolution: Vermont's John Fusco Resurrects Ethan Allen on Film". Seven Days. Retrieved October 18, 2018. Fusco fell in love with American paint ponies and began a program to restore original Native American herds. This expertise made him a natural to write the script for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, a DreamWorks animated film. It's scheduled to open on Memorial Day.
  7. ^ a b c Peszko, J. Paul (May 23, 2002). "Spirit: A Longshot Or A Sure Bet?". Animation World Network. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  8. ^ Breznican, Anthony (May 24, 2002). "'SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON': A fresh perspective: An animated animal that doesn't speak". Kitsap Sun. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  9. ^ Laura Clifford. "Spirit review". Reelingreviews.com. Retrieved June 1, 2011.
  10. ^ Majendie, Paul (May 17, 2002). "From Shrek to the horse's..." News24. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  11. ^ "SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMMARON – Movie Production Notes". CinemaReview.com.
  12. ^ "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron". DVD Talk.
  13. ^ "Amazon.com: Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron: Spirit-Stallion of the Cimarron: Movies & TV". Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  14. ^ "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  15. ^ Chney, Alexandra (July 29, 2014). "DreamWorks Animation Q2 Earnings Fall Short of Estimates, SEC Investigation Revealed". Variety. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
  16. ^ "Spirit – Stallion of the Cimarron". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 1, 2011.
  17. ^ "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron". Metacritic. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  18. ^ "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron". RogerEbert. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  19. ^ Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. DreamWorks Home Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 9780525467403.
  20. ^ Solomons, Jason (July 7, 2002). "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron". The Observer. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  21. ^ Puig, Claudia (May 24, 2002). "In 'Spirit,' a mustang sallies forth". USA Today. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  22. ^ Kehr, Dave (May 24, 2002). "An Old-Fashioned Cartoon of the West". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  23. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved November 4, 2009.
  24. ^ "DreamWorks' "Rain" becomes official American Paint Horse". Equiworld. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  25. ^ "ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards – Top Box Office". ASCAP. April 30, 2003. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  26. ^ "THE 75TH ACADEMY AWARDS 2003". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  27. ^ Martin, Denise (January 5, 2003). "'Lilo' leads Annie noms with 10". Variety. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  28. ^ Lowe, R. Kinsey (December 18, 2002). "Critics' Choice nominees are ..." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  29. ^ umane Society of The United States (February 25, 2003). "The Humane Society of The United States Announces Winners of The Seventeenth Annual Genesis Awards" (Press release). PR Newswire. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  30. ^ Lyman, Rick (December 20, 2002). "'Chicago' and 'The Hours' Lead Golden Globes Race". The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  31. ^ "Nickelodeon's 16TH Annual Kids' Choice Awards Takes Stars, Music and Mess to the Next Level on Saturday, April 12 Live from Barker Hangar in Santa Monica" (Press release). Nickelodeon. February 13, 2003. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  32. ^ Martin, Denise (February 7, 2003). "'Gangs,' 'Perdition' top Golden Reel nods". Variety. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  33. ^ "2002 Awards (6th Annual)". Online Film Critics Society. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  34. ^ Berkshire, Geoff (December 17, 2002). "'Towers' stands tall in Satellites". Variety. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  35. ^ "1st Annual VES Awards". Visual Effects Society. Archived from the original on March 6, 2014. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  36. ^ "Winners announced for Western Heritage Awards". NewsOK. February 7, 2003. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  37. ^ Boehm, Erich (August 23, 2002). "Flanders unveils soundtrack noms". Variety. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  38. ^ "Twenty-Fourth Annual Young Artist Awards". Young Artist Awards. March 29, 2003. Archived from the original on August 18, 2016. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  39. ^ THQ (October 28, 2002). "THQ Ships Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron – Search for Homeland for Game Boy Advance and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron – Forever Free for PC" (Press release). THQ. Retrieved December 6, 2014.
  40. ^ Steinberg, Brian (June 16, 2016). "Netflix Readies Animated 'Spy Kids,' 'Llama Llama' Series (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
  41. ^ Milligan, Mercedes (June 16, 2016). "Netflix Slates 5 Original Kids Toons Plus Nick Kroll Series".
  42. ^ "Netflix, DreamWorks bring the girl power in Spirit Riding Free".
  43. ^ Milligan, Mercedes (October 7, 2019). "DreamWorks, Universal Slate 'Spirit Riding Free' & 'Bad Guys' for 2021". Animation Magazine. Animation Magazine. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  44. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 10, 2020). "Jennifer Lopez Romantic Comedy 'Marry Me' Heads To Summer". Deadline. Retrieved November 10, 2020.

External linksEdit