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Toon Talk: Spirit
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(c) Dreamworks

But his freedom is short-lived, as his new ‘kemosabe’ wants to ride him too. (So powerful is his equestrian prowess, apparently everyone wants a turn on this stallion … alert the DreamWorks merchandising department: put coin-operated Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron horsy rides in front of K-Marts everywhere!!!) In Little Creek’s camp, Spirit meets a perky pinto named Rain (think My Little Pony all grown up) and faster then you can cue up the sappy Bryan Adams love song, they are off doing the “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” thing. Alas, their animal husbandry is short-lived as well, as the two tribes of man Spirit has so far encountered come together in a violent confrontation.

Black and white in its convictions - four legs = GOOD, two legs = baaaaad - Spirit fails to engage the viewer, merely leading one by the hand from one hyper-real set piece (scored in Tiomkinesque grandiloquence by Hans Zimmer) to the next, you the audience member a mere observer of the assorted adventures, with no more of an emotional investment then if you were watching an empty merry-go-round.

In recent interviews, Katzenberg sites this film’s combination of hand-drawn animation and computer-generated imagery (even going so far as to coin the insipid term ‘tradigital’) as ‘revolutionary’. Newsflash, Jeffrey: this technique has been in use since … well, since you started doing all this over twenty-some years ago. And Spirit is far from an exemplar of the hybrid medium anyway; take a look at the rich jungles of Tarzan or the evergreen majesty of the “Firebird” sequence in Fantasia 2000 for far superior, realistic and beautiful images of animated nature then anything on display in this oafish ‘oater’.

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(c) Dreamworks

Credit should be given for the risky decision to not have the horses speak … that is, if they didn’t end up flinching and tacked on the ultimate screenwriting cop-out: the Narrator. As the so-called ‘inner voice of Spirit’, Matt Damon delivers his silly soliloquies in hushed tones that only heighten the innocuousness he is forced to utter.

Makes one pine for the eloquence of one Mister Ed: “A horse is a horse”. Of course.

Toon Talk Rating: D+

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Toon Talk Trivia:

  • Co-director Kelly Asbury’s previous animation credits includes work on Disney’s The Little Mermaid and James and the Giant Peach, Pixar’s Toy Story and DreamWorks’ The Prince of Egypt.
  • Co-director Lorna Cook also worked on The Prince of Egypt and animated the adult Simba in The Lion King.
  • Matt Damon supplied the voice of another animated hero, Cale in Fox’s Titan A.E.
  • Spirit’s composer Hans Zimmer won an Oscar for his score to The Lion King. He also scored Disney’s Pearl Harbor, The Preacher’s Wife and Muppet Treasure Island and DreamWorks’ The Road to El Dorado and The Prince of Egypt.

Coming Soon in Toon Talk:

  • Catch a wave with Disney’s 41st animated feature, Lilo and Stitch, opening June 21st.
  • Following in the footsteps of The Rugrats, another Nickelodeon series makes the jump to the big screen with Hey, Arnold!, opening June 28th.
  • Look, up in the sky … it’s The Powerpuff Girls Movie! The Cartoon Network stars fly into theaters July 3rd.

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-- Kirby C. Holt

Kirby, a former Walt Disney World Resort Cast Member (and Trivia Champ), is a lifelong Disney fan and film buff. He is also an avid list maker and chronic ellipsis user ...

Took Talk: Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt and Toon Talk: From the Other Side is posted whenever there's something new to review.

The opinions expressed by our Kirby C. Holt, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

-- Posted May 17, 2002

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