Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)

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Released 19-Nov-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Learn To Draw Spirit With James Baxter
Featurette-The Animation Of "Spirit"
Featurette-The Music Of "Spirit"
Featurette-International Star Talent
Scene Editing Workshop-Make A Movie (DVD-ROM)
Storyboards-Collection of animated storyboards
Audio Commentary-Directors and Producers
DVD-ROM Extras-Games, drawing and make your own movie
Game-Cimarron Slam; Mustang Derby
Featurette-Favourite Scenes (8)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 80:02
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:47) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Kelly Asbury
Lorna Cook
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Matt Damon
James Cromwell
Daniel Studi
Chopper Bernet
Jeff LeBeau
John Rubano
Richard McGonagle
Matt Levin
Adam Paul
Robert Cait
Charles Napier
Meredith Wells
Donald Fullilove
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Hans Zimmer
Bryan Adams
Steve Jablonsky


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Catalan Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Portuguese
English Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Portuguese Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Disclaimer: Although Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron claims to come from the same studio as Shrek, I should warn you now that Shrek this ain't. The appeal of Spirit is much more specifically targeted than the wider audience appeal of Shrek, although I am sure it will invariably hit a chord with the younger members of any family.

    Spirit (whose thoughts are voiced by Matt Damon) is a young mustang, born wild and free, in the heart of America's mid-west during the period of settlement. It tells his story of unexpectedly crossing paths with the world of man and how he manages to resist, against all odds, submitting to the controls of that world. In short, it tells the story of an unbreakable spirit.

    Within the first ten minutes we are introduced quite spectacularly to a young and fearless colt who is clearly destined to become the leader of his herd. That is, until he decides to investigate the appearance of strange human creatures one night, an advance cavalry unit of the US army. Spirit is captured by the soldiers and taken back to the army base camp where the main protagonist, the Colonel (James Cromwell) unsuccessfully attempts to break Spirit in. With the help of a local Lakota Indian, Spirit escapes the colonial barracks only to find himself now an unwilling guest of Indian hospitality.

    Eventually Spirit convinces his Indian captors that he will not be broken and begins the long journey back home to his herd. On the way he is captured again and forced to help a pack team haul a steam engine across the mountain. In true spirit (OK, that's the last one I promise), Spirit breaks free from this predicament, again with some help from his Indian friend, Little Creek (Daniel Studi), who together make a spectacular break for freedom and the wild and prove that not all things can be tamed. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is a very simple story that reflects its heritage - the US. Some of the cinematography (or is that the animation?) is simply spectacular, however, and more than makes up for the overly patriotic messages underlying the story.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The visual presentation of this feature is nothing short of fantastic. Not only is the DVD mastering done superbly from excellent condition source materials, but the combination of natural 2D traditional style animation coupled with the detailed 3D modern CGI animation is absolutely seamless and truly groundbreaking. One of the best examples of the effectiveness of this style-blending is the canyon river scene at 48:11 which has a tremendous sense of motion and reality to it, much greater than any animated feature I have ever seen. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing more of this mixed style animation in coming features.

    The main feature is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. This is not only the original theatrical aspect ratio, but it is also the only aspect ratio that you could possibly watch the feature in. Any type of Pan & Scan, or worse, Zoom, would completely destroy the effectiveness of this presentation and doubters are invited to listen to the audio commentary and compare the letterbox presentation themselves.

    The presentation is very sharp and highly detailed, carefully and precisely resolving all of the magnificent fine details of the mountains, rivers, canyons and forests. There are only a few occasions where I felt the sharpness could have been a little higher and I suspect this was more source-related than transfer-related. The black levels were perfect, the shadow details were detailed and the white levels were nice and bright, providing a huge contrast range. There is no evidence of any grain or noise at all. The colours were also absolutely perfect, ranging from realistic natural shades and hues to rich vibrant bursts of reds, blues, yellows and greens. The colours were never over- or under saturated.

    There are no MPEG artefacts nor film-to-video artefacts present at all. That means no Gibbs effect or aliasing (yes, really), no macroblocking, no interlacing, no scratches or hairs and no telecine wobble. In short, this is a pristine transfer.

    There are some moments of source-based posterization present, affecting some of the background shots such as at 7:40 and which can also be seen in rings during the fade sequences at 0:38, 24:51 and 25:49. These are relatively minor and present in the source materials, not an error in the mastering or transfer.

    I sampled the English subtitles and found them to be extremely accurate. The audio commentary subtitles were also extremely accurate and conveniently identified each speaker clearly and unambiguously.

    Whilst the RSDL change at 61:47 was very well placed for the main feature, being between scenes and dialogue, it wasn't so well placed for the commentary, occurring mid-sentence!

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    In similar vein to the visual presentation, the audio content of this feature is practically perfect and of reference quality.

    I primarily listened to the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 track and the English Dolby Stereo 2.0 commentary track. This feature also has Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Catalan Dolby Digital 5.1 and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, all of which sound very, very similar to the English soundtrack and do not suffer from any soundfield collapses, unlike many other dubbing efforts I have heard.

    The dialogue is clear and distinct at all times and the lip sync is as good as anything you can expect in an animated feature.

    The music by Hans Zimmer and lyrics by Bryan Adams are used extensively throughout the feature as an important device to communicate various aspects of the storyline and key plot themes. This is especially true of the horse characters as they, unlike Mr. Ed, do not speak in this feature and thus the music is used often to communicate their feelings and emotions. There is one particular point in the music which stands out from the rest, when Bryan Adams sings "Sound the Bugle" at 51:50. This is a powerful and emotional performance that very clearly gets its message across with a spectacular rendition of this song. The audio commentary explains why this recording has such impact; Bryan Adams had literally just arrived from London, exhausted -- the director said "perfect" and recorded the take while Bryan was still in that state and the rest will now become history. It is also mentioned in the audio commentary that the directors often reviewed just how much the music and in particular the lyrics were being relied upon to tell a part of the story that would be better served with appropriate visuals, and wherever possible the visual approach was preferred. I think the balance they struck was pretty much perfect.

    The surround channels are used often to enhance the envelopment of the music and to support various sound effects. They provide an immersive soundfield, full of ambience, that is a pleasure to listen to. They are well balanced, well integrated and never inappropriately call attention to themselves.

    The subwoofer is also alive and well for this presentation, being called upon to lend weight to both the music and several of the effects ranging from the thud of horse's hooves and stampedes to enormous explosions and the thunder of the mighty river. This is a great example of subwoofer integration without getting too carried away.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu

    The animated main menu instantly introduces you to the melding of 2D and 3D animation. It is very clear and easy to navigate. One clever aspect of the menuing system is collecting all the appropriate material targeted at younger audiences under a single banner -- "Dreamworks Kids". This includes shortcuts to favourite scenes, games and DVD-ROM components.

Audio Commentary

    The audio commentary by Mireillw Soria (Producer), Kelly Asbury (Director) and Lorna Cook (Director) is a good example of a useful and informative commentary. As I have indicated in other parts of the review, there is a significant amount of material discussed in this commentary, although one could not help but feel that the main justification for producing this feature was simply that it hadn’t been done before. The commentary track also has its own subtitles which very accurately identify each speaker and are very precise. Apart from the detailed discussions regarding the 2D/3D animation blending, the directors have a few points to make about widescreen versus fullscreen which I'll include here for some emphasis:

"The vistas that we conveyed in this film can only be done through a widescreen format …", "… you have 40% more screen to fill up and utilize" and "I don't think the movie would have anywhere near the same impact without the widescreen"

   

The use of a widescreen presentation is also important as the main characters spend much of their time horizontally, not vertically and thus utilize more of the horizontal image real-estate than the vertical.

Featurette "Learn to Draw Spirit"

    Duration 13:48. James Baxter, the supervising animator for Spirit takes you through four easy steps to drawing Spirit, from draft sketch to full colour. Traditionally, drawing and animating horses is meant to be difficult but after watching this I actually think I might be able to manage one -- which is saying something as my drawing skills are practically non-existent. This featurette would have to be the best how-to draw featurette I have seen out of quite a few. Most are over and done with in less than two minutes and are little more than watching an accelerated time-lapse of the animator sketching his most familiar character. This featurette is actually educational and useful, if a little pretentious in its approach. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, letterboxed, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

Featurette "The Animation of Spirit"

    Duration 7:01. This is a good overview of the unique animation techniques used in Spirit -- a blend of traditional 2D animation with 3D digital animation which has been nicknamed "tradigital" (sic) by Jeffrey Katzenberg (Producer). Amongst several of the segments discussed during this featurette are the three minute continuous opening sequence, the seamless switching from 2D to 3D animation with Spirit and the various organic effects (water, fire, dust, snow, mist, and clouds) including the dramatic canyon river sequence. There is also an extensive discussion of the difficulties of animating horses and introducing emotional expression cues. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, letterboxed, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

Featurette "The Music of Spirit"

    Duration 9:41. Hans Zimmer (Academy Award Winner) discusses the difficulties he faced when composing the music for Spirit that needed to act as the horse's voice. Hans indicated that he actually spent quite some time trying to find the right mix of musical themes for Spirit, ranging from orchestral to western guitars to synthesizers. Finally, he melded all of these for the final product. Amongst the songs with lyrics, mostly voiced by Bryan Adams and sometimes supported by Sara McLachlan, are: "Here I Am", "Don't Let Go", "Get Off My Back", "You Can't Take Me", "Sound the Bugle" and "I Will Always Return", the theme song. This special provided some good insights into what makes Hans Zimmer tick. The music for Spirit, however, left me with the feeling that in five year's time you will look back and it will start to sound terribly dated, which is unfortunate as it is unlikely to have the longevity of many Broadway musicals. This segment finished off with a five second plug for the CD soundtrack blerk. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, letterboxed, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

Featurette "International Star Talent"

    Duration 2:31. Overview of the internationalisation and dubbing of Spirit. The directors and producers went to great lengths to ensure that the feeling and emotion of the original English version was preserved and I must say that from an external, non-foreign language speaking background, the characters certainly sound very similar. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, letterboxed, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

Storyboards

    The storyboards are presented in such a way that they almost animate the segments they are storyboarding. This is especially true for some sequences where the storyboards are so detailed and so numerous that the draft sequence almost feels animated.
Spirit's Capture

    Duration 3:05. Audio commentary guided tour through the storyboard of the sequence including some scenes that were not rendered for the final presentation. These storyboards are extremely detailed with lots of in-between boards that almost animate the story alone. It is unusual to find such detailed storyboarded sequences. Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, letterboxed, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

The Colonel Rides Spirit

    Duration 6:05. Audio commentary guided tour through the storyboard of the sequence. The Colonel's original character was somewhat different from the final character chosen. All of the storyboards are a mix-and-match affair being created by multiple artists with varying style, yet they come together as an almost exact representation of the final animation. Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, letterboxed, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

Train Wreck

    Duration 2:56. Audio commentary guided tour through the storyboard of the sequence. This action sequence was apparently derived from Die Hard and is represented by another set of highly detailed storyboards that are almost animated themselves. Almost all the detail from the final animated sequence is present in these boards. Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, letterboxed, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

Spirit and Little Creek Jump the Canyon

    Duration 4:47. Audio commentary guided tour through the storyboard of the sequence. This was the final action sequence and once again the storyboards are an amalgamation of work from all the storyboard artists on the film and are practically "shot-for-shot" identical to the final animated sequence. Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, letterboxed, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

Dreamworks Kids

    This is a collection of shortcut menus specifically suited to the younger audience. Apart from links to many of the existing special features, this menu also includes some games, some DVD-ROM content and a short list of favourite scenes in the movie.

Game: Cimarron Slam

    Do you remember those old shooting games that you would find at the circus with pop-up metal targets? Well, now you can relive that fun. Just be sure not to shoot the good guys. This is a simple yet fun game that is well animated and fairly interactive. You score 20 points for each bad character and -10 points for hitting a good character.

Game: Mustang Derby

    And do you remember those old video games at home which required you to wiggle the joystick or hit the fire button as fast as possible, usually resulting in said particular component wearing and eventually breaking? Well, now you can wear out the buttons on your DVD remote. You have to press the right button on your remote as fast as possible to make Spirit run faster than the other horses and ultimately win the race. This is guaranteed to destroy a remote or two if played often.

DVD-ROM Content

    A collection of DVD-ROM materials that require Windows 98 or above, Internet Explorer 5.0 or above and a DVD-ROM drive. Note: This title installs the Interactual Player which replaces the older PCFriendly player which has been identified as Spyware in the past. From what I understand, the Interactual Player is currently safe to install although this situation may change in the future.

DVD-ROM: Make A Movie

    "You’re the director! Create your very own Spirit movie using animations from the film." This is a highly capable and detailed package built using Macromedia's Flash. You can put together your very own movie version of Spirit by selecting a sequence of animated scenes, backgrounds, characters, sounds, narration and music. After choosing from one of seven opening title scenes, or importing your own background picture, you can begin to assemble your own movie sequence. This is achieved by configuring scenes on the timeline from either pre-built animated sequences (from a selection of 30) taken from the movie or by splicing in your own choice of static backgrounds (from a selection of 24 or importing your own) and up to three simultaneous character animations (from a selection of 24). Once the visuals are setup it is then time to add sounds via the narration track, where you can record your own narration sections, the effects track, where you can insert various sound effects (from a selection of 24) and the background music track, which plays throughout the entire feature (from a selection of 3 or import your own MP3). After many hours (yes, really - this process could take many hours to fine tune), when you are satisfied with your movie you can save it for viewing later. This is a very functional and educational tool that will keep many children and certainly some adults entertained for quite a while.

DVD-ROM: Frontier Find

    "Hidden throughout the Spirit activities are 13 apples. Collect them all to receive a special prize." The first of these thirteen apples can easily be spotted in the picture. The remaining twelve are scattered throughout the other activities. When you find all of them, a pop-up window simply says congratulations. That's it, nothing more. A very uneventful reward for something that actually takes a fair while to work through.

DVD-ROM: Horse Sense

    "Collect horses for your own stable by correctly identifying each breed of horse." This is a simple matching game where for each horse breed you correctly identify from a picture, that horse will be added to your virtual ranch. The Equine Encyclopaedia covers the following breeds: Percheron, American Shetland, Kieger Mustang, American Quarter Horse, Appaloosa, Clydesdale, Pony of the Americas and the American Paint Horse. When you complete this game you are rewarded with an apple for Frontier Find.

DVD-ROM: Spirit Calendar

    "Keep the spirit alive by creating your very own "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" calendar." You can select twelve pictures, one for each month of the year, from a collection of sixteen to create a 2002, 2003 or 2004 calendar. Unfortunately, the images are only moderate resolution, around 75 DPI, with the pixels being clearly visible in the final printout (on an Epson 1290C photo printer). At the beginning of this activity you should spot another apple for Frontier Find.

DVD-ROM: Cimarron Cinema

    "Invite friends and family to a screening of your own Spirit movie with movie posters and premiere announcements." Select a poster layout from the four possible templates to market your own version of the Spirit movie. You can also select one of four invitation layouts complete with Date/Time and location. When you're done with each task, don't forget to click on the apples for Frontier Find.

DVD-ROM: Rain's Colouring Fun

    "Tons of colouring fun. Select your favourite picture and colour with your own supplies or use the computer colour palette." Either print the outlines or colour in a selection of six of your favourite characters from Spirit's adventure. Another apple should appear for the Frontier Find task.

DVD-ROM: Hillside Glide

    "Steer Spirit down a snowy hillside. Be sure to avoid all the obstacles set in your path." Cross-country skiing with Spirit - believe it or not. Lose 100 points for hitting an obstacle, gain 25 points for each obstacle avoided and a bonus 250 points for each obstacle you successfully jump over. See who can get the most points in sixty seconds. If you do well you will be rewarded with another apple for Frontier Find.

DVD-ROM: Goal!!!

    "Make Spirit a pro soccer player with this exciting soccer game." Where on earth did they come up with the idea for this game? Oh yeah, don't forget to collect you next apple for Frontier Find.

DVD-ROM: Tall As A Horse

    "Make your own life-sized printable Spirit and see how tall you are compared to Spirit." This program allows you to print a full-size, multi-page front view of Spirit which you can hang on a wall and measure yourself against. I was running out of ink on this one but will get around to printing it at some stage. Have some patience and the next apple for Frontier Find will appear under the Spirit picture.

DVD-ROM: Canton Concentration

    "Use your keen memory in this game of concentration." This is a standard game of memory played on a 5 by 6 grid. When you complete the puzzle you are rewarded with a scene from the movie. Keep your eye open for the Frontier Find apple.

DVD-ROM: Nickname Maker

    "What is your nickname? Input your name into the decoder to find out." Have your name (first name and middle initial) translated into a real American Indian Lakota name (supposedly anyway). I ended up being Zito - sighhh. Once again watch out for the apple for Frontier Find.

DVD-ROM: TeePee Tees

    "Wear your Spirit with pride! Select an image and make your own Spirit T-shirt decal." Print your own iron-on transfers from a selection of four images available in small, medium or large. I don't have any of the special iron-on transfer printing paper available to test this with but I assume it works. You can collect the last apple for Frontier Find here. Most disappointing congratulations, though.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    It would appear that Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron has been released in an almost identical package around the globe, with the exception of specific additional language soundtracks used. For instance, the Region 1 version includes English, Spanish and French soundtracks, the Region 3 version includes English, Korean and Thai soundtracks and our Region 4 version includes English, Spanish and Portuguese soundtracks. On that basis I recommend the local product for its superior PAL resolution and formatting unless a specific language requirement is met in another region.

Summary

    A very high quality audio-visual presentation of an unfortunately less-than-gripping storyline. That said however, the movie is still entertaining and is definitely original; it's just doesn't have the same universal appeal that something like Shrek has.

    The video quality is absolutely superb and everything I am coming to expect from modern animated titles on DVD.

    The audio quality is also excellent although the surround channels could have been used a little more.

    The extras are much better than average and the DVD-ROM "Make Your Own Movie" content is likely to prove a hit.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael S Cox (to bio, or not to bio?)
Saturday, December 21, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplayJVC Interiart Flat 68cm Display 16:9. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3802
SpeakersFront LR - NEAR MainMast, Center - NEAR 20M, Surround LR - NEAR Spinnaker DiPoles, Rear LR - NEAR MainMast-II, Subwoofer - NEAR PS-2 DiPole

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