Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron (lost early draft of DreamWorks animated film; early 2000s)

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The film's title.

Status: Lost


Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron is a 2002 2D animated film by DreamWorks. The story follows Spirit, a wild Kiger mustang who is taken from his herd by the U.S. Calvary, and after escaping their settlement with the help of a young Native man named Little Creek, goes on a long journey to find his way home.

While the film performed moderately at the box office, it has since gained a major cult following and has spawned both a spin-off series and a CGI animated film based on the series. However, what many fans don't know is that during development, the film that was originally conceived was much darker than the film that was eventually released.

The Original Story

Originally, the film was meant to take heavy inspiration from other popular horse stories such as Black Beauty and War Horse. Most importantly, a story centring around a horse being passed around from owner to owner, and unlike the final film, the animal characters in the early version were able to speak.[1]

The story would have been about Spirit being taken from his home, and "descending through the stages of horse hell" throughout his life. With each new owner and location gradually getting worse and worse, even being successfully mounted by the Colonel at some point. The only human to have shown the titular horse any kindness was a nameless frontiersman, who would be the first person to be willingly allowed on Spirit's back. This would all culminate in Spirit being sent to work in a coal mine along with several other horses until a collapse in the tunnels traps them all inside. Dooming Spirit and the rest to die a slow and painful death in the mines, never seeing his homeland again.[2]

The Rewrite

After a period of development, it was decided that the original version of Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron was too dark and depressing for mainstream audiences. It had gotten to the point where those who worked at the studio had nicknamed the film "Schindler's Horse" in reference to the film's bleak tone. So the storyline was heavily rewritten.[3]

As part of the rewrite, the decision was made to keep the animal characters silent. As producer Jeffery Katzenberg believed that the talking horses made the film "too much like Mr. Ed" and wanted to ground the story in realism.[4]

Additional changes included turning the kindly frontiersman into Little Creek, and other aspects, such as a comic-relief coyote character and a battle between Spirit and another horse were either heavily altered or cut out entirely.[5]

Availability

While many pieces of concept art and storyboards survive, the original script has yet to be released or leaked in any way shape, or form. And whether or not any animation, voice work, or workprints from the early draft was completed currently remains unknown.

However, some remnants of the early draft still exist in some pieces of Spirit media. Such as in the GBA tie-in game, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron -- Search for Homeland and, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron -- Forever Free for PC. Where the animal characters can talk, despite not doing so in the film proper. And an area in Forever free where Spirit explores a coal mine.[6]

Gallery

Videos

Stormy Strikes video on the subject.

The (partially incomplete) deleted scene where Spirit fights another stallion.

Images

References

  1. The film's production history Retrieved 10 Jul '23
  2. The original version Retrieved 10 Jul '23
  3. Paul Shardlow on Spirit Retrieved 10 Jul '23
  4. The voice change Retrieved 10 Jul '23
  5. Further alterations Retrieved 10 Jul '23
  6. Article regarding the video game tie-ins Retrieved 10 Jul '23