Spirit (voiced by Matt Damon) is a wild mustang horse and the leader of his herd. He is rambunctious and carefree but it is his curiosity that gets him into trouble. One day Spirit sees some flickering lights far off in the distance and decides to investigate this phenomenon. As he approaches the makeshift teepees around the campfire he sees something he has never seen before: humans. Intrigued Spirit gets a little closer but inadvertently wakes the men up. Despite putting up a tough fight Spirit is caught and taken to some sort of army camp lead by an evil Custer-type Colonel (voiced by James Cromwell) who tries to break him. But with the help of a Lakota brave named Little Creek (voiced by Daniel Studi) who is also being held prisoner they escape and gallop off into the sunset. Spirit however has a long way to go before he can be reunited with his herd. He escapes only to be recaptured only to escape again only to be recaptured again and so on. It's exhausting.
The horses in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron don't actually talk but neigh and whinny a lot. What we do hear however are their thoughts. Matt Damon (Ocean's Eleven) is the voice of Spirit who also narrates the film but does not bring anything special to the voice. In fact Spirit always sounds a little naïve and clueless for a leader. Little Creek is fittingly voiced by Daniel Studi (Crazy Horse). One of the most endearing factors in the film is the fact that Little Creek and Spirit have really good chemistry if that's possible in an animated feature. The voice of the Colonel is done by James Cromwell (Space Cowboys). Although he is appropriately stern-voiced there is nothing discerning about the Colonel's longhaired and mustached character. If he wasn't riding at the front of the cavalry all the time he would almost be indistinguishable from the others.
With Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron DreamWorks decided to go back to what is now considered traditional animation; that is drawing figures by hand with computer-effected backgrounds rather than relying on entirely computer-generated animation. The result is breathtaking especially the Old West imagery and scenes where Spirit gets caught in white water complete with underwater views of him swimming. Although the movie is well done the story is a little bland and lacks imagination (there is however an exciting bit when Spirit tries to outrun a speeding train down a steep mountain). Perhaps I have forgotten what is like to be young but I have a hard time accepting horses that smile bat their eyelashes when they want something and share a sort of language through the inflection of their neighing. But despite the horse's cutesy ways and lame story Spirit will definitely appeal to children.