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SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMMARON

Words And Music
Horse sounds notwithstanding, "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" was filmed for all intents and purposes as a silent movie, with the narration, music and songs being recorded after the animation was completed.

"We set out to tell the story visually," Kelly Asbury offers. "The small amount of narration or dialogue coming from any of the characters was carefully selected for key moments in the film to support the story, in much the same way that onscreen placards did in the days of silent movies."

Mireille Soria adds, "Practically speaking, the narration was intended to clarify basic plot elements. From a creative standpoint, it helped us to show Spirit's personality, his wit, his sense of humor."

Actor Matt Damon provides the first-person narrative voice for the character of Spirit at pivotal points in the story. Damon says that seeing the finished animation was instrumental in his decision to do the project when Jeffrey Katzenberg first approached him to come on board.

"Jeffrey called and said he had an animated movie he'd like for me to see and maybe take part in," Damon recalls. "I walked in, sat down, and was totally blown away. There was so much to the animation and to the character that was already there on the screen. I told him I'd love to be a part of it."

Katzenberg remarks, "We felt incredibly lucky that we were able to have an actor of the calibre of Matt Damon do the narration in ‘Spirit.' I can't tell you how much he added to those moments when we hear Spirit's thoughts in the movie. He brought a dynamic to this character that is just priceless."

"Matt brought an energy and a youthful vitality to the narration that was so important to the character of Spirit," Asbury agrees. "It was a long search to find the right voice, and when we finally found him, there was Matt Damon, and he was Spirit; it was uncanny how well his voice fit the part. Then, working with him, he's just a consummate professional. You can't ask for someone more open to suggestions and direction. He made the recording sessions so much fun, we hated to see them end."

Having come into the production so close to its completion, Damon was grateful for the filmmakers' insights into his part. "They had such a great understanding of the movie and what Spirit should sound like to match the attitude and emotions they'd already animated into every scene. It really made my job easier to come in just before the finish line, and be surrounded by people who had been working on the film for so long and were so driven and passionate," the actor affirms.

"It was also beautifully written; it had such a poetic quality," Damon continues. "I think they found the right balance: using narration when necessary, but not overtalking… letting most of the shots speak for themselves."

Although Damon had worked in animation before, he found doing narration to be an entirely different discipline because, as he notes, "there's always the question of exactly to whom are you talking, which we discussed a lot. Eventually, we all agreed that we wanted to give this feeling of telling stories around the campfire, so I thought about my young nephew and took the approach of telling him the story. In fact, the message of this movie is something we can be proud of sharing with children without talking down to them. It also works on another level for adults. It's a celebration of life that takes us back to a time before we paved over half of North America—when there<

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