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A spirit of courage in Spirit Untamed

Director talks about teamwork and never giving up

A scene from Spirit Untamed DreamWorks Animation

A spirit of courage in <em>Spirit Untamed</em>

Director Elaine Bogan had only half-finished the production of her first feature-length animated film when COVID-19 hit last year. To complete it with team members working in their living rooms took grit, dedication, motivation, and teamwork—the same values her film, Spirit Untamed, works to promote.

In the film, a trio of girls—Lucky and her two friends, Abigail and Pru—undertakes the daring rescue of rustled wild mustangs. “A big part of Lucky’s story … is about [encouraging] young girls and young boys to dig deep and find the courage to be who you actually are and to stand up and fight for what you believe is right even though it may feel impossible,” Bogan told me. We talked last week about what she hopes young viewers will take away from the film, which premieres Friday in theaters.

For starters, she hopes that like the main characters, young people see the value of working together to achieve the impossible instead of competing to be first.  They learn as they go, just like Bogan had to while making the movie during a pandemic.

“That was probably the biggest challenge—learning a role no one had ever experienced,” Bogan said.

At the beginning of the film, Lucky moves from the city to a frontier town without knowing how to ride a horse. Bogan channeled her experiences riding in childhood, including the playfulness of her horse, who would snort in her face like a puppy every day.

“Being an 8- or 9-year-old kid, having to muster up and find confidence and strength to walk up to a 1,200-pound animal and ask it to have a conversation … hopefully, that life experience is something that feels authentic and real” in the film, she said.

Spirit Untamed is an adaptation of the Netflix animated series Spirit Riding Free. The horse rescue plot resembles that of its popular 2002 predecessor, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, but this is a better movie. Not only has the animation vastly improved, but the subplots about family and friendships are stronger. And the mix of ethnicities among the good and the bad characters seems much more normal and unforced.

“To be in an audience and see pieces of yourself up there onscreen doing amazing things hopefully infuses into you and makes you believe that you’re capable of these things, too,” Bogan said.

The PG film by DreamWorks Animation hits the sweet spot of girl-loves-horse combined with genuine friendships and loving family members who aren’t perfect. It projects upbeat, overt messages about being fearless, never giving up, and doing what’s best for family.

Sharon Dierberger

Sharon is a senior writer for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Northwestern University graduate and holds two master’s degrees. She has served as university teacher, businesswoman, clinical exercise physiologist, homeschooling mom, and Division 1 athlete. Sharon resides in Stillwater, Minn., with her husband, Bill.


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