For Elaine Bogan’s animated feature directorial debut, DreamWorks Animations Spirit Untamed, it seemed like a bit of kismet was always involved.
“The first time I was called and contacted to become part of the Spirit franchise, I jumped out of my car,” Bogan told Deadline’s Contenders Los Angeles while sharing a panel with composer Amie Doherty. “I was sitting in the Los Angeles Equestrian Center parking lot just after I rode my horse, so the timing of everything felt great.”
Bogan, the first female director of a DreamWorks animated film, said she had a long-term deep affinity for the Spirit property, going back to the franchise’s first film, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, from 2002.
“I’ve been a rider since I was a child and watched the first film until I broke the DVD in half,” she revealed.
‘Spirit Untamed’ Review: Jake Gyllenhaal saddles up, but this cute toon belongs to a girl and her irrepressible horse
Bogan was also delighted to discover in the development and casting processes that her voice actors also had a unique bond with the material.
“Some of my favorite moments were when we first met an actor and brought them in to introduce them to the story and tell them about the character they could possibly play,” she said. “And more than once, after we introduced ourselves, this person said, ‘But did you write that about me? Is that really me? ‘”
Bogan recalls, “There was one case where McKenna Grace came and stood up for the character of Abigail and how when they got off the adventure she pulled out her ukulele and pissed everyone off. And she literally jumped up and said, ‘My ukulele is in the car – can I get it and play you a song?’ “
The cross-enthusiasm also extended to topline stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Julianne Moore.
“A big part of Jake’s character, Jim, his whole finale where he just poured his heart out on stage and sang horrible, but he did it because he loves Lucky – it all came from the collaboration and conceptual ideas of Jake”, said Bogan. “And Julianne’s character got so much warmer in the room because of the warmth of her personality.”
The filmmaker added, “It just felt like everyone who walked in had something to really connect with personally and deeply. [which] I feel like we were helped to tell a really authentic, family-oriented film. “
In Spirit Untamed, Lucky Prescott’s life changes forever when she moves from her home in town to a small border town and befriends a wild mustang named Spirit. Isabela Merced speaks Lucky, and the cast also includes Walton Goggins, Andre Braugher, Eiza Gonzalez and Marsai Martin, as well as Grace, Gyllenhaal and Moore.
Check back on Tuesday to see the panel video.
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