Young Black Stallion (2003)
Produced by Beth Howard, Frank Marshall, Fred Roos, Jeanne Rosenberg, Kathleen Kennedy
Directed by Simon Wincer
Written by Jeanne Rosenberg, Steven Farley, Walter Farley
Summary: This film has two strengths — the talented equine actors and the beautiful desert scenery (filmed in Namibia and South Africa). Once you see some of the mediocre human acting, you’ll probably feel grateful that the movie is only 49 minutes long.
The director, Simon Wincer, also directed Phar Lap, which star Tom Burlinson calls “one of the best films in which I’ve appeared.”
Disney’s first IMAX film, Young Black Stallion is a prequel to The Black Stallion (1978). G-rated and safe for little kids, this is a good addition to a horse-crazy kid’s movie collection.
Our protagonist, a young girl named Neera, bonds with a black colt she discovers in the desert. The colt helps Neera return home but then disappears back into the desert. Neera learns that her grandfather was once a horse breeder but could no longer afford it. The grandfather turned his best mare loose in the desert and kept an old mare for pulling his cart. (We learn later that his best mare was Shetan’s dam. The cart mare was actually a pretty special horse in real life, but I’ll get to that in a moment.)The colt, Shetan, appears again and this time Neera becomes determined to train him for an upcoming race. The winner of the race gets to pick the best horse from each race participant’s herd for their own breeding program. The odds are against Shetan and the race is a grueling fight to the finish line, but our hero (and heroine) prevail and the grandfather’s breeding program is restored. According to the bonus features on the DVD, each horse actor had just 30 to 40 days of training before appearing in the film, and the horse trainer had to stand waaaaaaaaaaaay out of the scene and still communicate with a loose horse. Obviously the horses chosen for the film were very intelligent and willing animals. I get the feeling the emphasis of the film’s director/producers was on finding beautiful horses and training them well rather than developing strong human characters and a good plotline.
One quirky detail that bugs me is that the extended beginning shows us that Shetan’s sire was a Friesian (???) who came down from the heavens. I can forgive the fantastical descent to earth, but portraying a Friesian (a Dutch breed) as the sire of a desert Arabian is just weird.If you enjoy Arabian pedigrees, this movie has plenty to entertain you. The old sway-backed cart mare is actually a rare German-bred *Salon daughter (and Nazeer granddaughter); the grey antagonistic stallion in the race scenes was a son of the *Salon daughter; the chestnut antagonistic stallion in the race scenes was a rare straight Russian son of *Nariadni; the yearling black stallion was played by Sidi Exclusive, a dapple grey son of the chestnut *Nariadni son; and the mature black stallion was played by Thee Cyclone, a bay Thee Desperado son. If you know these horses, you’ll have fun looking for family resemblances in the movie.