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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spirit Riding Free follows Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and tells the story of the original Spirit's offspring and a young girl he befriends. Set during the expansion of the American West, it treads lightly on the factual strife between new settlers and the indigenous population, represented by wild stallions like Spirit. Even so, the content raises issues, such as migration and assimilation, parents and kids can discuss. There are some tense moments and brief scares (lurking, shadowy figures who pose threats to kids, for instance) for young characters, including a storyline in later episodes that introduces a malevolent villain who poses as a victim only to manipulate kids' trust and put them in bodily danger. Plot cliffhangers also can cause worry about favorite characters' destinies as episodes end without resolution. Happily, though, Lucky is an exceptional heroine, showing courage, selflessness, and a tireless sense of adventure.
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What's the story?
When her dad's job with the railroad takes Lucky Prescott (voiced by Amber Frank) to the primitive western town of Miradaro, she's none too sure she will fit in. Caught between her Aunt Cora's (Kari Wahlgren) expectations that Lucky be raised a proper young lady and her own adventurous spirit that often stands in contradiction, she finds solace in the company of a headstrong wild stallion she names Spirit and soon befriends classmates Pru (Sydney Park) and Abigail (Bailey Gambertoglio). Together the three girls and their horses share adventures in the as yet untamed land of the American West.
Is it any good?
Elder Spirit's legacy of courage and fortitude is alive and well in his offspring and in eager young Lucky, who together feel emboldened to take on the world. This sweet story of friendship doesn't quite match the original movie's powerful impact, but it presents a strong heroine in Lucky and lively stories that are both humorous and heartwarming. Besides the special connection between Lucky and Spirit, there's also much to like in the girls' relationship and in how they never let the pressure of their uppity classmate influence their own values.
Spirit Riding Free is mostly light on true villains, typically focusing on Lucky and her friends' relationship and adventures together. In cases where the show does introduce bad guys (and gals), it doesn't understate the danger they pose to the protagonists, and some exchanges and the lurking threats may frighten sensitive viewers. That said, the series does have similar themes that reflect the changing atmosphere of the 19th century American West as the railroad opened up the land to settlement, though usually without presenting a direct human impact.. Lucky and Spirit's struggles to adjust to their changing world can inspire discussions about courage and facing adversity.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what accounts for Lucky and Spirit's special connection. Which characteristics do they share? How does each one inspire the other even without being able to converse?
Who are Lucky's role models? How is she inspired by the memory of her mom? What is the value of having role models to emulate?
Were girls and boys treated differently in Lucky’s time? How does Lucky deal with what's expected of her by her aunt vs. what she wants to do in life? Do you think this is an accurate example of what girlhood was like many years ago?
Are Lucky’s adventures are always safe? She and her friends have a lot of freedom and sometimes get into scary situations. Do you think the consequences they face on the show would be the same in real life? Find more related discussion questions here.
- Premiere date: May 26, 2017
- Cast: Sydney Park, Amber Frank, Bailey Gambertoglio
- Network: Netflix
- Genre: Kids' Animation
- Topics: Adventures, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Courage, Self-control, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-Y7
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Award: Common Sense Seal
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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