Entertainment Lifestyle Television and Movies Young Rider

Q&A with Elaine Bogen, Director of Spirit Untamed

Released June 2021, Spirit Untamed is a follow-up to the story of DreamWorks Animation’s Oscar-nominated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. The film follows Lucky Prescott as she enlists her friends and bravely embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. Lucky must rescue the wild horse who has given her freedom and a sense of purpose, helping her discover a connection to her mother’s legacy that she never expected. 

Director Elaine Bogen sat down with Young Rider to tell us about her career and the newest “Spirit” movie.

Director Elaine Bogen and her horse
Spirit Untamed director Elaine Bogen with her horse. Photo courtesy Elaine Bogen

YR: When did you first become interested in horses?
EB: I remember being really young, around 5 or 6, and my dad would sit with me showing me how to draw pictures of horses in pencil. I think I was always fascinated by them, especially because of the admiration my dad had for them. I started taking lessons at about 8 or 9 years old, and from then on riding became part of my life. 

YR: What type of riding do you do?
EB: I ride mainly hunter/jumper, and practice lots of dressage. I like to do a variety of things under saddle to keep both my brain and my horse Ziggy’s brain happy. We go on lots of trail rides in the beautiful L.A. mountains, switch it up with some jumping and flat work throughout the week, and he has lots of playtime in the turnout. Ziggy is a Dutch Warmblood, and the most curious, kindest horse I’ve ever partnered up with. 
YR: How did you get into the career field of being a director? 
Becoming a director was a really long road of always having a love of art, film and writing, and being fortunate enough for the education I received throughout high school and college. I started out as a kid drawing and writing my own little story books with help from my wonderfully creative and supportive parents, and just kept going.

I love it all so much that it never felt like work. I remember spending hours in the animation studio at college until 2 or 3 a.m., reworking drawings and flipping through my 2D animation trying my hardest to figure it all out.

I’ve always been very determined to perfect the craft, and I suppose all that work led me to where I am today. I never gave up, even at times when I felt most insecure about my skills.
YR: How did you use your horse expertise while directing the movie Spirit Untamed? 
EB: Spirit Untamed was the first project I’ve worked on that has horses in it, and it’s been an incredibly fun experience. I finally had the chance to use all of this great real-life experience I’ve gained over the years in understanding the human/horse relationship, their body language, their anatomy and movements, and their quirks.

Spirit Untamed movie
With the help of her friends and Spirit, Lucky Prescott (center) must stop a wild horse roundup to capture her trusted partner. Photo from DreamWorks Animation LLC

I tried to insert a real perspective on all of these things into the horses in our movie. I shared lots of stories and knowledge with the animation crew and brought lots of the artists to come and meet some of the horses at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center for research. It’s really hard to explain the feeling of standing right next to one of these incredible animals or what a unique feeling it is forming a bond with one, until you can show someone.

Spirit Untamed movie
Lucky moves to Miradero, home of her late mother Milagro Navarra (shown), a fearless stunt rider. Lucky ends up finding a connection to her mother and her Mexican heritage that she never expected. Photo from DreamWorks Animation LLC

YR: Tell us about your horse Ziggy and the horse in the movie that he inspired!
EB: Ziggy is known around the barn as the resident “surfer dude” because of his hilariously laid-back and friendly attitude. You might catch a glimpse of Ziggy in Spirit’s herd. He plays the second in command who is skeptical of Lucky’s arrival until Spirit shows his family Lucky is there to help.

He’s a great actor, because Ziggy in real life would most likely run over and jump right into Lucky’s lap! When I watch scenes in the movie, I see parts of Ziggy’s personality in all of the horses. He’s been a wonderful supply of character inspiration for me and the whole crew, and I hope all the horse lovers watching our film can feel the authenticity our artists tried to achieve. 

Elaine has always been determined to perfect her craft and never give up. Photo courtesy Elaine Bogen

This article about Elaine Bogen, director of Spirit Untamed, appeared in the May 2021 Mini Digital issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Holly Caccamise

Holly Caccamise has been with Horse Illustrated and Young Rider since 2007, and in August 2019, she took over as head editor. She’s been instrumental in the production of both magazines and helped Horse Illustrated win a 2018 American Horse Publications Media Award in the General Excellence Self-Supported Publication (circulation 15,000 and over) category. Before getting involved in the editorial side of print media, she worked as an award-winning ad copywriter for Thoroughbred Times magazine. Caccamise has her MS in Animal Science from the University of Kentucky, where she studied equine nutrition and exercise physiology, and her Bachelor’s from UCLA in Biology. Caccamise has also worked as a research assistant, horse camp counselor teaching riding and vaulting, and as a top-level show groom in the eventing world, where she continues to compete her horse, Artie, at the lower levels.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *