THE LAST UNICORN directed by Arthur Rankin Jr & Jules Bass (summary from IMDb.com):
From a riddle-speaking butterfly, a unicorn learns that she is supposedly the last of her kind, all the others having been herded away by the Red Bull. The unicorn sets out to discover the truth behind the butterfly’s words. She is eventually joined on her quest by Schmendrick, a second-rate magician, and Molly Grue, a now middle-aged woman who dreamed all her life of seeing a unicorn. Their journey leads them far from home, all the way to the castle of King Haggard.
My thoughts on THE LAST UNICORN (1982 film):
I loved this story when I was wee, and I love it now that I’m grown. There’s something about a hero’s journey, rich characters, and the unicorn that get me every time. Plus, did I mention unicorns?
It’s no surprise that I’ve loved mythological creatures for a long time. Unicorns, flying horses, and mermaids were there in my elementary years. Werewolves absolutely terrified and delighted me in middle school. Mostly, terrified. Vampires and faeries caught my eye in high school. But unicorns and mermaids have been there since the start. (In fact, one of my published stories, La Dame à la Licorne, may have something to do with a unicorn. Just saying’.)
“There are no happy endings, because nothing ends.”
One of the reasons I think this story translated so well from novel to screen is that the screenwriter was Peter S. Beagle, the same man who wrote the original novel. All the parts I loved in the book are represented here. Much of the dialogue is translated exactly from book to script. It runs at a little over an hour and 30 mins, which might be too long for toddlers to sit through. There’s also some violence and a swear word slips in (not in the subtitles, however. Clever!), despite the G rating. I think I was 7 or 8 the first time I watched it. Then I pretty much ruined the tape due to multiple viewings. Fortunately, the 25th anniversary DVD was released in 2007.
The movie stands up to the test of time rather well. Mostly because the story takes place in a medieval-esque world where fashions and hairstyles aren’t reflective of the year the movie was created. There’s something pure and magical about the hand-painted scenery and cell-by-cell animation. I would love to have one of the cells from this film, something we lose when the film is created with CGI. (I do own one from THE SECRET OF NIMH, which is also a childhood favorite.) The unicorn is especially well-done. She’s otherworldly, yet familiar. Her mane and tail move as she prances on spindly legs. Her eyes remain lilac, like her wood, even when she’s turned into a human. The attention to detail from the animators is amazing.
After watching the movie again last night, I’ll be singing the songs for the rest of the week.
🎶I’m alive! I’m alive!🎶