rankin bass productions


The Last Unicorn (1982, UK/USA/Japan)
A unicorn learns that she is supposedly the last of her kind and sets out to discover the truth as to why.

Peter S. Beagle’s fantasy novel, “The Last Unicorn”, from 1968 was one of great interest to turn it into a feature. Beagle felt animation would be the most efficient way to produce it, and it turned out to be one of Rankin/Bass’ last well-known productions. While some of the voice performances are over-the-top - typical for a lot of fantasy epics of its time, but also much like a fantasy epic of its time it enchants viewers and draws them into its world and characters successfully. Being an animated film further helps further create an otherworldly, but familiar universe that otherwise would have been unfilmable as live-action then. As Beagle adapts from his own book into the screenplay, there are no ought-right heroes or villains in this story. Beagle’s story also paints how the humans see unicorns as magic but are either in disbelief of what they see or upset at the neglected promise of wish-granting. The unicorn itself, after suddenly being given a human form to prevent her being captured, begins to lose her ambitions and even forgets who she is. While the king is hinted at being a wicked sort, who in the end has a tie to the lost unicorns and the monstrous Red Bull, he is soon seen as somber and sympathetic. The unicorn’s soon-found companions are flawed and had ties to groups who first wanted to take advantage of it. 

Originally approached by many animation producers and artists, including Peanuts animators Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez, Beagle was upset at first when the film’s associate producer made the deal with Rankin/Bass without him. However upon seeing artwork, footage, and eventually the final film, Beagle was pleased with the results in the end. Almost all of Rankin/Bass’ productions were outsourced to studios in Japan, even their stop-motion specials, and Topcraft was Rankin/Bass’ favorite for traditional animation. The lush quality of Last Unicorn’s animation must have impressed Hayao Miyazaki enough to make Topcraft his animation house to produce his first original film Nausicaa, and subsequently invite much of the studio artists to work at his studio as Topcraft went bankrupt shortly after. The Last Unicorn, both the book and the Rankin/Bass film, has gained a significant following since the film’s release - further elevating its cult status is the soundtrack arranged by the group America and artist Jimmy Webb.

Can I find this? Yeah, sonny. For several years which ultimately popped sometime in 2010, a long contractual dispute happened where original creator Peter S. Beagle was not receiving royalties for video releases and television airings. Eventually an agreement was made with Beagle and the films’ current rights owners where half or more of the payment of future releases will go to Beagle. Shout Factory currently owns video rights to Last Unicorn.


And Mr. Moffat’s Penchant for the Aesthetic

With the start to Season Nine of Doctor Who, so begins the final episodes with Clara Oswald as the Doctor’s Companion. As Oscar Wilde stated, rather metaphysically, “Memory is the diary that we all carry about us.” Then, like River Song and flipping through her infamous blue journal, we propose a return to—




Originally posted by fearlesssizar

Oswin Oswald may have been our first glimpse of Clara Oswald’s Merry Band of Splintered Wenches (trademarked, hereof), but “The Snowmen” introduces her as a potential companion. It also introduces her as a typical post-modern-idealization Victorian. -Ish.

“The Snowmen” opens with a small, lonely boy in 1842 solemnly packing a snowman’s forehead to the pre-recorded laughter of children. Like many Englishmen living under “The White Man’s Burden,” the boy is soon set on far-reaching genocide after his snowman companion vaguely infringes on the creative license of rankin bass productions.

Originally posted by gameraboy

Though this turn of events is, perhaps, understandable, as we too would murder millions if the voice of Sir Ian McKellen asked it of us.

Enter Clara Oswin Oswald (hereon referred to as simply “Corset Clara” “Clara”), looking like the cast of Oliver! will soon crowd around as she belts the final notes of “As Long as He Needs Me.” A barmaid—full of spunk, lovely, a little overeager, charmingly upside-down. Seemingly unrelated to the birth of a giant snowglobe hell-bent on world domination as she walks on a picturesque snowfall that has somehow avoided the feces and grime involved in a budding industrial world.

And so Moffat presents the Whovian adaptation of Victorian London. The Dickensian elements all present—orphans, barmaids, Christmas—we reach the most well-known trope of the Victorian age, the governess. Where the 1990s had the renovated “nerd girl,” the 1890s had the young governess: teacher of children, owner of minimal wages and vague social status. Unmarried Englishwomen of the middle-class were (unsurprisingly—we recommend Googling “Misogyny” for further details) limited in their employment opportunities, to the dramatic finality that a governess position was the only job where a woman could both earn money and retain some sort of gentility. “Governess novels” as a genre overwhelm popular Victorian literature, with examples like Jane Eyre, Vanity Fair, and The Turn of the Screw

Clara’s secret identity as proper governess “Miss Montague” provides the groundwork for a very Romantic class-crossing that would have made Victorians cringe. But as Mr. Moffat might claim in his defense, “Dat aesthetic, though.” Modern viewers see Clara’s double life as appealing; a beautiful girl with “ideas above her station,” working class, relatable but respected, clever but grounded. But cry the Victorians: cheeky upstart! From barmaid to governess, the social leap would have been nearly impossible under the strict class-policing of the time. The likelihood that Clara would have been able to navigate both social spheres successfully, finding even the minimal education necessary to teach if she has been raised as lower class, matches the likelihood of a Victorian themed piece coming to completion without referencing—

We’ll put a stopper, with your indulgence, on the multiple mentions of Sherlock Holmes. Though we understand; one can never toot one’s own horn too many times over the course of fifty-eight minutes.You currently dominate two successful creative enterprises. You are Writer-Man Victorious, Mister Moffat. Hurrah and bully.

Clara is beloved by the family she works for–an overly generous reflection of the position of the governess in the average household. As the maid, Alice, tells Clara when she first enters the house, the governess should enter through the back if she’s unaccompanied by the children. In reality, this protocol would have been strictly upheld; somewhere between servant and family member, the governess was often isolated from both spheres of fellow employees and employers. While the loving, admiring household helps to endear viewers to Clara as a character, her situation would have been unlikely. More popularly, though, Clara’s relationship with the father of her students does have a traditional root in the governess genre of literature–the employer falling in love with the governess is in and of itself a trope (we present you with a side-eye, Edward Rochester).

The plot that now unfolds makes Henry James perk up in his grave and frown sternly in the general direction of public domain laws–in a clever reference to The Turn of The Screw, one of Clara’s two wards feels haunted by her last governess who died. Clara’s behavior during this adventure may be wonderfully sharp and the build-up to a wonderful companionship, but Clara’s blunt flirtation and general cheek would have tap-danced over the line of impropriety in her era. Clara is surprisingly, delightfully crass, especially during a time when sex education made our modern approach look comprehensive, and when women were told they had no sexual drives whatsoever. It should be noted, however, that the ability to flirt, while disdained in a proper governess, was the primary criteria for a good barmaid–so perhaps her Romantic dichotomy is not entirely unbalanced. Perhaps it’s the Doctor’s “out-of-place-hails-from-space” that lets Clara unabashedly make remarks on his bottom. Or perhaps it’s just one more proof that the Impossible Girl is an Impossible Governess–

but whatever is the fun in things that are completely possible?