usa-unicorn

youtube

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.