On this week’s Creations of Chaos, it’s the Rankin/Bass, animated fantasy, that every child in the 1980s saw, but me. It’s time to go on a journey, with ballads aplenty, with The Last Unicorn.
My new college theater friends stood agape.
“What do you mean you’ve never seen The Last Unicorn?”
“I’ve never even heard of it,” I responded.
The group felt that this omission from my movie watching life needed to be rectified as soon as humanly possible. A time was set. Snacks and sodas were purchased. The group assembled in a tiny bedroom. Bodies covered every square inch of bed and floor. A lovingly worn VHS tape was taken from a shelf and ceremoniously slipped into the player. All eyes were on me as I watched The Last Unicorn for the very first time.
When I saw The Last Unicorn pop up on my Netflix, I was flooded with memories about the 1982 animated film about a unicorn who fears she is the last of her kind, and sets out on a journey in the hopes of finding other unicorns.
I could only recall one scene from the film. My memories were less about the film, and more about the fantastic, creative friends I had at that time in my life. Of course I had to tell my friends that I thought The Last Unicorn was great, for fear of devastating them and potentially being ostracized from the group. I couldn’t even remember if I genuinely liked it or not that first time around, so I decided to watch The Last Unicorn again, sans an audience watching me.
The Last Unicorn’s animation is lovely and remarkable. It’s not a surprise. Topcraft, the studio that provided the animation, also did the animation for Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. In fact, some of Topcraft’s staff went on to help form Studio Ghibli.
There is beauty in the details. There is Mommy Fortuna’s tree hat, complete with live bird, a tree with suffocating breasts, an amazing unicorn wave, and my favorite, a pirate cat, complete with eye patch and peg leg.
It’s the details that give the film it’s above and beyond, whimsical, high fantasy feel.
I don’t think you can talk about The Last Unicorn without talking about the music. With songs composed by Jimmy Web and performed by the British band America, The Last Unicorn is filled with killer, 1980’s, folk rock ballads. Now I’m not going to lie, the music is definitely of a time, and there may have been a few times when a song started up and I emitted a slight giggle. It is refreshing to have songs that are different from the usual Broadway musical fare in most animated films. I’m not sure the refreshing sentiment applies to Lady Amalthea’s solo though. She is no Moana for sure, and it’s a wobbly performance. The Lady’s duet with the Prince does redeem the singing talents of the unicorn turned forlorn noble.
The story is a fantasy lover’s delight. There are enough magical creatures to make Newt Scamander squee. There’s a lovesick prince, a magician, and an evil witch who gets her comeuppance via evil bird. The film includes my favorite fantasy staple, a journey where the main character makes new friends along the way. The film has several Unicorn traveling montages, that wouldn’t be complete without some sweet, 80s, unicorn traveling tunes.
In general, I think unicorns are awesome, but I thought the Last Unicorn in this film is kind of jerk. I think she is supposed to seem regal, but she comes across as uppity and annoying. Also, I don’t think you’ll find her wearing an “I’d rather be a Unicorn” t-shirt any time soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if the other unicorns wanted to shun the non-believer.
My favorite character in the film is Schmendrick the Magician. He was the part I remembered most from the first time I watched the film. He’s humorous, self-deprecating, and his self-doubt plays sincere. In an epic fantasy world, Schmendrik the Magician feels the most like a real, down to earth person.
He’s someone you could sit and have a glass of wine with, especially because he could magic-up the wine himself.
The two villains are highlights, all the more so because they are voiced by legendary actors, Dame Angela Lansbury and Sir Christopher Lee. If TLC did an animated version of their shows, I think both villains could be featured on My Strange Addiction. The villains seem to have gone off the rails somewhere during their adolescence. The witch is motivated by being made fun of, thus feeling a need to conquer the magical creature world.
The King is desperately seeking to preserve a moment from his youth forever by hoarding unicorns. I found the King’s motivation intriguing as it differed so much from the usual simply wanting power storyline. I could have watched an entire film just about King Haggard.
Second Time Around
I concluded that I do like The Last Unicorn, even when not pressured to do so. I do however feel like I missed out on seeing it as a kid. I don’t have the same misty-eyed, nostalgic, childhood reverence that many of my peers have. Minus the nostalgia, it’s still a solid film, and like my college friends, I think it is a must watch for fantasy fans.