Wednesday, January 23, 2013

ANI-MOVIES, *The Last Unicorn

Probably one of the most cherished non-Disney animated family movies from the last century, The Last Unicorn was based on the book of the same name by Peter S. Beagle. This was one of the few theatrical movies produced by Jules Bass and Aurthur Rankin Jr., better known as Rankin/Bass, the creators of nearly every Christmas holiday TV special, and other hit shows like Thundercats and Silverhawks.

Set sometime during the middle ages, a unicorn discovers from a passing butterfly that she is the only one left in the world. She leaves her forest in search of them, but gets captured by a witch for her travelling carnival. The unicorn is set free by the novice magician Schmendrick. Along the way, they are accompanied by the ex-bandit wench Molly Grue. The trio make their way to realm of King Haggard where the other unicorns are supposed to be. Once there, Haggard's menacing Red Bull appears to drive the unicorn into the sea. In order to protect her, Schmendrick taps into his true magic and turns the unicorn into a human female, which makes the Red Bull give up on her. Our heroes then enter into Haggard's castle under the guise of looking for work, with Schmendrick claiming that the now-human unicorn is his niece, Amalthea. Schmendrick keeps Haggard entertained, while Molly searches for a way into the Red Bull's lair which is supposed to lead to the missing unicorns. Haggard's son Lir has meanwhile has fallen in love with Amalthea, believing her to be just a beautiful girl, while at the same time Amalthea is growing fond of him and growing to forget her former life as a unicorn. Molly and Schmendrick eventually find the secret entrance, and with Alamathea and Lir into tow, they confront the Red Bull. Amalthea is changed back into a human, who because of her newfound human feelings is able to defeat the Red Bull and free all the unicorns that were trapped in the sea. Amalthea the unicorn then heads back for her forest, with Schmendrick and Molly apparently hooking up together in the end.

This film features some of the best animation by the Rankin/Bass group since their animated version of The Hobbit. The studio responsible for most of the actual animation though was Topcraft, whose work also includes the anime movie Nausicaa. The character designs are very unique and original too. The movie features an odd assortment of voice actors, like Mia Farrow doing a wonderful job as the unicorn, Christopher Lee as the mad Haggard, Alan Arkin as indifferent Schmendrick, and Rene Auberjonois steals his scene as a laughing skeleton. There have been two DVD releases of this movie, the original, and the 25th Anniversary Edition which has way better quality. If you haven't seen this yet, treat yourself to a truly epic animated fantasy.

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