The Last Unicorn (1982)

The Last Unicorn (1982)


A beautiful unicorn (voiced by Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby) suddenly realizes that she may very well be the last of her kind. With the help of an inept wizard, Schmendrick (voiced by Alan Arkin, Wait Until Dark), and a bandit’s wife, Molly (voiced by Tammy Grimes, Can’t Stop the Music), the unicorn embarks on a quest to find out if she’s indeed the last unicorn.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr. from a screenplay by Peter S. Beagle based upon his 1968 fantasy novel, The Last Unicorn works on many levels. It’s delightfully Tolkien, the animation is eye-catching, the music & songs have a nice touch of melancholia, and the story arc is compelling.

The film blends myths, legends, and fables together seamlessly to create an intriguing existential quest. Each character in the story tries to answer two questions: “Who am I?” and “What am I supposed to do with my life?” The setting is a magical land in an unspecified time, but everything about the story and characters is relatable. Because of its deep, complex philosophical worries, The Last Unicorn is the rare American animated feature for kids that adults will love too.

The drawings are pretty awesome. There are some fantastic sequences spread throughout the film — some scenes are very intense, others have a lyrical quality to them.

The film also sports some lovely songs. It’s not really a musical, though. The songs — music and lyrics by Jimmy Webb — are really here to enhance the rather dark, gloomy atmosphere and to advance the narrative. The fact that the plot comes via a well-regarded fantasy book explains the film’s strong structure. The bittersweet ending — don’t expect to see characters singing all the way to a happy ending — is a clear indication that the filmmakers were aiming for a sophisticated audience.

I liked how every single character, down to the tiniest one, is full of personality. The voice-work of Mia Farrow and Alan Arkin is excellent. Other actors who lent their vocal talents to the movie included Jeff Bridges (Against All Odds) as Prince Lír, Christopher Lee (The Man with the Golden Gun) as King Haggard, Angela Lansbury (The Manchurian Candidate) as Mommy Fortuna, Keenan Wynn (The Absent-Minded Professor) as Captain Cully, Robert Klein (Two Weeks Notice) as The Butterfly, and René Auberjonois (McCabe & Mrs. Miller) as the Skull.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

The Last Unicorn was made by the same people who gave us such Christmas classics like The Little Drummer Boy (1968), Frosty the Snowman (1969), and Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970). These are all exceptionally well-made films that you can watch again and again. Color, 92 minutes, Rated G.

3 responses to “The Last Unicorn (1982)

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