At some point in your life, you will come across a movie that touches
you for some unknown reason. It will speak to you and, although you might
not understand exactly what it's saying, you'll get the meaning anyway.
You'll be unable to shake it for quite awhile after viewing it. I have
found a film like that. Its name is The Last Unicorn.
Last Unicorn (1982)
Starring: The voices of: Mia Farrow, Alan
Arkin, and Jeff Bridges
Released in 1982, this animated feature from directors Arthur Rankin
Jr. and Jules Bass, who are probably more well-known for their Rudolph
the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special, tells the story of a unicorn's search
for her lost brethren, who have been chased from the land by the Red Bull.
To find her companions, the last unicorn is forced to leave the safety
of her forest to enter the realm of man. Men cannot see the beauty of
a unicorn, seeing only a horse in its place. Shortly after beginning her
journey, the unicorn is captured by Mommy Fortuna (Angela Lansbury), a
witch who can see her true identity. She is displayed in Mommy Fortuna's
carnival (although Fortuna has to add a second horn to the unicorn's head
because most humans cannot see the true horn she possesses.) While held
captive, the unicorn meets Schmendrick (Alan Arkin), a kind but awkward
magician who is desperately trying to perform real magic. He recognizes
the unicorn's beauty and helps her escape the carnival. The two of them
travel together to find the Red Bull, who is rumored to dwell in the kingdom
of King Haggard (Christopher Lee).
I will not give away the details of their journey, save to say that it
is, like any fantasy quest, full of danger and challenges. This particular
quest is quite enchanting.
It's difficult for me to say exactly what is so appealing about this
movie. It is definitely more than the sum of its parts. The soundtrack,
performed by America, is haunting and moving without ever becoming corny
or overly obvious. The voice acting, especially by Alan Arkin and Christopher
Lee, is fantastic. King Haggard is not so much a villain, but a misunderstood
and lonely old man and it is Lee's voice that gives him a humanity that
so many animated characters lack. Arkin's Schmendrick is so goofy, awkward,
and genuinely funny that you'll find him irresistible. Jeff Bridges, as
Haggard's son, Prince Lir, is appropriately heroic sounding. His character
shows an unexpected vulnerablity in the later stages of the story. Only
Mia Farrow, as the title character, is less-than-stellar here and, frankly,
it doesn't matter.
The animation is a bizarre combination of anime-inspired designs and
somewhat shoddy-looking backgrounds. But for each poorly animated scene,
there is one that make you gasp in awe. For a 21-year-old cartoon, this
film stands up quite nicely. It certainly looks old-fashioned, but even
that is endearing.
At the root of it all is the
story -- a classic quest to find something thought lost forever. Friends
help friends through the dangers of the
quest and find their true potential along the way. This is not simply
a child's film. It is a film speaks to everyone in a kindhearted tone
that audiences of all ages should appreciate. (Although more sensitive
parents should note a few "Hells" and "Damns" are
included in the dialogue and some of the imagery may be too scary for
Last Unicorn is a woefully unappreciated film that should rank as
a classic right alongside any of Disney's better known but lesser quality
Lee showed up for the recording sessions armed with his own copy of
the book, with several places marked to indicate things that must
not, in his opinion, be omitted. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)