My friend Danielle was talking this weekend about going out to her family's cabin. She brought with her the latest edition of the graphic novel based on the story of The Last Unicorn. After her ravings about the story, I decided to check out the graphic novel and the animated feature that came out in the 80s. It's not the usual thing I like to watch but I am glad I took a chance.
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle: A unicorn overhears some hunters saying that all the unicorns in the world are gone. Unicorns are immortal and can only be hurt or killed if they leave their forests—but the unicorn is desperate to know if she is the last, so she sets out on a journey to find out. Along the way she meets heroes and villains and uses her bravery to save herself and her friends.
The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam, but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.
The animated feature uses traditional cell animation behind gorgeous matt paintings. It's the way that cartoon features used to be made before the use of computers. I found myself charmed by the nostalgia in the technique. The movie plays like a Japanese animated features by Hayao Miyazaki and that is only one of it's many strength.
The script is strong and funny as are the famous voices (Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Christopher Lee and Alan Arkin) giving speech to the characters. There is even a pirate cat with a peg leg and eye patch who talks in riddles. That was worth the price of admission for me.
The songs are performed by the group, America.
The style and characters resemble the animated 'Lord of the Rings' half-movie that came out a few years before this one. That is not surprising because many of the same creators worked on both films.
I hated all the scenes from the grubby carnival because of the poor sick animals who were forced to suffer before the brave Unicorn came into their lives. If I was a young child I am sure that those scenes would have disturbed me and stayed with me for many years. I know those scenes are suppose to be there to make me appreciate the Unicorn's final victory all the more and they certainly kept my attention. I just hate to see any creature suffer.
The tale is surprisingly dark for what is essentially a children's story. I liked the way the story doesn't sugarcoat the evil in the world. It respects it's intented youth audience enough to take them on an emotional journey that is ultimately more satisfying in the end than an adventure that makes everything feel happy and safe all the time. I can see why this one is called a classic.
Here is some of the cover art by Renae de Liz from the six-issue adaptation fo the story from IDW Comics. The graphic novel I read was from this beautifully collected series.