Saturday, August 31, 2013

"Am I truly the last?"


I was six years old I think, when I saw The Last Unicorn at school. I begged my parents to rent it on video and watched it hundreds of times. And in all of those hundreds of times, I never once tired of it. This is one of those films I can revisit endlessly because after more than three decades, it holds up perfectly. Its animation is flawless, its character design beautiful, its narrative spellbinding and its score mesmerizing. This animated classic carries truths I only came to understand as an adult (although they resonated on some level as a child).

The plot follows the quest of a unicorn who is, as far as she knows, the last in the world. Leaving her forest, she wanders off into a world that has forgotten her kind. She encounters allies and obstacles alike before finally discovering the truth behind this apparent extinction. She succeeds at finding the other Unicorns but at the cost of losing her self.

The voice cast in this film is perfect. Angela Lansbury as Mommy Fortuna, Alan Arkin as Shmendrick, Mia Farrow as the Unicorn are all brilliant. Christopher lee gifts us with a chilling performance as King Haggard without sacrificing any of the character's pathos. I think RenAubejonois is in this too. Special mention to Tammy Grimes for playing my favourite character of this story, Molly Grue.

The animation for The Last Unicorn was done by Japanese studio Topcraft who were also involved in Macross Do You Remember Love?. This sets the film apart visually from what one expects to see from western animation. The film's colour palate is vividly gorgeous, lushly evoking the contrasts between different landscapes, seasons and times of day. One thing I appreciate is how the Unicorn is not simply a horse with a horn stuck on its forehead. She really seems like a four-legged person rather than a magical animal.

What makes this particular hero's journey so effective for me is the fact that the hero doesn't quite win in the end. The Unicorn and her friends encounters setbacks at every turn, often finding themselves out of their depth.When she finally confronts the Red Bull (sigh) and frees her brethren from their watery prison, it does not alleviate her fundamental loneliness.Her adventures have turned her into something other than a Unicorn, giving her experiences that set her apart from her brethren.

There is literally so much I can say about this film, that I'm writing about it in a series of posts. I've probably babbled about this in real life to people who had no idea what I was going on about. So stay tuned, for there is more to come about this absolute treasure of the Fantastical literature.
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