The Last Unicorn (1982)

last unicorn poster 1982 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Some great animation on the unicorn and red bull, more intense than most children's films

Detached dialogue, pacing problems, Rankin/Bass looking humans, America soundtrack is over-the-top

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Last Unicorn

Studio:  Rankin/Bass Productions

Genre(s): Animated/Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Musical/Family

Release Date(s):  August 27, 1982 (Premiere)/November 19, 1982 (US)

MPAA Rating: G

last unicorn reflection water hd

Can I truly be the last?

When a unicorn learns she is the last of her kind, she sets out on a quest to find the others of her species.  Discovered by a novice magician named Schmendrick and befriending a woman named Molly Grue, the unicorn learns the dangers of the Red Bull that took her people.  To fight the Red Bull, she must first find it and she must become something that a unicorn has never been…human!

Directed by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass, The Last Unicorn is an animated fantasy film.  Adapting the Peter S. Beagle 1968 novel, the movie was adapted by Beagle and featured music by Jimmy Webb and performed by America.  The movie was met with mostly positive reviews and gained a cult following over the years.

The Last Unicorn has a soft spot for me.  While I didn’t love the movie as a kid, it was a movie that was part of childhood.  For my seventh birthday we rented a CED player (Capacitance Electronic Disc player) which was a precursor to the home VCR.  Along with Dragonslayer, The Last Unicorn was one of the movies we rented and the fact I could watch a movie at home at any time during the day amazed me (more so than The Last Unicorn).  I’ve seen The Last Unicorn over the years since and feel it is a different type of animated movie and part of the reason it has endured with fans.

last unicorn schmendrick alan arkin

Schmendrick, you’re no Gandalf

The story is oddly paced.  The first part of the story involves the unicorn leaving the forest and experiencing men not being able to “see her” in her true form because they’ve forgotten the unicorns.  Through this wandering she recruits her sidekicks (that aren’t quite Disney sidekicks) and then sets off to find the unicorns with them.  The second part of the story has more of the meat with the unicorn turned into a woman, fighting amnesia, discovering potential love, and facing off against a king who wants to complete his collection by her capture.  This feels more like the real story, and the pacing of the story is why I found it hard to enjoy the movie as a child.

The cast good, but the script doesn’t always help them.  Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin, Angela Lansbury, Jeff Bridges, Christopher Lee, Tammy Grimes, Keenan Wynn, and Paul Frees all lend their voices to the show.  With a lot of internal monologues (especially with the unicorn), some of the dialogue has a real detached and stuttered nature.  It doesn’t feel like the characters are necessarily talking to each other instead of just reading lines.

last unicorn red bull ending

The Red Bull was so terrifying

The animation also ranges greatly.  The human characters all have the Rankin/Bass animated look that just doesn’t seem to fit the story…they are too goofy.  The flipside of this is that I like the animation on the unicorn, and I find the Red Bull animation terrifying.  Despite the G-Rating (it is 1980s G), the movie might be a bit intense for younger viewers with scenes like the Harpy Celaeno slaughtering Mommy Fortuna, the talking skeletons, and the attacks of Red Bull.

Like other fringe movies like Return to Oz and even Disney’s The Black Cauldron, The Last Unicorn has a bit of an edge to it that other children films don’t have.  Bad things can happen in films like these and unlike most Disney films, you don’t know exactly how it will turn out.  With a bit more of an adult story, The Last Unicorn isn’t for everyone.  Talks of a live action version has always been in the mix, and with so many streaming options, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the last unicorn search for her people again.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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