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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Fantasy > Children > The Last Unicorn (25th Anniversary Edition)

The Last Unicorn (25th Anniversary Edition)


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Film: C+



Many non-Disney animated features are finding sudden re-release as the children’s market alone demands it, including a newly released and digitally remastered version of Peter Beagle’s tale of The Last Unicorn: 25th Anniversary Edition.  Peter Beagle wrote the tale of The Last Unicorn in 1968 and the later wrote his own screenplay for the animated feature for the 1982 release.  The film overall showed great success in the early days, especially in Europe, where in Germany it has become a Christmas Television staple.  The film centers on (surprisingly enough) the last unicorn of an enchanted world.  With the sudden realization that none of her mythical unicorn counterparts are left Unicorn (later to be Amalthea when in human form) sets out on a journey to discover their whereabouts.


On this journey Unicorn faces many dangers as well as meeting new friends.  She is chased by the evil Red Bull (I smell future product placement), captured by a witch, and corrupted by an Evil King.  Unicorn utilizing the talents of her friends Schmendrick (a wizard) and Molly Grue, she is helped on her mission to save her unicorn friends.  But this is no easy journey faced with issues of love, immortality, and trust. Overall, the animated feature holds up well after 25 years and continues to capture and peak the interests of children and adults alike.  The music for the film was performed by the band America, a big trio in the 1970s before becoming a duo in the early 1980s; their top hit being oddly enough the 1972 release of ‘A Horse With No Name.’  This new release of a fan favorite is sure to excite many.


Beyond this film being a basic kids’ tale, it encompasses the heart and soul of classical fantasy mythology.  The tale uses witches, wizards, mythical creatures as well as new inventive creatures, and classic scenery to heighten the underlying meanings being displayed.  Such issues as identity, the search for hope, overcoming the odds, and immortality are all tackled in this deep and emotional children’s tale.


This whimsical fairy tale not only embodies an array of classic myth archetypes, but uses an all star cast to tell the tale.  The cast includes recent Oscar Winner Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) as Schmendrick the bumbling wizard, Mia Farrow as the star of the film Unicorn/Amalthea, Jeff Bridges plays Unicorn’s love interest Prince Lir, Count Dooku himself Christopher Lee plays the menacing King Haggard, Angela Lansbury plays a convincing witch as Mommy Fortuna, and the list goes on.  The voice acting was well done, articulately displayed, emotional, and each actor brought their own special essence to the part.


The technical aspects of this newly restored, DVD, animated feature are vastly improved over the previous 2003 release.  The picture is presented in an anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image that comparatively to the 2003 release is amazing, the studio having utilized digitally restored masters from the early German Version.  Though the picture has been greatly improved some issues still exist with the occasional blurriness of the picture quality, as well as the colors seeming to have light/dark issues at times.  The sound is presented, once again, in a far superior quality than the 2003 release in its new 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo with Pro Logic surrounds from the original Dolby A-type analog release.


Unfortunately, despite the sonic upgrade, the film’s sound still shows its age.  Maybe they should try DTS next time.


There are a few infrequent occurrences of high/low errors in which the sound seems to be unusually low, but those instances are few.  The sound is also somewhat compressed, for whatever reason; possibly revolving around the film’s speed being elevated to 4% faster than the 1982 theatrical release.  The extras are nice including such features as ‘The Tail of The Last Unicorn’ an interview with author Peter S. Beagle that goes into the depth and inspiration of the film, ‘Escape the Red Bull’ set-top game (something children should enjoy), Schmendrick’s Magical Gallery (not very exciting), and the interesting Original Theatrical Trailer.  Overall, where the technical features are not perfect, they have been greatly improved over the previous edition.


If you have bought the previous weak release of this title or have yet to own any release, this is a must for animation and fairy tale fans alike.  The animation stylings have a slight anime feel, with a dash of Disney.  In the end, a great animated feature film, that stands the test of time.



-   Michael P Dougherty II


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