Blu-ray: The Last Unicorn (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Release Date: February 22, 2011
Peter S. Beagle’s 1968 novel The Last Unicorn is an enduring classic of young adult fantasy. It didn’t take long after its release for producers to take an interest in adapting it to the big screen, but Beagle was determined to hold out for the best possible talent to translate his story into the visual medium. He knew that he wanted an animated adaptation, and he would be the one to write the screenplay, so it was just a matter of finding the rest of the pieces to the puzzle. After talking with a number of companies and producers who were interested in the movie, Beagle’s associate producer struck a deal with Rankin / Bass, famous for their animated adaptations of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, as well as for their holiday specials like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Beagle reportedly was horrified by the Rankin / Bass deal but eventually warmed to the partnership as the production progressed.
Rankin / Bass contracted the animation duties out to a little known Japanese studio called Topcraft. While initial reviews of The Last Unicorn‘s visuals were lukewarm, the folks behind Topcraft would go on in 1985 to found Studio Ghibli, the animation studio responsible for Hayao Miyazaki’s later classics inclusing Grave of the Fireflies, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. The folk rock band America signed on to record the soundtrack, and a number of high profile actors joined the project to voice Beagle’s beloved characters. The movie released in 1982 and, after a couple of previous DVD releases, finally has made its way to Blu-ray as a combo pack from Lionsgate.
Mia Farrow voices the titular character, a unicorn who goes in search of the rest of her kind after being told that she is the last in the world. She learns that a frightening creature called the Red Bull has herded all the other unicorns to the ends of the earth, and she must confront the beast if she is to find and save her friends. The unicorn’s quest takes her far and wide, and she encounters new friends and enemies she never could have imagined. Angela Lansbury voices Mommy Fortuna, a witch who captures animals to be part of her magical Midnight Carnival. Alan Arkin plays Schmendrick, a bumbling magician working for Fortuna and one of the unicorn’s eventual companions. The incomparable Christopher Lee plays King Haggard, the keeper of the Red Bull, and Jeff Bridges voices his son, Prince Lír. René Auberjonois and Don Messick are among the other actors providing voice work in what would become a fantastic cast.
The Last Unicorn is a classic in every sense, full of wonder, adventure, and emotion. Given the age of the movie, its translation to Blu-ray looks great, and the special additions included in the package make it a full featured release. Being a combo pack, the set includes both DVD and Blu-ray versions of the movie. The DVD includes the special features that were included in the previous non-Blu-ray release:
- The Tail of The Last Unicorn mini-documentary
- Schmendrick’s Magical Gallery
- Escape the Red Bull game
- About Peter S. Beagle
The Blu-ray disc includes those most of those same features, as well as even more and new bonus content:
- Immortal Characters featurette
- Audio commentary with writer Peter S. Beagle and publisher Connor Cochran
- 2010 The Last Unicorn Art Contest Gallery
- Peter Beagle and His Work
With its lofty place in the annals of young adult literature, the early animation from pre-Studio Ghibli artists, a soundtrack by America, and an outstanding voice cast, The Last Unicorn deserves a place in any fantasy fan’s Blu-ray library.