Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Last Unicorn, The

US Animated Movie (1982), animated in Japan. ITC. Pr Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr (1924-2014). Exec pr Martin Starger. Dir Bass, Rankin. Anim dir Katsukisha Yamada. Screenplay Peter S Beagle. Based on The Last Unicorn (1968) by Beagle. Voice actors Alan Arkin (Schmendrick), Jeff Bridges (Lir), Mia Farrow (Last Unicorn/Amalthea), Paul Frees (Cat), Tammy Grimes (Molly Grue), Robert Klein (Butterfly), Angela Lansbury (Mommy Fortuna), Christopher Lee (King Haggard), Keenan Wynn (Cully). 88 mins. Colour.

Long ago, the Red Bull drove all the Unicorns to the edges of the world – all but one, who dwells in a forest rendered enchanted by her presence. She Quests, aided by incompetent Wizard Schmendrick, to find the rest of her kind. Together with softhearted strumpet Molly Grue they reach the Hagsgate, the castle of miserable King Haggard, the Red Bull's master (> Knight of the Doleful Countenance). By the Hagsgate the Red Bull attacks; to save her, Schmendrick transforms (> Transformation) the unicorn into a mortal woman, the vacuous Amalthea – for this good deed she rebukes him in a characteristic whine; her rough Companions must supply the nobility she lacks. Haggard confesses that long ago he had the unicorns transformed into breaking waves (or "white horses"), so he might watch them perpetually strive for a shore they cannot reach. At last Amalthea, turned back into a unicorn, finds the courage to defy the Red Bull, driving it into the sea and so releasing the world's unicorns from their Bondage.

Beagle's script has sparks of wit but is otherwise forsoothly. The twee animation is often stilted, with rudimentary lip-sync, although occasionally the more abstract use of colour and pattern is enchanting. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.