1980s Disney+ Epic Fantasy Adventure Still Dazzles Audiences Young And Old

By Jennifer Muscato | Published

When you think of 1982’s The Last Unicorn, it may make you nostalgic for the simpler times of your childhood, but even watching the fantasy adventure film now, you’ll find it holds up, and a new audience can understand why it’s been so good for so long.

The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn is an animated movie that was originally marketed as a children’s movie, but its audience has gone way beyond just that. A talking female unicorn learns from two hunters and a talking butterfly that she is the last of her kind since the Red Bull has pushed all the other unicorns to the ends of the earth. Unicorn makes it her mission to find them.

A Murderer’s Row Of Acting Talent

Schmendrick, an incompetent magician/wizard, helps her on her way. The voices helping to give life to these animated creatures are nothing short of legendary in Hollywood. Mia Farrow is the voice of Unicorn, Alan Arkin is Schmendrick, and Jeff Bridges is Prince Lir.

Of course, there are evilness and enemies in this fantastical world of the The Last Unicorn. They include the witch Mommy Fortuna, voiced by Angela Lansbury, the Red Bull, and the Skull. The Skull talks as well, by the way, and even that small part is voiced by Star Trek’s Rene Auberjonois.

Based On The 1968 Novel

The film is based on Peter S. Beagle’s fantasy novel The Last Unicorn. The book was released in 1968, but even today, it’s revered. In 2018, The Atlantic called it “One of the best fantasy novels ever.”

The Origin Of Studio Ghibli

In an interview with Toon Zone News, Beagle said the people behind the Charlie Brown TV specials wanted to do The Last Unicorn movie, but that the wife of one of the men told Beagle that they weren’t good enough.

The Last Unicorn would go to Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment, and the actual cel animation was contracted to be done by an outside studio, Topcraft, In Tokyo, Japan. Topcraft dissolved as a studio with many of the key animators joining Studio Ghibli, which produced such all-time classics as My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, and, recently, Oscar winner The Boy and the Heron.  

Beagle said he never thought of doing live-action for The Last Unicorn and that animation was the only way to go.

A Timeless Cult Classic

The Last Unicorn has 77 percent on Rotten Tomatoes but an 86 percent audience score. It’s one of those films that has a huge cult following. According to SYFY, in December 2023, the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles hosted a month-long The Last Unicorn 40th Anniversary group show featuring original art inspired by the film and a collection of never-before-seen original film production art.

The Last Unicorn was a movie that wasn’t afraid to scare kids a little, not unlike 1984’s The Neverending Story.

The Music Is Nearly As Amazing As The Animation

Performing the songs for The Last Unicorn was the legendary rock band America. The title song is performed jointly by America and the London Symphony Orchestra and plays during the film’s opening credits. As for the characters singing, Studio singer Katie Irving is the singing voice for Mia Farrow, but Jeff Bridges did his own singing. And we know from Crazy Heart that Bridges can definitely sing.

The Last Unicorn is streaming on Disney+ (via Hulu). It’s part of the Hulu beta program and requires an active subscription to both services in order to watch on Disney+.