The Last Unicorn Blu-Ray - Let's Look at the Screenshots
As many of you are well aware, The Last Unicorn is now available on Blu-Ray/DVD combo here in North America. This high-definition release is a triumph for the cult classic movie, and fans should be thrilled.
I haven't bought the Blu-Ray yet, so I cannot yet comment on how everything looks and sounds. The Sony Trinitron I picked up at Christmastime - a CRT HDTV with stunning color and black levels to die for - has been on the fritz and needs to be repaired. It turns out that Sony televisions had a common problem with a couple IC's that serve as fuses, after turning on the power, audio comes on, without any picture, and then the set shuts off after a few seconds. The main power light blinks 6-7 times. As I've said, this is a common problem with the latter-generation Sony CRTs (Marcee's 19" Sony in Bogota has the same problem), but the solution requires soldering in some new IC's. Hopefully, I'll soon have the parts and the surgery will be successful.
Anyway, back to The Last Unicorn. I borrowed these screenshots from DVD Talk and Blu-Ray.com, which have also written some excellent and very glowing reviews. They are loving the film and have nothing but wonderful things to say about the picture quality and and the audio. Oh, and let's not forget the numerous bonus features, including a commentary track with S. Peter Beagle, the author of the original books.
These screenshots look excellent, the picture is far sharper and more detailed than the previous DVD release, and it also appears the film grain has been preserved. This is especially fascinating for me because, as we all know, Studio Ghibli's Blu-Rays include film grain. And The Last Unicorn was animated in Japan by the Topcraft studio, which for all intents and purposes became Studio Ghibli in 1985.
I selected some of these screenshots precisely because of the backgrounds, which are strikingly similar to many of the backgrounds in Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. The brushstrokes and textures remind me of the scenes of the Sea of Decay, the rubble-strewn castle basement, and Nausicaa's hidden greenhouse. This art style is very much an anime trait, a very painterly approach that darts between impressionism and expressionism. Naturally, Topcraft's artists are working within the constraints laid out by the Rankin/Bass production in the States, but you can see where they have their mark.
I must confess that I've never been a fan of Disney-esque fairy tale cartoons, so I'm probably going to cringe as Mia Farrow and Jeff Bridges sing through their ballads. I'm also less enamored with the particular Rankin/Bass "look" - the bulbous faces, the large hands, the endless repeating of the same three poses. I do wish the key animators could have been more expressive and less formulaic. Of course, as I write this, I'm thinking of The Hobbit, which has always been a favorite of mine (I'll be first in line to grab Hobbit on Blu-Ray), and I'm very thankful for this animation company that was able to create something outside of the Disney monopoly. It was very difficult for animators to escape that long shadow 30 years ago, and the situation has only grown more impossible over time.
This is why I'm more than happy to show my support for movies like The Last Unicorn, and as soon as I actually have a working television (and hide the Sega Genesis, ahem), I'll be buying the Blu-Ray. I recommend every one of you do the same. If you're a lover of animation, then you need to support the independent voices who have struggled to create their art. And Ghibli Freaks are especially indebted to this picture.