Photos: The Last Unicorn on Blu-Ray

Photos: The Last Unicorn on Blu-Ray

Photos: The Last Unicorn on Blu-Ray

Photos: The Last Unicorn on Blu-Ray

Photos: The Last Unicorn on Blu-Ray

I wanted to post a few more photos from The Last Unicorn on Blu-Ray.  I'm sure you won't mind.  Again, thanks to and DVD Talk for providing the screenshots and reviews.  Be sure to send them a thank-you note for all their hard work.

This is a very anime-ish looking film.  That has to be one reason (of many) why it was so beloved by kids who saw it three decades ago.  Japanese animation was almost completely unknown to us at that time, apart from the few smart kids who were smuggling VHS tapes with names scribbled on them like "Macross," "Cagliostro," and "Nausicaa."  I think this fits the subject material nicely, and I can't say The Last Unicorn would have been quite as effective if it were entirely animated by an American studio.  The tone of Peter Beagle's story is slightly different, slighly minor-key, than the typical Western fairy tale, and even if you had never read his books, you could understand that idea by watching the movie.

Notice the emphasis on background art and formal composition.  This is one area where the Japanese have always excelled, influenced by a thousand years of Eastern art, as well as 20th Century cinema around the world.  American animation has always focused its energies on character animation, in flat closeups of cartoon characters moving.  It's a very kinetic art form, very dynamic, and in the hands of the greats, inspiring and exciting.  But we're not quite as good as handling quieter, reflective moments or more complicated compositions.

The Last Unicorn is more of an internal story; at least, that's how it feels to me.  Its energy lies within the hearts and minds of its characters.  They don't bound and leap so much and think and reflect.  Of course, there is action, but it's not the endless rat-a-tat-tat assault of the American style, but something more symphonic, with peaks and crescendos and lulls.  For this project, Topcraft was an excellent choice, and I do sometimes wonder what this movie could look like in the hands of a true master, like Isao Takahata.  His literary sensibilities would be perfect for realizing Beagle's vision, and there are parallels between this story and some of Takahata's works like Anne of Green Gables.  Now that would make for an interesting discussion.

I wouldn't at all be surprised to see Hollywood revisit The Last Unicorn, especially while the demand for more fantasy movies (in the wake of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings) continues to burn.  I don't have as much confidence that any studio could pull it off, however.  Most likely, we'd just get a formulaic roller coaster ride that tried to cash in.  If I could hand the project to anyone, naturally, I'd hand it to Pixar.  I think this could be just the challenge that Pixar needs right now, as the studio remains in its creative holding pattern.  Just think...Ratatouille...Wall-E...Up...this?  Just my own two cents.

1 comment:

GW said...

You should take a look on YouTube at the Walt Disney educational film, Man in Space. It shows a certain sort of artistic realism in the last portion. It's still artwork with lateral pans and conservative camerawork. It's certainly not up to the level of Japanese artistic integrity by the time of The Last Unicorn with sliding artwork past the point of common sense. There's moments like in part 8 when the astronauts are out in space that they could have used two drawings instead of one to create a more believable motion path.

I'll give some exceptions on the American side to show how some do portray these sorts of moments. The opening shot of the Hubley's short Windy Day is one. Paul Fierlinger is quite good at capturing these moments. It's tough to find his features, but here's Still Life with Animated Dogs:

I agree that Pixar's gotten into a rut. I hope that they get out of it, but also, I hope that another studio shows up in the US where people are willing to take some real risks.

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