Lovers of animated fantasy films will be lining up to book their place at the latest screening of The Last Unicorn as the next part of its big screen tour launched by writer Peter Beagle comes to Canada this month. Part of a three-year long roadshow which started in 2013 and will end at the close of 2015, the cinematic revival of a children’s book has reached a global audience and been greeted with cries of enthusiasm from both young and old.
The story chronicles the adventures of a young unicorn (voiced by Mia Farrow in an excellent animated performance), as she attempts to discover what has happened to the rest of her kin. With help from all manner of magical creatures including a particularly informative butterfly, an evil bull, a harpy and various other zoo animals, her travels take her to many places far away from the enchanted forest of her beginnings. The plot is quite random at points and the unicorn goes from carnival attraction to human to unicorn in a kaleidoscope of colorful animations. The real glue that holds the film together and ensures its timeless attraction to so many children and adults alike, is the exceptional characterization, voice performances and screenplay. The entire cast of the film would have made a compelling real life drama and with Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges and Robert Klein in main roles, it was unlikely to ever fall flat as a cinematic enterprise.
An integral part of the incentive behind the tour, Peter S. Beagle is a renowned writer, perhaps best known for adapting the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the original screenplay in 1978, and is present at all screenings to interact with fans and promote the film. He adapted his own novel of the same name for the film of The Last Unicorn, and despite the fact that it was first published in 1968, it proved extremely popular with children the world over, and the animated picture in 1982 was no less of a hit with young unicorn enthusiasts. It has been three decades since the story was last shown and it has now been remastered, as some of the image quality was quite poor, and given a rightful place on the big screen for the first time for fans to enjoy. Thus it seems that the fantasy dreams of many fans have come to life as the highly anticipated screenings of The Last Unicorn not only grace the cinemas of Canada, but bring with them the man who first created the much-loved characters, Peter Beagle. Undoubtedly his presence has added to the joy of the crowds which overflow the theaters. He has been front and center throughout the tours and is happy to chat and engage with the cult fan-base the film has amassed over time, often staying much later than the show advertises. In an interview he stated that he had been mildly astonished, overwhelmed and touched by the outpouring of emotion that many fans exhibited upon viewing the film, with many thanking him amid tears for bringing their childhood fantasy film to life. He remains extremely grounded despite these somewhat bemusing reactions and claims that he too has become a bit of a “crier” in his later years.
The tour has so far been incredibly successful, having sold out in many of the US states it has visited including Maryland, Texas, Colorado and Kansas. It is now moving northwards and will cover Washington, Oregon and Canada, much to the delight of many stalwart fans. The Canadian leg of the tour will start in the province of British Columbia, passing through Victoria, Vancouver, Coquitlam and Kamloops from the 17th to the 22nd of April. On the Wednesday 23rd, it will travel to Alberta and begin in the city of Edmonton then Red Deer County ,Calgary and Letherbridge. Saskatoon is next on the list at the start of May, with the traveling cinema show calling at Saskatchewan and Regina. A brief stop in Winnipeg, Manitoba on the fifth of the month before heading off to Ontario from the seventh to the 15th of May and with seven shows in Thunder Bay, Greater Sudbury, Toronto, London, Stoney Creek, Kingston, Ottawa and Gloucester. The final three screenings will then pop into Montreal, Quebec on the May 18th, St John in New Brunswick two days later and then will finally come to a close in Halifax, Nova Scotia on the 21st of May.
So as the revival of the children’s classic story The Last Unicorn is headed to Canada, the latest screening of Peter Beagle’s cult animation show is set to prove just as popular over the border as it has all over the US. To avoid disappointment fans are advised to book their tickets as soon as possible online as seating is limited and demand is high. Turns out people are never to old to escape into the fantasy lands of childhood dreams and stories, the reprisal of The Last Unicorn, at least, has impressive staying power and seemingly indefatigable attraction for anyone looking for a little light-hearted escape from the clutches of reality.
Commentary by Rhona Scullion