12 Enchanting Facts About The Last Unicorn

Mia Farrow and Alan Arkin in The Last Unicorn (1982).
Mia Farrow and Alan Arkin in The Last Unicorn (1982).
Lions Gate Entertainment

It’s been nearly 40 years since The Last Unicorn (1982) reared its magnificent, horn-adorned head in theaters across America. For adults, the animated Rankin/Bass production was a highly innovative, surprisingly introspective film with all the trappings of a quality fantasy, from its magical, motley, quest-bound crew to every winding staircase in its towering castle. For those who watched the film as a kid, on the other hand, The Last Unicorn was a 90-minute nightmare complete with a screeching, three-breasted harpy; a fiery, diabolical bull; and music sung by your chillest uncle’s favorite band.

Rediscover the enchanted world of the cult classic with the following facts—and keep a wary eye out for beasts, brutes, and Mommy Fortuna.

1. The Last Unicorn was based on a book by Peter S. Beagle, who also wrote the screenplay.

Peter S. Beagle autographs a copy of The Last Unicorn at Phoenix Comic Con in 2012.Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Peter S. Beagle published his fantasy novel The Last Unicorn in 1968, and also insisted on writing the screenplay when it was optioned for film. That resolution coming from another novelist might’ve made film executives a little apprehensive, but it wasn’t Beagle’s first time at the screenwriting rodeo: he had also written the screenplay for Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.

“I had the horrors about who else might do it,” Beagle said in an interview. “I never felt I had a choice, whether I particularly wanted to do the screenplay or not.”

2. The Last Unicorn was originally intended for an adult audience.

It’s not just the frightful red bull and permeative sense of terror that make The Last Unicorn seem like a questionable film to show young, impressionable children—there’s also a rather scarring scene in which a lascivious old tree holds Schmendrick captive with her ample bosom. (Not to mention that most of the music was performed by the legendary ’70s folk rock band, America—not quite a kindergarten favorite.)

The overall adult tone is much less odd when you consider that it was, at least initially, intended for adults. Early press referred to the film as an “adult musical fantasy-adventure” and also mentioned that Rankin/Bass had deliberately cast actors who would pique adult interest.

3. The creators of the Peanuts TV specials wanted to make the film.

Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez, the producers behind A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and many other Peanuts TV specials, were very interested in adapting the novel for film, though nothing ever came of it. By Beagle’s own account, one of their partners’ wives pulled him aside at a gathering and earnestly cautioned him against entrusting the project to them.

“Don’t let us do it. We’re not good enough,” Beagle recalled her warning him.

4. Nobody turned down the opportunity to be cast in The Last Unicorn.

The project eventually went to Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr. of Rankin/Bass Productions, the company best-known for its stop-motion animation projects like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. As a testament to both the popularity of the novel and the quality of the screenplay, Rankin and Bass weren’t forced to settle for their second choices for any of the voice actors.

“We decided to get the best people we could get,” Bass said in an interview. “And one thing that’s interesting about it, and this is unique, is that every single person whom we approached to do it said yes immediately.”

Those “best people” included Hollywood heavyweights and musical theater legends alike: Mia Farrow as the titular character, Alan Arkin as Schmendrick the magician, Jeff Bridges as Prince Lir, Christopher Lee as King Haggard, Angela Lansbury as Mommy Fortuna, Tammy Grimes as Molly Grue, and more.

5. Jeff Bridges personally asked for a role—and even said he’d work for free.

After hearing that René Auberjonois, his friend and fellow actor from 1976’s King Kong, had been cast as a cackling skeleton in The Last Unicorn, Jeff Bridges called Bass and asked if he could be involved, too. When Bass told him they had yet to cast Prince Lír, Bridges volunteered to lend his time and talents either for free or for whatever Auberjonois was making. Bass hired him on the spot.

6. Prince Lír has a happier ending in the book version of The Last Unicorn.

Jeff Bridges and Mia Farrow in The Last Unicorn (1982).Lions Gate Entertainment

In the film, Prince Lír leaves the kingdom to forge a new life for himself after losing just about everything: his adoptive father has died, the castle he should’ve inherited has crumbled into the sea, and his beloved Amalthea has transformed back into a unicorn. In the original novel, however, Lír remains to rebuild the kingdom, and he even gets a second chance at love: When Schmendrick and Molly happen upon a troubled princess (fully human, this time) during their journey, they send her Lír’s way.

7. The Last Unicorn was animated by the studio that would later become Studio Ghibli.

Though the original storyboards for The Last Unicorn were created in the U.S., Rankin/Bass outsourced the film’s actual animation to the experts at Topcraft, a Japanese animation studio with whom they had already collaborated on The Hobbit and many other productions throughout the 1970s. When Topcraft folded a few years later, the company was bought by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki, who rebuilt it as Studio Ghibli and went on to release some of the most celebrated animated features of all time, including 2001’s Spirited Away and 2004’s Howl’s Moving Castle.

8. Peter Beagle wasn’t thrilled with Alan Arkin’s performance.

Overall, Beagle has expressed satisfaction with how the movie turned out, commending the animators’ “lovely design work” and calling the voice actors “superb.” One actor, however, did fall short of Beagle’s expectations: Alan Arkin, who voices the affable yet blundering magician, Schmendrick.

“I’m still a little disappointed with Alan Arkin’s approach,” Beagle said in an interview. “His Schmendrick still seems too flat for me.”

(The word schmendrick, by the way, is Yiddish for “a foolish, bumbling, or incompetent person.”)

9. Christopher Lee also played King Haggard in the German version of The Last Unicorn.

Christopher Lee was a fierce supporter of both the film and novel, and considered King Haggard a tragic, rich character similar to Shakespeare’s King Lear. Such was his enthusiasm for the project that he even signed on to reprise his role for the German dubbing of the film (he was fluent in German). According to Beagle, Lee said he “simply couldn’t resist a chance to play King Haggard one more time, even in another language.”

10. German audiences love to hear America perform “The Last Unicorn.”

Evidently, it wasn’t just Christopher Lee’s acting chops that helped establish a German fan base for the The Last Unicorn—it was also the music, composed by Jimmy Webb and recorded by America. Bandmember Dewey Bunnell said in an interview that they often play the title track while touring there, since German audiences love to hear it.

11. Art Garfunkel and Kenny Loggins have both covered songs from The Last Unicorn soundtrack.

A couple of America’s contemporaries have given their own folk rock treatment to songs from The Last Unicorn soundtrack: “That’s All I’ve Got to Say” is the final track on Art Garfunkel’s album Scissors Cut, and Kenny Loggins sang “The Last Unicorn” for Return to Pooh Corner in 1994.

12. Fergie wanted to adapt The Last Unicorn for Broadway.

In 2015, Playbill announced that the Black Eyed Peas’s Fergie, a childhood fanatic of the film, was planning to bring The Last Unicorn to Broadway with the help of then-husband Josh Duhamel. There hasn’t been any news of it since, and, considering Fergie split with Duhamel in 2017, it’s probably safe to say that the project is on hold.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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15 Facts About The 40-Year-Old Virgin On Its 15th Anniversary

Steve Carell is The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).
Steve Carell is The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The 40-Year-Old Virgin helped launch Steve Carell into comedy stardom, reintroduced audiences to Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, featured one of Jonah Hill’s first movie roles, and began the Judd Apatow Comedy Filmmaking Empire. In celebration of its 15th anniversary, here are some facts that will make you cooler than David Caruso in Jade.

1. The 40-Year-Old Virgin was based on one of Steve Carell's Second City sketches.

The sketch was about a man who, in trying to keep up in a poker game conversation about sexual experiences, proves to be completely clueless about the subject. After working together on Anchorman, Judd Apatow asked Carell if he had any movie ideas; Carell pitched him the concept for The 40-Year-Old Virgin and the two wrote the film together.

2. Universal Studios provided Steve Carell and Judd Apatow with case studies on middle-age virginity.

They read that older virgins were typically normal people who, according to Carell, "at some point just gave up on the whole notion; it was more difficult to keep attempting than to give up."

3. Steve Carell was 43 years old and a father of two when The 40-Year-Old Virgin was released.

Carell's four-year-old daughter was “a little freaked out” at seeing her father on billboards promoting The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

4. Universal refused to allow Jason Segel to be in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Since Apatow didn’t have veto power back then, Jason Segel was out of luck. However, the incident reinforced Apatow’s advice to Segel that he should be writing his own material for a better chance at starring in films—advice which eventually led to Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

5. Steve Carell lost 30 pounds for The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Though Apatow was originally "nervous about it, because I don't think comedians wanting to look good is ever good for the comedy," he gradually realized that Carell being "ripped" was a good idea. Because it helped establish that Andy was only a virgin because he’s shy and nervous, not because of his looks.

6. PAUL RUDD WAS CONSIDERED SO OVERWEIGHT THAT UNIVERSAL SHUT DOWN PRODUCTION FOR TWO DAYS.

Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Unlike most other directors, Apatow encourages Rudd to gain some weight before shooting because he thinks the actor is funnier when he’s a little fatter. Unfortunately, Universal disagreed, and Rudd ended up not eating for 48 hours to satisfy the studio. The one scene that stayed in the film from before the Universal-mandated shutdown was the speed-dating sequence. But there were other reasons for the shutdown: According to Apatow, they didn't like that he was lighting the film "like an indie." Also ...

7. The studio thought Steve Carell looked like a serial killer.

In response, "Steve decided the character would be a little more Buster Keaton-esque," according to Apatow. "He was low-energy and everyone else was spinning around him." Lines were also written (and improvised) making fun of the fact that Andy could be confused for a serial killer.

8. Jane Lynch's "Guatemalan Love Song" in The 40-Year-Old Virgin was from a passage in her high school textbook.

Part of the translation was "Where are you going with such haste? To a football game.” Lynch’s role was originally going to be played by a man, until Steve Carell’s wife, Nancy Walls (who played Maria, the health clinic counselor), suggested Lynch for the part of the store manager.

9. It was Leslie Mann's idea to throw up on Steve Carell's face in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Originally, Nicky (Mann's character) and Andy were supposed to get pulled over by the police, and it would turn out that Nicky was concealing a gun under her seat all along. Instead, Mann insisted that her vomiting on Carell would be a funnier conclusion to the scene, so she gulped down a mix of strawberry yogurt and “some kind of kefir.”

10. The waxing scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin was real.

Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

About halfway through the ordeal, Carell was in so much pain that he realized it might have been a bad idea. It took seven weeks for all of his hair to grow back.

11. Judd Apatow and Steve Carell had trouble coming up with the big "Age of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" ending.

Garry Shandling put it in Apatow’s head that it was important to show that Andy is having better sex than his friends because he is in love. Later, Carell came up with the general idea of singing a song, and Apatow immediately thought “Let the Sunshine In” would work.

12. That big musical number sent Jonah Hill to the hospital for heatstroke.

Hill had to be hospitalized.

13. The filmmakers shot 1 million feet of film for The 40-Year-Old Virgin,

The film company bought the cast and crew champagne to celebrate.

14. Test screenings made The 40-Year-Old Virgin less R-rated.

People notably stopped laughing during the scene in which Andy watches porn from Dave’s “Boner Jams ‘03” tape. Two weeks later at another test screening, the new cut featured far less graphic content. Andy overhearing his old neighbors having sex was also cut after poor reactions. Trish’s line about Einstein having sex with his wife was taken out, then put back in once Apatow and Carell realized women liked that line.

15. Exotic fish were accidentally harmed during the making of The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

The electricity was shut off in the aquarium area after filming ended, causing a lack of proper aeration in the fish tank, leading to their deaths. The American Humane Association withheld its “no animals were harmed…” disclaimer because of the incident and rated the film “Monitored Unacceptable.”

This story has been updated for 2020.