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 signs the last unicorn

Peter S. Beagle autographs a copy of The Last Unicorn at Phoenix Comic Con in 2012.

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)
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.

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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HBO Max: Everything You Need to Know About the New Streaming Service

What will you binge-watch first?
What will you binge-watch first?
WarnerMedia

This week, WarnerMedia launched HBO Max, the long-awaited streaming platform that the company hopes can compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney+. But with HBO GO and HBO NOW already in existence, the addition of a third platform for HBO content has caused no small amount of confusion among both prospective customers and current HBO subscribers. Here are answers to all your burning questions about the buzzworthy new service.

What is HBO Max?

HBO Max is a direct-to-consumer streaming platform that you can download as an app or access through your cable or internet provider. Just like Apple has Apple TV+ and Amazon has Prime Video, WarnerMedia now has HBO Max.

How is HBO Max different from HBO NOW and HBO GO?

hbo max streaming platform
This user's viewing habits are eclectic, to say the least.
WarnerMedia

Before HBO Max, WarnerMedia had two different apps with the same library of HBO series and certain Warner Bros. films. HBO GO is for viewers who already pay for HBO through their cable TV provider, which is why you have to log in through your TV provider. HBO NOW is for independent subscribers who pay $15 a month for access to the same content. In other words, HBO GO is for customers with cable, and HBO NOW is for those without it.

Like HBO NOW, HBO Max is an independent subscription service that you don’t need a TV provider in order to access. The main difference comes down to content: While HBO NOW and HBO GO only include HBO series and some films, HBO Max offers tons of additional shows and films licensed from other distributors—plus new, exclusive originals (more on that in a minute).

How much does HBO Max cost, and how do I get it?

You can sign up for HBO Max here. Your first seven days will be free, and it will cost you $15 per month after that.

Do I already have access to HBO Max?

If you’re already an HBO NOW subscriber, your app should have automatically updated to the HBO Max app (if you don’t have automatic updates enabled, make sure to update it manually), and you can log into HBO Max using your existing HBO NOW credentials. Your recurring monthly payment of $15 will also now automatically start applying to HBO Max instead of HBO NOW.

If you watch HBO through your TV or mobile provider, there’s a good chance you can access HBO Max at no additional cost, too. Apple TV channels, AT&T TV, DIRECTV, Hulu, Spectrum, Verizon FIOS, Xfinity, and many other providers are included—you can see the full list here.

Which platforms will HBO Max be on?

You can stream HBO Max on your desktop on HBOMax.com, or you can download the app through the Apple app store, Google Play, or Samsung TV. You can also access HBO Max content on your TV through any of the providers listed here.

What's playing on HBO Max?

hbo max channel hubs
Elmo and James Dean in the same place, at last.
WarnerMedia

HBO Max boasts 10,000 hours of content that includes all HBO shows, many Warner Bros. films from the past century, new Max Original series, and other programs from CNN, Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS, TCM, Adult Swim, and more.

To name a few highlights, the service currently offers all eight Harry Potter films, all 10 seasons of Friends, an exclusive selection of Studio Ghibli classics like Howl’s Moving Castle (2005) and Spirited Away (2002), and 2019’s Joker. The first few episodes of some highly-anticipated Max Originals are also available, including Anna Kendrick’s rom-com series Love Life, the voguing house reality competition Legendary, and Sesame Workshop's The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo (featuring guests Kacey Musgraves, John Mulaney, the Jonas Brothers, Lil Nas X, and more—so far).

Will I get to see the Friends Reunion?

Yes, the Friends reunion will definitely debut on HBO Max, but no air date has been confirmed yet. Production was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re tentatively hoping to film it sometime this summer. (But hey, at least you have access to all the other Friends episodes to help you pass the time.)