Release Date: February 06, 2007.
Featuring Voices of: Alan Arkin (Schmendrick), Jeff Bridges (Prince Lir), Mia Farrow (Unicorn/Amalthea), Tammy Grimes (Molly Grue), Robert Klein (The Butterfly), Angela Lansbury (Mommy Fortuna), Christopher Lee (King Haggard)
Written by: Peter S. Beagle
Directed by: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.
A lone wandering unicorn receives a clue that she may be the last unicorn on Earth. Determined to find answers, she befriends a struggling magician and a peasant woman on a journey to King Haggard’s castle where the myth of a fiery red bull pushed all of the unicorns in the sea by Haggard’s will. But an unintentional run-in with the bull makes the magician’s magic turn the unicorn into the beautiful Lady Amalthea. Not knowing what to fear more – being trapped in a human body or being the last unicorn – Amalthea falls in love with King Haggard’s son Prince Lir. But should her love for him overpower her quest to find all of the lost unicorns, or can she live safely without Haggard knowing her true identity?
This is the 25th Anniversary release of this title and included is an anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1 widescreen transfer with a few new features packaged in a glittery cardboard slipcase. This is not the theatrical version, but the slightly extended Incorporated Television Company (ITC) home video version adding up to a minute of additional scenes as well as including a few different audio cues.
VIDEO QUALITY: 2.5/5
This release is disappointing for an anniversary edition. I expected some care to be put into it, but this DVD version seems to be a transfer of the ITC video version. I noticed unusual video-related artefacts on the screen that I don't usually see so I immediately knew it wasn’t from a film source. The DVD-3910 isn’t perfect with all video cadences so many viewers will notice the shimmering lines around curved objects (such as around eyelids); it all depends on the performance of your DVD player.
The resulting picture is lower in resolution than what it could be even though the animation isn’t spectacular to begin with. The picture appears to have a bit of a blur at times. But what is really disappointing is the amount of artefacts the original source had. Whatever source ITC used for their video version, it doesn’t look the greatest. It’s littered with grain and dirt and countless other artefacts that could also be related to the animation at the time. For this release, the video quality is the trade off for the extended scenes. Was it possible to reconstruct a new transfer using film as a starting point? Probably, but that takes time and money for a release that is welcomed but won’t be flying off of the store shelves.
The picture is bright; the day lit scenes are good and the unicorn always looks so white contrasting well with the scenery around. Color is never exceptionally vibrant, in fact, it has a muted look. Again, a variety of factors come into play here: is it the original animation or the source used for this release? For this DVD, the source is undoubtedly several generations from the original.
As the story moves to King Haggard’s castle, grey and dark brown are dominant colours. Dark parts of the picture become more dominant although black level depth isn’t striking.
The aspect ratio is 1.85:1 and most of that black bar is at the top of the screen. The disc is enhanced for widescreen televisions. Some compression artefacts and edge outlining exist but neither is very distracting.
AUDIO QUALITY: 2/5
The theatrical version had a Dolby Surround soundtrack. That soundtrack is available on this release as well as a separate Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (default). I preferred the Dolby Surround version more for its extra ambience. The 5.1 mix is fairly quiet and has a few discrete effects. The soundtrack is thin and has little LFE or bass in any channel. Dialogue is a mixed bag of quality. Much of is sounds veiled and the recording could be easily mistaken for being twenty years older than what it is.
TACTILE FUN!! ZERO /
TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: OFF
SPECIAL FEATURES: /
The disc also includes the original theatrical trailer that’s very rough looking with mono sound. Another trailer gallery with Lions Gate/Maple Pictures releases can also be found here (and forced when the disc is put in the player).
IN THE END...
I will admit I expected more from this anniversary release. The picture quality could use an entirely new transfer and a good clean up too. I don’t expect anything like that to happen on SD-DVD because it’s probably argued that the costs would outweigh the benefits at this time. When the time comes for an HD release, a new source must be created for the HD delivery medium. I hate saying this, but for now this is the best we’re getting.
February 04, 2007.