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The Last Unicorn’s Incredible Connection to Studio Ghibli

In 1982, The Last Unicorn was released with production by Rankin/Bass Productions, ITC Films and Topcraft. The animated film, based on the popular fantasy book by Peter S. Beagle, tells the story of a unicorn searching for the remains of its lost kin. To this day, the film has been watched by a large number of people because of its imagination, interesting characters, great voice acting, and animation.


What many people don’t know is that members of Topcraft, the Tokyo-based company, later created Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki. From an animation perspective, this makes The Last Unicorn part of Studio Ghibli’s history. Looking closely at the characters, magic, and animals in the film (especially Lady Amalthea herself), the film’s ’80s anime-inspired style begins to shine.

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The Last Unicorn and Topcraft


Amalthea in front of the unicorn mural.

The animation company, then Studio Ghibli, was founded in 1971. Topcraft’s current popular films include animated adaptations from the 80’s. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, The Wizard of Oz, and The Last Unicorn. The Last Unicorn However, it stands out because it has a lot in common with Studio Ghibli’s films in its love of nature, magic and women. Like Studio Ghibli titles, The Last Unicorn contains themes of feminism, environmentalism and teaching lessons against fear and greed. The themes weren’t made by Topcrat, of course, but it still caught the attention of Studio Ghibli fans, who couldn’t help but compare the two because of Topcraft’s involvement.


What Topcraft did was give the animation a taste reminiscent of it 80s anime with exaggerated faces, goofy hair and big eyes. This anime-like style is especially shown when the unicorn is human, with the name Amalthea. The style is the same as today’s old anime like movies, Galaxy Express 999. Topcraft was actually founded by a former employee of Toei Animation, Toru Hara, and Galaxy Express 999 along with many other anime movies and shows. This is remarkable, as Amalthea looks as if her design was inspired by the main character of the series, Maetel.

Interesting, year Ultimate Unicorn was completed by Topcraft the same year they hired the famous Hayao Miyazaki. With Topcraft, Miyazaki made it Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds, which later became known as Ghibli although Studio Ghibli had not yet been established. Only a year later Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds released, Topcraft went bankrupt and split in two. This split was the start of Studio Ghibli, which was founded by half of its employees while the other half founded Pacific Animation Corporation.


From Topcraft to Studio Ghibli


Split image of Nausicaa and the last unicorn.

After Topcraft was acquired, Hara became Studio Ghibli’s first manager and became part of the studio’s early years along with former Topcraft employees Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, and Isao Takahata. They continue to do Castle in the Sky, Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro, and Kiki’s Delivery Service all during the rest of the ’80s. With each Studio Ghibli film being a huge hit, its history from Topcraft fell into obscurity.

However, Studio Ghibli made similar efforts to The Last Unicorn about creating animated adaptations of fantasy short stories, books, and comics. These film adaptations include Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, Stories from Earth, Grave of the Fireflies, The Secret World of Arrietty, Just Yesterday, Whisper of Hearts, and From the top of the Poppy Hill. However, Studio Ghibli’s stories have a much softer and kid-friendly tone than The Last Unicorn.


Topcraft leaves dark stories like The Last Unicorn behind when it became Studio Ghibli. so many, so much The Last Unicorn Explore themes of death and feature some unforgetable creepy creatures such as the harlot and the red bull. Maybe it’s because it’s kid-friendly Studio Ghibli is also a little more liberal with its adaptations compared to when it was Topcraft. The Last Unicorn very faithful to the book while Studio Ghibli acts as Howl’s Moving Castle and Stories from the ground It was a lot easier to stick to the book’s story.

Nearing its 40th anniversary, The Last Unicorn Still a cult classic. It’s not technically an anime or a work of Studio Ghibli, but it’s part of the plot of one of the most famous animation studios in the world. The animations are beautiful and really match the flowery prose and the way the story explores magic, death, and love. The Last Unicorn could be the closest thing anime fans will get to a Dark Studio Ghibli movie next to it Princess Mononoke.


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