The Last Unicorn (1982) – United States rated PG
Summary: When a young unicorn learns she may soon be the last of her kind, she leaves the safety of her protected forest and enlists the help of a clumsy sorcerer as they embark on a long journey to save the unicorns from extinction.
Recommendation: I was a teen watching this the first time, falling completely in love with the soundtrack and visuals. The king (voiced by a pre-Sarumon Christopher Lee) is particularly frightening and every scene with him makes me shudder. The strangeness of the butterfly and its tendency to hint toward impossible things is nearly psychedelic. While I love Schmendrick and Molly and the strength of their loyalty, my favorite secondary character may be Rene Abuerjonois’s trouble-making skull. This is the pinnacle of outside-Japan work noting that all of the animation was controlled by a Japanese staff, many of whom we later see within the Studio Ghibli family.
The Illusionist (2010) – France, England, Scotland rated PG
Summary: A French illusionist finds himself out of work and travels to Scotland. While performing in a village pub, he encounters Alice, an innocent young girl, who will change his life forever.
Recommendation: The dignity expressed by this veteran entertainer is part of his charm. Can he in fact create or transmute things out of thin air? He claims not… that it’s all pretend and practice. But he makes magical things happen, especially after he meets Alice. Funny enough, Alice is also capable of magic tricks, like bringing the clown down from his noose to have hot soup. The different characters are so much fun to encounter, you’ll look for them in different scenes. And the landscapes are brilliant! You become just as wide-eyed and innocent as Alice looking around at it all.
Eleanor’s Secret (2011) – France, Italy rated G
Summary: A beautifully designed, rollicking adventure in which a boy’s newfound ability to read not only sets his imagination free, but saves the day!
Recommendation: Maybe there’s a gap in our cultural differences that makes this story a bit of a mystery for me – there must be a reason why Natanaël has such a difficult time reading… dyslexia maybe, unfocused muscularly-untrained eyes? But that’s not the important part of this adventure. It’s a classic ‘chosen one’ scenario with a magic spell to be read aloud to keep all the fictional characters within their pages. I was hesitant to place any faith in the older sister after she treated him rather abominably, but in the end, she does right and helps him more than anticipated.