The ship that sailed off into the sunset | About the Unicorn's Journey

Good afternoon, dear reader!

The turn of the 20th and 21st centuries was a very unusual time. Globalization began and was in full swing, making many works of art known around the world quite quickly, gaining an audience and fans of their own. Everyone took advantage of this, and in such an abyss of books, movies, TV shows, and games, it was easy to miss something really interesting.

In this blog, I'd like to talk about a TV movie that I think deserved better - both in terms of format and audience. But let's break it all down in order.


I highly recommend reading the original film before reading it. People with a good tolerance for spoilers don't care, but trust me - none of the plot points told below will spoil your viewing experience.

In the nineties, fantasy was suddenly on the same wave of popularity as it was in the mid-20th century. Whereas earlier it had been Professor Tolkien with his novels about Middle-earth, in 1993 the little renaissance was marked by the works of Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Joan Rowling, and so on.

Among the other authors was the now forgotten artist and teacher James Christensen. In 1996 he publishes a book. "Voyage of the Basset."which attracts a fairly good audience. Within 5 years of its release, the previously unknown Christensen's book received a film adaptation called "Voyage of the Unicorn." and received a number of sequels by the popular screenwriter and author Tanith Lee. Was it a mere coincidence?

Not at all. If you look under the cover of the book, you'll see James' co-writers, Renwick St. James and Alan Dean Foster. The first name may not tell you anything - Renwick was one of Christensen's friends who helped him prepare reproductions of paintings for publication, but Mr. Foster is no longer so simple.

Alan is also a writer - but not an easy writer. If he didn't walk hand in hand with Hollywood - no one did. He has had behind him the screenplays to several episodes of Star Trek, the rewrites of The Thing, The Chronicles of Riddick, and so on, the Star Wars novelizations - you can't count them all. He may have helped Christensen, who dreamed of doing a book tour of his fantasy pictures, by giving him the idea for the text and polishing the result.

It was also most likely with Foster's pitch that the book was picked up by Hallmark Entertainment for a film adaptation. The director's chair was taken by Philip Spink, known for passing projects, and the slightly more successful Matthew O'Connor became the producer-and filming began.

The movie, as mentioned above, was based on the book - but much has been changed:
  • In the original the action took place in the Victorian era; the TV adaptation takes us to modern times;
  • The magical world in the book lives its quiet life until the arrival of the heroes, and the war with the trolls begins only after certain actions of the human aliens. At the same time, in the film, the heroes are immediately in the thick of things;
  • The main character, Alan Eisling, in the book comes off as... ahem, a real jerk overly obsessed with proving the existence of magic and wizardry by detaching himself from the real world and his daughters after the death of his wife. His character, played by Beau Bridges, elicits much more sympathy-the search for scientific recognition is not as important as contact with his daughters and experiencing the death of his wife.

There were some other changes that made the movie both a "filtered" and expanded adaptation of the book.

For example, originally the ship was also supposed to be inhabited by harpies and gremlins, but their role in the plot was negligible, and the budget of TV movies is not so gigantic to spend it on useless, though animated scenery.

But the plot was augmented by the line about the prophecy, and additional small scenes better revealed the characters of the Eisling couple, their companions (Minotaur, Medusa) and the guides, Malachi and Sebastian. The same trolls in the film have tribal rites, which makes them more independent as a race--and more interesting as enemies.

The plot of the story tells of a family experiencing the death of their mother, who loved fine art. A barrier stands between father and daughters, only heightened by tragedy, and the head of the family is also going through a crisis at work. One of his colleagues does not believe that the subject of Professor Aisling - mythology - deserves a separate course and wants to liquidate the "pseudoscience" together with its teacher in the walls of his alma mater.

Conflicts build up the atmosphere until, suddenly, the house of the Eisling couple is attacked by real trolls! And the coincidence of circumstances directs the heroes straight to the ship "Unicorn", on which they and go to the fictional worlds from the drawings of their mother.

The further narration will acquaint us with Oberon and Titania, descended from the pages of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Minotaur, Gorgon Medusa and other mythical characters. The heroes will go through a lot of trouble on the way to the end of their journey.
This is a PG rated movie.
It would be naive to expect anything but a happy ending, but that is not the point. The transformation of the characters, the rethinking of values, the important choices - the essence of the picture is in the process, not in its finale.
Upon returning to the real world, the characters have two thoughts: "It was only a dream!" and "Was it really a dream?" Due to the fact that they all remember what happened, and yes they meet people quite similar to their mythical comrades, reality is mixed with fiction, but the most important change lies in the hearts of the family.

Anyway, the dream thoughts have one interesting trait--they are both CLICH. And what other typical tricks does the film use?

If we don't take the too hackneyed tricks that are in plain sight ("The Reality of Myths," "All Trolls are Different," etc.), there are several scripted tricks that really serve as plot engines for The Unicorn Journey. We'll look at them below:


is a

considerably generalized image, prime examples of which are the Gorgon from "Clash of the Titans," "Percy Jackson and the Lord of Lightning

" and so on

Who hasn't played the mythical beast - Natalia Vodianova, Uma Thurman and other beautiful actresses. What is interesting - the original myth of Medusa describes a girl of simple appearance, but with incredibly luxurious hair, which the jealous Athena and turned into snakes.

"Journey of the Unicorn" was no exception - the image of the legendary sufferer was embodied by Canadian model Keira Clavell - the exotic Eurasian appearance clearly gave a twist to the classic character.


functional tears are everywhere - in Braveheart they reverse a curse, in the second Shrek
they are used for a medieval video link to the Fairy Godmother, and in the Potter movies they occur as many as twice in the plot.

In "The Chamber of Secrets," the tears of the Phoenix cure Harry of the deadly poison, and in "Deathly Hallows," Severus Snape puts memories into them (though it usually required the use of a wand).

As for "The Journey," the degree of fantasy garishness of this action almost reaches a peak, because at a certain point the characters are looking for the tears of a real unicorn. Fortunately, this is offset by the perception of tears as an alchemical ingredient.

I think

there are no examples needed here, but it would be a sin not to mention Neo from The Matrix
trilogy to make it clear what we are talking about.
There is some common knowledge (usually in the form of prophecy) through which everyone identifies the protagonist as marked by the finger of destiny for certain actions.

In The Unicorn's Journey, the characters learn about the prophecy as soon as they enter the fantasy world, and it doesn't always play into their hands. It's the reason the Aisling family is being hunted--it's hard to think of a plot engine more important than the one that lured them out of the house and led them down their unusual path practically by the hand.


strange word refers to objects that have put their meaning into the development of the narrative
The term was introduced by Alfred Hitchcock in The 39 Steps, putting it into the mouth of his hero, François Truffaut.

You may be wondering where the term itself came from. It's sort of a Scottish surname, taken from a story about two people on a train.

One says, "What's wrapped up there on the top shelf? "
The other replies: "Oh, it's a MacGuffin."
- "What's a MacGuffin?
" "Well, it's a lion fishing machine in the North Scottish Highlands.
" "But there are no lions in the North Scottish Highlands!
" "Well, it's not a MacGuffin!"


MacGuffin is actually something that's not there


The dragon skull becomes such an object in the film. The characters find it pretty quickly and try to protect it from the trolls, and despite their failure, they still later benefit from the item's existence. Often everyone expects one thing from the Macguffins, but the other thing happens at all- "The Unicorn's Journey" and was no exception.

All of these "tricks" rather help the film chart a course, using ideas from other projects, but what is moving in the given direction? After all, the viewer sees not a set of tricks, but a whole picture - and the visual and auditory components of the tape help in this.

On the surface, the film looks rather passé. "The Unicorn's Journey" is made exactly like other projects of the time - closer to TV series than to movies, due to the low financing. So if you've seen "Xena the Warrior Princess" or "The Amazing Wanderings of Hercules," you have a rough idea of what to expect.

However, it should be noted that sometimes the cinematic decisions of the film's authors are pleasantly surprising. Especially the second part of the film abounds in such places:
1) The scene with the "College of Magical Knowledge" perfectly demonstrates the play of scale and the varied narrative to create a magical effect;
2) The sisters' chase after the unicorn in the Sacred Grove is reminiscent of "The Chronicles of Narnia" or "The Lord of the Rings" in places , as the feeling of watching a "hit-and-run"
movie is erased;

3) Miranda's battle with the sea monster via a theatrical dance to the gospel "It's a Miracle" at all looks like something incredible and head over heels above the movie, but it does not make further viewing impossible.

The picture does not avoid questionable decisions, such as the animation of the dragon's appearance

, which was too demanding for resources, and that made it look too cheap. But the treatment of the surroundings, from the open areas to the small pavilions, which don't seem too cramped thanks to the cameraman's understanding of the surroundings, deserves respect.

Above, I mentioned the battle scene with the sea monster. There's a reason I singled out the song to which it takes place - the soundtrack really plays a huge role in this film. First, we'll talk about the music - Daryl Bennett and Jim Guttridge, known for their work on other TV movies, have created a truly enchanting atmosphere. The music doesn't adjust too dynamically to the narrative - but with the film's lack of strict tempo, it's not so noticeable.

The songs were sung by gospel masters Andre Crouch, Christy Murden and others, many of whom already had experience in the film industry. This, too, had a positive effect on the quality of the songs - like "May It Be" by Enya's singer in "Lord of the Rings," the beautiful voice does not draw attention away from what's happening on screen, but goes along with maintaining the atmosphere of the fantasy tale.

It's also impossible not to note the selection of sounds. The ominous breathing coming from inside the skull of an ancient monster, or the mere piggy grunting emitted by a wounded troll with piggy looks, do not hinder the viewer - they become good supports for the emotional message of the scene, whether it is buffoonery or an extreme degree of tension.

An enjoyable film with an interesting plot that went almost unnoticed is what "Unicorn Journey" became in 2001 and remains to this day. The script work highlighted Dan Levin, who was later much beloved in Hollywood for his original vision (the recent "Arrival," "Why Him?" and "Dark Reflections" are his pictures). Bo Bridges and McKenzie Gray, who were already famous actors back then, showed themselves perfectly, and young talents in the person of Chantal Conlin and Heather McEwen established themselves for further work on TV, but... why did a film with such a preponderance of positive qualities over negative ones not "shoot"?

The answer is quite simple, and the name is format. TV movies have always been more budget projects, where the entire budget is taken depending on who will buy the tape for distribution. You also have to understand that the production of such pictures was cheaper than the TV series, but to "cram" almost three hours of narration, very conventionally divided in half, into the air is not an easy task. This method of presentation was already dying out in the nineties, but Hallmark Entertainment did not want to give up that niche so easily, even though viewers began to prefer series at home or going to the cinema/rental to watching a good film.

Among the multiseries at the same time, "The Tenth Kingdom" was coming out. I won't say it was the best fairy tale - it still gets mixed reviews - but its more provocative presentation kept the picture "on the radar," so few people knew about "The Unicorn's Journey

Evil tongues will say that the project would not have found a place in the cinema or would not have withstood the competition, but that only means that they don't know about the movie market in 2001. Remember, that's when Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring were released. No one disputes that the family saga is unlikely to have garnered the same popularity as the pioneering film adaptations of these universes, but it certainly would have gained a wider audience than it did.

From the point of view of an ordinary viewer, whom the film did not leave indifferent both as a child and 17 years later, I can only recommend it to watch at home with a mug of buckthorn tea or mulled wine on one of the chilly autumn evenings, because you do not need to find time to give yourself a little fairy tale.

As the characters in "The Unicorn's Journey " say - Credendo Vides! (from the Latin - by believing, you will see). So, if you can put aside your skepticism and just enjoy the wonderful story on the screen - I won't keep you.

Thank you for your attention!

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