CERT: U / DIRECTORS: AINA JÄRVINE, FEDERICO MILELLA / SCREENPLAY: VANESSA WALDER / STARRING: MADISON MULLAHEY, JESSICA WEBB, OLIVIA MANNING, SARA PETERSON, MARC THOMPSON / RELEASE DATE: JULY 31ST
Aina Järvine and Federico Milella’s animated fantasy is about as child-friendly and corny as its title would suggest. If you’re looking for a storyline with the depth or emotional heights that Pixar or Laika have got us used to over the years, you’re better looking elsewhere. Nonetheless, The Fairy Princess and the Unicorn is a story easily digestible by young children that has its odd moment of charm here and there.
Escaping from the shadow fairy leader Ophira, who has held her captive since she was a small child, Surah (Mullahey) must work with her sisters Sera (Jesica Webb) and Eyela (Petersen) to bring magic back to the world of Bayala. They have a chance to do this after discovering a dragon egg, which has to be returned to its parents if there is any hope of a kind of natural decay known as ‘the wilt’ being averted. But Ophira (Liza Ortiz) isn’t too keen on sacrificing her power.
You can tell from the animation quality that the film has not had lots of money thrown its way, the film clearly more comfortable with grand landscape shots and wide angles than capturing detail in smaller settings. It is on a par with the dialogue, which especially in the opening half feels somewhat unimaginative. The simplicity and colour all point to a film aimed squarely at very small children and nobody else. The result is a magical setting that lacks the zip and spark it needs to make you love the film’s silliness and setting.
The story itself is a standard (albeit refreshingly female-led) adventure that leaves certain questions unanswered - why can only shadow fairies fly at night? It also seems to run out of plot around the halfway mark. It does however feature a nice message about accepting people for who they are - Surah is treated with trepidation by others because of her shadow fairy wings, and Ophira’s eventual downfall is in part down to her unwillingness to accept others. The animals - which thankfully do not speak à la-Disney style - also add a nice comedic touch, and the animation seems a much better fit for their appearance than the fairies.
There ultimately isn’t much to get your teeth into with The Princess Fairy and the Unicorn, the latter of which only makes a very brief appearance. It is well-meaning entertainment fodder for very young viewers, and to a certain extent that’s okay. An older audience however will be counting down the minutes until it's over so they can put Frozen 2 on instead.