Celebrating the 30th Anniversary

of The Last Unicorn

In 1974, Michael Chase Walker was living in India researching and acquiring artistic properties for possible productions as full-length animated features. After a chance meeting with former Beatle George Harrison, the two began discussing the prospects of starting an animation studio together. Later that year, in New York City, Walker was interviewing potential animation directors to oversee preproduction. At the time Zander's Animation Parlour was one of the finest animation companies in New York. Zander's commercials for Clairol Herbal Essence, and Leggs Sheer Energy were the best on TV, and were designed by graphic artist Keita Colton. At dinner one night, Miss Colton gave Mr. Walker a copy of The Last Unicorn and suggested he make it his first animated production. Walker read it and fell in love with both Colton and the book. He called Maggie Field, Peter Beagle's agent at Ziegler Diskant Ross and was told the rights were tied up by Judy Balaban and Don Kwine for seven years. When Walker called Don Kwine and offered to buy the rights from him, he was so rudely rebuffed, he had little choice but to call Field back and persuade her to wrest the rights away from Kwine and sell them to him. She eventually relented, and Walker acquired the option in late 1974. [6]


In the meantime Walker was approached by investors in Peoria, Illinois about starting his own animation studio and advertising boutique. Believing it was an excellent way to enhance his feature film ambitions, he founded But, Will It Play In Peoria? a full service animation studio. Fortunately, just as time was running out on The Last Unicorn option, The "Will It Play" creative team swept the regional advertising awards with their commercials for The First National Bank, and the bank, in turn, loaned Walker the $40,000 he needed to purchase The Last Unicorn rights outright. A daring move that was unheard of at the time. Needles to say, Walker was convinced The Last Unicorn had all the makings of a timeless classic. [6]