Horse Nation film critic Amanda Ronan veers off the cinematic bridle path this week to present, “Best ‘Horse’ Movie in the Non-Horse Category.” Unicorns, dragons and horses with wings are all fair game.
Due to my sheer excitement that Wrath of the Titans is opening this Friday, I veered away from my traditional horse movie fare to think about Pegasus, unicorns and dragons. That’s right, dragons. But first we have to go back a bit… and I have to tell you a little secret….
See, many equestrians started out as little girls reading Black Beauty or watching the Black Stallion. Not me. I remember in vivid detail the exact moment that I fell in love with the idea of horses, and it wasn’t even over a horse.
I was about five years old and I was sitting on the orange shag carpeting of my greatgrandmother’s living room staring at one of those ancient television sets with the two big dials on the right hand side. What was I watching you ask? Well, Clash of the Titans, circa 1981. From the first moment that that animatronic, claymation Pegasus landed on that pile of rocks and Perseus lassoed it with the golden lasso, I was mesmerized. He ended up taming the magnificent animal and riding him to glory over both Medusa and the Kraken. From that moment on I watched Clash of the Titans every chance I got at Mawmaw’s house. She also had the original soundtrack LP record with Pegasus shining in all his glory on the front cover.
With that in mind I decided to rank my top 3 “Non-Horse, Horse-Like” movie characters. Ranked at #3 is a tie with Pegasus from Clash of the Titans (1981) and his counterpart in Clash of the Titans (2010).
The 1981 version of the movie was made almost entirely using stop-motion technologies and clay figures created by Ray Harryhausen. It took over 16 months to complete the primary
animation BEFORE editing.
The close-ups were in fact played by a real horse…
…who also played the dream-sequence Unicorn in another cult classic, Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford.
The new 2010 version of Clash of the Titans brought Pegasus back… in black! Aided with a little CGI, this new Pegasus is big, bold and beautiful. Paired with his Perseus, played by Sam
Worthington, Pegasus winged his way to a glorious victory over Hades, the Furies, and the Kraken. My only wish is that he would have had more non-CGI screen time, because the horse that played Pegasus looked like a magnificent animal.
Coming in at #2 are the Unicorns from the 1985 movie Legend, starring Tom Cruise and directed by Ridley Scott, the same Ridley Scott that directed the aforementioned Blade Runner
Unicorn. Could my #2 and #3 have been played by the same white horse? Unfortunately, I could not confirm or deny that but it does make you wonder.
As the movie opens we are introduced to Princess Lily and forest dweller Jack, played by Cruise. Jack, in an attempt to impress Lily, leads us to the wonderful land of the unicorns, who “express only love and laughter.” Yeah… this movie gets a bit cheesy… but boy does it have some iconic imagery.
Through a series of unfortunate events, namely, Lily “wanting to touch one,” the Stallion Unicorn is darted by a goblin, dehorned, and left for dead, causing the world to become shrouded by evil, ice, and darkness. Jack begs forgiveness from the Mare Unicorn and sets out to retrieve the lost “alicorn,” which is the technical term for a unicorn’s horn.
While Jack is off fighting some really, REALLY bizarre things, the Mare Unicorn and Princess Lily are captured by the Lord of Darkness himself.
Not to fret, though. With love, hope, trust and faith guiding him (not to mention a few Gumps, fairies, and trolls), Jack defeats the darkness, saves the Unicorns, and rescues the princess.
And coming in at #1 on my list is Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon (2010), directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders.
Some of you may think this one is the farthest stretch, because it’s a dragon. There is arguably nothing remotely equid about a dragon. But when you look at the story of this movie, it has every classic ingredient required for a good horse movie. One, a hapless, young underdog who never quite fits in with his peers. Two, an overbearing authority figure who struggles to maintain a relationship with our young underdog. And finally, a magical, mystical animal who bonds with our underdog in a way that nobody quite understands allowing him to defeat crazy odds and become a hero.
When I watch this movie, I get all goose bumpy during the Hiccup-Toothless bonding scenes and I can’t help but smile from ear to ear during the “Test Drive” scene. It reminds me of the way I felt galloping around the course during my first XC round… including the part where the plan went all to heck somewhere in the middle of the ride but we quickly regained our
composure and it was the most AWESOME THING EVER! Whew… anyway… here’s the clip.
I give all of these movies 4 out of 4 Winged, Alicorned, Sparkly Horseshoes