GKIDS’ Unicorn Wars is now available digitally and playing theatrically in select markets. Directed and written by Alberto Vázquez of Birdboy fame, the film is a brutal look at the horrors of war as teddy bears and unicorns have been in a brutal tussle in order to complete an ancient prophecy. This imagery of childhood icons in teddy bears and unicorns, is very much on purpose as he prefers to subvert universally understood stories.
“[I] enjoy this tone and looking for these tones’ contrasts in these fables — that they take us to our childhood memories and are universally understood by everyone,” Vázquez told ComingSoon. “Even if you’re a Japanese person, even if you are Russian or Spanish, or you can see and you can relate to them. Then he takes those characters and stories to this cruel world in order to to create those contrasts.”
Another perk to dealing with animation is that he can ratchet up the level of gore without any censorship while still making the audience feel uncomfortable. His aim is always to get a strong reaction.
“Because the main characters are these cute creatures, TV channels and movie theaters will take it and then they’ll see it but it’s in there already. [I] have nothing to worry about. [I’m] always looking for that uncomfortable feeling in my audience. I’m not afraid to go there.”
Unicorn Wars will be familiar to fan of Vázquez’s work as it is an expansion of his previous short film Blood Unicorn. His other inspirations were war movies such as Platoon and Apocalypse Now, while also incorporating ideas from Bambi and religious movies.
“Most war movies are anti-war and have a clear message of anti-war, unless it’s a movie done by the Nazis back in the day or North Korea that have a clear propaganda objective,” explains Vázquez. “[I] like the universal theme that all these war movies have, which is clearly anti-war.”
While Vázquez didn’t imagine an actual invasion in Europe would occur when he started developing this movie, he wanted to tell a universal story that wars could happen anywhere.
“[I] could picture more of a technological war, maybe, but also tried to tell this universal story that wars could happen anywhere and they are always happening anywhere in the world. At the same time, there are two wars happening at the same time [in Unicorn Wars]. One is the internal war taking place between the two siblings fighting for the love of their mother, and the other one is the external war — the teddy bears against the unicorns.”
What has been most satisfying for Vázquez is getting to see audience reactions. He notes that those between 15 and 30 have been connecting with the movie the most, which shows how powerful adult animation can be.