In 2015, Alberto Vázquez co-directed and co-wrote Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, an adult animated horror-drama film that gained international recognition for its unique combination of surrealism, nihilism, striking visuals, and shocking violence. While Vázquez has continued to produce award-winning animated shorts since Birdboy's debut, his return to feature-length animation with Unicorn Wars in 2022 is highly anticipated.
Unicorn Wars, much like Birdboy, is a brutal film that is sure to make a lasting impression. Described as "Bambi meets Apocalypse Now," the provocative and crude nature of the film is intriguing and promises to be one of the best offerings in feature-length animation this year.
So, what is Unicorn Wars about?
Unicorn Wars is a peculiar clash between anthropomorphized teddy bears and unicorns, fueled by the bears’ religious beliefs. What sets Unicorn Wars apart is the successful blend of cute characters with striking, violent visuals. The story establishes that unicorns once coexisted with bears and other wild animals in a magical forest until the bears discovered a sacred book in the ruins of a church. With the knowledge gained from the tome, the bears developed a human-like civilization and attained sentience. They evolved into brightly colored Care Bear-like teddy bears who believed that they had claim over the forest.
The bears’ doctrine dictates that a Chosen One must rise up and drink the blood of the last unicorn to end the long-enduring holy war. This act would usher in a new age and mark the arrival of a godlike being. The unicorns find themselves as the target of the bears’ oppressive, religion-infused military regime. In the film’s opening, Azulín, a new recruit in the bears’ ranks, desires to become the Chosen One at any cost.
Unicorn Wars is not a film for children. Alberto Vázquez, the writer and director of the film, has created an adult-animated movie that delves into the horrors of war. The themes explored in Unicorn Wars are not suitable for children and the movie takes a hyper-violent, absurdist approach towards the nature of war. It is more in line with classic war films such as the tragic and quietly devastating Grave of the Fireflies (1988) rather than kid-friendly entertainment.
In the present, Azulín and Gordi, the teddy bear brothers, undergo rigorous training under a harsh drill sergeant and are exposed to an anti-unicorn gospel preached by their priest. This religious doctrine not only justifies the teddy bears' hatred towards their enemies but also fuels Azulín's aspirations of becoming the Chosen One. However, Azulín harbors resentment towards his kin, including his jealousy towards Gordi for being born first and winning their mother's favor, his disdain towards Coco, the teddy bear army's top recruit, and his act of poisoning his own mother after she leaves their father for another lover.
When Azulín and his troop were sent to rescue missing soldiers in the forest, he was driven by savage ambition and encouraged by the bears' religious indoctrination. The violent and deadly encounter with the unicorns resulted in the killing of a lone unicorn without hesitation. This triggered a retaliation from the other unicorns, leaving only Azulín, Gordi, and top recruit Coco alive. In a fit of rage, Azulín kills Coco and commits a disturbing act, which we won't reveal here.
Spoiler Alert: The ending of Unicorn Wars is discussed below.
During their journey, the brothers come across another group of unicorns, and in a scuffle, Azulín injures one of them. In turn, Azulín is impaled by the unicorn, disfiguring him severely. However, the bear troop finds Azulín and promotes him to Lieutenant, using him as a hero to further their war effort. Meanwhile, Gordi helps the unicorn Azulín wounded, named María, and discovers that the forest's church, which is the source of the bears' sacred text, is now occupied by simians.
Azulín's growing popularity went to his head, leading him to orchestrate a coup against his own superiors. In a power-drunk frenzy, he led the bear army in a brutal attack against the unicorns. The devastating battle left only Azulín, Gordi, and María standing. Driven by blind fury, Azulín murdered both Gordi and María. The blood-soaked aftermath left Azulín alone on the battlefield, where he fulfilled the prophecy of the Chosen One by drinking the blood of the fallen unicorn.
Although this would have been a fitting end to the story, Unicorn Wars had one final twist in store. María's body underwent a monstrous transformation, ultimately taking on the form of the godlike creature foretold in the bears' scripture. This creature consumed both brothers, with María ultimately transforming into a human.
Although the premise of Unicorn Wars may seem wild at first glance, it is definitely a show worth watching. The show's portrayal of senseless, brutal warfare and the power of hateful doctrine is highlighted through the absurdity of anthropomorphic teddy bears battling unicorns. The colorful and cute cast is used cleverly to create striking visuals that will leave viewers disarmed. Don't miss out on this unique and thought-provoking series.
Unicorn Wars offers a unique perspective on the familiar theme of the brutality of war and its impact on individuals. What sets it apart is its exploration of toxic masculinity, the corrupting influence of power and religion. Its storytelling is subversive, and the artwork is hauntingly beautiful. While some may find the violence and vulgarity excessive, Unicorn Wars cannot be denied its powerful impact.