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Western Animation / The Unicorn in the Garden

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"I'm absolutely certain you're going to need a strait-jacket."

"The unicorn is a mythical beast."

"The Unicorn In The Garden" is a 1953 animated short directed by William T. Hurtz, produced by UPA and released through Columbia Pictures. The short is based directly on James Thurber's short story of the same name, originally published in The New Yorker magazine on October 21, 1939, and later collected in Fables For Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated (1940). The short closely imitates the style of the author's own illustrations and cartoons. Like many of Thurber's fictions, "The Unicorn in the Garden" deals with the fundamental conflict between men and women, and the romantic vs. practical mindset represented by each, respectively.



  • Aside Glance: The husband after his wife is taken away to the asylum.
  • Cassandra Truth: The husband telling his wife about the unicorn, and later what the wife tells the psychiatrist and the police.
  • Catchphrase: The unicorn is a mythical beast.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Some younger viewers may not realize that "booby" here has nothing to do with breasts, but refers to the mentally ill: the "booby-hatch" is an insane asylum.
  • Henpecked Husband: Typical of Thurber's stories.
  • Ironic Echo: The wife first tells the husband "The unicorn is a mythical beast", then later the psychiatrist asks if the husband told the wife there was a unicorn, which would mean the wife was not crazy, to which the husband replies "Of course not. The unicorn is a mythical beast."
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: The husband tries to get his wife to come outside to see the unicorn, but she refuses. By the time he returns outside, the unicorn is gone.
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  • Limited Animation: The 'toon is extremely stylized, as was typical of all UPA animation. In this particular case, this may be because the style is that of the original story's author.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: There is a live-action rendition of this short, which cleverly chooses not to show the unicorn itself. Watch it here.
  • Lohengrin and Mendelssohn: Felix Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" plays — as the wife is being carried off to the asylum, no less!
  • Mistaken for Insane: A man witnesses a unicorn in his garden, and tells his wife about it. By the time the wife looks, the unicorn is already gone, resulting in her attempting to get her husband committed to an asylum. The attempt fails... because the way she explains things to the doctors make it sound like she's the insane one, which leads to her being the one sent away. When the doctors question the man, the man wisely claims he did not tell his wife anything about a unicorn.
  • Poor Communication Kills: What gets the authorities thinking the wife is crazy instead of the husband: the way she presents her story is as if she thinks the events are true, as opposed to just repeating the outlandish things her husband claimed. The husband's Ironic Echo just seals the deal.
  • Spoof Aesop: Don't count your boobies until they are hatched.
  • Unicorn: Which is, of course, a mythical beast.