The Last Unicorn - An Untold Story
Written by Joshua Keezer
The Last Unicorn is a very popular story both in book and movie format. It is a beloved classic cherished by thousands. And it is perhaps the only well known book by Peter S. Beagle. The story behind The Last Unicorn is a sad one but with luck and fan support, it can become a good one.
Peter S. Beagle has spent the last five years of his life living on rice and beans. Despite the DVD release of The Last Unicorn that sold over 500,000 copies internationally, Peter hasn't been paid a single penny. Why? Because the company that is selling the DVD says he isn't owed a penny.
I had the opportunity to meet with Peter S. Beagle and his publisher Connor Freff Cochran. Connor said it best, Peter is too nice of a guy. I'll relate the story as best as I can to you.
Peter S. Beagle is an amazing author. In one of the stories he discussed at DragonCon, he talked about how one of his teachers submitted a Sonnet he wrote to a publishing contest and that Sonnet earned him a full scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. He has other books available besides the Last Unicorn and if you have had the chance to read any of them, you can tell just how great an author he is.
However, Peter S. Beagle's amazing talent and overall great guy has come with a price. He has gone through a couple of bad agents who have done him in poorly. Plus some bad luck have left him in a very hard shape. Let me tell you about the Peter S. Beagle I met at DragonCon this weekend.
In 2000, Peter S. Beagle published the book A Dance for Emilia which was written, in part as a manner of coping for a good friend of his who had died. This friend he wrote to frequently. On occasions, this friend would refer to one of his friends name Freff in the letters to Peter. After 9/11 Connor Fref Cochran went to a signing in New York while trying to deal with the grief from 9/11 and he ran into at the same signing Peter S. Beagle. They realized that they both were the friend on the other side of the letter.
Connor and Peter became close friends and Connor quickly learned some things about Peter S. Beagle. The biggest, and most important, was that Peter S. Beagle was struggling desperately financially. He lived on rice and beans and Peter admitted at one point he stole food from a grocery store just to feed his family. That's right, the beloved author of a classic story is trying to keep his home from being foreclosed on and stealing to feed his family.
Connor asked himself why is such an amazing author doing so poorly. And when he looked into it, he discovered just why. In a very, very brief nutshelf, Peter S. Beagle is a really nice guy and has been letting people walk over him. So Conner is getting involved to make things right.
I'm not going to get into every detail here. Because we are talking tons of stories. But the biggest story was mentioned early on. Peter S. Beagle has never been paid for the Last Unicorn on DVD or VHS in its most recent release. The rights to the movie were owned by a company that did nothing with the movie. The company was purchased. That company was purchased. And then that company was purchased. Then the company that had the rights realized they owned the rights to the movie and began selling the DVD across the world. But because of all of the company buy outs, the current company says they do not owe a penny to Peter S. Beagle.
Conlan Press is in the process of preparing a massive lawsuit to get Peter what he is owed. Because they do not have information on the number of VHS unit sales, they are unsure how much is due to Peter S. Beagle. But they conservative estimate puts it around $1.5 million dollars.
Currently Connor and Peter are working together to try and get Peter back on his feet fully and they will be getting into a legal campaign soon. Connor didn't get into the details of what they are planning on doing. But it looks like the first thing they want to do is get the true story behind The Last Unicorn spread.
If you want to help, the first thing you can do is go to http://www.peterbeagle.com/raven/
and signup for their mailing list. With the mailing list, you get updates for new books, occasionally freebie stories. Plus as needed they will include information on how you can help them by who to write and what needs to be said.
The most important thing of all is you can spread the word. Share this information with everyone you can. The more people who know and sign up to The Raven, the better it will be in the long run.
Now this is only a tiny tip of the story. I spent quite a bit of time with Conner and was at all but one of the panel discussions with Peter S. Beagle. I have other stories such as the deal with the live action movie that will, at this rate, never be published. But how about some good news.
There is a sequel to The Last Unicorn about to be published. It is one of many books that they are currently working towards releasing. And those who sign up for The Raven get all of the news and even free sneak peaks.
Please spread the word. Copy and Paste this story into your livejournal. Write your own version. Post to to Myspace or other blogging sites. Post it on Forum boards. Ask others to do the same. It is the least you can do.