Review: Unicorn Academy (Netflix)

As soon as I saw the previews for Netflix's new animated series, Unicorn Academy, I couldn't get over how similar it looked to Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders. Teenagers forming magical bonds with unicorns to save the world from evil? Yes, please! With a Jewel Riders graphic novel on the horizon, this is the perfect time to revisit that premise. Unicorn Academy is loosely based on a book series of the same name that got picked up by Netflix and recently aired its first season. The premiere movie and successive eight episodes follow six unicorns and their riders on their quest to protect the magical realm from the evil Ravenzella, who performed reprehensible acts to previous generations, including the father of the main character, Sophia. The show contains a lot of teen angst and drama as well as rainbows, sparkles, and magic.


Although Unicorn Academy features an entire school full of unicorn riders training to be protectors, it only focuses on the six students living at the Sapphire dorm. Aside from some key scenes in the premiere and finale, the show rarely includes any background characters, possibly due to budget costs. Sophia, the main character, is entirely new to the world of Unicorn Academy and spends most of the premiere in awe at learning that unicorns are real and her father used to train with them. She bonds with Wildstar, the same unicorn that her father had bonded with before he was defeated by the wicked Ravenzella. Ava, who rides a unicorn named Leaf, immediately becomes best friends with Sophia, creating the foundation of the show's later drama revolving around forgiveness. Ava's personality is very similar to Glimmer from Netflix's She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and so is the drama revolving around her obsession with friendship. My favorite unicorn rider was Layla, a shy bookish nerd who bonds with an ice unicorn and must slowly come out of her shell to protect her friends. There was also a token "mean" girl, a token boy, and a token tomboy.

With its continuous storyline and darker themes, Unicorn Academy is geared toward a slightly older audience than Netflix's recent preschool series, Princess Power, though most kids beyond elementary school age probably won't get much out of it. It has a plot in which most of the problems could have easily been resolved with a simple conversation. The show's greatest weakness is its villain. Though Ravenzella is certainly threatening, she is a very one-note stereotypical Saturday morning cartoon villain with no apparent motivation. All she wants to do is hurt people for the sake of hurting people, which is something she has done for decades without remorse. The press release for this show compares itself to Winx Club, but the Trix are more interesting villains due to the fact that there are three of them and that they attended a rival school and attacked the main characters to prove that their school was better. In fact, in some of the later Unicorn Academy episodes, Sophia felt like a bigger villain than Ravenzella because her pride often stood in the way of everyone else's success.

My favorite thing about Unicorn Academy is its design aesthetic. I would have preferred if it was 2D animation instead of CGI, but I guess that's just the style nowadays. The diverse cast is distinctive and relatable. Although there are no magical transformation sequences, each student gets bright rainbow-colored hair streaks when they bond with their unicorn, creating a vibrant effect that would be difficult to recreate in real life. The unicorns have sparkly rainbow-colored magic that is pleasant to watch and reminds me of the magical beams that the Jewel Riders shot from their enchanted jewels. The Unicorn Academy itself is a stunning building housed on a magical floating island that is reminiscent of Alfea, the fairy school from Winx Club. The show's bright and girly color palette makes it a charming escape from the more muted tones of everyday life, giving it a psychedelic aesthetic that can only be found in female-oriented fantasy shows. Who doesn't love seeing sparkly unicorns?

Unicorn Academy offers an enchanting blend of nostalgic elements and contemporary storytelling. While the focus on the main characters at the Sapphire dorm sometimes overshadows the larger school setting, the dynamics between the riders create a compelling foundation for drama and personal growth. The character designs with their magical rainbow-themed aesthetics add to the show's visual appeal. However, the one-dimensional villain and occasional lack of depth in conflict resolution prevent Unicorn Academy from fully reaching its potential. For younger fans of magical unicorn-themed series, this show provides an enjoyable and visually captivating escape into a world of sparkles, rainbows, and teenage friendships.

Comments

Sugar said…
I have always loved animated programs about magical school academies and boarding schools, it was what motivated me to watch Regal Academy, Ignio's other program, and I still have to watch Angel's Friends. Have you seen it?
I would like to know if this series having romance in Winx Club was part of its appeal with some couples being more peaceful than others.Know? I have always wanted to see a Harry Potter-style series but focused more on women since I was always a bigger fan of the Fairy Oak books by Elisabetha Gnone than of Harry, but the idea of ​​a magical boarding school, a protagonist who makes friends there and a great evil Winning over time attracts me.
Maybe a cute world in pastel tones, with a kind-hearted teenage protagonist similar to Sophia the First, which would add romance to the themes of friendship and redemption (cute romance, not selfish teenage drama please) and a threatening but not so dark villain Dark as Voldemort.
Lisa Dawn said…
Yes, I've seen a little of Regal Academy. Unicorn Academy doesn't have a romance, but the new anime series, I'm Giving the Disgraced Noble Lady I Rescued a Crash Course in Naughtiness, is one of the cutest romance shows I've ever seen! It rules my heart right now.
So I've only seen the pilot movie and some clips, but I did look up some of the people working the show. There's some notable animation veterans here. Case in point, the series was developed by Robert Lamoreaux and Michelle Lamoreaux, who had previously worked on shows like Hey Arnold, Martin Mystery, Totally Spies, HiHi Puffy AmiYumi, and Shimmer And Shine. The first four shows are rated TV-Y7 like this series, which fits with the types of shows they normally work on. One of the executive producers here is Laura Sreenby, who was a writer on shows like The Lion Guard and She Ra And The Princesses Of Power, the latter of which is also rated TV-Y7 like this show. Mainframe Studios helped in developing the series, and they're best known for working on the Barbie franchise. Notably, the pilot movie is directed by Cassi Simonds, who was an editor on various Barbie movies, and directed Barbie And Chelsea The Lost Birthday and episodes of Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures and Barbie It Takes Two.

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