Aug 28, 2009

[Movies] FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)

FernGully: The Last RainforestThe strong industrialization vs the environment themes presented in the trailers for James Cameron's Avatar had a lot of my fellow geek friends thinking about a much older animated movie that addressed the same topic - FernGully. I never got to catch this cartoon in the theater myself and pretty much got to catch it during the really strong video rental era when everyone borrowed VHS tapes and (gasp!) laserdiscs!

You know these kinds of movies - the ones that studios struggled to get out there since they weren't part of the Disney animated empire. Sure, these days we have the likes of Dreamworks presenting serious competition to Disney in the animated movie arena, but back in the 90's Disney pretty much dominated and thus it was a small miracle that movies like this made a mark on our collective childhood experiences the way it did.

FernGully: The Last RainforestImage via Wikipedia

FernGully: The Last Rainforest is a lesser-known animated movie from 1992. The story followed the magical land of FernGully and the various fairies and pixies who cared for the rainforest. Things changed when a group of loggers started to cut down the forest. One of the loggers, Zak (Jonathan Ward), encounters Crysta (Samantha Mathis) of FernGully who saves his life from a falling tree by shrinking him with her magic. Together with the fruit bat Batty Koda (Robin Williams), Crysta shows Zak the wonders of the rainforest. At the same time, the loggers eventually cut down the ancient tree that served as the prison of Hexxus (Tim Curry), who is an evil spirit that the fairies of FernGully once fought and eventually defeated. He then proceeds to steer the efforts of the loggers towards FernGully in order to vanquish his enemies once and for all.

The animation style was decent enough for its time, a period still covered pretty much by hand-drawn art but already was visually enhanced by touches of computer animation here and there. It gave things a nice clean look that seems to have become par for the course for many cartoons on TV today.

The story itself was strangely gripping despite the very strong environmental tones. It's not that I have anything against the environment - it's just that more often than not, such messages end up being afterthoughts that don't mesh well with the core story. Thus you end up with a sloppy piece of storytelling with a sometimes unexpected moral at the end. This was not the case for this movie and the overall result was quite delightful.

I'm not sure what they were thinking in terms of the voice talents since performances were rather mixed. They got the job done well enough, I suppose, and perhaps another factor might be some of the awkward dialog written for them at the time. The character of Batty was clearly introuduced for no real value other than comic relief and this wasn't written all that well. I'm sure Robin Williams did the best he could givne the limitations, but they definitely could have done better.

FernGully remains to be a poignant and memorable movie from our animated childhood past and will now become required viewing for anyone planning on watching James Cameron's Avatar. Just trust me on this - it'll all make sense in December when the movie comes out.

FernGully gets 3.5 tree Levelers out of a possible 5.

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