aka Ferngully: The Adventures of Zak and Crysta
Director – Bill Kroyer, Screenplay – Jim Cox, Based on the Fern Gully Stories by Diana Young, Producers – Peter Faiman & Wayne Young, Music – Alan Silvestri, Music Supervisors – Becky Mancuso & Tim Sexton, Animation Supervisor – Tony Fucile, Coordinating Art Director – Susan Kroyer. Production Company – FAI Films/Youngheart Productions
Samantha Mathis (Crysta), Jonathan Ward (Zak Young), Robin Williams (Batty Koda), Christian Slater (Pips), Tim Curry (Hexxus), Grace Zabriskie (Magi Lune), Geoffrey Blake (Ralph), Robert Pastorelli (Tony), Cheech Marin (Stump), Tommy Chong (Rool), Tone-Loc (The Goanna)
In peaceful Fern Gully, the fairy Crysta sees smoke coming from Mount Warning and flies up above the canopy of the forest where she is shocked to discover that it is a logging operation. She is then caught by a human boy Zak Young. Trying to conduct a spell to save him from a falling tree, she instead accidentally shrinks Zak down to her size. The loggers cut down a gnarled old black tree and inadvertently release the evil Hexus who has been imprisoned there. Hexus then possesses the logging machine known as The Leveler and directs the loggers to move in to flatten Fern Gully.
These days no kiddie film simply ‘is’ – the margins have to be carefully examined for Political Correctness. The lengths some of the Disney films of the 1990s went to avoid this was excruciating, the worst offender being Pocahontas (1995). Ferngully: The Last Rainforest comes as all but a recruitment film for Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. The film takes itself and its message with ponderous seriousness – the end credits dedicate the film to ‘our children’s children’ and thank the US Postal Service ‘for raising environmental concerns’. The film operates on simplistic reductions – evil is associated with heavy machinery, pollution, deforestation and oil slicks, which is referred to as being of ‘a force outside of nature’. The good guys on the other hand live in a state of child-like innocence in harmony with nature in the forest (where apparently there are no predators), are able to feel the pain of trees and rely upon the simplest magic within, which consists of planting seeds.
All of this might have been palatable if the film had some substance to go along with its soapbox preaching. Mostly though, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest cruises along on feelgood automatic pilot. It reaches for cliche images of awe – choruses and misty lights – with thoroughly banal effect. Everything is undercut by the appeal to trendy culture referencing – rapping Goanas, the hero surfing on leaves and the like.
The songs are forgettable despite some of the names brought in – Elton John and Tone-Loc – although Tim Curry has a good number called Toxic Love. Curry’s villain is surprisingly wimpy – once unleashed he never does much and is overcome with surprising ease. Among the voice cast, the best is Robin Williams as a loopy bat that has escaped from an experimental lab where Williams characteristically rises to the fore, giving what seems to be a wholly improvised performance.
The sequel was Ferngully: The Magical Rescue (1997).