Anomaly Appraisal: Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest

Via: The Internet Movie Poster Awards

Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest is one of those films that I must have seen when I was younger. I was smack in the middle of the target audience at the time and I definitely did see Aladdin when it came out mere months before/after.

Yet I had forgotten about it for years until last week when I was at Wal-Mart. Having picked up a bicycle seat (as you do), I strolled past the DVD section. Lo and behold! There was a $5 bin stuffed to the gills with DVDs.

Since I like animation in all shapes and forms, I have become accustomed to rummaging through such bins because you never know what you’ll find. Naturally I came across Fern Gully. For $5? How could I not! So I did, and the other night, I watched it.

What can I say? It’s a decent enough film that left me pleasantly surprised. The animation is superb with plenty of lovely traditional animation and hand-painted backgrounds. There’s also some 3-D CGI that is as good as anything Disney put out at the time. Hans Perk (of A. Film L.A.) did some animation, as did Ralph Eggleston. So it seems that at least a few famous folks were involved in making this film as beautiful as it is.

The plot is fine, if somewhat generic. Sure, it plays on the whole ‘environmentalism’ fad that was happening at the time (remember this was the early 90s) although it is quite believable in the context of the setting. The script itself is slow. A large portion of the movie is devoted to the main characters travelling around the world they live in. It may be a side effect of the short running time (80 mins) that leaves the actual plot to do with Hexus as something of an afterthought.

The music (as excellently composed by Alan Silvestri as it is) is now rather dated, as is the film itself. Besides the music, the big giveaway is the language. “Tubular” and “bodacious” are just two and are far from the only examples. Yes, this film is very much from the late 80s/early 90s.

Indeed, Fern Gully has company in this regard. Tangled walks the very same, fine line that divides a film between being timeless and being time-framed. I have no doubt that in ten years, Tangled will look much the same age as Fern Gully looks today, unfortunately.

As for the characters, they are certainly likeable. There’s nothing wrong with that except that their development is cut short by the running time. They are the usual motley crew that inhabited animated films before Pixar came along. I.e. the smart one, the good-looking dumb one. the hangers-on, the hero, the villain. Nothing makes most of them stand out from the crowd. Having said that, I did find two characters who did.

Crysta, our protagonist, is by far the most interesting of all the characters. There is a lot on her shoulders (as we learn throughout the film) that weighs upon her mind. She is strong character that is determined in her ways while at the same time caring for the bewildered human (Zak) who has literally fallen into her life.

She has that happy-go-lucky charm that imbues all the virtues of a good female character while being assertive enough in her ways to avoid being labelled a pushover. Look at the screencap below.

Now there’s a great shot. The crossed arms, the lip-bite and the dozens of eyes staring out just scream the inquisitive nature of our heroine. How about another one:

I’ve seen that face literally dozens of times. She does exactly that with my face as well and every time it makes me wonder whether I’ve missed my calling as a clown.

Crysta is the most developed of all the characters, so much so, that without her, the film would be indubitably more boring.

The second characteris given some criminally short screen time. That would be Hexus, voiced by the one and only Tim Curry, who manages to bring out so much of the sleaze and evilness in the character, it makes you wonder how awesome the film would be if he’d been given more screen time.

Tim Curry provides a superb balance to Robin Williams who hams it up as Batty. Hexus is effortlessly sublime to Robbin’s lunacy, which is far more abrasive than his other performance of the year as the Genie in Aladdin. Of note is something Brad Bird posted over on Cartoon Brew a few years ago (how I manage to find these things I do not know):

Very few people remember that Williams was also the voice of a key character in FERNGULLY that same year and it didn’t help the film’s boxoffice.

Sadly it didn’t, although the film is no worse for it. Williams is given a wild script but it is clear that he was not given the same freedom that he was for Aladdin, where the character of the Genie was so dependent on him being who he is.

Interestingly enough, Fern Gully is set in Australia and was partially produced there. As such, I asked Australia’s favourite son and my good chum, Elliot Cowan what he thought of it:

Fern Gully is an enormous pile of shit that is about as Australian as Abraham Lincoln.

So The Secret of Kells it isn’t. That should not detract you from seeking Fern Gully out though. You will be rewarded by a lovely looking film with some very 90s songs that may provide a bit of a respite from all the CGI that is being thrown your way these days. Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest is available at Wal-Mart and Target for the low, low price of $5 (plus tax).

5 thoughts on “Anomaly Appraisal: Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest

    1. The similarities are eerie aren’t they? Although the idea isn’t entirely original. I understand the the creators of the film ‘Delgo’ were close to suing James Cameron for stealing the story from their film too!

  1. Hello, Charles Kenny,

    I turned 13 during the early 1990s, but I didn’t see many movies besides Disney movies back then, so my first exposure to this movie must’ve been during the 1990s….on a rental VHS. I just got the Blu-ray for myself for Easter ’18, but I won’t watch the movie until Easter Sunday.

    I like your analysis of the movie; ironically, I first found this piece by searching for an image, and thinking that the rest of the description was gonna say that you knew a dozen guys whose GIRLFRIENDS had scrunched their faces up the way that Crysta scrunches Zak’s face up (LOL!). If you don’t mind my asking, how old were you, or, roughly how old were you, when you first watched the movie?

    I love the idea of movie analysis, and of the connection of movies to the social importance of their release years. I don’t really remember the Retro Hippie / Environmental movement of the late 1980s / the early 1990s, because I was mostly immersed in the worlds of Disney and Barbie….and medical stuff….at the time (I was that girl who loved dinosaurs from a young age, but who was drawn to materialism, Disney, Barbie, and the idea of having people crowd around her….Ironically, I now love materialism, but I don’t want ANY crowds around me! I still think that Jessica Rabbit is pretty, but I don’t want to be a famous actress anymore! I wouldn’t mind being in a few more musicals, though….)

    Anyway….I later discovered exactly what you were saying about that Retro Environmental, Etc. trend….I watched “I Love the ’80s” during college, and, on one episode of that show, they said that the late 1980s brought back an interest in the Counter Culture. I think that that was due to the fact that the worst years of The Vietnam War were about a decade old during 1986-1992, or so….

    Come to think of it, although I was very materialistic, I differed from my 1990s college peers, in that I cared about issues. I was willing to post petitions, but nobody cared. I was worried about the litter in our T.V. den, about the fact that our microwave had a hole in the ceiling, and about the fact that whenever someone flushed a toilet, someone else would be burned in the shower by near-scalding water!

    When I was in college, I bought clothing at The Goodwill, and I won Disco dancing contests….and listened to Oldies from the 60s, the 70s, and the 80. Once a few years had passed, I went to the library to buy old magazines from the 1980s, rode the bus alone, watched slashers alone at the theatre, and went for Midnight walks around the campus. I fell in love with old music (Hall & Oates and Rick Springfield), won a Disco dancing contest (I must give an acquaintance the credit for getting me out of my room for that one!), and insisted upon loving all things Tiffany, even when one of my roommates gave me Hell for wanting to watch “The Jetsons”, and ditched me right before the movie started. When I tried out, unsuccessfully, for the cheerleading team, I misunderstood the term “Create a new cheer”, and, instead of just creating a new dance, I made up an entire cheer….and a dance! LOL!

    It was tough to get me on board with The Green Movement, though. I was sooo against it at first. After all, I grew up hearing, “Calgon, take me away!”, and I loved my long showers! I still don’t want California to have another drought, because my hair is now down past my butt, and it takes forever to wash and condition.

    One way in which I am on board with environmentalism is with regard to health issues! This is ironic, as I won’t give up sugar, or my extensive Barbie collection (I love dolls!), but I gave up makeup during about 2010 – 2012, and I try to eat more healthfully, and to feed my chickens healthfully.

    I have had a ton of surgeries, and I have several medical conditions, some of which were discovered much later, and at least one that nobody knows much about. My parents were War Babies / Baby Boomers, who played with mercury, and who walked past nuclear plants, but the doctors would’ve taken them to court when I was born….if they hadn’t agreed to let the hospital save me. That was the late 1970s for ya’; save for salvation’s sake, without thinking about how some poor kid had to grow up….and now my situation doesn’t even let me know how I’ll age, because one of my medical conditions is still unable to be treated, and not much is known….. My last two heart surgeries were about 9 months apart (2013 and 2014), and the second one was very experimental….and very major….

    So….for ME, environmentalism is about making sure that tomorrow’s children are healthy kids, instead of….experiments….

    With regard to “Fern Gully” itself, I can only remember that it was an interesting movie, with cool music, and an unusual, truly environmental message, and a heroine who looked very daring….and not very traditional.

    Come to think of it, Crysta’s outfit now reminds me of the fact that, during the early 1990s, girls from my school were actually getting sent HOME for wearing crop tops that bared their MIDRIFFS. Oh, how SHOCKING! LOL! Well, for the time, but after The Belly-Baring Era, all bets were off! LOL!

    Well, again, cool article, and happy Spring! 🙂

    Peppermint Snowdrift

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