FernGully: The Last Rainforest
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBill Kroyer
Screenplay byJim Cox
Based onFernGully
by Diana Young
Produced byPeter Faiman
Wayne Young
Starring
Edited byGillian Hutshing
Music byAlan Silvestri
Production
companies
Kroyer Films, Inc.[a]
Youngheart Productions
FAI Films
Distributed by20th Century Fox (United States)
Hoyts-Fox-Columbia TriStar Films (Australia)[1]
Release dates
  • April 10, 1992 (1992-04-10) (North America)
  • August 27, 1992 (1992-08-27) (Australia)
Running time
76 minutes
CountriesAustralia[2]
United States[2]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$24 million[3]
Box office$32.7 million[4]

FernGully: The Last Rainforest is a 1992 independent[5] animated musical fantasy film. The feature directorial debut by Bill Kroyer, FernGully was scripted by Jim Cox and adapted from the "FernGully" stories by Diana Young. The film is an Australian and American[2] venture produced by Kroyer Films, Inc., Youngheart Productions, FAI Films, and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It stars the voices of Tim Curry, Samantha Mathis, Christian Slater, Jonathan Ward, Robin Williams and Grace Zabriskie. FernGully is set in an Australian rainforest inhabited by fairies, including Crysta, who accidentally shrinks a young logger named Zak to the size of a fairy. Together, they rally the fairies and the animals of the rainforest to protect their home from the loggers and Hexxus, a malevolent pollution entity. Wayne Young, the film's producer, said that the film was "blatantly environmental", although he made an effort to avoid "preaching".

The film was released to mainly positive reviews, and was generally considered a moderate financial success at both the box office and in home video sales. In 1998, it was followed by a direct-to-video sequel, FernGully 2: The Magical Rescue, although none of the original voice cast reprised their roles.

Plot

Crysta is a fairy of curious nature who lives in FernGully, a picturesque rainforest free from human pollution. The fairies of FernGully once lived in harmony with humans, who are believed to be extinct after having been driven away by a dark and evil spirit of destruction, Hexxus. Crysta is the apprentice of Magi, a fairy who imprisoned Hexxus in a tree.

One day, Crysta explores a new part of the forest and meets Batty Koda, a bat who was experimented on by humans, giving him a manic and deluded personality, and an electric device sticking out of his head. Crysta accompanies Batty to investigate the humans' potential return. She meets Zak, a young lumberjack who Crysta inadvertently shrinks when she tries saving him from being crushed by a falling tree, although she does not know how to restore him to normal size. Zak initially believes Crysta to be hostile, but gains her trust when she saves him from a hungry goanna.

The tree in which Hexxus is imprisoned is cut down by Zak's supervisors, Tony and Ralph, having accidentally been marked by Zak when he used his spray can to deal with a pesky fly. Hexxus quickly begins to regain his powers by eating the machine's polluting elements. He tricks Tony and Ralph to drive to FernGully.

In FernGully, Zak meets Pips, a fairy who is jealous of Zak's relationship with Crysta. Zak begins to fall in love with Crysta, but hides the true reason about the humans' return. When the signs of Hexxus's resurrection begin manifesting themselves in poisoned trees and rivers, Zak finally admits that humans are destroying the forest. The fairies mount an attempt to defend their homes. Knowing their fight is hopeless, Zak convinces Batty to help him stop the machine before it destroys them. After Zak makes his presence known to Tony and Ralph, Hexxus takes over the machine and begins to wildly destroy the forest.

Meanwhile, Magi sacrifices herself to give the fairies a chance, and she tells Crysta to remember everything she has learned. Zak disables the machine, depriving Hexxus of the source of his power, but he manifests himself within the oil in the machine and begins to set the forest ablaze. Crysta allows herself to be devoured by Hexxus, and all seems lost until he begins to sprout limbs and leaves like a tree. Pips and the rest of the fairies rally to the powers given by Magi, which causes the seed that Crysta fed Hexxus to wildly start growing. Hexxus and the machine are both imprisoned by the newly grown tree at FernGully's border, which bursts into bloom.

With FernGully saved, Crysta reunites with Zak and succeeds Magi as a magical fairy. She gives Zak a seed, asking him to remember everything that has transpired, and she forlornly restores him to his human size. Remembering the seed in his hand, Zak promises to remember his adventure, and buries the seed in the soil before telling Tony and Ralph that things need to change, as they leave the forest behind. Touched by his act, Crysta helps the seed to sprout new growth for FernGully, before playfully chasing Pips, with Batty following.

Voice Cast

Tim Curry, a Caucasian man with a beard and short brown hair facing the viewer and smiling. He is wearing a Tuxedo.
Tim Curry, pictured in 1995, provided the voice for Hexxus, the film's main antagonist.

Themes

In the book, Disney, Pixar, and the Hidden Messages of Children's Films, M. Keith Booker states that FernGully "focuses on the theme of the destruction of the Earth's rainforests. In this case the rainforest is located near Mount Warning, on the eastern coast of Australia, but the theme is global, and the specific location is not particularly emphasized." Despite the environmental theme, Booker wrote that the film was "somewhat vague in its explanation of the dire consequences of rainforest destruction, and it addresses the economic impetus behind this destruction hardly at all"; the fact that the rainforest was saved at the end of the film "diminishes the urgency of its environmentalist message", and that the character of Hexxus "displaces the real blame for environmental destruction from its real perpetrators onto nonexistent supernatural perpetrators, further diluting the political message". The character of Batty was said to introduce "the secondary theme of animal experimentation, though with a light touch that presents this potentially horrifying motif as essentially humorous".[6]

In the book, Eco-Impacts and the Greening of Postmodernity, Tom Jagtenberg and David McKie comment that radical views of ecology flourished in the film, perhaps because it was "aimed at a younger generation... and belong[s] to relatively discredited genres". As Zak is shrunk to fairy size and integrated into the fairy world, more similarities rather than differences are implied with the nonhuman characters. Crysta is said to defeat the evil Hexxus "in the manner of classic western genre heroes", although with the key difference that her weapon is a seed rather than a revolver, allowing the produce of nature to share the heroic role with her.[7]

Production

Producer Wayne Young said that his passion for the environment was his motivation for making the film, saying that the film was "blatantly environmental, although we have gone to a lot of trouble to avoid preaching. We also want it to be viewed as entertainment."

The inspiration for FernGully came from stories written by his former wife, Diana Young.[8][9] Diana first wrote the story of FernGully fifteen years before the film's release. Wayne said that the couple planned a film adaptation for five years, then spent "seven years of dreaming and hustling, followed by another three years of production". Wayne stated that their dream was not possible until the success of Walt Disney Feature Animation's 1989 film, The Little Mermaid, which helped bring popularity back to animation.[3] Hand-drawn scenes in the film were complemented by computer animation, which was used to create elements, such as flocks of birds that would have taken much longer to traditionally animate. Kroyer stated that 40,000 frames of computer-generated graphics were used in the film, and that the use of such animation halved the production time.[10] Most of the film's $24 million budget was spent on the animation and the soundtrack.[3]

The film marked Robin Williams's first animation role, with the character Batty Koda being created specifically for him. Williams provided fourteen hours of improvised lines for the part, which had been originally conceived as an eight-minute role. Director Bill Kroyer was so impressed with the voice work that he ended up tripling the screen time given to the character. Williams would provide the voice of the Genie in Disney's Aladdin later in the year, receiving critical acclaim.[11] Williams had already agreed to voice Batty Koda before being approached to do Aladdin. Jeffrey Katzenberg, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, tried to force Williams to withdraw from FernGully, on the grounds that he did not want him voicing two animated characters around the same time, but Williams refused. According to Wayne Young, Disney repeatedly interfered with the production of FernGully, twice taking over spaces that the producers had rented, by offering to pay more. When the producers eventually set up a studio in a former brewery in the San Fernando Valley, Disney attempted to purchase it. Katzenberg declined to comment on the issue when approached by Vanity Fair in 2017.[8]

The voice cast of FernGully agreed with the film's message, and worked for scale wages.[3][12][13] The film marked the first time that both members of Cheech & Chong had worked together in six years, with the two voicing beetle brothers, Stump and Root. Cheech Marin said that "it was just like old times, but we only worked for two or three hours, had a pizza and split".[14]

Music

The film's score was composed and produced by Alan Silvestri.[15] It was released as an album and consisted of 14 tracks, running just under 44 minutes in length.[16]

Soundtrack

The soundtrack album was released by MCA Records. Peter Fawthrop from Allmusic gave the album three stars out of five, commenting that the songs were "lighter and more pop-driven than Disney soundtracks from the '90s, but they are not childish".[17] All songs on the soundtrack were performed in the film.

No.TitleWriter(s)Performer(s)Length
1."Life Is a Magic Thing"Thomas DolbyJohnny Clegg4:30
2."Batty Rap"Thomas DolbyRobin Williams2:52
3."If I'm Gonna Eat Somebody (It Might As Well Be You)"Jimmy Buffett & Mike UtleyTone Loc4:02
4."Toxic Love"Thomas DolbyTim Curry4:39
5."Raining Like Magic"RaffiRaffi3:18
6."Land of a Thousand Dances"Chris KennerGuy2:58
7."A Dream Worth Keeping"Jimmy Webb & Alan SilvestriSheena Easton4:18
8."Some Other World"Elton John & Bruce RobertsElton John4:43
Total length:31:18

Release

FernGully was released in the United States on April 10, 1992, and in Australia on September 17. The film was shown at the United Nations General Assembly on Earth Day, April 22.[18]

Box office

FernGully grossed US$32.7 million worldwide, including $24.7 million from the United States,[4] and $3.4 million in Australia.[19] The box-office performance was described as a moderate success,[20][21] although it grossed below expectations, possibly because of its ecological message.[13] Joseph Gelmis from Newsday, however, described FernGully's box-office performance as "dismal", although he noted that it was the most successful recent non-Disney animated film.[22]

Co-executive producers, Jaime Willett and Josh Baran, who worked on the film's marketing, both spoke of the difficulties of getting attention to an animated film that was not produced by Disney, with Willett stating that box-office revenue would have at least doubled by simply having the headline, "Walt Disney presents", on the film.[20] USA Today noted that the combined box-office gross of FernGully and the five other non-Disney animated films released in 1992 did not equal a third of the gross for Disney's 1991 film, Beauty and the Beast.[23]

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 67%, based on reviews from 18 critics, with an average rating of 6.4/10.[24] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 67 out of 100, based on reviews from 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[25] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of "A" on scale of A+ to F.[26]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it three stars out of four, saying that the film was visually "very pleasing", told a "useful lesson", "and although the movie is not a masterpiece it's pleasant to watch for its humor and sweetness".[27]

Hollis Chacona from The Austin Chronicle added that the film was "funny, pretty, touching, scary, magical stuff".[28]

According to Wayne Young, Jeffrey Katzenberg called the producers of FernGully to tell them that he loved the film.[9]

Conversely, Janet Maslin of The New York Times had an unfavorable impression of the film, describing it as "an uncertain blend of sanctimonious principles and Saturday-morning cartoon aesthetics", and "more run-of-the-mill than its subject matter might indicate".[15]

Legacy

Wayne Young stated that portions of the film's gross would be donated to Greenpeace, the Rainforest Foundation Fund and the Sierra Club, as well as a special fund benefiting environmental projects administered worldwide by the Smithsonian Institution,[3] although he did not disclose exact figures.[9]

The film also inspired a 1992 video game by Capstone Software and IntraCorp, called The FernGully Computerized Coloring Book.[29][30] In 1998, the film was followed by a direct-to-video sequel, FernGully 2: The Magical Rescue.

FAI Films, which produced only FernGully and its sequel, was acquired by HIH Insurance in 1998. HIH closed in 2001. In June 2012, administrators for HIH placed advertisements trying to sell the rights to both films.[31] In November 2021, Shout! Factory made a deal with Machine Media Advisors, acquiring worldwide distribution rights to the film.[32]

Some reviewers have commented that the 2009 James Cameron film, Avatar, plagiarized thematic and plot elements from FernGully,[33][34] although others opined that it is simply one of many films to which Avatar is similar,[35] or have dismissed the comparison entirely.[36] The 2013 film, Epic, was also said to have an unoriginal plot similar to FernGully.[37]

Home media

Four months after the theatrical release, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, under its previous name, "Fox Video", released FernGully on VHS and LaserDisc on August 26, 1992. Sales were strong,[20] with approximately five million units sold by 1998,[21] including 125,000 in Australia.[19]

Fox rereleased the film on DVD in 2001. Christopher Simons from DVD Talk gave the 2001 DVD three-and-a-half stars out of five for both audio and video, although only one star for special features, noting that the only extras included were trailers for other films.[38] A "Family Fun Edition" DVD was released in 2005. Special features included commentary with director Bill Kroyer, art director Ralph Eggleston, and coordinating art director Susan Kroyer, several featurettes, including the original featurette from 1992, the music video for "If I'm Gonna Eat Somebody (It Might As Well Be You)" by Tone Loc, as well as trailers and TV spots. Scott Weinberg from DVD Talk gave this version four stars out of five for both audio and video, and four stars for special features.[39]

For its 20th anniversary, FernGully was released on Blu-ray on March 6, 2012, containing the same special features as the "Family Fun Edition". Aaron Peck from High Def Digest gave it three stars out of five for video quality, four stars for audio and three-and-a-half stars for extras.[40] Brian Orndorf from Blu-ray.com gave the release three stars out of five for video quality, three-and-a-half stars for audio and four stars for special features.[41] In 2022, for its 30th anniversary, FernGully received a new Blu-ray release by Shout! Factory.[42]

Notes

  1. ^ Animation ink, paint and camera services outsourced to A. Film Production, Available Light, The Chandler Group, Electric Filmworks, Hanho Animation Studios, Karen Johnson Productions, Kroyer Productions, Inc. Luk Film, Lumenj Productions, Inc., Nick Vasu, Inc., Rough Draft Studios, Inc., Saerom Co., Ltd., Slam Mammoth Animation Co., Ltd., Time Art Studios, Ullmation, and Wang Film Productions.

See also

References

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  2. ^ a b c "Ferngully The Last Rainforest". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on March 9, 2018. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Brownstein, Bill (April 16, 1992). "It's hip, it's animated, and it's eco-friendly; Cartoon adventure FernGully began with an idea 15 years ago". The Gazette. p. F1. ISSN 0384-1294.
  4. ^ a b "Ferngully: The Last Rainforest (1992)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on October 14, 2016. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
  5. ^ Tattoli, Chantel (July 16, 2018). "Robin Williams's Best Role". The Paris Review. Archived from the original on December 6, 2022.
  6. ^ Booker, M. Keith (November 25, 2009). Disney, Pixar, and the Hidden Messages of Children's Films. Praeger. pp. 122–124. ISBN 978-0-31337-672-6.
  7. ^ Jagtenberg, Tom; McKie, David (November 7, 1996). Eco-Impacts and the Greening of Postmodernity. Sage Publications. pp. 177–178. ISBN 978-0803974074.
  8. ^ a b Tattoli, Chantel (April 25, 2017). "FernGully at 25: How an Upstart Disney Rival Created a Millennial Silent Spring". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on October 11, 2020. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c Portman, Jamie (April 14, 1992). "Ferngully an enchantment". Calgary Herald. p. C7. ISSN 1197-2823. Archived from the original on March 5, 2023. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  10. ^ Rickitt, Richard (2000). Special Effects: The History and Technique. Billboard Books. p. 147. ISBN 0-8230-7733-0.
  11. ^ Rusoff, Jane Wollman (June 9, 1992). "Animation gives stars a whole other way to express themselves". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. p. D1. ISSN 1082-8850.
  12. ^ Wuntch, Phillip (December 18, 1992). "Williams serious about Toys: It's a whimsical response to military mind". The Province. p. C10. ISSN 0839-3311.
  13. ^ a b Green, Tom (December 18, 1992). "Wild Child: Playful role fits the boyish soul". USA Today. p. 01D. ISSN 0734-7456.
  14. ^ Rusoff, Jane Wollman (May 13, 1992). "Speaking Up: Stars lend their voices to animated characters". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. pp. 1W, 4W. ISSN 1930-9600. Archived from the original on June 12, 2022. Retrieved June 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
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  18. ^ Kahlenberg, Richard (April 9, 1992). "An Aussie Vision: The creators of 'FernGully-The Last Rainforest' find a taste of home in Ojai. Their film opens tomorrow". Los Angeles Times. p. 14. ISSN 0458-3035. Archived from the original on June 12, 2022. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  19. ^ a b "Own Your Own". The Newcastle Herald. May 29, 1998. p. 12.
  20. ^ a b c Horn, John (December 3, 1993). "Animated features not always a draw". The Globe and Mail. p. D3. ISSN 0319-0714.
  21. ^ a b Scally, Robert (March 23, 1998). "Studios forgo kiddie matinees to build direct-to-video branding". Discount Store News. pp. 53–55.
  22. ^ Gelmis, Joseph (December 13, 1992). "That Disney Touch". Newsday. p. 6.
  23. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan (November 4, 1992). "A wish upon 'Aladdin': Disney rubs magic lamp of animation". USA Today. p. 01D. ISSN 0734-7456.
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  37. ^ Lee, Stephan (May 22, 2013). "Epic Movie Review". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014.
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