FernGully: The Last Rainforest is a 1992 Australian-American animated musical fantasy film, directed by Bill Kroyer. It was produced by Peter Faiman and Wayne Young, with the screenplay written by Jim Cox and adapted from a book of the same name written 15 years prior by Diana Young. Alan Silvestri composed the film's score.
|Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
Crysta is a fairy with a curious nature living in a rainforest called FernGully. The fairies of FernGully once lived in harmony with humans, but they have started to go extinct after being driven away by a malevolent spirit named Hexxus. Crysta is the apprentice of Magi, a motherly-figure fairy who imprisoned Hexxus in a tree.
One day, Crysta explores a new part of the forest and meets Batty, a bat who claims to have been experimented on by humans which gives him an unstable personality. She refuses to believe him until she sees lumberjacks cutting down trees.
She sees a young human named Zak whom Crysta accidentally shrinks when she tries to save him from being crushed by a falling tree, but she doesn't know how to restore him to normal size. The tree that Hexxus is imprisoned in is cut down by Tony and Ralph, Zak's superiors. Hexxus quickly begins to regain his powers by feeding on pollution. He manipulates the humans to drive to FernGully.
In FernGully, Zak meets Pips, a fairy male who is envious of Zak's relationship with Crysta. Zak begins falling in love with Crysta, but he hides the true reason that the humans had returned. When the signs of Hexxus's resurrection begin to manifest themselves in poisoned trees and rivers, he finally admits that humans are destroying the forest.
The fairies mount an attempt to defend their homes, but knowing their fight is hopeless, Zak convinces Batty to aid him in stopping the machine before it destroys them. When Zak makes his presence known to Tony and Ralph, Hexxus takes over the machine and begins to wildly destroy the forest.
Magi decides to sacrifices herself to give the fairies a chance and tells Crysta to remember everything she's learned. Zak manages to stop the machine which kills Hexxus by stopping his power at the source, but he manifests himself within the oil in the machine and begins to ignite the forest ablaze.
Crysta seemingly sacrifices herself by allowing 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 they have been given, which causes the seed that Crysta fed him to start growing wildly. Hexxus is made dormant and turned into a twisted tree at the very border of FernGully.
Crysta appears after the fight, having survived her ordeal and successfully succeeded Magi as a magical fairy. She gives Zak a seed and begs him to remember everything that has transpired and she sadly restores Zak to his human size.
Remembering the seed in his hand, Zak promises to remember his adventure and he buries the seed in the soil before telling Tony and Ralph that things need to change as they leave the forest behind. The seed sprouts new growth for FernGull as Crysta follows Pips with Batty behind her.
- Samantha Mathis as Crysta
- Jonathan Ward as Zak
- Tim Curry as Hexxus
- Christian Slater as Pips
- Robin Williams as Batty Koda
- Grace Zabriskie as Magi Lune
- Geoffrey Blake as Ralph
- Robert Pastorelli as Tony
- Cheech Marin as Stump
- Tommy Chong as Root
- Tone Lōc as Goanna
- Townsend Coleman as Knotty
- Danny Mann as Ash
- Kathleen Freeman as Elder #1
Producer Wayne Young said his passion for the environment was his motivation for making "FernGully", saying it 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. Diana first wrote the story of "FernGully" 15 years prior to the film's release. Wayne said 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 brought popularity back to animation.
Hand drawn scenes in the film were complimented by computer animation, which was used to create elements such as flocks of birds that would have taken much longer to animate traditionally. Kroyer states 40,000 frames of computer animation were used in the film, and that the use of such animation halved the production time. Most of the film's $24 million budget was spent on the animation and the soundtrack.
The film marked Robin Williams' first animation role with the character of Batty Koda being created specifically for him.
Williams provided 14 hours worth of improvised lines for the part which was originally only supposed to be an 8-minute role. Director Bill Kroyer was so impressed with the voice work he ended up tripling the screen time given to the character. Williams went on to provide the critically applauded voice of the Genie in Disney's Aladdin later that same year.
Williams accepted the role in FernGully because he agreed with the film's message, as did the rest of the voice cast, who all worked for scale wages.
The movie also 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, "It was just like old times, but we only worked for two or three hours, had a pizza and split."
"FernGully: The Last Rainforest" opened at #5 at the box office, grossing $3,549,338 during its opening weekend and grossed US$32,710,894 worldwide, including $24,650,296 from the United States & A$3.4 million in Australia.
The box office performance was described as a moderate success though it was considered to have done less well than expected, possibly due to the movie's ecological message.
The movie received generally positive reviews. The film holds an approval rating of 71% at Rotten Tomatoes based on 14 reviews.
Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars, saying 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."
Hollis Chacona from The Austin Chronicle added that the film was "funny, pretty, touching, scary, magical stuff."
Janet Maslin of The New York Times had an unfavourable impression of the film, describing it as "[a]n uncertain blend of sanctimonious principles and Saturday-morning cartoon aesthetics".
According to Wayne Young, Jeffrey Katzenberg (the then-chairman of The Walt Disney Studios) called the producers of FernGully to tell them that he loved the film.
Jill Rachlin from Entertainment Weekly called it "mediocre", saying that the movie's plot was "formulaic and the music undistinguished".
In 1998, a direct-to-video sequel "FernGully 2: The Magical Rescue" was released, but none of the original voice cast reprised their roles in the film.