“Everything in our world is connected by the delicate strands of the web of life, which is a balance between the forces of destruction and the magical forces of creation.”
When you’re a kid watching cartoons, subliminal messages don’t quite reach you. It isn’t until you look back on some of your favorite films years later that you realize what you were learning. As a ‘90s kid, everything I watched had hidden layers, particularly Disney films. Bambi? Anti-hunting. 101 Dalmatians? Anti-fur. The Rescuers Down Under? Anti-poaching. Other films throughout the years (Free Willy, Wild America, Beethoven) all held deeper meaning for the ramifications of selfish human action, but one of my favorites when I was little was an animated anthem for saving the rainforest. I’m talking, naturally, about FernGully.
FernGully: The Last Rainforest was a 1992 tale of fairies who work to protect their habitat from deforestation. Crysta befriends Zak (an Australian 16-year-old with no Australian accent) who’s spending the summer working for a logging company. Crysta accidentally shrinks him and they spend the next indeterminable number of days learning about each other. Zak, a city kid, doesn’t understand the importance of trees. Crysta, a wood nymph, doesn’t understand how you can live without trees. (“Trees give life. They make the clouds, the water, the air.”)
Although released in the same year, FernGully was actually Robin Williams’ first experience lending his voice to an animated character, not Aladdin. He gave erratic life to Batty Koda, an escaped subject from a “biology lab.” You want subliminal messages, just pay close attention to the horrifying lyrics of his anti-animal testing rap: “I been brain-fried, electrified, infected and injectified, vivosectified and fed pesticides […] They used and abused me, battered and bruised me, red wires green wires stuck 'em right through me.” In spite of that, Williams’ perfectly timed humor alleviated the film when it started getting too dark.
Speaking of dark, the crisis of the film lies in the return of a destructive force known as Hexxus. Tim Curry (Rocky Horror) voiced the villain, an oil-slicked blob of brown goo who grew into a noxious black cloud, then, eventually a terrifying skeletal figure that gave me nightmares. (I was 5. Rated G? I don’t think so.) Hexxus is hell-bent on destroying FernGully. Does he? It’s worth a watch.
The film was dedicated to “Our children and our children’s children.” Proceeds were donated to the Australian rainforest.