Just when you thought you'd been ecologized to death, here comes another preachy-teachy, green cartoon. But wait, this is no Captain Planet of the big screen. This is no wooden caricature spouting he-man environmentalism. This is funny, pretty, touching, scary, magical stuff. The spell starts with the opening credits -- hauntingly beautiful, evocatively primitive drawings woven together with traditional music. You can feel the cool humidity, smell the sweet must, hear the murmuring of this forest primeval. You relax, you're already absorbed. FernGully is a land protected by a dense canopy of trees, populated by fairies and Beetle boys (burly fairies who careen around on buzzing insects) and an assortment of naturally neon fauna. It's a place where the only intruder is the occasional shaft of light from above. Until, that is, Humans approach. Ignoring the admonitions of her protective friend Pips (Slater), a curious fairy named Crysta (Mathis) ventures beyond the safety of the canopy in quest of the unknown and the thought-to-be-mythical humans. She encounters Zak (Ward), a city boy replete in muscle shirt, hightops and earphones, mindlessly “X”-ing his way through the forest, marking giant trees for destruction. A near mishap and a bit of Crysta's amateur magic cause Zak to shrink to fairy size. (It's little wonder that in a children's movie, the hero must become small to see the error of his ways.) During his stay in FernGully, Zak comes to realize how important the forest is to all of earth's inhabitants, and how man's destruction of nature can unleash terrible forces with far-reaching effect. The Leveler, a machine that razes the mightiest trees in the forest without a hiccup and Hexxus (Curry), the evilly amorphous parasite who feeds on the machine's pollution provide plenty of villainous chills. The laughs (and this forest is teeming with them) are largely due to the vivid animal inhabitants, especially Batty (Williams), a bat whose brain and radar have been scrambled in a human science lab. The music is wonderfully eclectic. “If I'm Goanna Eat Somebody (It Might As Well Be You)”, by Jimmy Buffett and Mike Utley and performed by Tone-Loc, is a standout among many terrific pieces. FernGully: The Last Rainforest
is the product of collaboration between American and Australian filmmakers and animators. All the animators visited the Australian rainforest before production and their wonder at the real thing comes through on screen. Considering the beautiful animation, great music, a good story as well as the fact that several different environmental groups will benefit from the proceeds, it's worth planning a family trip to FernGully
. Then, on the way home, listen to the animated discussion and imagine that from these tiny acorn crusaders mighty decision-making oaks will grow.