Once Upon a Forest
Directed by Charles Grosvenor. Starring Michael Crawford, Ben Vereen, Ellen Blain, Gregory Moss. (1993)
REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., June 18, 1993
If you don't have air conditioning but you have plenty of money, and if your kids have exercised enough this week outdoors and are in need of some short, sweet, brief, light, fleeting, animated entertainment, Once Upon A Forest is the show for you. There is nothing really engaging about this latest effort from the creator of An American Tale and Hanna-Barbera. A combination cautionary tale about littering and other woeful environmental/societal ills, and coming of age story, it follows three disparate “furlings” as they face the great unknown in a quest to save their stricken friend. At a mere smidgen over an hour in length (which brings up the question of just how long a movie has to be to qualify as feature-length) it is little more than a TV cartoon minus commercials. Which, of course, has its advantages. (The steep price of admission could conceivably be offset by a proportional reduction in the “buy me factor” -- especially since I'm pretty sure this picture won't be generating any merchandising.) It boasts only two musical numbers. Which, of course, has its advantages. (During one ominously pregnant pause, the dad sitting next to me pleaded with the character, “Don't sing, don't sing.” His muttered prayer was answered.) On the other hand, the one good song of the two, a rocking gospel number performed by Ben Vereen in the role of Phineas the feathered preacher, provides the only true energy and amusement of the movie. All told, this is classic Hanna-Barbera at its finest. Which, of course, isn't saying much.