What my favorite childhood movie, 'FernGully: The Last Rainforest,' taught me about life
One of my totally fave movies from childhood—and one of the most underrated—is FernGully: The Last Rainforest,. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s one hour and 15 minutes of pure ’90s amazingness (and yes, it’s on Netflix). It includes fairies, a magical rainforest, hilarious talking animals, Robin Williams, Tim Curry, and 90s references we’ve all missed so dearly. . . what more could you want in a film?
I used to watch FernGully practically every day when I was a kid. Besides making me wish I had a Robin-Williams-voiced bat as a BFF and inspiring me to consider what color I would glow if I were a flying fairy (I decided purple, BTW), it always totally enchanted me, and I’ve always been more into badass, nature-loving fairies than princesses, TBH. (Sorry, Disney.)
But it’s a movie that I still watch now (its anniversary is today!), because it’s an environmentally-charged powerhouse of a movie filled with amazing takeaways and great jokes, and it has so many fab lessons about life, love, and how to treat the Earth.
Even when things get difficult, you’ve gotta just stop and dance sometimes.
One of the main protagonists, a human named Zak, gets shrunk to fairy size with seemingly no hope of being turned back to his normal size, and he’s stuck in FernGully all by himself, the only human to have stepped foot there in centuries. Oh, and he’s also on the bottom of the food chain and almost gets eaten more than once. Let me restate this in more accurate terms: HE HAS TO RUN FOR HIS LIFE FROM A TERRIFYING, MAN-EATING LIZARD THAT IS TWENTY TIMES HIS SIZE. To me, this sounds worse than most horror movies.
Yet, he still starts a super sweet dance party with all of the fairies in the midst of all this madness, because hey, why not? He teaches the fairies the magic of music during his worst nightmare. Sometimes–especially when things get hard—you’ve just got to forget about your situation and let yourself let loose.
Humans are . . . well, weird.
One of the best parts of FernGully is undoubtedly Batty, obvs. For those of you unfortunate souls who haven’t seen FernGully (in which case, hijack your friend’s Netflix and GET ON THAT), Batty is a neurotic, loud-mouthed bat who was the victim of animal testing in human laboratories. All of the fairies in FernGully previously thought humans were extinct, until Batty shows up to inform them that they are very much alive.
So why is Batty so awesome? Firstly, Robin Williams (RIP) was always the best part of all his movies. . . but also, Batty’s perspective of how truly bat-crazy (pardon the pun) humans really are is seriously brilliant:
But seriously, there are so many things that humans do that are weird as all hell. Animals don’t have business meetings. Animals don’t worry about their credit history. And animals certainly don’t walk around wearing bad shorts going “Hi, Helen!”
Villains always have the best songs.
OK, I’m totally all for Batty’s amazing introductory rap, but I could get down any day to “Toxic Love,” sung by the main villain Hexxus (played by Tim Curry). Hexxus is literally just toxic sludge that grows to be a giant, black skeleton made of the stuff, but DAMN, can he sing.
Nature should fear humans, if it doesn’t already.
As hilarious as all Batty’s assertions are, he also has a more serious point: that in nature, humans are to be feared. Batty is terrified of the very idea of them because of all of the horrors he had to go through, and unfortunately, the presence of humans in the movie only reaffirms Batty’s point: they show up in FernGully to cut down the forest and—whether they know it or not—rid the fairies of their homes.
Sadly, even though FernGully came out in 1992 and, thus, is as old as I am, this point still rings just as true as it did 23 years ago.
Out of all environmental movies I’ve seen, FernGully is probably the most effective, IMO. It gets right to the heart of the issue and gives nature a face, showing us that we are destroying so many lives and irreparably destroying our planet, for the sake of things like cutting down trees for paper.
But it’s possible to change society as we know it.
When the world is so big and destruction is so widespread, it can be easy to assume that you’re insignificant, that you’re too tiny to be able to change anything. This is the case with anything: animal rights, racism, homophobia, gender rights, or environmental concerns. But it’s the power of one person that can start a revolution.
One human named Zak and one little fairy named Crysta (and Magi, of course) were able to trap Hexxus and start reversing human destruction by standing up for the forest and making a difference. Of course, this is just an animated movie, and we don’t have magic at our disposal. But by looking for the hero inside ourselves, we can stand up and make a difference, bit by bit. Crysta saved her FernGully, and we can save our world–but only if we stop being blind to the pain we are causing all around us.
As Magi once said, “We all have the power—and it grows when it is shared.” <3