Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ferngully - Robin Williams Blogathon

For the longest time, I thought Ferngully was a Don Bluth film.  It has the hallmarks of it, for sure, like similar character designs and story elements.  And it's biggest similarity is the above Batty Coda, the annoying sidekick, played here by Robin Williams in his first animated feature.  Having seen his fantastic role as the Genie in Disney's Aladdin, it's hard to believe a movie coming out the same year would have him be such an underplayed and awkward role.

Ferngully is the story of fairy Crysta, living in the unspoiled Australian rain forest full of fairies, including Crysta and Pips.  Crysta sneaks out of the canopy and spots smoke on the horizon.  Smoke created by humans, of course.  She goes to investigate it, sees a monster tearing down trees and is captured by a human she got to close to.  She uses her fairy magic to accidentally shrink him down and there's a real nice Tarzan vibe there as he learns about the forest from her.  It's a nice story and could have been left there - the danger of humans clear cutting rain forests. 

But then they throw in an evil spirit named Hexxus, voiced rather seductively by the excellent Tim Curry, who is freed by the monster, in reality a tree-cutting machine and subsequently takes it over to destroy Ferngully.  I'm not even sure why he's there because the humans were heading towards Ferngully anyway, but I guess the movie needed a villain it could kill off.  At least his final scene was awesome as hell.  Why couldn't he look like that through the entire movie and not the black fart that he usually was?

Ferngully takes a lot of cues from Don Buth's classic, Secret of N.I.H.M. and most of them are seen in Batty, a fruit bat that escapes a lab and winds up in Ferngully, where he meets Crysta.  Batty talks - no sings - about the evils of humanity.   So you've basically got Secret's animal testing message and Dom Deluise's irritating Jeffery thrown into one character. Scientists implanted electrodes into Batty's head, which frequently shock him. It's a device which allows for Williams's trademark frantic voice changes, which could have been awesome (as they were in Aladdin, which was released the same year as this, but it's so downplayed here that you'd barely notice. It is only played up in a scene at the end where other main character, Zac, purposefully changes "the channel" to get a result he likes.

Besides this, Batty's only notable scene is his rap about animal testing, which Williams does as well as he could, I guess, but it's so cringy you can barely stand to watch it.  Robin Williams can't save it - that's how terrible it is.  In fact the music in the movie, of which there is a lot, even compared to Disney's library, is generally terrible, with Tone Loc, of "Funky Cold Medina" fame, showing up once to sing a song about eating bugs.  Holy crap was that bad!

Ferngully on its surface looks like a decent lesson in environmental protection.  It's got cute, quirky characters and a scary looking villain.  But looking closer at it, it almost blatantly steals its look after the 2nd biggest animation studio of the time, directed by a guy whose biggest credit before this is story director of Challenge of the Go-Bots.  I wonder how he was able to get Robin Williams to sign on in the first place.

This post is made in part of Real Weegie Midget Reviews Robin Williams Blogathon.  Make sure to click here to see all the other great reviews - better than this movie at least.


  1. Sorry Brian that you had another crap movie in joining one of my blogathons. Thanks for joining with this and if Michael Caine has done anything worth watching in animation love you to join my Michael Caine one.

    1. To be honest, I wouldn't call it crappy. It wasn't magnificent, but was far from Transformers: The Last Knight shittiness. Glad to be a part of your blogathon!