on 14 June 2014
FERNGULLY: THE LAST RAINFOREST  [Blu-ray] [US Import] When Magic Needs A Miracle!
There's magic in the rainforest and it's called FernGully! Deep in the heart of the forest awaits a paradise filled with tiny sprites, winged fairies and tree spirits who all live in joyful harmony. But when their home is threatened by humans, one courageous sprite gives her all to save it! Featuring the voice talents of an all-star cast including Robin Williams, Tim Curry, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. ‘FernGully’ is a fantastical adventure into a world you'll want to visit again and again!
Voice Cast: Tim Curry, Samantha Mathis, Christian Slater, Jonathan Ward, Robin Williams, Grace Zabriskie, Geoffrey Blake, Robert Pastorelli, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Tone Lôc, Townsend Coleman, Brian Cummings, Kathleen Freeman, Janet Gilmore, Naomi Lewis, Danny Mann, Neil Ross, Pamela Adlon, Anderson Wong, Lauri Hendler, Rosanna Huffman, Harvey Jason, Dave Mallow, Paige Pollack, Holly Dorff and Gary Schwartz
Director: Bill Kroyer
Producers: Brian Rosen, Jeff Dowd, Jim Cox, Peter Faiman, Richard Harper, Robert W. Cort, Ted Field, Tom Klein, Wayne Young and William F. Willett
Screenplay: Jim Cox and Diana Young (original stories)
Composer: Alan Silvestri
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish: 5.1 Dolby Digital, French: 5.1 DTS and Dutch: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Japanese, German, Italian, Czech, Dutch, Thai and Turkish
Running Time: 76 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Home Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: 'FernGully: The Last Rainforest' routinely gets mistaken for being a Don Bluth film. This animation film was actually directed by Bill Kroyer, who actually helped with visual effects on the original 'TRON.' However, this mistaken identity is easy to understand because the look and feel of 'FernGully' seems in line with the animation and themes that Don Bluth took on during his illustrious animation reign. Even without the influence of Don Bluth and Bill Kroyer guides a film that holds up relatively well 20 years later.
Needless to say, I love this animation film. Like many cartoons from when I first got interested in animation films, 'FernGully' is lodged directly into my nostalgia cortex of my brain. I always remember it fondly. I remember not only loving the animation film ages ago, but loving the joy it inspired in me and my friends. And we are now entering a sort of emotional territory, I know, but I feel that you should know of my undying love for this animation film before we move on.
If it's been a little too long, here's a refresher on the plot. Crysta [Samantha Mathis] is a fairy who is learning the ways of her elder, Magi [Grace Zabriskie]. Magi recounts a story to Crysta during the opening credits about an evil entity named Hexxus [Tim Curry] who terrorises the forest, laying waste to everything in his path. The humans fled the forest and are feared extinct by the fairies. Whereas Magi was able to trap Hexxus in a giant magical tree where he remains today.
The story also involves a human named Zak [Jonathan Ward], a young boy who is out in the forest working a summer job cutting down trees. After a chance meeting with Crysta, Zak gets shrunk by Crysta's misguided fairy magic. Now, the size of Crysta, he's able to see the adverse effects of his logging on the rainforest.
If this animation film came out nowadays, imagine the uproar. The animation film makes no bones about being an environmental public service announcement aimed at younger audiences. Wrapped up in its fun and fancy animation is a message that says, "See kids! See what happens when we methodically destroy our rainforests?" Today 'FernGully' would be decried as a blatant attempt to brainwash our children into becoming nature-loving hippies. I tried to find any sort of controversy surrounding 'FernGully's release in 1992, but came up empty. Perhaps the world was simpler in 1992 or maybe we were all a little less cynical. Whatever the case may be, I'm glad 'FernGully' came out when it did, because it wouldn't have survived the vicious onslaught that it would've received today.
Adding to the unconcealed message of conservation is the depiction of Hexxus as a large, monstrous entity made of smoke and sludge who feeds on pollution. Yes, it's completely obvious what Bill Kroyer and company are trying to accomplish with this animation film. I always enjoyed Hexxus, who is another reason why this animation film is as often confused as being Don Bluth work. Hexxus is scary, which is something of a taboo when we're talking about villains in children's films. Don Bluth routinely put villains in his films that felt scary and real, providing little to no intentional comedy associated with them in order to lighten the mood. Here Hexxus sometimes appears as a smoke monster, but other times as a creepy skeletal figure made of oozing sludge. It could be frightening for younger children but it drives home the purpose of this animation film even further, giving a chilling face to pollution so kids can understand its destructive nature.
'FernGully' also has a cute little love story attached to it where Zak and Crysta become enamoured with each other, but that isn't the real reason for its existence. When we come to the end and find that the animation film has been dedicated to, "Our children and our children's children," we know for sure that this was mainly a propaganda film. It had an agenda that would've created serious waves had it been released today. Agree with its message or not, 'FernGully' is fearless in its convictions, you have to give it that.
`FernGully' has one strong and unexpected asset, it'd have to lie in the voice cast. As the strangely alluring Crysta, Samantha Mathis does some very lovely voice work here, and Christian Slater plays semi-jilted man-fairy "Pips" with some rascally charm. And as is often the case in any sort of animated feature, the supporting cast is a truly eclectic group of performers: Robin Williams (in his first animated gig) who sadly is no longer with us, Tim Curry (as the enjoyably evil slimebeast known as Nexxus), Grace Zabriskie, Robert Pastorelli, Tone Loc, and Cheech & Chong. Even if you only spend FernGully's 70-some minutes playing "name that voice," you will have a pretty good time exploring this.
Blu-ray Video Quality – This is a 20th Century Home Entertainment release, which comes in a standard eco-friendly Blu-ray keep case, which I replaced, as it was sent in those horrible Blu-ray case that has all that horrible space bits, if you get my drift and it makes the Blu-ray case very flimsy. This Blu-ray Disc is a Region A/1 use only and 20th Century Fox has provided 'FernGully' with a brilliant 1080p encoded transfer complete with a 1.85:1 frame. First, let me say that this presentation is much better than the look of the previous inferior Region 1 DVD. It's cleaner, brighter, and the colours are much more vivid this time around. The detail in the animation is clearly seen rather than hidden away in the murky DVD picture; I never knew what I was missing. The real winner here is the amazing colour. The inferior NTSC DVD always looked too washed out, too bland. But here the colour has a much darker, much more natural feel to it. The greens of the Australian rainforest are lush while the blackness of Hexxus' oozing sludge persona is deep and foreboding. However, the animation does routinely run into problems. Colour does flicker from time to time. Lines, spots, specks and dirt can be seen throughout the runtime. It isn't nearly as dirty or unwatchable as, say, 'All Dogs Go to Heaven,' but it is rather noticeable. With that said, I thought that this transfer, overall, looked much cleaner than the DVD. Yes, it has a way to go in order to meet the high bar set by Disney's flawless restorations of its older animated titles, but there does seem to be some care put into this transfer and it doesn't seem simply slapped together.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – 20th Century Home Entertainment has produced a wonderful 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround track which really adds a much needed kick to the animation film's presentation. Besides the dialogue being mixed a little too low, I was really impressed at the way this lossless mix integrated the animation film's ambient sound, producing a very well-balanced and aggressive surround sound mix. Let me tell you, you've never heard 'FernGully' with this much low-end bass. As the humans move through the forest demolishing everything in their path, the sub-woofer rumbles every time a large tree topples to the forest floor. Musical numbers, like Batty's rap, are given plenty of accompanying bass. The rear speakers are full of forest life and Alan Silvestri's memorable score. As the trees begin to fall we hear birds and animals fleeing the scene as the rear speakers capture their movements. The rear channels are also alive with activity as Crysta outruns a swooping hawk and when Hexxus bellows and growls while destroying the forest. Fans of this animation film will be very pleased with this newly updated surround audio mix.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary Director Bill Kroyer is joined by art director Ralph Eggleston and coordination art director Susan Kroyer: Right off the bat Kroyer and his fellow filmmakers begin explaining, in depth, about the animation of the opening sequence and how it was done in 3 or 4 days and how it involved a 40-foot camera pan. From there the commentary moves on to cover various technical aspects. You hear the words "exposure" and "cell’s" a lot as they talk candidly about how hard some of the scenes were to animated. Bill Kroyer points out pretty much every time CGI is used in a scene. If you're an animation buff you'll definitely want to listen to this commentary.
Special Feature: Seed of the Story: Script-to-Screen Comparisons  [480i] [8:00] Here we get five different scenes and we get to see how the script compared to the original storyboards of the movie. There is optional commentary provided by screenwriter Jim Cox if you're interested. His commentary is pretty droll, but covers the basic underpinnings of the characters and the plot. There are five separate scenes to look at: "Original Opening," "Crysta Meets Batty," "First Encounter," "Hexxus' Instructions," and "Zak's Confession."
Special Feature: From Paper to Tree: Making-Of Documentary  [480i] [30:00] The most interesting aspect of the film covered here is the evolution of the animation. Other than that you're looking at interviews from a few of the filmmakers along with voice-actor Samantha Mathis. Behind-the-scenes footage of voice recording sessions is also fun to see.
Special Feature: Behind the Voice: Toxic Love  [480i] [3:00] It's touted as a "multi-angle" documentary, but it doesn't really show multiple angles of the same scene. What it does show is multiple stages of how the Hexxus musical scene was put together. Here you're allowed to toggle through four options by using the Angle button on your remote to view the particular film scene, Tim Curry's recording booth footage and storyboards. Or you can simply squish all three together on the same screen to see them side-by-side.
Music Video: If I'm Gonna Eat Somebody (It Might As Well Be You)  [480i] [4:17] This music video is from Tone Loc, mixing animation, film clips, and performance footage together.
Trailers and TV Spots  [480i] [7:00] Here we get the Theatrical Trailers [5:00] and a few TV spots [2:00] are included.
Finally, 'FernGully' remains one of my fondest environmental animation film, especially this one, even after revisiting it. Many times I revisit animation films I used to watch as a child and they simply don't hold up, 'FernGully' does. Sure, it has a thinly-veiled environmental message, but that's the point of the animation film in the first place. It is an animation film that I've been waiting for to come onto a Blu-ray disc and now we finally have it. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys wonderful animation and also has a serious message in telling us that our planet Earth is a very precious special place to live and the only ONE for us to live on and should be more respected, especially in the 21st Century. Despite my gloomy message, it will not stop you enjoying this jewel in the crown Blu-ray disc and so happy and proud to add this to my Blu-ray Collection and will give you endless hours of viewing pleasure. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom