Upon first viewing, the 1992 animated film FernGully: The Last Rainforest seems innocent enough - maybe a little too fantastical, a little too neat, a little too sweet. But when you delve below the surface, FernGully is really dark. It's a bit surprising the movie was ever deemed appropriate for kids in the first place. Many moments make the film not only scary but downright nightmare-inducing.
FernGully tells the tale of the fairy Crysta, who lives in an unspoiled rainforest. One day, she encounters young lumberjack Zak, who works with a crew to chop down the trees of Crysta's home. One thing leads to another, and Crysta and Zak join forces to stop the demolition. There's lots of magic and strong messages about environmentalism. But scratch a little deeper, and there are plenty of scary FernGully moments.
Hexxus is the main antagonist in FernGully. He's an evil spirit that morphs from a big blob of black ooze into a towering figure of pure malice. Bent on destroying anything living, Hexxus aims to kill the rainforest and the creatures who call it home.
Voiced by the great Tim Curry, Hexxus sings a song called "Toxic Love," an outright terrifying ode to evil. Here's just one verse:
I feel good, a special kind of horny,
Flowers and trees depress and frankly bore me,
I think I'll spew them all with cyanide saliva,
Pour me a puke cocktail and take me to the driver.
Robin Williams provides the voice of Batty Koda, a wacky bat who helps Crysta and Zak in their quest to save the rainforest. But Batty has a dark backstory: Scientists experimented on him. That's already horrifying territory for a children's cartoon. What's worse, though, is that the whole animal experimentation thing is played for laughs. The subject is never investigated or discussed in any seriousness - it's a constant punchline. The character is funny, but the source of Batty's craziness is pretty sad.
Magi Lune sacrifices herself so the fairies can live, but self-sacrifice is heavy subject matter for young viewers. And Crysta is, of course, impacted by Magi's sacrifice. Later, she appears to sacrifice herself by allowing Hexxus to gobble her up. All these voluntary deaths paint a nihilistic picture that children may not fully understand.
Bad guys are supposed to be bad, especially in cartoons. But there's something particularly insidious about Hexxus. He exhibits a very dark and twisted kind of horribleness. While FernGully is about a battle to save the rainforest, it's also about a struggle to prevent Hexxus from gaining godlike power.
This recalls the "A God Am I" TV trope, in which characters like Hexxus are "aiming for godhood by rewriting the rules of the world... in their own image." It's nefarious stuff.