When Avatar came out in December 2009 many wags quipped that James Cameron’s Biggest Hit Movie of All Time, Unless You Factor in Inflation   was nothing but “FernGully in space” . . .

Not having seen FernGully we couldn’t really comment on it, but since then we did manage to see FernGully – a 1992 animated movie featuring the voice talents of Christian Slater (remember him?), Robin Williams (on autopilot as the motor-mouth comic sidekick – something which worked in Aladdin but not here) and Tim Curry amongst others.

Interestingly enough both FernGully: The Last Rain Forest (to use its full title) and Avatar were brought out by the same company – namely 20th Century Fox. Does it mean anything? Read on . . .

If you haven’t seen FernGully – either as a kid or an adult – then don’t fret. It is hardly an animation classic by any standard. Boasting the sort of clunky animation that is OK for breakfast TV but will make Disney animators sigh and roll their eyes, FernGully rides high on a lot of ecological / New Age concerns of the era, stuff that actually found their way into kiddies TV of the time. (Remember the G.I. Joe show in which the squad protected the environment?)

Although it was made in the early 1990s there is something very ‘Eighties about FernGully. Perhaps it is the songs by the likes of Sheena Easton who already were has-beens by the time the movie was made. Maybe it is the hero’s mullet or the fact that he listens to an oversized Sony Walkman. Generational zeitgeists don’t have cut-off dates that transpire neatly with the ends of decades, but looking back now it seems as if 1992 was still suffering from a 1980s hangover – that is, if FernGully is to be believed.

On the surface the 1992 movie’s plot has a lot of similarities with 2009’s Avatar:

Crysta, the curious tree fairy discovers Zak, a real life human who is trying to demolish the rainforest. Once Zak sees the beauty and magic of FernGully, he vows to save it. But it may be too late. The diabolical Hexxus is on the loose and intent on destroying all of FernGully.

Replace Crysta with Neytiri, Zak with Jake Sully, FernGully with Pandora and Hexxus with evil multinational corporation and you might have a workable plot synopsis of Avatar. Some of the mumbo jumbo “everything is connected through the trees” New Age dialogue from FernGully might as well have been snatches of dialogue from Cameron’s Avatar.

But did Avatar really rip off FernGully?

No, we don’t think so. In FernGully Hexxus may sound like an evil multinational corporation, but it is in fact an evil sprit that takes over a mechanical woodcutting machine. The plot steers into a completely different direction altogether, probably because the filmmakers decided that small kids shouldn’t have to cope with Zak (the hero) starting a petition to stop his former employees from destroying the rainforests. Instead he gets to battle an evil smoke cloud voiced by Tim Curry.

It is unfair – not to mention nasty and vindictive - to compare this cheesy ‘Nineties animated flick with Cameron’s multimillion dollar epic even though they both contain easily forgettable pop songs.

That is because we think that Avatar ripped off FernGully AND Dances with Wolves – and not just FernGully.

Go check out Kevin Costner’s 1990 Oscar favorite again or read the below synopsis before you tell us we’ve got it wrong:

Having been sent to a remote outpost in the wilderness of the Dakota territory during the American Civil War, Lieutenant John Dunbar encounters, and is eventually accepted into, the local Sioux tribe. He is known as "Dances with Wolves" to them and as time passes he becomes enamored by the beautiful "Stands With a Fist". Not soon after, the frontier becomes the frontier no more, and as the army advances on the plains, John must make a decision that will not only affect him, but also the lives of the natives he now calls his people . . .

Avatar: Special Edition - with more than eight minutes of never before seen footage
- begins a limited theatrical engagement on the 27th of August 2010, exclusively in Digital 3D and IMAX 3D.



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