How ‘FernGully: The Last Rainforest’ Paved the Way for Disney’s ‘Aladdin’

Animation in the 1980s and 1990s was a wild thing. Looking back, the films of the Disney Renaissance have remained classics. But so many other, non-Disney films helped set the stage for the House of Mouse’s resurgence. FernGully: The Last Rainforest, for example, hit theaters the same year as Disney’s Aladdin. But some fans might not even realize just how closely connected the two movies are.

A balloon of Genie from ‘Aladdin’ hovers in the air
Genie from ‘Aladdin’ | Remi BENALI/Gamma-Rapho

‘FernGully’ released in theaters the same year as Disney’s ‘Aladdin’

FernGully: The Last Rainforest hit theaters in April 1992, just weeks before Earth Day. And indeed, the movie’s story centers on trying to save the titular rainforest from destruction. The villain is a smoke-and-oil monster known as Hexxus (voiced by Tim Curry). And the movie takes a definitive stand on environmentalism.

Decades after its release, younger moviegoers might know FernGully mostly as a pop culture reference. The film is often cited — along with Dances with Wolves — for its similarities to 2009’s Avatar. But FernGully actually has a more direct connection to Disney’s Aladdin, one that younger fans might not even realize.

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The 2 films, of course, share one particularly unforgettable star

The big connection, of course, is Robin Williams. The late actor and comedian delivered one of his most acclaimed performances ever as the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin. And nearly as well-known is the falling-out he and Disney had soon thereafter. But just seven months earlier, Williams made his animated movie debut with FernGully: The Last Rainforest.

In the film, Williams voices Batty Koda, a manic creature who claims to have undergone experimentation by humans. He even performs one of the movie’s songs, “Batty’s Rap.” Of course, FernGully didn’t really gain a fan following until it hit home video. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie earned only $33 million worldwide. Meanwhile, Aladdin brought in more than $500 million at the worldwide box office upon its November 1992 release.

Robin Williams went on to lend his voice to several animated movies

In 1992, Williams lent his voice and comic timing to both FernGully: The Last Rainforest and Aladdin the same year he also starred in Toys. But those two animated films weren’t his last time working on such a project. In 1996, Williams — having made amends with Disney — returned as the Genie for the direct-to-video sequel Aladdin and the King of Thieves.

In 2001, the actor made a voice cameo in Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. The 2000s also saw Williams play voice roles in such animated films as 2005’s Robots, 2006’s Everyone’s Hero, and the two Happy Feet movies. One of his final roles was also a vocal performance, as Williams played Dennis the Dog in the live-action sci-fi comedy Absolutely Anything starring Simon Pegg and Kate Beckinsale.

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