Discussion about environmental and conservation themes in the film Ferngully. Film recommended for ages 5-12.

Ferngully: The last rainforest, released 1992. Directed by Bill Kroyer. Based on the book FernGully: The Last Rainforest by Diana Young

You may like to watch the movie first have a think about:

  • What species do you recognize in the film?
  • Who’s the villain?

This week’s guests: Science and environmental educators Ayesha and Ane.

Depiction of animals and habitats

Great attention paid to the animals and plants to set the scene and make it specifically the Australian rainforest. Identifying the animals depicted in the film could be a great way of getting to know the ecosystem.

Dealing with death and decay

“There are worlds within worlds, Crysta. Everything in our world is connected by the delicate strands of the web of life, which is a balanced between the forces of destruction and the magical forces of creation.” – Magi Lune

There is some mention of the importance of balance between creation and destruction. However more could have been done to link destruction and decay to feeding new life. 

The antagonists

“Our world was much larger then. The forest went on forever. We tree spirits nurtured the harmony of all living things, but our closest friends were humans. Then, as sometimes happens, the balance of nature shifted. Hexxus, the very spirit of destruction rose up from the bowels of the earth, and rained down his poison. The forest was nearly destroyed, many lives were lost and the humans fled in fear, never to return. Most believe they did not survive. It was only by calling up the magical powers of nature, that I was able to trap Hexxus inside an enchanted tree, and save FernGully.”


The main obvious antagonist of the film is Hexxus, but he is interestingly a personification of natural forces. He is shown emerging from a volcano, and so the destruction he represents at that point is a part of nature and natural cycles.


Humans and their tree cutting machine are the other main antagonist in the film, but are more thoughtless than destructive. They don’t think about the destruction their actions cause. In Crysta’s first conversations with Zak its clear that he’s never given the forest, and the lives within it, much thought. We get the sense that the humans are doing their jobs to make a living, and aren’t cutting the trees down out of malice. This gives us a sense that the individual human characters aren’t really to blame for what happens. Instead it is the world they come from, separation from nature, and maybe a little greed which are the causes. 


Zak’s Journey is a wonderful part of the film. Being shrunk gives him, literally, a different perspective on the forest and the lives within it. Of particular note is that how he views the forest doesn’t change because he learns about the science, ecology, or value of the forest. Instead he gets to know the lives of those who live within the forest and appreciates the beauty of the habitat. It’s a great reminder to environmental educators that there is more than one way to learn about the environment.

Send us your thoughts on the film to: knowingnaturepodcast@gmail.com

Tweet us @kn_podcast

Intro/Outro music: Selfish by Derek Clegg. Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 US License

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