See the Cast of ‘FernGully: The Last Rainforest’ Then and Now
In the wake of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ an ambitious animated feature called ‘FernGully: The Last Rainforest’ aimed to capture the imaginations of children while teaching them a lesson about the importance of environmental conservation. Based on the book of the same name by Diana Young, ‘FernGully’ took audiences deep into the rainforests of Australia to show the incredible creatures that live there and how they are at risk because of reckless human greed.
At the center of this story was a cocky young man named Zak, whose life is saved by a spirited sprite named Crysta, who changes his outlook forever by introducing him to her world, filled with flocks of fairies, a funny failed science experiment and a cavalcade of other colorful creatures.
It’s been more than 20 years since ‘FernGully’ took to theaters, so let’s look back and see what the actors behind these beloved characters have been up to.
Crysta, Samantha Mathis
Then: Prior to playing the plucky pixie with room for improvement in the spell-casting arena, Mathis co-starred with Christian Slater in the disc jockey-centered drama ‘Pump Up the Volume.’ After scoring appearances in a string of TV movies, she reteamed with Slater for ‘FernGully.’
Now: Mathis reunited with Slater once more in the 1996 action flick ‘Broken Arrow.’ She’s gone on to score roles in the chilling thriller ‘American Psycho’ and most recently in ‘Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike,’ wherein she starred as Ayn Rand’s controversial heroine Dagny Taggart.
Zak, Jonathan Ward
Then: Long before Ward voiced the human who teaches Crysta about fire, pop music, ’90s lingo (“bodacious!”) and of course, love, he got his start at age eight on Broadway, playing Michael Darling in the musical ‘Peter Pan.’ From there he moved to television, scoring the recurring role of Douglas Pembroke on ‘Charles in Charge’ and fronting the short-lived sitcom ‘The New Adventures of Beans Baxter.’
Now: Though he’s appeared in other films, including ‘Mac and Me’ and ‘Steel Magnolias,’ Ward is best known for his energetic portrayal of Zak. This is in part because Ward retired from acting in the late ’90s, shortly after he and his wife Jamie started their own auto repair and restoration shop, TLC: Toyota LandCruisers, in Van Nuys, California. Though he’s stepped out the limelight, Ward is still proud of his work in ‘FernGully,’ and kindly provided the photo above!
Hexxus, Tim Curry
Then: The English actor made a name for himself playing sweet transvestite Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the cult classic ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ This led to a slew of villainous role, including Rooster Hannigan in ‘Annie,’ Wadsworth in ‘Clue,’ Darkness in ‘Legend’ and Hexxus, the pollution-fueled demon with a sultry and silky voice. Toxic Love indeed!
Now: More antagonist roles followed, including his sneering concierge in ‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York’ and the traitorous Cardinal Richelieu in Disney’s ‘Three Musketeers.’ Currently 45 years into his screen-acting career, Curry has performed in more than 200 television and film productions, and will be heard next in the upcoming animated adventure ‘Saving Santa.’
Pips, Christian Slater
Then: Slater made his film debut in 1985 in the feminist drama ‘The Legend of Billie Jean,’ but he didn’t break out until 1988, when he co-starred with Winona Ryder in the deeply dark teen comedy ‘Heathers.’ By the time ‘FernGully’ premiered, he was a bonafide star, having headlined the successful action-comedy ‘Kuffs.’
Now: Through the ’90s, Slater was a bit of an action star, fronting films like ‘True Romance,’ ‘Broken Arrow’ and ‘Hard Rain.’ But several years back he moved to television, first fronting the drama series ‘My Own Worst Enemy,’ then the crime drama ‘The Forgotten’ and the sitcom ‘Breaking In.’ All were short-lived with only the last scoring a second season. Most recently, Slater was seen in the Sylvester Stallone thriller ‘Bullet to the Head.’
Batty Koda, Robin Williams
Then: Williams was already a well-established actor and comedian with films like ‘Good Morning, America’ and ‘Dead Poets Society’ to his credit. But he’d only begun successfully branching out into kid-friendly movies, taking roles in Steven Spielberg’s Peter Pan tale ‘Hook‘ and Disney’s ‘Aladdin.’ (Let’s all agree to forget Robert Altman’s ‘Popeye.’)
Now: Williams went on to balance roles in more mature roles like Christopher Nolan’s ‘Insomnia’ with family-friendly fare like ‘Night at the Museum,’ Continuing this trend, he’ll appear in the family comedy ‘The Big Wedding’ as well as the historical drama ‘The Butler’ later this year.
Stump, Cheech Marin
Then: Alongside his comedy partner Tommy Chong, Marin had co-starred in several stoner comedies including ‘Up In Smoke,’ ‘Still Smokin’ and ‘Nice Dreams.’ But in 1988, Marin moved into family-friendly fare with the Disney animated adventure, ‘Oliver & Company,’ in which he lent his voice to an excitable Chihuahua Tito.
Now: Marin went on to lend his voice to animated films like ‘The Lion King, ‘Cars’ and ‘Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil.’ He has also become a recurring collaborator with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, having appeared in eight of his films so far, including ‘Spy Kids,’ ‘Planet Terror’ and ‘Machete.’ For his expansive body of work, Marin was awarded a Lifetime Achievement honor from the American Latino Media Arts Awards in 2012 (pictured above).
Root, Tommy Chong
Then: Prior to playing the biker-looking lunk who leads his beetle-riding crew through the rainforest’s canopy, Chong was best known for his work with Cheech Marin on the pair’s stoner comedies. ‘FernGully’ was his first animated effort.
Now: His career proved far less prolific than his ‘Up in Smoke’ co-star’s. But Chong basically found his niche playing burnouts and stoners, and most memorably cemented it as a recurring character on the sitcom ‘That ’70s Show.’ Cheech and Chong reunited behind the mic for 2011’s ‘Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil.’
Goanna, Tone Loc
Then: American rapper Tone Loc made his mark on the music scene in the late 1980s with his hit singles ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Funky Cold Medina.’ (If one of these is not stuck in your head right now, you must be dead inside.) Loc made his movie debut in 1990, appearing in the Andrew Dice Clay action-comedy ‘The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.’ Then came ‘FernGully,’ where he lent his trademark gravely tone to a rapping reptile that sings, “If I’m gonna’ eat somebody, it might as well be you.”
Now: Loc went on to balance music with the occasional acting role. He has since popped up in the Jim Carrey comedy ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’ and the Michael Mann crime drama ‘Heat.’ Most recently he played the teeny blue-horned devil called Chestnut on the colorful cartoon series ‘Chowder.’
Tony, Robert Pastorelli
Then: Before he was cast to play the slovenly lumberjack Tony, the character actor from New Jersey had been working in television for nearly 10 years, most notably as Eldin Bernecky, the ambitious house painter on ‘Murphy Brown.’
Now: Pastorelli stuck with ‘Murphy Brown’ until its cancellation in 1998. (He’s pictured above reuniting with former co-star Grant Shaud; Pastorelli is on the right.) He was in a steady string of films throughout the ’90s, including the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle ‘Eraser,’ the John Travolta comedy ‘Michael’ and the family-comedy ‘A Simple Wish.’ Pastorelli passed away in 2004, and his final screen performance debuted the following year in the crime comedy ‘Be Cool.’
Ralph, Geoffrey Blake
Then: Blake was a character actor who had a long list of television appearances to his credit. He’d scored one-offs on such popular series as ‘Cagney & Lacey,’ ’21 Jump Street’ and ‘Life Goes On.’
Now: ‘FernGully’ is the only animated film on Blake’s resume. He continued to score regular work in television and has appeared in several acclaimed films, including ‘Forrest Gump,’ ‘Frost/Nixon’ and ‘Apollo 13.’ Later this year he can be spotted in the coming-of-age drama ‘Kiss Me,’ which is directed by ‘Survivor’ host Jeff Probst.