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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #27
October 03, 2007

The Gentle Jungle

FernGully: The Last Rainforest + Botanical Gardens

FernGully: The Last Rainforest is a delightful tale for Younger Viewers about one little fairy's fight to save her forest. The story's message, that humans pose the biggest threat to the environment, is simple and poignant, and harkens back to a time when saving the rainforest was front page news. Our kids fell in love with Crysta, a young FernGullian fairy, who realizes that loggers are enroaching on her home. She accidently shrinks a lumberjack, Zak, down to her size, using a spell meant to protect him from harm. The delicate fairy and the hunky Zak forge an uncommon friendship that ultimately saves Crysta's pristine FernGully from ruin. Mesmerized by the beauty and vibrancy of life under the rainforest's canopy, our kids understood Crystal's quest to protect the earth.

Kids need magical places to explore and your city's Botanical Garden is sure to be filled with fairy-worthy nooks and crannies. We spent a beautiful fall afternoon exploring what our kids affectionately call "the Jungle." As we wandered through paths filled with flora and fauna from all over the globe, we understood the kids' nickname; it felt as if we had been transported to another land. Our little ones wound their way through tall stands of bamboo, squealing with delight as they discovered spots for hide-go-seek. Our older kids got a (safe) thrill as they lost themselves on overgrown paths and tromped over troll-worthy bridges. If you foray into the "Jungle," we promise a few child-friendly hours of green delight -- but shhh, don't tell our kids we've let you in on the secret!

Film Title: FernGully: The Last Rainforest
Directed By: Bill Kroyer
1992, Rated G, 80 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this film:

  • Why this Film is Worth It: Made fifteen years ago, this film might feel simplistic to parents accustomed to the latest animated bonanzas offered in theatres, but kids under seven will appreciate its sweetness. The animation of the rainforest plants is quite beautiful, even moving. Your kids will grow up believers!
  • Red Flags: Tim Curry is the voice of an evil spirit, Hexxus, who gets released from a tree by the logging crew. This part of the film is louder and scarier than the rest, so fast forward for kids under four.
  • Music: Songs include selections by Elton John, Thomas Dolby and Jimmy Buffett but our favorite is "If I'm Gonna Eat Somebody (It Might as Well be You)," performed by Tone-Loc.
  • COOL FACT: Adults will quickly identify the voices of Robin Williams (as a crazy bat who has lost his radar) and Tim Curry. Remember how fun it was to wait until a film's credits to see if you guessed correctly which actor voiced a character? Those days are gone. Pixars' Cars was the first film to list star's names on the posters of the films.

Our tips for talking to your kids about this film:
  • Cinema Savvy: You might find yourself humming "A Whole New World" after watching FernGully... Prod your kids a bit and see if they can make the parallels between the story of Ariel in A Little Mermaid and Crysta in FernGully.


Walk through your city's Botanical Gardens

Time Allotment: 1 hour
Age Recommendation: Strollerbabes and up

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Popcorn Adventure:

  • What Worked for Us: Let your kids loose. Think of the area as a playground rather than a learning lab. Most gardens are usually just big enough for kids to wander out of sight, but not so large that they could get lost.
  • Maps: You may find a map helpful, especially if your garden is large, however, we've found it's easier and more fun to stick to the less formal plan of wandering. Trees and shrubs have tags with latin names and the country of origin if your botanical interest is piqued.
  • How to Learn More: If you've got some junior environmentalists in your family, here are a few worthy organizations who protect the rain forest. The Rainforest Action Network is an environmental activism group based in San Francisco and Tokyo that seeks to protect the forests and their inhabitants by transforming the global marketplace. The Rainforest Alliance is a worldwide organization that helps advocate, fundraise and protect forests. Their site has an interesting section advocating that conusmers buy goods from sustainable markets. For a good current dose of what's happening in rain forests around the world, check out The Rainforest Portal, an informative, catch-all site.

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure around the USA:

  • Anywhere: Google your city + botanical garden; gardens or check Botanical Gardens in the USA.
  • Boston: Lacking an authentic botanical garden or rainforest (unless you include The Rainforest Café in the Burlington Mall), Boston has one of the oldest parks in the US. The Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain has over 15,000 ornamental trees on its 265 acres of land. Younger kids might prefer the Public Gardens located between Arlington and Tremont Streets, where they can also ride the bronze ducklings or the swan boats. Spring and fall are best. 
  • Chicago: Located in Glencoe, the Chicago Botanic Garden is a respite for nature-starved city folk. The garden features 365 acres of lush grounds to explore. There are 23 different gardens (including a waterfall garden your littlest ones will love). Set your kids off to ramble along the trails in the three different habitat areas (woodland, prairie and riverscape). Trams run through the grounds every thirty minutes through the end of October. Mark your calendars for the "Trains, Tricks & Treats" in the model railroad garden October 27-28. There will be candy, prizes, and costume contest.
  • Houston: Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens is located just north of Houston in Humble, Texas.  Let the experienced staff and volunteer horticulturists, botanists and naturalists assist you in learning about the region’s collection of native and cultivated plants. Mercer showcases over 20 acres of developed gardens, endangered species collections and extensive walking trails.  Don’t miss the Arboretum, which includes an outdoor classroom and picnic area.
  • New York: The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is open year-round. The new Everett Children's Adventure Garden has lots of hands-on activities, mazes, and of course, larger-than life flowers. Through October in the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden you can spend the afternoon digging in the dirt and learning about foods grown on the other side of the world. At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden enjoy the colors of Fall from the Overlook, or tour the Japanese gardens. Check the website for special events and to see what's in bloom.
  • San Francisco, CA: The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park has amazing aquatic and lowland plants. Check hours and fee.  The San Francisco Botanical Gardens, also in Golden Gate Park is free and open every day. Walk through outside climate gardens and head to the duck pond for a great picnicking spot.
  • Washington, DC: Visit the U.S. Botanical Gardens Conservatory and the National Gardens at the Capitol. October 13th is the HerbDay! Festival, celebrating the importance of herbs.  Throughout the Conservatory you will find demonstrations, children's activities, and exhibits.  For a pure rainforest experience head over to the Amazonia Habitat at the National Zoo. Walk among living kapok, avocado, and cocoa trees in this enclosed tropical habitat.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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