When environmentalism finally became cool in Hollywood, a team of Aussie animators arrived to tell the story of an enchanted forest endangered by humans. Facing skeptical critics, they shaped a generation. It took a decade—and the fortuitous casting of Robin Williams—for that moment to arrive for Young, and for 'FernGully: The Last Rainforest.'
By the late 1980s, the environment had become a cause célèbre for celebs: Sting appeared on the cover of Paris Match with an Amazonian tribe chief, and Madonna threw a benefit concert in New York called “Don’t Bungle the Jungle.” “That was our window of opportunity,” says Young, who had, in the interim, produced 1986’s hit Australian export 'Crocodile Dundee'.
'FernGully' director and Oscar-nominee Bill Kroyer, started Kroyer Films with his wife, Susan; their company grew from 16 to about 40 animators to work on 'FernGully,' its first feature, with a script from Jim Cox, who’d recently written the first two treatments for 'Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.'
Screenwriter Cox scripted FernGully’s Batty Koda—a pop-culture quoting fruit bat who’d escaped a research lab and charted himself back to the forest, some brain damage not withstanding—specifically with Williams in mind. By the time Katzenberg approached Williams in 1991 to do the voice-over work for another post-modern whirlwind, Aladdin’s Genie, the comic had already signed on as Batty.