Avatar is back in the news. Its sequel, Avatar: Second of the Water, opens in late 2022, 13 years after James Cameron’s original film hit theaters and took the world by storm, becoming the highest-grossing film in history. Many question whether there is any real interest in this belated sequel, but with its first images showing – which have impressed critics – and more details about the project being revealed, curiosity is mounting.
And like every time you talk about Avatar, the debate about the quality of the 2009 film, beyond its undoubted technical value, is fueled. One of the arguments that his detractors always bring up is the lack of originality of its story, reminiscent of other previous cinematographic works. In this sense, the titles that are most often mentioned when talking about the “influences” of Avatar are Dancing with Wolves Y Pocahontasbut there is another movie that is even more similar, and that does not come up as much, perhaps because it is less well known: FernGully: The Adventures of Zak and Crysta.
Although no one questions the importance of Avatar in the evolution of the technique and the development of digital effects in cinema, including its essential work in revitalizing 3D, the truth is that in the narrative it is not very original. So much so that, since its premiere and to this day, has faced accusations of plagiarism that claim Cameron set his sights on other storiessuch as those mentioned Dancing with Wolves Y Pocahontasor the adventures of John Carter from Mars written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which Disney would bring to the big screen in 2012 with resounding failure.
The accusations have not only come from viewers, but also from Cameron’s own professional circle. Specifically, in 2011, a former employee of his company, Lightstorm Entertainment, named Eric Ryder, sued the director of titanica claiming that he had stolen the idea from a script he was writing titled KRZ 2068which contained elements similar to what would become Avatar, including treatments, photos, 3D imagery and characters. However, the lawsuit was dismissed in 2013, agreeing with Cameron, who accused Ryder of opportunism due to the enormous success of the film (Variety).
But what we were going though Avatar has never been legally declared a plagiarism, there are many who, to this day, continue to maintain that Cameron was inspired too in other works to realize his. Among them, the one that occupies us today, FernGully, 1992 animated adventure that was a moderate success for 20th Century Fox, the same studio behind Avatar. This Australian-American co-production grossed $32.7 million worldwide (from a modest budget of $24), also selling well on VHS, leading to a direct-to-video sequel in 1998.
While it is true that the issues addressed Avatarsuch as the colonialism and the environmentalismare frequent in the cinema and, therefore, it is inevitable that the works that deal with them end up repeating patterns, it cannot be denied that the coincidences with FernGully they are at least striking, beyond mere curiosity. Starting with the argument: FernGully tells the story of the jungle fairies of FernGully, a paradise isolated from pollution and destruction, which is suddenly invaded by humans, who intend to cut down its magical trees. One of these fairies, Crysta, meets a human named Zak, who thanks to her discovers that her species is threatening the habitat of the jungle, where fantastic creatures live in harmony with the fairies. Zak falls in love with Krysta and joins his people to prevent the machines from destroying the place and its inhabitants.
There are many parallels. Zak’s character development is similar to that experienced by the protagonist of Avatar, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), after meeting and falling in love with the native Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña). The main plot, including the villain using huge machines to try to destroy a wild place populated by extraordinary creatures and the interspecies battle that ensues, is pretty much the same. But the most undeniable resemblance is aesthetic. And it is that the beautiful surroundings Pandora, the planet of Avatarclosely resembles the fauna and flora of FernGully.
So much so that it only takes a quick search on the Internet to find many comparison videos between the two films, where the coincidences between the two are illustrated, to the point that some images are shockingly similar (you can compare it in the video below) . There is a specific moment in the animated film in which the main couple runs through the jungle, showing us how with each stride they take, the land at their feet lights up to tell us that the place is alive; a scene that, albeit unconsciously, appears traced in Avatar with Jake and Neytiri walking through the lush forests of Pandora in an analog sequence.
Let it be clear that I am not accusing James Cameron of plagiarism FernGullybut how much it looks like Avatar will always catch my attention. Now if FernGully went down in history in Spain apart from all this, it was for a more infamous reason: its dubbing into Spanish. In its original version, the film features the voices of Christian Slater and the greats Robin Williams and Tim Curry. What did they do in Spain? Entrust the complete dubbing to a single person: Ángel Garó.
Indeed, all the characters in FernGully: The Adventures of Zak and Crysta, masculine and feminine, were dubbed by the same person in Spanish. According to Garó himself in 2017 during a self-interview for the program Deluxe Saturday (via sufferers at home), they offered him the role of the bat Batty, who was played in English by Robin Williams, and he agreed on the condition that they let him play the rest of the characters: 32 in total.
Finding himself at his peak of popularity, his wishes were granted. The studio asked her for a six-character test and after screening her from Los Angeles, she got the studio’s go-ahead. This is how the comedian from Cadiz ended up dubbing the film in its entirety, which led him to enter the Guinness Book of Records. Something that today would undoubtedly unleash fierce criticism, especially after so many cases of famous people with no dubbing experience taking the place of true professionals in the sector in important animated premieres (Lola Índigo in the sequel to spacejamMelendi in how to train your dragon 3 or Sara Carbonero in the bad guysjust to name a few).
sideline controversy, FernGully is a special film for many people who grew up in the 90s, an alternative proposal to Disney that, as Fievel and the new world either Nimh, the secret world of mrs brisby, dared to incorporate more adult and socially conscious themes into children’s animation. Although its quality falls well short of many of its contemporaries, its environmental theme and its green message is still valuable, as well as being (sadly) more topical than ever, which makes it a good candidate to be rescued from the past. .
Although we usually remember her for her resemblance to Avatar or because of the dubious feat of its Spanish dubbing, the truth is that FernGully occupies a special place in the nostalgic memory of those viewers who grew up in the 90s. The same ones who, years later, saw Avatar and they said: “This sounds like me”.
FernGully: The Adventures of Zak and Crysta is available for digital rental on Amazon Prime Video. Avatar is in the fixed catalog of Disney + and for sale and digital rental through Rakuten TV, Microsoft, Google TV, Apple TV and Amazon.