FernGully: The Last Rainforest

Studio: 20th Century Fox

This 1992 animated film depicts a magical rainforest inhabited by fairies but threatened by destructive loggers. When the loggers cut down a tree and release the evil spirit Hexxus, Crysta, the fairy protagonist, and her friends (including lumberjack Zak, whom Crysta shrunk down to miniature size to save his life) must find a way to defeat the pollution-loving demon and save their home. The movie’s message is overtly conservationist, villainizing destructive humans and urging viewers to do what they can to preserve the wilderness areas still left on Earth.


This hit film from 2008 takes place 700 years in the future, when the Earth has been reduced to a deserted, trash-covered ghost town. Robot WALL-E seems to be the last sentient being on the planet, as all the humans have fled to gigantic space ships that hover in outer space. One day, one of those ships comes to Earth, bringing advanced robot EVE, with whom WALL-E falls in love. He follows her back to space, and his adventures there eventually convince the humans they must return to Earth. The state of the Earth in the movie urges viewers to take notice of how their actions are affecting the environment and warns of what might happen if they don’t.


Based on a Carl Hiaasen novel, this 2006 film portrays the adventure of three middle-school students who try to protect a rare breed of endangered owls. The main character, Roy, just moved to Florida from Montana, and quickly makes friends with Beatrice and her truant stepbrother, “Mullet Fingers.” The three set out to derail a greedy CEO in his construction of a pancake restaurant on the vacant lot where the rare owls live. Not exactly an award-wining movie, but definitely one that encourages kids to think about the relationship between humans, development and wildlife.

Free Willy

Another movie with whales and an environmental message, Free Willy was a hit in 1993. It features a young boy who befriends a recently captured orca whale in a local aquarium/amusement park. The boy, Jesse, and the whale, Willy, bond, but Willy is in danger because he doesn’t perform tricks well and therefore doesn’t earn much money for the park. The park owner and his cronies threaten to kill Willy, so Jesse decides to release the whale into the wild. There’s no mistaking the villains in this movie—the park owner, who exploits animals, and the whalers who capture Willy—or the message that wild animals are better off left alone.

Happy Feet

The main message of this 2006 Disney movie is that it’s okay to be different, but environmental themes work their way in as well. The film focuses on a young penguin, Mumble, with a talent for tap dancing—something none of the other penguins can do. It follows his adventures and quest for acceptance throughout the plot, but the environmental aspect shows up when Mumble is blamed for the scarcity of fish in the ocean, a nod to overfishing. In addition, one of Mumble’s friends wears a set of plastic six-pack rings around his neck like jewelry, only to later be choked by the piece of trash. Happy Feet is an example of the environment showing up in movies that are not directly about the environment.

Parent Magazine