This is my contributing post for the Remembering James Horner Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central!
James Horner has an impressive list of movies that he has scored the music. As I was deciding what to do a post on, it dawned on me that before a lot of the animated films I’ve seen and loved now, there was Once Upon a Forest. According to my knowledge, it seems this movie isn’t quite widely seen as some other much more popular titles. Plus, its been quite a while since I’ve revisited it. Its been long enough that the last time I saw this, it wasn’t about reviews or looking at in-depth aspects of it. Once Upon a Forest started as just the spontaneous movie that my dad and I picked up randomly at the video store and decided to watch. It ended impressing me quite a bit from what I remember. Right now, I can still remember some specific scenes. This blogathon was the perfect reason to revisit it.
Once Upon a Forest (1993)
Director: Charles Grosvenor
Voice cast: Michael Crawford, Ben Vereen, Ellen Blain, Benji Gregory, Paige Gosney, Elisabeth Moss, Will Estes
A young mouse, mole and hedgehog risk their lives to find a cure for their badger friend, who’s been poisoned by men.-IMDB
If I remember correctly, Once Upon a Forest comes out around the same time frame as Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest. I can’t remember exactly when it was. Maybe a year before or something. I think its the reason of why it didn’t get as much exposure. Also, that a lot of people apparently didn’t quite like this as much. Personally, I’d sit through Once Upon a Forest a thousand times instead of Fern Gully. Fern Gully just didn’t impress me much. There was one great thing about it that made it alright and it was voice work by Robin Williams and Tim Curry. You can find the brief review HERE for that. However, we aren’t here for that.
Once Upon a Forest is really a similar story. where a truck accident causes a poison gas leak to kill the meadow that these young animals: a mouse Abigail, a mole Edgar and a hedgehog Russell. They have to step up when their friend, a young badger Michelle runs unexpectedly into her house looking for her parents and gets poisoned. Their mentor and also uncle of Michelle, Cornelius can’t go with them because he needed to take care of Michelle. These three who have never known anything about the human world has to step up and find the herbs in another meadow within two days to save their friend. To me, that is a compelling story. It touches on themes such as environmental care, friendship and teamwork.
The characters of Once Upon a Time are done very well. The three create a balance that we know will help them in the end when they put their priorities ahead of them. Their shared importance of the friendship of Michelle and determination will be the winning factor here. As they go from learning what “yellow dragons” are and working together to help others in need, they realize their strength in numbers. Actually, these three are relatable as kids because they want to have fun and they want to go off and do their own things and experiment. I think a huge part of childhood is doing that. Abigail is the gutsy one, Edgar is the brain even if not brave and Russell is the one that is somewhere in the middle that keeps the goals in mind. They are charming characters. While not in huge roles, they do cross paths with a preacher crow and that segment and that character was so much fun and possibly one of the scenes that has stuck with me for the longest. It gives it a little change in pace.
Another notable aspect in Once Upon a Forest is the animation. For sure, we aren’t comparing to the detail we have now but even in the year between Fern Gully and this, you can see a notable difference. Once Upon a Forest has some nice detail. Its appealing and captures the atmosphere of the adventure these three are on.
On that note, we can’t get through this review without talking about the music, hence, James Horner. I love talking about music. Adventure movies rely heavily on music. Once Upon a Forest also has a slight musical factor where they do have some songs which are all (maybe except one) that is scored by James Horner. He manages to capture the peace of the meadow, then the danger and the height is fueling the highs and lows of the adventure with fun music. At times, it just sweeps subtly in the background to build the atmosphere.
Once Upon a Forest however is still an animation, possibly geared mostly towards younger kids. There definitely was nostalgia mixed into my current enthusiasm for the movie. Watching it again older, there are obvious flaws to the logic of the characters like even the simple fact of poison gas not having just a boundary of expansion or that it dissipates so fast. However, it is still a simple movie that manages to get their point through in a rather effective, adventurous and fun manner in a run time that never overstays its welcome. Its worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.
Have you seen Once Upon a Forest? Do you like it?