The Wild Thornberrys

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The Wild Thornberrys was a Nicktoon that ran from 1998 to 2004 created, animated, and produced by Klasky-Csupo of Rugrats fame. The show centres around Eliza Thornberry, an adventurous young girl who can talk to animals, an especially handy power when your parents travel the world to make Nature Documentaries. Naturally, there's a catch--she can't tell anyone she has this power, or else she loses it, and presumably, the shaman who gave it to her to begin with would be hard-pressed to give it back again. The cast is filled out by the aforementioned parents Nigel and Marianne Thornberry, the Nature Documentary's presenter and camerawoman respectively and Eliza's older sister, the deadpan and deeply-unenthusiastic-about-her-parents'-career Debbie. Also along for the ride was the deeply neurotic chimpanzee Darwin, and crazy wild jungle boy Donnie, Eliza's adopted younger brother.

The series has three films to its name, the Made for TV Movie The Wild Thornberrys: The Origin of Donnie (2001), and two theatrical films The Wild Thornberrys Movie (2002) which an academy award nomination to its name (albeit for best song, not for best animated feature), and Crossover movie Rugrats Go Wild. This show has examples of some of the only non villainous roles in Tim Curry's career - Nigel Thornberry and his father.

Tropes used in The Wild Thornberrys include:
  • Animal Talk: Animals can all converse with each other but not with humans, except for Eliza. When people hear Eliza talking to animals it sounds like animal noises and gibberish.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Donnie, the random, unintelligible, hyperactive Wild Child.
  • Big Damn Heroes / The Cavalry: Debbie in general. While she always bickers with Eliza and doesn't care for her interests, she's always the first person to jump in and save her sister's life once things look their worst, often diving headfirst into danger without much reservation for her own safety. Often Overlaps with A Friend in Need, I Got You Covered, and occasionally Changed My Mind, Kid. The "Debbie goes looking for Eliza in the wilderness, finds her in jeopardy and saves her life" bit was used so often that they lampshaded it when it happened in the series finale.

Debbie (as Eliza and Shane cling on the side of a cliff from an unstable tree): "This is getting old..."

  • Bilingual Bonus: Once, when Debbie attempted to teach Donnie proper words, she tried getting him to say apple. Instead, he picked up the example fruit and repeatedly said pomme. It seemed like typical Donnie gibberish, but in fact pomme is the french word for apple or fruit.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Debbie who longs for a normal suburban life and is very vocal about it.
  • Broken Aesop: In Valley Girls, Eliza takes a tape recorder from Debbie, resulting in the plot point. After trying to take a boulder from some gorillas to push the Commvee out of the mud, she learns from the gorillas that if you want something, you should ask for it. A very great lesson for kids; except for the fact that Debbie would have said no if Eliza asked for the tape recorder.
    • Also, in Shane G.'s first episode. He doesn't listen to Eliza and ends up angering a mother bear and later a wolverine. Instead of worrying about the fact that he's endangered all of them, including a toddler and twelve-year-old, he wants everyone to film it because it will 'help his image' as a singer. Eliza blows up at him, and he says she's a wildlife snob - which everyone agrees with. The Aesop? It's wrong to know facts that other people don't, especially important ones. Also, people with cool hair and fangirls are always right. Proven fact.
  • Bumbling Dad: Nigel can be quite the goofball, but he's a very devoted and loving father willing to risk even his own life for his children.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Again, Nigel. Despite his rather child-like enthusiasm, he's actually very competent at finding and studying rare wildlife.
  • Butt Monkey: Debbie goes through a lot of humiliation.
    • Puns aside, bad things always seem to happen to Darwin, as well.
  • City Mouse: Debbie.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Debbie and Darwin.
  • Death by Origin Story: Donnie's parents.
  • Did Not Do the Research: Nigel's Trademark Favorite Food, kippers are portrayed as grey, whole fish and described as "dry, salty fish". In reality, they're smoked fillets of herrings, which are split from head to tail before smoking, are quite oily, and their meat has a distinct dark orange colour.
    • The whole episode where they were in New Zealand. They're in "Roturoa" (actually spelled Rotorua), the famous Rotorua lakes are mysteriously absent from the whole episode, and the Maori culture... Not a single word was pronounced right the whole episode.
  • Directionless Driver: Gender-flipped - Maryann always drives, and she never asks for directions even when her sense of direction isn't exactly best.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Technically, Darwin is a chimpanzee (an ape). But, eh... close enough.
  • Evil Poacher: A common enemy for the family, particularly Those Two Bad Guys.
  • Follow the Leader: This show was made as a result of the popularity of the Eddie Murphy Dr. Dolittle film.
  • Foreign Queasine: Mom makes capybara burgers in the first episode. They were in South America, though.
  • Free-Range Children: Eliza and sometimes Donnie often go out in untamed jungle, savannah, deserts, scrub, and swamp areas without a adult.
  • Freudian Trio: Eliza = Ego, Darwin = Superego, Donnie = Id.
  • Friend to All Living Things: The entire Thornberry family to animals. Debbie included; she may not have the enthusiasm of her parents and sister, but is shown to have a soft spot for animals.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Debbie and Eliza fight constantly. Being polar opposites doesn't help much.
  • Great White Hunter: Replace the gun with a camera and Nigel fits this.
  • Halloween Episode: A season three episode focused on Day of the Dead
  • Happily Adopted: Donnie was taken in at some point before the show began, but he wasn't officially adopted until his TV Special.
  • Happily Married: Nigel and Marianne -- the family that films nature documentaries together stays together!
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the movie, Eliza gives up her powers to save her sister.
  • I Am Very British: Nigel is voiced by Tim Curry, loves kipper and is eventually knighted. His daughters however, speak with American accents.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: For some reason, season 2 was the season of punny Idiosyncratic Episode Naming. Some particularly noteworthy examples: Koality and Kuantity, Chimp Off the Old Block, and the cringe-inducing gem Cheetahs Never Prosper.
  • Ink Suit Actor: Marianne's mother greatly resembles her voice actress Betty White.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: with the Rugrats in the film Rugrats Go Wild!
  • Magical Native American: The Shaman that gave Eliza her gift in the first place.
    • Also in one episode Eliza meets a aboriginal man that can speak to dingos (but not other animals).
  • Memetic Mutation: Replacing a cartoon character's face with Nigel's.
  • Playing Against Type: Woah. Tim Curry playing someone that isn't evil or ridiculously snarky?
  • Poor Communication Kills: One episode has Eliza and her chinese penpal accidentally getting into trouble because they didn't know that the pandas were actually being transported to a safer place and thought they were instead being poached.
  • Prince and Pauper: In one episode, Eliza secretly switches places with a Mongolian girl who bears a striking resemblance to her.
  • Raised by Wolves: Donnie was raised by a mother orangutan alongside her own offspring for several years after his parents were killed by poachers.
    • While in South America Donnie and Debbie meet a girl Donnie's age being raised by jaguars.
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation
  • Screwed by the Network: The series had a two episode grand finale that ended the series, but the actual last episode wasn't aired until over a year after the first one. When they did air the actual last episode, it was without much proper advertisement and most people weren't aware of it.
  • Secret Keeper: Debbie after the first theatrical film.
  • Shapeshifting Lover: Sort of. One of the legends which fall under that trope, The Pink Dolphin, is adapted in a Shapeshifting Best Friend. When Debbie makes friends with a South American girl, Eliza begins to think this girl is a river dolphin who wants to turn Debbie into one too because she is lonely. It's never revealed if Eliza is correct but it is distinctly implied to be the case.
  • Shown Their Work: This isn't just a mindless cartoon; aside from the talking part, a lot of effort was put in to show how animals behave and made sure they were shown in their proper habitat. For example, that female lions do most of the hunting, komodo dragons smell with their tongues, camels store fat and not water, African elephants can communicate by sound vibration, hippos are extremely territorial and not the cute, lazy animals portrayed on the media (as Eliza's cousin erroneously thought), etc.
    • A lot of work was also put into showing accurate portrayals of the indigenous peoples and their cultures and lifestyles. For example, in the episode "Luck Be An Aye Aye", the people of Madagascar try to kill an aye-aye Eliza befriends because they regard it as an ill omen, a true unfortunate case in real life.
  • Sick Episode: Eliza develops appendicitis while in the heart of the Australian outback.
    • In another episode, Nigel gets poisoned by a stonefish during a filming, leading her to rush back to the Commvee to fetch some antitoxin.
  • Silly Reason for War: Two different groups of primates were fighting each other because one group had tails and the other didn't. Eliza stops them fighting by getting both groups to wear coconuts as armour. The armour made it impossible to tell who had a tail and who didn't.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: The main feature of the show is Eliza's ability to talk to animals.
  • Taught By Experience: Debbie may not share the same intense love of animals as her family but their knowledge and traveling has left her very knowledgeable about the animal kingdom. She also knows a lot about subjects that relate to them and the places where they live, too.
  • This Is No Time for Knitting: Marianne gets irritated with Nigel when they are supposed to filming a documentary on the bird-eating spider and he keeps being distracted by a series of seemingly unrelated activities. He eventually explains that everything he was doing was to actually help him locate the spider so they could start filming.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Kip and Beiderman, the only two recurring antagonists.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Eliza and Debbie, respectively.
  • The Unintelligible: Donnie
  • Wild Child: Donnie was raised by orangutans.