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Western Animation: The Wild Thornberrys
The Wild Thornberrys was a Nicktoon that ran from 1998 to 2004, produced by Klasky-Csupo of Rugrats fame, (deep breath) created by Arlene Klasky, Gabor Csupo, Steve Pepoon, David Silverman and Stephen Sustaric, and developed by Mark Palmer, Jeff Astrof and Mike Sikowitz. Serving as the 9th entry in the wildly popular Nicktoons franchise, 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 has 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.


This show provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Almost every episode, Eliza is surrounded by potentially dangerous animals and Eliza's parents know nothing about her adventures. In the movie, however, their fear of losing their daughter increases when they discover everything Eliza had been doing after she risked her life to save a cheetah cub from poachers.
  • Adventurer Outfit: Nigel wears the safari version.
  • Aloof Big Sister: Debbie to Eliza.
  • Ambiguously Brown: The shaman who gave Eliza her power met her in Nigeria, but he looks more like the boar he used to be than a person.
  • Animal Talk: Animals can all converse with each other but not with huans, except for Eliza. When people hear Eliza talking to animals it sounds like animal noises and gibberish.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
  • Art Evolution: The animation looks a bit flat, the Pilot episode looked a bit cruder however midway through the second season the show began to use digital coloring and over time the animation became smoother and more brighter, compare Season 1 to Season 5.
  • Artistic License - Biology
    • "Reef Grief" featured dugongs that could communicate over long distances through humpback whale songs. Dugongs actually communicate through chirps and barks, and possibly infrasound. Added to that, the dugongs were drawn resembling manatees more than dugongs.
    • If the episode is set at sea, you can count on a Super Persistent Threatening Shark to try to eat at least one of the main characters. In reality, sharks spend much energy simply maintaining their body temperature, and will only hunt fatty prey that's sure to give the shark a return on calories.
    • "Kuality and Kuantity" featured a Lyrebird that not only looked nothing like a Lyrebird, but could mimic human speech (Lyrebirds are well known for their ability to mimic sounds, but they cannot mimic human speech)
    • In "Luck Be An Aye-Aye" the Aye- did not have the long fingers that the species is well known for
    • "Bogged Down" had a stonefish which more closely resembled a lionfish. It was also referred to as a rockfish.
  • As Herself: Jane Goodall in "The Trouble with Darwin".
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The old Bornean woman who tells Eliza that Donny is returning to his real family has a vague continental-African accent, instead of anything remotely Bornean, where it be Malay or otherwise.
  • Award Bait Song: From the movie, "Father and Daughter", which was actually nominated for best song at the Academy Awards, but didn't win.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Debbie and Eliza, particularly in their childhood. Even in the movie, Debbie gave Eliza a good-bye hug before Eliza was sent to London.
    • Their love for each other is really put to the test when Blackburn threatens to throw Debbie off a cliff if didn't reveal her secret.
  • Bad Ass Family: Eliza is the most obvious example, but every Thornberry had shown fair amounts of badassery in several occasions, especially when protecting each other.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The shaman who gave Eliza her powers was turned into a bhighest shaman in his tribe for devouring his prized sheep.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Debbie, in most of her outfits.
  • Bat Scare: Inverted on an episode. Eliza tried to greet a bat only for the bat to * Atscream human!" frightening all the other bats into waking up and flying kjjhllhhhgeBeastMaster: With few exceptions (mostly Super Persistent that see her as nothing but prey), Eliza befriends most of the animals she meets, and they are always ready to provide her with assistance/protection, specially against the very few animals that she doesn't befriend.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Oddly enough, Darwin for Eliza. Despite being a Cowardly Lion, he cares deeply for Eliza and would never risk putting her in danger
  • 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..."
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yeti".
  • Bilingual Bonus: Once, when Debbie attempted to teach Donnie proper words, she tried getting him to say "apple". He picked up said fruit and repeatedly said "pomme", the French word for apple.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Debbie, Donnie and Eliza in that order.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Debbie.
  • Broken Aesop:
    • In "Valley Girls", Eliza takes a tape recorder from Debbi without asking for permission. 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 the kids—except for the fact that Debbie would have said no if Eliza asked.
    • In "Hello Dolphin!", Nigel explains to Marianne that sharks are misunderstood creatures, with most shark bites being inquisitive inspections. Same episode later then has a shark relentlessly attacking the family and the raft they're on, even after being hit on the snout with a diving cylinder.
  • 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: For all his numerous eccentricities, Nigel has a near encyclopedic knowledge of animals.
  • Butt Monkey:
    • Debbie goes through a lot of humiliation.
    • Puns aside, bad things always seem to happen to Darwin, as well.
  • City Mouse: Debbie.
  • Cool Motor-home: The Commvee is apparently the size of a small house, has at least one smaller vehicle stored inside it, is amphibious and seaworthy, and can enter a nigh invulnerable "security mode". Not to mention handling off-road quite well. Probably counts.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Debbie and Darwin.
  • Death by Origin Story: Donnie's parents.
  • Determinator : Nothing can stop Eliza from protecting/saving an animal in danger, and she'll also go to great lengths to protect her family and human friends. Same can be said about the whole family.
  • Directionless Driver: Marianne always drives, and she never asks for directions even when her sense of direction isn't exactly the best.
  • Disabled Means Helpless: One episode has Eliza meeting an Australian girl in a wheelchair. Eliza immediately begins to pity her and tries to keep her from doing anything she thinks might be too dangerous for her, greatly getting on the girl's nerves.
  • A Dog Named Dog: The Galápagos finches from the ep "Eliza-cology"
  • 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.
  • Evil Sounds Raspy: Kip O'Donnell.
  • Ethnic Magician:
    • The shaman who gave Eliza her gift in the first place comes from a tribe of Magical Nigerians.
    • "Dances with Dingoes" features an Aboriginal Australian who can speak to dingos and induce dreams with light shows.
  • Fearless Fool: Nigel Thornberry goes after some seriously dangerous animals, always with an excited grin on his face.
  • Free-Range Children: Eliza and sometimes Donnie often go out in untamed jungle, savannah, deserts, scrub, and swamp areas without a adult.
  • Friend to All Living Things: With the exception of Debbie, the entire Thornberry family.
  • 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.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Debbie and Eliza fight constantly. Being polar opposites doesn't help much.
  • Gonk: Nigel Thornberry, whose odd appearance has led to him becoming something of a meme.
  • Good Parents: Nigel and Marianne are certainly the caring parents toward their daughters and Donnie.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Debbie.
  • 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.
  • Holding Both Sides of the Conversation: Debbie does this with Boko, a native of East Africa. During the movie, he repeats certain words that Debbie says and he shows some understanding of what's going on. He even attacked a poacher because he knew very well that Debbie was in danger.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Bringing your father's birthday watch into the middle of a swamp and then fighting over it in a boat couldn't possibly result in it going overboard.
    • Eliza doesn't bother calling the elephants for help through infrasound in "Birthday Quake", even though she's already done so with the same herd in an earlier episode.
    • In "The Wild Snob-Berry", rocker Shane G. completely disregards Eliza's warnings and ends up angering a mother grizzly bear and immediately afterwards a wolverine. Instead of worrying about the fact that he's endangered everyone, including a toddler and a twelve-year-old, he wants everyone to film it because it will "help his image" as a singer.
  • In Harmony with Nature: The various Ethnic Magicians in the show, though subverted by the shaman who gave Eliza her powers in the first place.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Marianne's mother greatly resembles her voice actress Betty White.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: with the Rugrats in the film Rugrats Go Wild!
  • It's All About Me: Debbie. In spades. Especially in the episode where they're offered to stay at Nigel's Parents' mansion for the rest of her life. She indulges in wangst all the time about how she wants to stay there, not even lifting a finger when Eliza may have been caught in a bad storm.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Debbie can be mean and bitchy at times, but she's not so bad really.
  • Karma Houdini: Nothing is mentioned of what happened to the poachers who killed Donnie's parents.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Subverted. In the movie, Eliza gets gossiped about and snickered at for interacting with animals, but the kids end up being interested in her.
  • Madness Mantra: TOWER TIME! TOWER TIME! TOWER TIME! KNOCK IT DOWN, FALL TO GROUND! KNOCK IT DOWN, FALL TO GROUND!
  • Mama Bear / Papa Wolf : Mess with Eliza or Debbie, and you'll find out their parents can be more dangerous than these tropes' literal examples.
    Nigel: "NO CREATURE THREATENS A THORNBERRY!"
  • Meaningful Name: Eliza's gift makes her a "Doctor Dolittle" figure. Her name may be a Shout-Out to My Fair Lady's Eliza Doolittle.
  • Oh Crap: In "Naimina Enkiyio".
    Darwin: Can we please get out of the forest now?
    Eliza: Actually, I've been trying to find our way back for last 15 minutes.
    Darwin: Then that means we're lost.
    Eliza: I didn't say anything because I didn't wanna worry you.
    Darwin: (laughing) Worry, me? Oh no, I'm TERRIFIED!!!!!!!
  • 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.
  • Power Trio: Eliza = Ego, Darwin = Superego, Donnie = Id.
  • Prince and Pauper: In one episode, Eliza secretly switches places with a Mongolian girl who bears a striking resemblance to her.
  • 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.
  • 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 leopards.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Debbie.
  • Real After All: The girl in "Naimina Enkiyio", ambiguously. Eliza sees her reflection on the muddy waters. Later she found her necklace in the same spot Eliza tried to make a bed to rest. She hears her calling her name. Then we see her on a tree branch watching the tribe and the Thornberrys, but her silhouette turned out to be the leaves and her "eyes" were the moon.
  • Redheads Are Uncool: Eliza has a few traits of this.
  • Retcon: Eliza talks freely about her ability with an Aboriginal Australian shaman in season 2's "Dances with Dingoes". A later Whole Episode Flashback in the same season establishes that revealing her gift will result in its loss.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Kip and Beiderman, the only two recurring antagonists.
  • 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 through infrasounds, 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, an unfortunately also the 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 him 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.
  • Superstition Episode: The episode "Luck Be An Aye Aye" mentioned above. Eliza befriends an aye-aye who she insists isn't the cause of the bad luck that plagues her, calling that a silly superstition like walking under ladders, while she walks under a ladder.
  • 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.
    • Except for spinning on the ropes; he really was screwing around then.
    • Another episode when Marianne learns that Eliza was in trouble, she was shocked that Nigel was too busy finishing up a building project only to discover he was building a boat to save their children.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Eliza and Debbie, respectively.
  • The Unintelligible: Donnie only communicates via gibberish.
  • Valley Girl: Debbie speaks this way.
  • Wild Child: Donnie was raised by orangutans.
    • One episode has Donnie and Debbie finding a girl in the jungle who is being raised by leopards.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: When Debbie and Grandma Sophie are invited to a Bornean tribe's evil-spirit-expelling celebration, Debbie mistakes the villagers for cannibals preparing to eat them.

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alternative title(s): The Wild Thornberrys
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