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 MovieThe Wild Thornberrys: The Origin of Donnie (2001), and two theatrical filmsThe 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.
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.
"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 PersistentThreatening 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.
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 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..."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Retcon: Eliza talks freely about her ability with an Aboriginal Australian shaman in season 2's "Dances with Dingoes". A later Whole Episode Flashbackin the same season establishes that revealing her gift will result in its loss.
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.
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.
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.