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Literature / The Future Is Wild

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The Future is Wild is a Speculative Biology franchise that speculates on the possibility of how life might evolve in the future, focusing entirely on three distinct eras: an Ice Age 5 million years into the future, a wetter, warmer era 100 million years from now, and a period 200 million years ahead in which all the continents have merged into one again.

It began with a TV Speculative Documentary miniseries produced by Britain and the United States that aired on Animal Planet and Discovery Channel in 2003. Each of the 13 episodes covered a different environment from one of the three time periods, as well as the animals that inhabited such places. A companion book co-written by consultant Dougal Dixon (who also wrote its Spiritual Predecessor After Man: A Zoology of the Future) and producer John Adams was released alongside the show. The series was a huge hit with viewers, spawning various pieces of merchandise and even theme park exhibitions in Japan and France.


Eventually, it became popular enough to spawn a CGI children's animated series made in Canada by Nelvana. Due to the lower budget and different tone, it lacked the detailed models of the miniseries and used more cartoonish designs. This Animated Adaptation starred a teenage girl from ten thousand years into the future named C.G. who explores the environments featured in the miniseries alongside a group of twenty-first century teens (Luis, Emily, and Ethan) - as well as a future squid - picked up by accident. It ran for 26 episodes on Teletoon and Discovery Kids from 2007-2008.

A documentary film version of the series was originally set to be picked up by Warner Bros., however, the series may be rebooted by Vanguard Animation and broadcasting at HBO. There are also plans for a Virtual Reality game based on the series by the studio CGARTIST in development. But time will tell if anything comes out of all this.


The Future is Wild documentary-styled miniseries provides examples of:

  • After the End: The premise is about how life will evolve millions of years after humans are gone.
  • Apocalypse How: Planetary Species Extinction.
    • In the US release, humans simply left to settle/live in space. The probes documenting the various creatures were sent by them/their descendants.
    • In the UK release, humans are extinct but it's never said exactly how they went extinct. In nature, there are two ways an animal can become extinct: by being killed off, or by evolving enough that you're eventually considered a different species. The US version and the UK version are not mutually exclusive: humans could have gone off into space and diverged into multiple "alien" species over the millions of years, thus rendering Homo sapiens to be extinct while leaving other species of humans alive.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Some of the predictions are, to say the least, less than likely. For instance, it's quite unlikely for all mammals to be simply outcompeted into total extinction by other vertebrates in the way depicted in the show, and certainly quite impossible for arthropods and cephalopods to totally displace vertebrates in general in all large animal niches.
    • Special mention goes to the Deathgleaner, a diurnal predatory bat. In a scenario where birds are very much still around, it's unlikely for bats to fill this niche, being less efficient flyers than birds due to their solid bones and lack of air sacs, which greatly limits their size.
    • The Spink is one of the least likely. Eusocial bird? Maybe. Eusocial flightless burrowing bird? Less likely. Eusocial flightless burrowing bird with proportions completely different from any real bird? Getting increasingly unlikely. All of that happening in under five million years, from the starting point of a quail, an animal that does none of those things? Er...
    • Squibbons are said to continue the trend of cephalopods evolving "bigger and better brains"...except there's one little problem: a cephalopod's brain is wrapped around their esophagus, and a bigger brain would literally choke them to death. This constraint is probably one reason why modern octopuses rely on a decentralized nervous system with accessory "mini-brains" in their arms to boost their intellectual abilities. However, octopi had been evolving for millions of years to that point — see the swampus — and presumably by that point they'd have adapted.
    • The Titan Dolphin shown in the prototype VR game is a completely absurd depiction of cetacean anatomy: it is terrestrial and walks on its forelimbs like a theropod dinosaur, meaning that its torso is entirely ribcage and it has no space for internal organs whatsoever. The original art instead shows something more like a slug-like ambush predator.
  • Ascended to Carnivorism: The baboons of the future have gone from eating fruit, to eating fish. This isn't particularly far-fetched, as most species of primate are some level of omnivorous as it is.
  • Bat Out of Hell: The Deathgleaner, a species of giant predatory bats inhabiting the deserts the new Ice Age.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Silver spiders, falconflies, slickribbons... hell, the future seems to be especially wild for invertebrates.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The squibbons rescue one of their young from a megasquid. It actually plays out like a Saturday Morning Cartoon.
  • Bioluminescence Is Cool: Employed by the Rainbow Squid to put on amazing light displays during mating, as well as Sharkopaths that use it to signal to each other when hunting down rainbow squids.
  • Bizarre Alien Locomotion: The ocean phantom uses extensible sails to direct its journeys via wind power. The megasquid's numerous walking-tentacles give it a unique gait. Most terabyte castes are Too Important to Walk, but are carried by the transporter caste.
  • Chest Monster:
    • The Spitfire Beetle acts as this to the Spitfire Bird — four of these assemble into a fake flower to attract the bird, and then they jump on it and take it down.
    • The Deathbottle's top looks and reeks like a rotting fish , which attracts the Bumblebeetle. Thankfully for the bug, this one isn't lethal to them.
  • Cockroaches Will Rule the Earth: Not cockroaches per se, but the series ends with the implication that the descendants of squid will evolve into a new civilization. It's squid that get this treatment, with the tree-dwelling ape-like squibbon implied to be the ancestor of a future sapient species of squid people (or "squeople").
  • Crapsaccharine World: This is pretty much the Poggle's natural habitat. They are farmed by Silver Spiders, who provide them with loads of food, look after them, and protect them until they are fully grown, at which point they are brutally slaughtered and fed to the spider colony's queen.
  • Crippling Overspecialization:
    • This causes some species to go extinct. Most monkeys die out once the Amazon rainforest gives way to vast grasslands, being unable to deal with a sudden change in lifestyle, though the Babookari is one notable exception.
    • Terabytes have it in the literal and trope sense. Most of the castes are overspecialized in their job to the point where their legs are vestigal or even completely absent. As such, they require a transporter caste to carry them around.
  • Cub Cues Protective Parent:
    • The Deathgleaners attempt to prey on a baby Rattleback, but are forced to retreat when its distress cries bring its much larger and angrier mother charging the bats.
    • Although it's not necessarily the parent, the killing of a toraton hatchling by the swampus makes a nearby adult toraton rather annoyed. Downplayed example, as the toratons are not necessarily out for revenge, per se, they just happen to wander into Swampus territory in search of their missing baby, and unknowingly trample the Swampus nursery plants.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: A few of the more cute and harmless future critters, such as the Spinks and Desert Hoppers, are mostly nocturnal and come out at night to avoid the heat and the predators.
  • Dire Beast: Many of the creatures shown are imagined as gigantic, or at least bigger, descendants or relatives of modern-day animals:
    • snow stalker and gryken = dire mustelids
    • shag rat = dire marmot (but occupying the niche of a musk ox)
    • deathgleaner = dire bat (bigger than modern flying foxes)
    • ocean phantom = dire Portuguese man-of-war
    • toraton = dire giant tortoise
    • rainbow squid = dire Giant Squid or Colossal Squid
  • Expy: There many species that take heavy inspiration from Dixon's earlier work, After Man: A Zoology of the Future, differing from them in only minor details.
    • Snow Stalker: Bardelot
    • Shagrat: Woolly Gigantelope
    • Gannetwhale: Vortex and Porpin
    • Cryptile: Fin lizard
    • Gryken: Pamthret
    • Scrofa: Zarander and Turmi
    • Spink: Termite Burrower
    • Great Blue Windrunner: Bootie Bird
    • Rattleback: The Grassland Rattleback is an expy of the Testadon and Spine-tailed Squirrel. The Desert Rattleback is an expy of the Rootsucker.
  • Fantastic Fauna Counterpart: Many creatures are expies of other animal species, both living and extinct, since they all fill similar ecological niches, and were subject to convergent evolution. For example, Shagrats are rodent musk oxen, Snow Stalkers are mustelid polar bears, Gannetwhales are avian walruses, Deathgleaners are mammalian hawks, Spinks are avian gophers, Babookaris are new world monkeys behaving like baboons, Carakillers are falcons acting like terror birds, Toratons are tortoise counterparts to sauropods, Flish are fish behaving like birds, Desert Hoppers are snails acting like kangaroos and Squibbons are squids acting like monkeys. The ocean phantom is basically a siphonophorae jellyfish writ large.
  • Feathered Fiend: The Carakiller. Also, while only trying to defend themselves, both the Gannetwhale and the Spitfire have very lethal defense mechanisms.
  • Flying Seafood Special: The two species of flish. Most people would assume a flying fish would evolve from modern gliding species (or at least any pelagic one), but the makers decided to make it a codfish descendant.
  • Giant Flyer:
    • The Great Blue Windrunner. The sources don't seem to agree on its size; some offer a realistic approach at 3 meters (about the same size as the largest modern flying birds), but the official site states a wingspan of 15 meters, which would make flight impossible given how thin the atmosphere is at the altitudes it flies at and how narrow its wings are (though it can increase the wing area by raising its legs, which have wing feathers).
    • The deathgleaner bats are pretty big too, roughly around the size and wingspan of modern flying foxes or slightly bigger.
  • Humanity's Wake: The British version was about after humanity went extinct, the American version changed it so that the human race simply left the system.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted:
    • 100 million years in the future, the predator/prey roles in the Antarctic Jungle have reversed, and bugs now prey on birds instead of the other way around.
    • The Ocean Phantom preys on small aquatic creatures such as young Reef Gliders. Reef Gliders that make it to adulthood become its predator, and the Ocean Phantom requires help from Spindletroopers to fend them off.
  • Irony: "These strange creatures are called Babookari." Yeah, compared to tree-swinging squid, jumping snails, flying fish, acid-shooting birds and dinosaur turtles, a blue-assed baboon would look really strange. To be fair, the babookari appears in one of the first episodes, whereas the more bizarre animals appear later in the show.
    • In today's age, flying predatory birds hunt for small burrowing mammals they can carry off to eat. In the cold Kansas desert, however, it's flying predatory mammals that hunt for small burrowing birds.
    • The megasquid is a cephalopod filling the niche of an elephant, two animals known for being surprisingly intelligent. However, the megasquid itself is notably very small-brained and nowhere near as clever as the tiny Squibbons.
  • Kaiju: The Toraton. Weighing 120 tonnes and 15 times the size of an elephant, the Toraton is the biggest land animal ever to live (dwarfing even the largest known dinosaur, the 90-ton Argentinosaurus).
  • Killer Rabbit:
    • The Spitfire Bird looks like a harmless orange bird, but it can shoot hot toxin from its nasal cavity.
    • The Snowstalker and Gryken are mustelids, and like their relatives from the time of humans, they are both cute and vicious. Downplayed compared to the Spitfire Bird: they are larger than the largest modern mustelid, the wolverine, and they have exposed sabre teeth which make them look scarier.
  • Last of His Kind: 100 million years in the future, nearly all mammals are extinct. The only one left is the Poggle, a tiny rodent-like animal farmed by giant spiders in mountain caves.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Sharkopaths, whose yellow bioluminescence fits them well. They're very ferocious and co-operative predators that viciously hunt and kill the more gentle Rainbow Squid. Also, one of the main problems for life in the high plateau is ultraviolet radiation, and thus both the Windrunner and the Silver Spider reflect it, looking as if glowing in blue and silver light respectively.
  • Mix-and-Match Critter: Justified that convergent evolution has forced new creatures into vacated niches, and so adapted into a form that resembles a now-extinct familiar animal (whether prehistoric or from the age of man). Normally, a species in this show will look like a mix between its ancestor and the species that used to fill its ecological niche in the past.
    • Snowstalker: Smilodon + Polar Bear + Wolverine
    • Toraton: Sauropod + Tortoise
    • Squibbon: Chimpanzee/Gibbon + Squid
    • Rainbow Squid: Giant Squid + Whale
    • Carakiller: Terror Bird/Dromaeosaurid + Caracara + Cassowary
    • Rattleback: Pangolin + Armadillo + Various scavenging rodents
    • Shagrat: Musk Ox + Marmot + Capybara
    • Gannetwhale: Gannet + Penguin + Walrus
    • Cryptile Lizard: Frilled lizard + Basilisk lizard
    • Megasquid: Elephant + Squid
    • Spink: Naked Mole Rat + Quail
    • Lurkfish: Electric Eel + Monkfish
    • Babookari: Baboon + Uakari (Primates forced from the trees also echo early hominids)
    • Sharkopath: Shark + Lantern fish + Dolphin
    • Deathgleaner: Desert hawk + Spectral bat
    • Silver Swimmer: Fish + Planktonic Larval Crustaceans
    • Flish: Birds + Fish
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Some animals have names that are as scary as their appearance: the Sharkopath is a bioluminescent shark, the Carakiller is a flightless Feathered Fiend, and the Deathgleaner is a giant Bat Out of Hell. Also the Deathbottle, an enormous carnivorous plant, though since it can't actually move, it's more like "Names to Stay at Least Five Metres Away From at All Times".
  • Noisy Nature: Quite annoyingly, the Snowstalker is prone to roaring loudly to announce its appearance, alerting the nesting Gannetwhales to its presence, which for obvious reasons is a terrible hunting strategy. Then there is this whole other issue of a wolverine-like mustelid somehow roaring like a tiger...
  • Non-Indicative Name: Gannetwhales, being semi-terrestrial and gathering in large noisy groups on the shore to breed, are less an analogue of whales and cetaceans, and more like a seabird version of a walrus.
  • No Flow in CGI: This common problem was a reason for showing so few mammals, and having them die out in the end. Hair is hard to animate!
  • No-Sell: The Ocean Phantom is basically physically invulnerable. Being a siphonophorae colony, smashing it to tiny bits will just create new colonies springing from the parts.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Rainbow squid assaulted by Sharkopaths panics when it realizes the Sharkopaths are undeterred by its Invisibility Cloak, causing it to have an Invisibility Flicker.
  • Planimal: Garden worms have photosynthesizing algae in their body appendages, making them look like a cross between a fern and a worm.
  • Portmanteau: Boy, does this series ever love them. We have Babookaris, Bumblebeetles, Carakillers, Sharkopaths and Squibbons, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Psycho Electric Eel: The Lurkfish is a gigantic, carnivorous electric fish.
  • Punny Name: Sharkopath, Squibbon, Carakiller, Bumblebeetle, Baboukari, Swampuss, Flish.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Completely and utterly averted. The only times it's brought up are during the Paris time lapse scene and occasional mentions of how geological processes would have long destroyed any sign of human civilization.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The rainbow squid may seem unrealistic, but it's just an Up to Eleven version of real bio-luminescent squid. In fact, it's probably the most realistic of all the cephalopods in the show.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: The shagrats (big as sheep!) and rattlebacks.
  • Rule of Cool: A lot of the predictions aren't especially plausible, but the series is as much about exploring the coolest and weirdest possible outcomes of evolution as it is about actually making serious predictions.
  • Running Gag: A surprising amount of creatures are described as being three meters in size, whether it be three meters long, three meters tall, or having a three meter wingspan.
  • Running on All Fours: The spink, while a bird, walks on all fours due to its subterranean lifestyle and spikes its wings into the ground with each step.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Spindletroopers are said to grow a metre across, yet when compared to the adult reef glider — which is three metres long — only look to be a few centimetres in length. Possibly justified if the majority of 'troopers aren't fully grown.
  • Shock and Awe: The Lurkfish.
  • Speculative Biology: It's a "documentary" speculating on the possible future of life on Earth.
  • Spider Swarm: One of the speculative future creatures is the Silver Spider, which has a similar eusocial caste system to ants or bees.
  • Stock Sound Effect: Bear cub cries for the young Snowstalkers.
  • Super-Persistent Predator:
    • Refreshingly averted in many cases. The Snowstalker reastically flees after the Gannetwhales bombard it with their vomit, the Deathgleaners give up on attacking the baby Rattleback after its mother charges them, and the Falconfly flees after the Spitfire Bird starts squirting it with reactive chemicals. Granted, the Snowstalker does wound a Shagrat and track it down until it dies from blood loss, but this is a Real Life tactic that many predators use.
    • Played straight with the Sharkopaths, who aren't deterred by the Rainbow Squid's invisibility cloak, use their sense of electromagnetic detection to locate it, pressure it into panicking, before the school tears into it.
  • Threatening Shark: 200 MY in the future and they are still there! The consulting scientists state that sharks have been able to survive and evolve throughout hundreds of millions of years simply because they're the perfect killing machines and most likely will be around for a very, very long time.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • If you're a juvenile Toraton, then walking straight into a nest of amphibious squid, with a highly venomous bite, may not be such a good idea.
    • The lost baby Scrofa, that, separated from its parents, runs out into the salt desert until it dies of heatstroke. When it was already on a safe place among the rocks, at that!
  • Too Important to Walk: Every terabyte caste except the porters, which haul the other castes' members around.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: The TV adaptation's 100-million-years-from-now segment explains that all mammals but one are extinct. Then the 200-million-years-from-now segment states that all mammals are extinct by then ... and goes on to list several human-era mammal types that are no longer around, just in case viewers forgot the previous segment of the program.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Literally. The Gannetwhales regurgitate and spit their last meal at possible predators while they are incubating their eggs at the shore. (The behavior is an evolved variation on how some birds, penguins in particular, regurgitate to feed their young.)
  • Wham Line: "Adult toraton." To explain, the toraton is introduced as an elephant-sized herbivore descended from tortoises. It is then killed by a swampus. We then find out that it was only a baby. Adult toraton are the heaviest land animals ever, and have no predators.
  • Why Won't You Die?: The Carakiller trying to attack the armoured Rattleback.

The Future is Wild CGI children's series provides examples of:

  • Ambiguously Brown: C.G. and her father.
  • Animal Talk: All animals (even literally brainless invertebrates like jellyfish and sea spiders) are capable of sentience and speak a language of their own (which can apparently be understood by all species).
  • Carnivore Confusion: Since every single animal is sentient, carnivores are portrayed as villains, ranging from genuine Affably Evil examples into at least one full fledged evil monster without a mind of its own. This is despite the less black and white take on the trope in the documentary-style miniseries, where many carnivores are portrayed sympathetically.
    • Averted in the show itself on one occasion: a carakiller was portrayed as sympathetic in "Monkey Brains" and Gill and Butch, the lurkfish, are just hilarious.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In "Sign Of The Time Flyer":
    Ethan: We could run around in the grass and play Marco Polo.
    C.G.: Oh! You want us to pretend to be the 13th century explorer who journeyed to China? That sounds educational and fun!
  • Deadpan Snarker: Luis, and C.G. at times too.
  • Ditzy Genius: C.G. is this often.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Emily.
  • Missing Mom: C.G.'s mother. The time flyer's captain's father is both shown and mentioned many times throughout the series, but her mother is never once mentioned, nor did she appear.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: C.G.'s birth name Cassiopeia, meaning "she whose words excel", is the name of an infamously vain Queen from Greek mythology. Apparently, one or both of C.G.'s parents really like Greek mythology and give her that name thinking it would be great for her and its aforementioned meaning does suit her very well.
  • Ship Tease: Emily with Ethan, and C.G. with Louis.
  • Team Pet: Squibby the Squibbon.
  • Totally Radical: In the children's series, the Antarctic Forest is described as "trippy". Uh, that's not really what trippy means...
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: C.G. wants to impress her father and make him proud. The problem is that he is cold, stern, aloof and serious, especially towards his daughter. Not helping with this is that he at first doesn't approve of C.G. brnging "Primitives" aboard the Time Flyer. He does get better though as C.G. and her crew proved their worth for the mission throughout the series.


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