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Series / Animorphs

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Animorphs is a Canadian TV series, based on the books series of the same name. The premise revolves around a group of preteens giving the power to morph into any animal they touch, in order to fight off a parasite species known as the Yeerks. It was short lived, running for only 26 episodes on Nickelodeon from 1998 to 2000.

The series stars Shawn Ashmore as Jake, Brooke Nevin as Rachel, Boris Cabrera as Marco, Nadia Nascimento as Cassie, Christopher Ralph as Tobias, Paulo Costanzo as Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill and Eugene Lipinski as Visser Three.

This series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Tobias has black hair here, while in the books his hair is described as dirty blond. This is because the covers of the books had it wrong, and it wasn't fixed until much later.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Tom's Yeerk is given the name Iniss Three-Three-Five. Because in the books his first Yeerk has a different name and his second Yeerk has no name at all, 'Iniss Three-Three-Five' is the name sometimes used in fandom for Tom's second Yeerk.
  • Adaptational Angst Downgrade: In the flashback episode that bears his name, it's revealed Tobias led a pretty comfortable life before becoming an Animorph, in stark contrast to his rough background in the books.
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  • Adaptational Badass: Tobias, due to being portrayed by Tall, Dark, and Snarky Christopher Ralph. In the books he's a meek, gangly bully magnet, while in the show he carries himself with quiet confidence.
  • Adaptational Curves: In the books, Marco is described as being shorter and smaller than both Jake and Rachel. Boris Cabrera on the other hand is a weightlifting enthusiast and is quite buff compared to book Marco. He even went on to become a fitness trainer later in life.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: The episode Not My Problem, which focused on an It's a Wonderful Plot where Jake was given a choice to rewrite history so that he and the other Animorphs never met Elfangor, predated the fourth Megamorphs book (which used this premise near-wholesale) by almost two years. Despite this, it's generally believed that Applegate came up with the premise independently of the TV show, as she has claimed in interviews to only have been able to stomach the first two episodes.
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  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Rachel goes from a straight up Blood Knight to just a Nice Girl.
  • Adaptational Wimp: The Animorphs all have significantly weaker battle morphs than in the books. Rachel goes from her grizzly bear and elephant to a lion (stealing Sixth Ranger Traitor David's battle morph), Marco goes from his gorilla to a wolf, and Cassie loses her own wolf in favor of a horse. Even Jake loses a little; he still gets a tiger morph but he's forced to trade in the formidable Siberian tiger for a smaller, less dangerous white tiger.
    • Visser Three loses his menagerie of monstrous morphs. Aside from one (mostly offscreen) instance, the only morph he ever uses is his human morph.
    • In Season 2, Erek the Chee gets to keep his durability and strength but loses the ability to project holograms around anyone but himself.
  • Adaptation Species Change: Variation; the series rarely used the signature morphs of the protagonists, most likely due to the budget. Rachel's bear morph becomes a lion, Marco's gorilla becomes a wolf. Cassie, whose primary morph in the book is a wolf, uses a horse morph most often in the TV series. Then the Transformers toys got into it, with things like a Jake-bear and Jake-stingray toy (neither of which Jake morphs), and most egregiously a Fusion Dance toy that portrayed Jake, Cassie and Marco all combining to fuse into a "Tri-Rex".
  • Adapted Out: David, the team's Sixth Ranger Traitor, never made an appearance in the show. Several extraterrestrial races, such as the Taxxons and the Pemalites, were cut from the show altogether (due to the show's very limited special effects budget), without even one mention of them (the Pemalites in particular were a bizarre case as their creations the Chee did appear, at least in the character of Erek).
  • Age Lift: In the book series, the protagonists started off as middle school students, and progressively got older. Here, they're already in high school. This was unintentional on the show writers' part, though, as the team members' exact ages were never given until The Answer, which was written and published after the cancellation of the TV series.
  • Anachronism Stew: The setting. Ostensibly set during the late nineties, the computers seen recall late eighties tech and the movie they see in one episode is straight out of the fifties. It's not clear if this was a deliberate choice of setting or if it was just another consequence of Ani-TV's low budget.
  • Animal Motifs: The resistance movement seen in Changes has adopted the hawk as their sigil. Weirdly, this isn't because of Tobias.
  • Ascended Extra: Crazy Fran from The Forgotten, who is based off a throwaway character seen in the first Megamorphs book. Also Melissa Chapman, who makes more appearances in the show than she does in the books.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In "Not My Problem." Too bad for the Yeerks it's just an It's a Wonderful Plot episode.
  • Bald of Evil: Visser Three in his Victor Trent human morph.
  • Big Bad: Visser Three, as per the books. Even after his boss Visser One is revealed, Esplin remains the primary foe of the team.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Visser Three in The Message, when he realizes that, for him, everything is not better with butterflies.
    • In the pilot, Marco when he witnesses Visser Three devouring the Andalite.
  • Bottle Episode: "Tobias," which only features Tobias and Ax, and is nothing but character material.
  • But Not Too Black: Nadia Nascimento, Cassie's actress, is considerably lighter-complexioned than the Cassie depicted in the books' cover art.
  • Butt-Monkey: Harold Nesbit, a Canon Foreigner from Changes. He's a nerd with a crush on Rachael, who is dumped on by everyone.
  • Canon Foreigner: Several, though the most memorable are Hugo, Fred, Mr. Perkins and the unnamed kid played by Shawn Roberts, who is credited as "Skater Dude." Elfangor's disk is a non-character example.
  • Character Exaggeration: Eugene Lipinski's Visser Three. He was already kind of a ham in the books, but Lipinski took it Up to Eleven.
  • Clasp Your Hands If You Deceive: Reversed - Hugo is steepling his hands as he talks with Tobias, but it's Tobias and not Hugo who's the one lying.
  • Complexity Addiction: The Yeerks are pretty good about avoiding this in the first season, but they take it Up to Eleven in the second season, cranking out one hare-brained scheme after another and each more ridiculous than the last.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Mr. Perkins from The Release, though he's light on the 'crazy' and heavy on the 'survivalist'.
  • Cry Cute: Marco, the team cynic, breaks down into tears when talking to Jake about his mother (making him the only character to cry in the comparatively light-hearted TV series) but his tears only serve to make him more handsome and endearing.
  • Cutaway Gag: In "My Name Is Erek" Ax is left out of the mission because he's busy... watching Julia Childs and making soup.
  • Cut Short: The second season ended after a mere six episodes, and the three-part finale ended with nothing resolved. The Yeerks were still a threat, Ax was still stuck on Earth, and aside from the inexplicable destruction of the Yeerk Pool, the Animorphs had accomplished nothing.
  • Dirty Coward: The Yeerks run away like little girls at the first sight of any wild animal.
  • Dull Surprise: Anyone who's infested with a Yeerk. A big departure from the books where Yeerk Controllers are able to make their hosts act perfectly normally, which naturally also greatly lessens the tension when it's obvious who the Controllers are.
  • Expy: The Ellimist becomes one of Obi Wan Kenobi. Old man, same cloak, blue and transparent. Similarly, Visser Three's human morph is a dead ringer for Lex Luthor.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: The series finale, which features the writers' plans for the rest of the season crammed into three episodes.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Marco often added Spanish words and slang in his dialogue.
  • Improbable Weapon User: One episode memorably focuses on the Animorphs attempting to weaponize instant oatmeal against the Yeerks Via water balloons, even.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Despite Ani-TV's attempt to assert the Hork-Bajir as the shock troops of the Yeerks as they are in the books, there's always exactly one Hork-Bajir in a scene, and it's obvious that it's always the same guy in the same costume.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: In Not My Problem, Jake wishes he could be a normal human again. The episode notably predated the fourth Megamorphs book, which had the same premise.
  • Karma Houdini: Visser Three, who ends the series better off than he started - he lost the Yeerk Pool, but he's still leader of the invasion, he just seized Elfangor's disk and neutralized a human resistance, and he's acquired a new human morph to replace his fugitive old one.
  • Kudzu Plot: The series three-part finale, Changes, cobbles together a mishmash of plot ideas most likely intended for future episodes and attempts to resolve them all at once.
  • La Résistance: In Changes, Tobias is captured by a human resistance made up of former Yeerk hosts, led by Hugo. Sadly, they are not explored very deeply and end up getting taken down by the Yeerks in short order.
  • The Lancer: Marco to Jake, as per his role in the books. Also, the unnamed character played by Shawn Roberts, who appears to be second-in-command of the resistance movement.
  • Large Ham: Eugene Lipinski as Visser Three.
  • Left Hanging: It sucks to be Marco. Despite accomplishing more than any other Animorph, he never gets to rescue his mother from the Yeerks.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the books. Most episodes were rated PG, and later ones were often G.
  • Long Bus Trip: Eugene Lipinski's Visser Three never came back for the second season.
  • MacGuffin: Elfangor's disk, a device original to the TV series, serves this role.
  • Magical Negro: Fred, who randomly shows up in "Tobias" to offer encouragement.
  • New Media Are Evil: In The Front the Yeerks concoct a hare-brained scheme to sell cell phones with Yeerks nestled inside them. At the time this episode aired, cell phones were still relatively new.
  • No Name Given: The resistance fighter played by Shawn Roberts is credited simply as "Skater Dude." Which is strange, seeing as how he is never seen skating.
  • Opening Narration: Delivered by Jake, which replaces the kickass vocal theme in the middle of season 1.
  • Oxymoronic Being: Erek the Chee, who in the show is allergic to his own hologram crystals. To put it into perspective, that's like a computer being allergic to its own keyboard.
  • Pedestrian Crushes Car: Jake and Marco start to suspect their friend Erek isn't quite human when they see him jump into the street to rescue a dog and wreck a truck when it crashes into him.
  • Puppy Love: Ax stutters and trips around Marco more than he usually does, acts more excited to see him than the other animorphs, copies his body language, and follows him around without question. In response, Marco acts very protective of Ax and takes it upon himself to teach him about Earth. This comes to its logical conclusion when they slow dance together alongside the other main cast couples in the Grand Finale.
    • The innocent relationships between Jake and Cassie, and Rachel and Tobias, are also sweet and unassuming enough to fall under this trope.
  • Rebel Leader: Hugo, the brave and self-sacrificial leader of the resistance movement seen in Changes.
  • Recruit Teenagers with Attitude: Just like in the book series, a dying alien warrior gives a bunch of kids the power to transform into animals in order to fight against the incoming alien invasion.
  • Relationship Compression: Rachel and Tobias. In the books, they barely knew each other before becoming Animorphs. In the show, a flashback episode establishes they were already good friends at the very least.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Ax and Marco, in the books, take almost the entire series to overcome their distrustful natures to develop their eventual close relationship. In the show, Marco is immediately fond and protective of Ax, which eventually culminates in Ax shyly asking him to slow dance in the series finale.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Used the heroes and villains alike. The Animorphs at one point memorably defeat the Yeerks with water balloons, and the Yeerk plots in season two range from 'sell people cell phones with Yeerks inside them' to 'air an awful sitcom that will brainwash people.'
  • Repeat Cut: When the Controllers break open the door of the observatory in the final episode, the shot is replayed 3 times.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: This series covers the whole gamut. Some episodes are decently faithful adaptations of the source material (such as The Alien), whereas others are fairly loose.
  • Status Quo Is God: In Changes Ax builds himself a spaceship out of spare parts. Though this was the series finale, Ax's spaceship still failed to get off the ground, presumably because he never left Earth in the books.
  • Stupid Evil: The Yeerks always had elements of this, but it went into overdrive in the second season.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Christopher Ralph's Tobias, in a considerable departure from the meek bully-magnet book-Tobias started out as.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: "It's All in Your Hands" is about how the kids have to save the world on their own because can't rely on anyone else.
  • Unexplained Recovery: In the episode based on "The Underground," Tobias is shot with a dracon beam and falls down completely stiff, and even if he somehow survived, there's no indication that the other Animorphs took him with them in their escape. In the next episode, he's back to normal with no explanation.
  • Villains Blend in Better: Averted. In the books, it's said that Yeerks can perfectly imitate their host's behavior so that not even those closest to them can tell the difference. In the TV series, Controllers show clear differences in behavior from their hosts. For example, Principal Chapman says that he hates a pet cat that he once loved, which makes his daughter suspicious. Ax also says that he can tell who's being Controlled by looking in the host's eyes.
    • Oddly enough, it's averted in the It's a Wonderful Plot episode "Not My Problem," which actually has two surprising twists about characters being Controllers. It's a good thing they weren't this effective in the real world.
    • The Controllers also finger their ears a lot, which receives a Take That! in one of the later books.
  • Villain Decay: The Yeerks were never particularly effective, but in season two they threw all pretense of competence to the wind.
    • Visser One is a character-specific example. In the books, she's a menacing, proactive and dangerous figure. In the show, she spends most of her onscreen time watering plants, and while she threatens Visser Three with execution should he fail, these threats turn to be utterly impotent.
    • Visser Three can also be considered this, to the low budget of Ani-TV neutering him of his arsenal of alien monster morphs and making him a mostly ineffectual presence who rarely did more than stand around ranting.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: The Yeerks only rarely use Dracon beams, presumably for budget reasons.
  • Voice of the Resistance: Shawn Roberts's unnamed resistance fighter plays this role, putting up graffiti around town with the movement's sigil.
  • Written-In Absence: Rachel during most of "The Message," when she's supposed to be visiting her dad.
  • You Have Failed Me: Averted with Visser One. She threatens Visser Three with execution if he continues to fail, but several major failures later and he's still alive.

It's all in your hands...