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Series / Shoebox Zoo

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"In every generation dawns a most auspicious day, the day when four elevens meet, and sleepers have their say. The day to which the fickle sands of time and tide have run. The day when fate and prophecy, reveal the chosen one."

Shoebox Zoo is a fantasy children's show developed by The BBC in conjunction with various Canadian television companies. The series is a 26-episode series which ran from 2004 to 2005. Seemingly profiting off the live-action and CGI animated characters of fellow BBC-funded show Ace Lightning, the show involves a Scottish-American 11-year-old girl with major angst issues as she becomes involved in a fantasy world.

The plot involves 11-year-old Marnie McBride moving to Edinburgh, Scotland, with her father to live a new life after her mother, Rosemary, died of unknown causes, and hasn't really gotten over her passing yet. On her 11th birthday, Marnie and her dad, Ross, visit an old junk shop where the elderly bearded shopkeeper gives Marnie an old shoebox containing four toy animals that are in no way alive. However, it turns out that they are alive and are over 1,100 years old.

The show's intricate backstory is revealed, that the four toys — Edwin, Bruno, Ailsa and Wolfgang — are all scholars trapped within their toy forms after stealing the Book of Forbidden Knowledge from their mentor, the great wizard Michael Scot (actually based on a real philosopher and mathematician). Only The Chosen One has the power to awaken the toys from their slumber, and must find the Book to reverse the spell used on them. But stalking Marnie from the shadows is the evil, bald magician Toledo the Shapeshifter, who plans to use the Book's dark magic to Take Over the World. Marnie is quickly thrown into the deep end, dealing with the magical world she discovers, her school life and slowly developing trauma of losing her mother, which lingers for quite some time.

A second season was commissioned after the success of the first, involving Marnie and pals going to the United States after they make a big discovery about the Book. Marnie's emotional journey continues as she looks for the Book while Toledo initiates a second prophecy with the coming of the Dawn Queen, using Demonic Possession to control the Dawn Queen's avatar Aurora Dexter to find the Book. There are numerous casualties along the way, with Marnie taking a brief walk on The Dark Side. The show eventually ends on a No MacGuffin, No Winner, ending with the hint of future events beyond the show's end, although no one seems to have been bothered to continue the show's story.

The show appeared to have a rather decent fanbase which had circulated around its (now defunct) Web site, but now the whole fandom has vanished without a trace...

Shoebox Zoo contains examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: Aside from Michael Scot, McTaggart and Nathaniel Stone, the adults in the show are oblivious to Marnie's secondary life. Her grandparents encountered the Shoebox Zoo when Marnie's mother was a child but were unaware that they were alive. Most of the other children who appear in the show are also oblivious to Marnie's life.
  • Alliterative Name: Marnie McBride.
  • Alpha Bitch: Somewhat. Marnie acts very much like one in the first season, mistreating the Shoebox Zoo and treating them like garbage for most of the time. Viewers have commented on her negative aspects and she has been seen as one of the most repulsive protagonists ever.
  • Angst: Very much to the extreme in Marnie's case and played throughout the show. Marnie spends every moment possible crying and wailing over the loss of her mother. While she is 11 years old and natural for her, if anyone mentions her mother, Marnie immediately breaks down. This could count as Age-Appropriate Angst.
    • This trope also applies to Wolfgang, in his hatred for his father, Michael Scot. Becomes Angst? What Angst? in episode 11, after a reunion meeting makes them best of friends again, just in time for Wolfgang's death.
  • Arc Number: The number 11 appears countless times in the series.
    Michael Scot: Your dark days are numbered.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Book of Forbidden Knowledge.
  • Artificial Human: Toledo is revealed to have been created by Michael via alchemy, making him a homunculus.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Michael Scot is portrayed as an immortal wizard, mathematician, and alchemist of the Holy Roman Empire, born in 1011. The real Scot (1175-1232) was indeed a mathematician and scholar, who wrote several non-magical books, but was rumoured to be a sorcerer for centuries.
    • Tantallon Castle is established to have existed in the 10th century, but the real castle wasn't built til the 1350s.
  • Back from the Dead: Wolfgang in the last episode.
  • Bald of Evil: Toledo
  • Bears Are Bad News: The Shoebox Zoo are attacked by a grizzly bear.
  • Big Bad: Toledo.
  • Big "NO!": Marnie gives out several of these during the series, including two in episode 12: once when Edwin opens the book, and again during Wolfgang's death.
  • Butt-Monkey: McTaggart pretty much fills this role. Whilst loyal to Michael, he has to serve Toledo for the first season to spy on him.
  • Captain Obvious: Marnie states the obvious numerous times in the show, such as realising that Michael wrote the Book of Forbidden Knowledge when it was obvious right off the bat.
  • Catchphrase: Toledo's "My power is your power".
  • Chekhov's Gun: Ross lighting the fire at the start of episode 12.
  • The Chosen One: Marnie is introduced as this trope via an 1,100-year old prophecy. Kyle Stone and Aurora Dexter are revealed to be their own Chosen Ones in the second season.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: On discovering his treachery, Marnie holds Wolfgang over a lit candle to get the full details. Also a kind of Foreshadowing.
  • Cool Helmet: Edwin sports a helmet shaped like a bird's head.
    • Michael and latter Toledo also use a stone helmet to spy on Marnie.
  • Creepy Child: John Roberts, really Toledo in disguise, is very creepy. Marnie also is disturbing when she turns dark.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Michael and Toledo warn Marnie not to toss the Book into a fireplace or its powers could rip the world apart.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Most of the cast but most notably Michael, the Shoebox Zoo, Toledo and McTaggart.
  • Demonic Possession: Toledo possesses Aurora to become the Dawn Queen, but technically becomes a woman for several episodes.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: In the first season Marnie has visions of the past, but in the second season she has cryptic dreams of future events.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Marnie is an angst-ridden eleven-year old who lost her mother to cancer and has the weight of the world dumped on her shoulders.
    • The Shoebox Zoo have been in a Fate Worse than Death for eleven-hundred years, asleep across the centuries but possibly self-aware since they know that the Earth is round rather than flat. Wolfgang hates his father's guts for what he did to him and his friends, going as far as to perform a Face–Heel Turn to get back at him.
    • Michael Scot has been a grumpy ass wizard for centuries, looking for his accursed book, while hiding extreme guilt and self-loathing for his ambitions.
    • McTaggart was tortured for 11 years and then given unwanted immortality until the book is found.
    • Toledo is an Artificial Human created by Michael but was not given any affection by his creator, driving him to evil, and Toledo wants to prove his superiority and worth.
    • Marnie's late mother, Rosemary, fits here too, having owned the Shoebox Zoo as a child and known Michael as well, but was unable to awaken the toys, leaving her depressed until her death.
  • Evil Counterpart: Toledo and Los Contrarios are evil clones of Michael and the Shoebox Zoo.
  • Faking the Dead: Nathaniel appears to die at Marnie's hand but is revealed to be alive. Bruno's death is also faked when he is seen fused to a rock with water rising around him, and Marnie is unable to find the spot where she left him. Michael also has faked his death by placing a gravestone in a cemetery.
  • Fiery Redhead: Aurora fills this post, particularly after she is possessed by Toledo.
  • Fish out of Water: The Shoebox Zoo and oddly Michael are out of place in the modern world. The Shoebox Zoo are frightened and fascinated by the modern world, Edwin in particular when he is on an airplane and realises they actually are flying, believing they would take a ship to America.
  • Five-Man Band: The Shoebox Zoo's five members make up this trope.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: Toledo is revealed to be the creation of Michael Scot.
  • Great Way to Go: Toledo leaves the first season in a ball of fire, which explodes when it hits the sea below Tantallon Castle.
  • Heroic BSoD: Marnie experiences this after Toledo/Aurora steals the Book from her, and hysterially screams at her father Ross demanding to know if he meant he would do anything to bring Rosemary back.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: McTaggart dies fighting Toledo to protect Marnie, and the Shoebox Zoo forfeit their only chance to become human again to save the world.
  • Heel Realization: Marnie has one in season 2 after she frames Kyle for stealing a priceless artefact from camp.
  • Historical Domain Character: Michael Scot.
  • Immortal Hero: Numerous — Michael, McTaggart and the Shoebox Zoo.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: Wolfgang comments how everything tastes like sawdust, since he is made of wood.
  • Just in Time: McTaggart does this repeatedly. After the Shoebox Zoo members stole the Book and tossed it over a cliff, it landed on a beach and was immediately picked up by McTaggart who flees to a church to give it to a possible ancestor of Marnie to hide. He later arrives in time to protect Marnie from Toledo in the second season.
  • Light Is Not Good: Villains in this series always seem to dress in white.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Michael's old junk shop in Scotland disappears after Marnie buys the Shoebox Zoo. Another junk shop appears in Denver, but it appears affiliated with only Michael.
  • Living Toys: The Shoebox Zoo, Hunter the Horse who debuts in the second season, and Los Contrarios.
  • MacGuffin: The Book of Forbidden Knowledge. The torn page is also introduced as one in the second season.
  • Mage in Manhattan: Michael, who still wears his ancient robes, looks rather out of place when he appears in the modern day setting (although he wears a vaguely modern outfit when he comes into contact with ordinary people). Toledo is more appropriately dressed in a suit for the majority of the first season.
  • Magical Computer: Michael's head pops out of a computer screen in one episode.
  • Magical Native American: Nathaniel and Kyle. Their ancestor Chief Stonebear and three others hid away the Book to prevent its evil from spreading.
  • Magic Feather: Literal feather used to teach Edwin how to fly. They even reference Dumbo by name.
  • Nice Guy: Bruno.
  • The Nicknamer: Toledo calls Marnie "Girl Child" and affectionately calls Wolfgang "My Little Wolfie".
    • McTaggart also uses a variety of titles including 'Your Magnificent Harmony' when referring to Toledo, after being told to speak to him 'in a manner more befitting his station' in the first episode (he's never actually told what title Toledo would prefer).
  • Pirate Booty: The Book of Forbidden Knowledge was buried where Gramps' woodshed would be built.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: The first prophecy identifies Marnie as the Chosen One, whilst the second is meant to ensure that the Book of Forbidden Knowledge is destroyed by Marnie. This leads to a large dose of Gambit Roulette across history.
    • McTaggart takes the stolen book to a mysterious woman - implied to be the creator of the prophecy - who creates a copy of the book to contain Toledo's magic, then throws the original into the sea. This woman appears to reincarnate as Marnie's mother Rosemary, who briefly owned the Shoebox Zoo, but could not awaken them.
    • Rosemary's ghost later appears before Marnie, guiding her to the fake book and its true purpose. A page featuring a dreamcatcher was inserted within the fake, designed to guide Marnie to the real book's location and gather the keys to destroying it.
    • The fake book destroys Toledo's body, driving him to linger as a spirit and possess a host (Aurora) to fulfil the second prophecy.
    • The real book washes up in Colorado, where it is found by Marnie's ancestor Angus McBride. He gifts the book to Chief Stone Bear, marrying his unnamed daughter. Both the McBrides and the Stones are descendants of this union, combining Celtic and Native American magic, which is needed to destroy the book.
    • Marnie's father Ross then marries Rosemary, leading to Marnie's birth, connecting them to Michael Scot, Stone Bear, and the book.
  • Rain of Arrows: Marnie fires the Arrow of Truth, which impales itself in the Book, destroying it and the villains.
  • Refusal of the Call: Marnie downright refuses to be the Chosen One for half the first season.
  • Remembered I Could Fly: Edwin refuses to fly, believing he can't. He does learn to fly though in the second season.
  • Running Gag: Usually the banter between the toys.
  • Secret-Keeper: Kyle in the second season. Laura, Marnie's friend in season one, somewhat acts as this although she is not completely aware of Marnie's second life.
  • Shapeshifter: Toledo is a shapeshifter, capable of taking on human and animal forms.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Wolfgang gets the lion's share of Character Development in season one, making the other three be comedic. However, season 2 gives much more character development to the three other members of the Shoebox Zoo.
  • The Starscream: Toledo gains this trope in the last episode, waiting for the Dawn Queen to fail in opening the book, and easily snatches it to take it as his own.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: A minor trope for Marnie when she is corrupted by dark magic; she has unkempt stringy hair that hangs over her face.
  • Take Over the World: Toledo's ultimate plan is to take over the world by shrouding it in darkness.
  • Talking Animals: The Shoebox Zoo.
  • Toy Transmutation: The Shoebox Zoo are human wizards turned into animate toys by their Evil Mentor.
  • Trapped in Another World: Wolfgang is trapped in the spirit world for the second season.
  • Wham Episode: Episode 12. Toledo manipulates Edwin into opening the Book and releasing dark magic, bringing Los Contrarios to life, invades Marnie's house and murders Wolfgang by tossing him into a lit fireplace.
  • You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: Toledo appears as a ghost and surprises Marnie with his return.