Follow TV Tropes


Western Animation / Back to the Outback

Go To
"We’re going back to the outback!"note 

Back To The Outback is a 2021 Australian-American animated adventure comedy film directed by Clare Knight and Harry Cripps. The film follows five Australian zoo critters—a tender-hearted taipan snake named Maddie (Isla Fisher), lovesick funnel-web spider Frank (Guy Pearce), cynical thorny devil lizard Zoe (Miranda Tapsell), a neurotic marbled scorpion named Nigel (Angus Imrie), and a pompous koala named Pretty Boy (Tim Minchin)— that are Not Evil, Just Misunderstood, who embark on an adventure to get back to the outback. The trip is not without its perils, as zookeeper Chaz Hunt (Eric Bana) and his son Chazzie are on the hunt to catch the animals and bring them back to the zoo.

Back To The Outback provides examples of:

  • Accent Slip-Up: When Chaz admits to his son that he never went on all those adventures he wrote about in his books, he temporarily slips into an American accent, and reveals he is actually from Florida.
  • Aerith and Bob: The Tasmanian devils are named Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Dave.
  • Affectionate Nickname: When Pretty Boy warms up to Maddie, they start referring to each other by their initials.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Funnel-Web spiders and Tasmanian devils in real-life don't have purple fur like the ones seen in the movie. Also, inland taipans are not blue.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Nigel is heavily implied to be homosexual, as proof by his interactions with or referring to Pretty Boy.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Does Norine truly understand what Maddie is saying, or is she just really good at interpreting what animal noises and body language means?
    • After Maddie claims that she's "pretty deadly", Norine's expression implies that she does understand her.
  • Artistic License – Arachnids: Nigel's sting is twice used to render Pretty Boy unconscious. In real life, a marbeled scorpion's sting is extremely deadly. Surviving getting stung once would be unlikely enough.
  • Audible Sharpness: Maddie’s fangs make a distinct shing sound when she brings them out. When Pretty Boy bares his teeth, there’s a boing sound instead.
  • Blood Sucking Bats: The bat colony that helps the group is stated by Dave to drink warm blood, and Maddie tells one (Vlad) to get away from Pretty Boy’s neck. Interestingly, official material lists them as flying foxes, which are herbivores.
  • Butt-Monkey: Pretty Boy suffers a lot of painful and unhygienic moments over the course of the movie.
  • Call-Back: Earlier in the film, Pretty Boy is shown entertaining his fans by riding a small fire truck. In the climax, he and Maddie use a real fire truck to rescue their friends.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Animals eating other animals is only really briefly brushed up on a few times.
    • First where the group clearly thinks they are going to be eaten by a shark (who turns out to be an ok gal named Jacinta).
    • Jacinta sadly notes to the group that Duncan the dung beetle, who the cast had met at the zoo sometime before the start of the film, had been eaten by a seagull shortly after being released back into the wild, and nervously hides them from the view of another seagull that passes by.
    • Vlad the flying fox (which are actually herbivorous bats in real life) tries to fly off of with and feed on Pretty Boy while his colony helps the group get through the mountains, with Maddie telling him off for it.
      Maddie: No, Vlad! Get off his neck! Bad, bad bat!
  • Connected All Along: Early in the film, the group offhandedly learns from Jacinta that an unseen dung beetle they knew from the zoo named Duncan had been eaten by a seagull one month prior, after being released back into the wild. Later in the film, the group gets help from some dung beetle U.S.S agents to get past some human cattle ranchers. It later turns out the leader of the dung beetles is Duncan’s brother, and recognizes Chaz as the human who took him away, leading to him organizing the other dung beetles to roll boulders into the chasm Chaz is chasing the protagonists in, in an attempt to avenge his brother.
  • Covert Group: The "Ugly Secret Society", or "U.S.S" for short, is an international rescue organization of "misunderstood" animals, who help other animals in need, but their agents will only do so if their secret password is spoken.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Dave, Lucifer, and Beelzebub kick Chaz’s butt quite handily, causing him to frantically call to his son to throw him a rope so he can get the heck out of there.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Throughout the film, Nigel is shown to REALLY like Pretty Boy since he's so cute, even asking at one point if he could wipe his butt on his body.
    Nigel: Can I wipe my bottom with your fur?
    Pretty Boy: *confused* What!?
  • Explosive Breeder: The two cane toads Maddie frees have an absurd amount of children by the end of the film, and it’s implied they only did so in 1-2 weeks tops.
  • Fauxreigner: Chaz isn't an Australian. He's an American.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Spider:
    • Played straight with Frank the funnel web spider, who is a good-natured arachnid and one of Maddie's True Companions who desperately craves a girl to call his own.
    • Zig-Zagged with Legs Luciano, who is a charming redback spider who leads an entire horde of similarly-noble spiders that work for the U.S.S. and help save the main group from a mob of angry humans and help them navigate through the city. On the other hand, she has no qualms about killing Pretty Boy for being too attractive until Maddie vouches for him.
  • Great Escape: The group escaping the zoo at night plays out like a prison break, complete with guard towers scanning the area with search lights that Maddie and the others have to avoid.
  • Groin Attack: Chaz kicks Dave in a sensitive area to buy himself some time to run past the Tasmanian devil.
    Dave: Ahh! My bloomin’ onions!
  • Hypocritical Humor: During the group's encounter with Jacinta, Pretty Boy complains about the shark focusing only on herself... then asks that everyone focus on him instead.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Chaz turns around to vomit when his son gives him . . . something to drink based off of something he read in one of his father's adventure/survival books.
    Chaz: I’m parched. Where’s the FIJI water?
    Chazzie: We drank it all, but here.
    *pours a liquid in his father’s mouth with a leaf*
    Chaz: *gulps* What is it?
    Chazzie: *smiling innocently* My urine.
  • I Am a Monster: Maddie was feared by the public and they called her a monster much to Maddie's dismay.
  • I Can't Believe I'm Saying This: Pretty Boy invokes this just before using the U.S.S's secret phrase to save Maddie.
  • Instant Sedation: Nigel’s venom and the tranquilizer serum both knockout their targets within seconds, and both have the added effect of causing Pretty Boy to foam at the mouth when it kicks in.
  • Interspecies Adoption: Jackie, a saltwater crocodile, refers to Maddie (a snake), Frank (a spider), Nigel (a scorpion), and Zoe (a lizard) as her babies, and considers herself their mother. It’s implied she watched over them all as they grew up, as she recalls that when they were brought to the zoo, they were too young to remember their old homes. The animations during the end credits imply that she may have taken Pretty Boy (a koala) under her wing as well.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Chazzie shows shades of this when he threatens to thump another kid if he doesn’t tell him where the escaped zoo animals are, but given his actions later, it’s likely he was just putting on a "tough guy" attitude to try and impress his father.
    • Chazzie rather abrasively wakes the animals up at the zoo by angrily beating their cages with a stick and calling them names.
  • Liar Revealed: After being pressured into doing so, Chaz reveals to his son that he's not actually a badass wildlife expert and only wanted to do that stuff because he saw someone else doing it on TV.
  • Living Crashpad: The group is terrified when they fall off of a cliff, but are relieved when they land and realize they happened to do so on Pretty Boy.
    Frank: Ooh! Sweet!
    Nigel: Like a tiny cloud filled with hate!
  • Mating Season Mayhem: With the bulk of the film taking place during funnel web spider mating season, Frank keeps involuntarily starting up a mating dance, and at one point flirtatiously asks a black widow spider if she is busy later.
  • Meaningful Name: Played with. Chaz officially introduces Maddie as "Medusa" in her first appearance in his show, almost certainly after the figure from Greek mythology, famously depicted as a monstrous woman with snakes instead of hair. While he likely thought it was a fitting name seeing how deadly taipans can be, even going so far as to call her a monster, Maddie doesn’t really share any traits with her namesake other than eating meat and being a snake.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Downplayed. Pretty Boy notes that they are not in Tasmania when they encounter Tasmanian devils (a species that in the past could be found throughout Australia, but now are only found on the island state), prompting their leader, Dave, to explain that they were passing through the area on holiday.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • Two of the three Tasmanian devils the group meets are called Lucifer and Beelzebub, the names of which are shared by two figures who are often portrayed as separate demons, or as different names for the devil.
    • Chaz introduces Maddie, a taipan (one of the most dangerous snakes in the world) as Medusa, after the monstrous, murderous woman from Greek Mythology famously depicted with snakes for hair.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Norine is fascinated by Maddie and the others, and helps them escape the school bus, correctly guessing that they just want to get home.
    Norine: Deadly...
    Maddie: Thanks. You're pretty deadly, too.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Played with in regards to Maddie releasing a mated pair of cane toads, which are an invasive species in Australia and wreak havoc on the local ecosystem. Zoe tries to convince Maddie that there might be a good reason that the two animals in particular are in captivity in separate cages after noticing warning posters about cane toads, but ultimately nothing much comes from it, aside from the two having had lots of children by the end of the film, which admittedly is part of the problem.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: The main conflict of the film comes from people’s beliefs that the cast are murderous monsters, just because they look a little scary and have the potential to seriously harm people.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The wildlife park Chaz works at lets people walk right up to "cute" animals, has nothing to stop people from falling into the crocodile pool other than a waist-high wall that children can easily climb over, and during his show where he shows off "the deadliest creatures on the planet", there are no barriers between him and the guests, and he and his assistants handle animals in ways that would've gotten them in hot water in real life (such as roughly chucking a snake into a wooden chest). He even brings said deadly animals right up to the people in the front row, and allows what he believes to be a frantic, angry crocodile to run around near them. If Jackie wasn’t actually a really nice crocodile, or even if they had a different crocodile in the pool, Chazzie would have been croc food.
  • Odd Name Out: The Tasmanian devils the group meets are called Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Dave.
  • Oh, Crap!: Maddie, Pretty Boy, Frank, Zoe and Nigel when Jacinta appears.
    • The non-mammals again when they spot Chaz catching up to them on the bus.
    • In fact, they do it quite a lot.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: When Chaz introduces Maddie to the audience at his show, he calls her "Medusa", but among the other animals (as well as the movie credits and other official material), she just goes by Maddie.
  • Predation Is Natural: Predators are never shown in a bad light just for being predators, fitting the film’s theme of the cast being Not Evil, Just Misunderstood animals, most of which are predators themselves. When Dave and the other Tasmanian devils lead the group to a colony of flying foxesnote  who can lead them through the mountains, and tells them not to worry because "they only drink warm blood", he remembers that Pretty Boy is the only member of the group who isn’t cold blooded, and just comments "Oh, sorry mate. That’s a bit awkward.".
  • Quaking with Fear: Maddie trembling in fear after a surprise encounter with Chazzie, who is also trembling in fear, is what clues him in on her being Not Evil, Just Misunderstood.
  • Replacement Goldfish: After assuming Pretty Boy was "murdered" by Maddie and the others, he watches the world mourn him on the news for less than a minute before moving onto adoring Giggles the quokka, who they even gave his blanket to.
    Pretty Boy: What? He stole my snuggly! That’s my snuggly! I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE, GIGGLES! YOU’RE DEAT MEAT!
  • Scary Scorpion: The humans see Nigel as this but he is actually a friendly guy.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Exaggerated with Nigel. When Zoe claims he's turning beige, he lets out a high-pitched shriek that shatters the glass cage they're in.
  • Signs of Disrepair: After Nigel shatters the cage, he rips off part of the "UNBREAKABLE GLASS" sticker, removing the "UN".
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Played With, but ultimately a rare aversion as while the humans see her as a threatening monster, Maddie is one of the sweetest snakes you could ever meet.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Played with in regards to Norine. It’s established at the start of the film that humans can’t understand what the animals are saying, but she seems to be the only one who does, or at the very least understands them way better than anyone else can.
  • Spiders Are Scary:
    • How humans see Frank, a funnel web spider.
    • The redback spiders the group meets are introduced in a somewhat menacing fashion, and make the group quite nervous as they make their approach.
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: Part of the reason Pretty Boy returns to help Maddie and the others is because one of the group of koalas he joined is a Motor Mouth who can't stop talking about herself.
  • That Man Is Dead: During the Flashback to the day he decided to adopt his "animal hunter" persona, Chazz states that "Charles Huntington was no more".
  • Threatening Shark: Played with. While crossing the harbor to reach the city after escaping captivity, the group meets a great white shark named Jacinta, who is a Nice Girl that helps them by informing them of the Ugly Secret Society's existence and giving them a lift to the other side of the harbor. On the other hand, she doesn't deny Maddie's assumption of her having eaten more people than Maddie is capable of poisoning and accepts her self-given title of "the face of death".
  • Title Drop: "Tonight, we’re going back to the outback!"
  • Token Heroic Orc: Downplayed. Norine is not only the only child to not be afraid of the protagonists upon seeing them, but the only human in the entire film they encounter who realizes at first glance that they aren’t actually doing anything to try and hurt anyone, and as a result decides to try and help them.
    Zoe: Guess they’re not all like Chaz.
  • Trust Password: The Ugly Secret Society has the secret password "I’m Ugly. You’re ugly. We should all be this ugly. Ugly is the new beautiful." that when spoken, alerts any nearby U.S.S agents close enough to hear it that a fellow member, ally, or person/people under their protection needs help and/or is in danger.
  • Truth in Television: Many dangerous animals in real life such as poisonous spiders, bugs, and snakes often get a bad rap because of their appearance & potential for serious harm, but in reality only bite, sting, or otherwise attack humans if they feel threatened, not because they feel like it.
  • Visual Pun: The Tasmanian devils that help the group out have tufts of fur that look like slicked back hair. Combined with their buff physiques, you could say they are quite the "handsome devil(s)".
  • Volatile Tasmanian Devil: Downplayed. The Tasmanian devils that save Maddie and the others from Chaz are quite vicious while on the attack, but are pretty friendly once things settle down.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Chaz turns around to vomit after Chazzie tells him what he just gave his father to drink, although it seems like there wasn’t much in his stomach, so visually it looks more like he’s doing a Spit Take.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Smaller, more realistic bugs seem to be fair game for being tortured and eaten, while bigger bugs like Nigel the scorpion have a relatively cuddly design by comparison. Maddie is also quite adorable, but because she’s an inland taipan snake (one of the most venomous snake in the world), people are scared of her.
  • Why Isn't It Attacking?: An inversion of sorts. When Maddie accidentally falls on Chazzie, both are shocked and huddle in fear, with Chazzie calling for his dad. After a few moments he cautiously glances at Maddie, and realizes that despite what his father has been telling him all this time about the animals they are trying to catch being dangerous monsters, in reality she is just as scared of him as he is of her.