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Once, there was only silence, and not a speck of hope in sight. And every tiny bubble burst on its journey towards the light. But the spark of creation will flicker again, it's a brand new era... about to begin.
Joe
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Help! I'm a Fish is an animated Science Fantasy feature film from 2000 by the Danish animation company A. Film, although it was originally released, produced and recorded in English in an attempt to increase revenue. It was later released in Danish under the title "Hjælp, jeg er en fisk". Despite the English original cast, it wasn't until 2006 that it came to U.S. shores, under the title A Fish Tale. Not to mention it had really sucky cover art. The English voice cast certainly wasn't something to sneeze at though, boasting of cast members such as Terry Jones in a supporting role and Alan Rickman as the Big Bad (and a pre-fame Aaron Paul as one of the main characters).

This is the plight of the young troublemaker Fly, his cheerful younger sister Stella, and their overweight, nerdy, cousin Chuck, who stumble across the laboratory of an eccentric professor, named MacKrill. The professor, more than happy to have a audience to show off his Weird Science inventions to, boasts to Fly and Chuck about his greatest discovery; the so-called "Fish Potion", which can transform people to sea creatures. Unfortunately, Stella, in an unattended moment, mistakes the potion for a drink, and takes a swig of it, transforming her into a starfish. In the ensuing confusion, she accidentally gets thrown out of a window into the sea by Fly, and only upon consulting a video tape do the other three find out what happened to her. Whilst searching the sea for Stella though, a storm brews up, and in a moment of hotheadedness, Fly drinks the potion, turning into a fish himself. A few moments later the boat capsizes, and to save himself from drowning, Chuck drinks the potion, whilst MacKrill seemingly drowns. Although things seem hopeless, the professor did make an antidote, but as luck would have it, it was tossed into the ocean when the boat capsized, and is now in the hands of Joe — a megalomaniac pilot fish, who plans to harness the power of the human intellect and use it to control the other fish.

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Oh, and did we mention that if Fly, Chuck, and Stella don't get the antidote in 48 hours, they'll be stuck as fish forever?


Help! I'm a Fish provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: MacKrill. Also counts as a Mad Scientist.
  • Acid-Trip Dimension: Stella goes through a rather strange one prior to her transformation.
  • Adult Fear: Imagine waking up, finding a darkened house with the kids you were looking after gone...
  • Animal Talk: Averted. Even though Fly, Chuck, and Stella have been turned into fish, they can't speak with other fish except ones that have been exposed to the antidote.
  • Animorphism: The whole point of the movie.
  • Anthropomorphic Transformation: The fish potion's antidote not only makes fish more intelligent, but it also gives them a more cartoony and anthropomorphic design.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Granted this is a children's film, but the Baleful Polymorph purpose of Professor MacKrill consists of a bunch of random aquatic ingredients which can somehow perfectly change a human into a fish, also allowing them to speak perfect English and maintain certain physical characteristics (hair, glasses, a skirt). The antidote reverses this, but if an actual fish drinks it, they gain human intelligence. If they keep drinking it, they turn into deformed humans as what happens to Joe.
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    • Oh, and mixing a seahorse and a horse's DNA can create a perfect fusion of the both.
    • And let's not forget - starfish and jellyfish, despite their name, are NOT actually fish.
  • Atlantis Is Boring: Averted. Much like Disney's The Little Mermaid and later Finding Nemo, the movie portrays the ocean in a much more diverse and entertaining way, though it nonetheless looks nothing like the seas around Denmark should be...
  • Bad Boss: Joe. He fires Shark, insults Crab, and orders for their execution for their failures (he changes his mind) and that's not getting into how Shark is allowed to eat sentient fish in Joe's empire and how he orders his troops to construct a statue in his likeness. Near the end of the movie, his mistreatment of both Shark and Crab causes trouble for him and his plans.
  • Big Bad: Joe.
  • Big "NO!": Chuck does one of these near the end of the movie when he believes Fly is dead.
  • Body Horror: When Joe drinks too much of the antidote, bones sprout out from his back and arms, he develops a tumor like growth on his head, his skin starts to rip and slough off and his teeth become crooked and a few even fall out.
  • Celestial Deadline: Those who don't turn back to normal within 48 hours of the fish transformation will stay fish forever.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Professor's water-pump system. And possibly Fly's fishing lure.
    • The video recorder.
  • Clipped-Wing Angel: After Joe drinks an awful lot of antidote and slowly transforms into a monstrous mockery of a human being, (see Body Horror above), seemingly having become a much more powerful and threatening creature, he loses his gills, which are now replaced by lungs, making him unable to breathe underwater anymore. Realizing this too late, he promptly drowns and dies, his deformed corpse washed away by the ocean.
  • Conspicuous CG: The CGI is cel-shaded, so it isn't always as conspicuous. The giant octopus is fairly sticky-outy, though.
  • Covers Always Lie: The U.S. cover art makes the film look like a Mockbuster of Finding Nemo. Even weirder, Alan Rickman's name is placed above the title, but his character isn't even shown on the cover. This solitary name also makes it sound like Rickman is the lead role. Or the shark.
  • Deranged Animation: Stella's "turning-into-a-starfish" sequence.
  • Disney Death:
    • MacKrill nearly drowns during the storm, but the main characters still think he did.
    • Near the end of the film, Chuck believes Fly is still a fish and has died. He tries to put the fish in a bowl full of water, but it does no good. His mother tries to help out, but accidentally drops the fish and steps on it. Seconds later, Fly emerges from nearby boxes, now back in his human form. Later, Anna finds out that the fish she stepped on is the same stuffed fish Fly examined earlier.
  • Ditzy Genius: Joe might be quite smart for a fish, but his logic can sometimes be messed up that when he drinks the antidote, he forgets that humans can't breathe underwater.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": A great white shark named Shark and a crab named... well, Crab.
  • Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: An underwater version, but nonetheless seems to work under the same principles.
  • The Dragon: Both Shark and the Crab are this to Joe. At first.
  • Dumb Muscle: Shark. His DVD character profile states that the reason he puts up with Joe's poor treatment is simply because he does not have the brains to rebel.
  • Eureka Moment: When Joe is escaping the flooded lab with the remaining antidote, Stella calls him a "stupid fish". This gives Fly the idea to go after Joe and trick him into drinking more antidote.
    Stella: Fly! What are you doing?
    Fly: Using my brain! For once...
  • Evil Overlooker: In one of the posters for the film, Joe and the Shark can be seen behind the main characters, the former sporting a sinister grin on his face.
  • Excited Show Title!: The "Help!" part is, at any rate.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:
    Fly: Can a human breathe underwater?
    Joe: OF COURSE NOT!
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The majority of the film takes place within 48 hours, according to Professor Krill.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Joe, who also gets a slight Death by Irony.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Fly getting injured at the hands... uh... claws of a crab.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Joe.
  • Finger-Tenting: Joe does this during his New Era Speech. Kind of. He doesn't have fingers, but the same visual purpose is achieved by it.
  • Foreshadowing: When Chuck is washed into MacKrill's lab, he has a jellyfish stuck on his head, which is what he will turn into later. Similarly, while in the lab, Fly comes across a stuffed fish labeled "California Flyfish", which looks exactly like the one he will turn into.
    • Fly and Stella’s names were also foreshadowing what kind of fish they were going to turn into. Fly’s was certainly more obvious, and the name Stella means “star”.
    • When Fly is trying to take the antidote from Joe, Chuck warns him that they'll drown if they turn back into humans underwater. Guess how Joe is defeated?
    • A more subtle one, but when Joe drinks enough antidote to grow fingers, he also grows eyebrows and a hint of a human nose.
  • Green Aesop: The professor's whole reason for creating the fish potion — due to a danger presented by melting icecaps. It's not actually as big of a motivator as you might think, though.
  • Guile Hero: Fly
  • Happily Married: Fly and Stella are a serious oddity in the world of children's animation — not only do they still have both their parents, but they genuinely love each other! Who'da thunk?
  • Heroes Gone Fishing: Literal variation; the whole plot springs up from a fishing trip.
  • Hilarity Ensues: Averted.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted. After Fly turns back into a human he still has the injury he got earlier.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: Fly. Played straight however, due to him having (seemingly) lost quite a bit of blood.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Chuck's mother, Aunt Anna. While she seems like your typical "nasty, negligent aunt" in the opening, she proves herself to be fairly formidable in searching for her son, and softens up in the end.
  • LEGO Genetics: Random bits of ocean-stuff is enough to turn humans into fish, fish into humans, and, eventually, seahorses to actual horses.
  • Meaningful Name: Fly and Stella’s names foreshadowed what kind of fish they were going to turn into.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The crabs.
  • Morphic Resonance: Each transformed character keeps at least one physical characteristic of their human form.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: Fly does this to Joe while the latter is singing "Intelligence". He was actually trying to continue the song, but it hilariously failed.
  • Nerd: Paging Chuck to the white courtesy phone.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted: Characters use the word "die" (and all other variations of the word) freely throughout the movie.
  • New Era Speech: Joe makes a short one before his Villain Song.
  • No Cartoon Fish: Partially averted. Simply put — Cartoon = Human/Fish that has been exposed to one of the potions. Not Cartoon = Not exposed to the potion.
  • Oh, Crap!: Joe gets a minor one right before he kicks the bucket.
    Fly: "Can a human breathe underwater?"
    • Fly also has a moment like this before he's injured by the crab.
  • Personality Swap: Throughout the movie Fly is carefree and optimistic while Chuck is constantly worrying and willing to give up easily. After Fly is wounded they completely switch personalties.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: MacKrill's demonstration of the fish potion involved him stepping into a fish tank, potion in hand, and asking for the results of whatever happens to him to be filmed on a video camera. Subverted in that he has to halt the experiment to fetch the antidote and leaves the fish potion out for someone else to grab...
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Joe's answer to the question "What happens to a fish that drinks too much antidote?"
    Joe: It. Becoooomes... (gasp) HUUUMAAN!
  • Puff of Logic: Fly outsmarts Joe by asking him semi-complicated questions, leading Joe to drink more and more antidote, making him more and more human. Fly then poses him the final question: "Can a human breathe underwater?" Joe answers "Of course not!" and immediately drowns.
  • Race Against the Clock: If the kids don't get the antidote within 48 hours, they'll be stuck as fish forever.
  • Reality Ensues: The issue of humans drowning underwater comes up repeatedly, ranging from Chuck in the beginning, to Fly trying to trick Joe into letting him drink the antidote during his Villain Song, to Joe turning human at the end and drowning.
  • Red Oni,Blue Oni: Fly's red personality to Chuck's blue personality. However, this dynamic is reversed after Fly is injured.
  • Rewritten Pop Version: "Do You Believe in Magic" is slightly different on the soundtrack album, including the addition of A Wild Rapper Appears!. Occasionally this version is used on TV airings.
  • Scenery Porn: The underwater landscape.
  • Screw Learning, I Have Phlebotinum!: What ends up happening to any fish exposed to the Fish Antidote. At one point in the movie, you see Joe take a sip of the potion in order to solve a math problem.
  • Seahorse Steed: Sasha the seahorse helps carry the main characters around. In the end, she is turned into an actual, land-bound pony.
  • Shout-Out
    • The main villain, Joe the pilot fish, seems disturbingly similar to the Joker from Batman's earlier animated series.
    • "You're forgetting something! The Force is with us!"
  • Slasher Smile: Joe sports them frequently throughout the entire movie, but his most prominent and sadistic one is right after he turns human.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Chuck during the beginning of the film. He gets better once he becomes a jellyfish.
  • Team Pet: Sasha the seahorse.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Skirt-wearing starfish? Alrighty then. Seeing how Fly keeps his hat and Chuck keeps his glasses, we should be more concerned that she has pigtails.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Chuck starts out as Fly and Stella’s nerdy cousin, being much more pessimistic about ever becoming human again compared to them. However, after Fly is severely injured, he takes charge by busting back into the lab and single-handedly fighting off the piranhas trying to stop them.
  • Title Drop: Averted. No one actually says "Help! I'm a fish!" like you may expect from the title. They do say "Help!" a lot, though.
  • Threatening Shark: Averted with Shark. Though he is... well, a shark, his brain is the size of a pea.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: The name of our Big Bad, a Joker-looking, Alan Rickman-voiced maniac? Joe.
  • Unnamed Parent: In the credits, Fly and Stella's parents are listed as "The Mother" and "The Father"... Even though their names, Lisa and Bill, are actually given in the movie.
  • Uplifted Animal: Any fish exposed to the antidote gains human-like qualities including the ability of human speech and human intelligence. How human the fish becomes depends on how much antidote they're exposed to.
  • Villain Song: "Intelligence". Also counts as a Crowd Song.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Even though he's a kid, Chuck's voice sounds older.
  • We Can Rule Together: Implied by Joe, when he's trying to weasel the anti-fish formula out of Fry, Chuck, and Stella. It's only an act however, as he plans to feed them all to Shark.
  • Weirdness Censor: When Fly finds Starfish!Stella on the floor he doesn't notice this starfish has pigtails and a skirt.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's never explained what happened to the other uplifted fish after Joe's death.
  • Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises: Used numerous times.
  • Yellow Eyes of Sneakiness: Joe, Shark, and the Crab all have bright yellow scleras in contrast with the other fish in the movie. Joe keeps this trait when he becomes human.
  • You Are What You Hate: Joe and the fish become hateful of being aquatic creatures forced to live in water, wishing to be more human and rise to the surface world.

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