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Western Animation / Help! I'm a Fish

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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.

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.


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:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The CGI is cel-shaded, so it isn't always as conspicuous. The giant octopus is fairly sticky-outy, though.
  • 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 main premise of the movie revolves around the main cast turning into ocean animals and trying to turn back into humans.
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  • Anthropomorphic Transformation: The fish potion's antidote not only makes fish more intelligent, but it also gives them a more cartoony and anthropomorphic design. It can also transform them into humans (mostly, anyway), as Joe finds out the hard way.
  • 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.
    • Mixing a seahorse and a horse's DNA in the film can create a perfect fusion of the both, even though neither of them are even close to being the same species.
    • Despite their name, starfish and jellyfish are NOT actually fish even though the film treats them as such with Stella and Chuck turning into them.
  • Atlantis Is Boring: Averted. Much like Disney's The Little Mermaid (1989) 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 (although he then 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.
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: Some versions of the film have this during "Do You Believe In Magic?".
  • Big Bad: Joe. He gets a hold of the antidote that the heroes need after they've all been turned into sea creatures, and uses it for his own desires.
  • Big "NO!": Chuck does one of these near the end of the movie when he believes Fly is dead.
  • Black Comedy: Shark's habit of eating fully sentient creatures, which would be utterly terrifying if it weren't played for (very dark) laughs.
  • 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, which plays a large part in the climax.
    • Fly's fishing lure. It allows his family to track down where he, Stella and Chuck went once they go missing.
    • The video recorder, twice. Initially intended to record professor Mac Krill turning into a fish, it also ends up recording Stella turning into a starfish. The first time around allows Chuck to find out (too late) what happened to Stella, and the second time around it's used as proof of the children's state when Anna and Fly's parents aggressively interrogate professor Mac Krill.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Disney Death:
    • MacKrill nearly drowns during the storm but fortunately survives. The main characters, however, 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 Chuck gets very angry and then slips, accidentally dropping the fish in the process and then having his mother step 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 "underwater tornado" does not appear dangerous until it gets close enough to suck its victims in.
  • The Dragon: Both Shark and the Crab are this to Joe. At first. Once Shark gets fired from his position by Joe and Crab gravely injures Fly and becomes more intelligent by drinking the antidote, they both rebel against Joe.
  • 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 so that the latter can turn into a human underwater and drown.
    Stella: Fly! What are you doing?
    Fly: Using my brain! For once...
  • Evil Brit: Joe, an account of being voiced by none other than Alan Rickman.
  • 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!: Joe's gloating at his increased intelligence from drinking the antidote is cut short by horrified realization once it dawns on him that he's become a strictly air-breathing human deep underwater.
    Fly: Can a human breathe underwater?
    Joe: OF COURSE NOT-! (realizes he's just doomed himself, before proceeding to cease breathing and drown)
  • 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 Death by Irony. He turns into a human, but because he's underwater and humans cannot breathe underwater, he ends up drowning after realizing his mistake of drinking the antidote.
    • A lot of the (mostly sapient) fish that Shark eats over the course of the film suffer this as well, because Shark eats them alive and usually on-screen.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Fly gets injured by a giant sentient crab to the point of visibly bleeding.
  • 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.
  • Furry Confusion: Pointedly averted. Anthropomorphized fish are either humans who have been exposed to the fish potion or fish who have been exposed to the antidote. All other fish are realistic.
  • 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.
  • Heroes Gone Fishing: Literal variation; the whole plot springs up from a fishing trip.
  • Hollywood Healing: Downplayed. As a fish, Fly becomes weak from Crab injuring him and seemingly doesn't heal, but once he turns back into a human, he's quite fine aside from his leg being broken.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: Fly. Justified 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!:
    • Chuck has one when he plays back the recording on MacKrill’s video camera and realizes that the starfish Fly is about to toss out the window into the ocean is actually Stella.
    • Joe gets a major 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.
  • One-Winged Angel: Joe's transformation into a human at the climax could be considered an inversion.
  • 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.
    • Also Shark's red personality to Joe's blue.
  • 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!"
  • Sibling Team: 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?
  • 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.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: An odd variation. While Joe ultimately does drown after becoming almost entirely human, he is briefly able to talk underwater before drowning. Obviously, humans cannot talk underwater in real life.
  • 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.
    • Fish Fly is also seen to have hair towards the end of the movie.
  • 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 Fly, 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. It's possible MacKrill and Chuck may turn them back by pouring the fish potion into the nearby ocean, or that the effect may wear off over time.
  • Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises: Used numerous times.
  • Yellow Eyes of Sneakiness: Joe, Shark, and the Crab all have bright yellow sclerae 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.


Video Example(s):


Hail King Crab!

After defeating Fly and drinking the potion, Crab decides that he'll become the new king of the ocean, effectively betraying his former boss Joe.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / TheStarscream

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Main / TheStarscream