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Western Animation / Kenny the Shark

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"When do we eat?"
Kenny the Shark is an American animated television series produced by NBC's Discovery Kids, which ran for two seasons with a total of 26 episodes (each had 2 segments each) between 2003-2005.

The series is set in California and centers around a little girl named Katarina "Kat" Cassidy (voiced by Kelli Rabke) and her pet tiger shark, the titular Kenny (voiced by Jim Conroy). As explained in the theme song, Kenny was a shark that decided to move up on land after becoming tired of the ocean, while Kat was a girl looking for a special pet that she could love for her own. When they met, it was love at first sight.

Notable about the premise of the show is that Kenny, although a shark, is capable of walking and breathing on dry land, among other obvious feats that no shark in real life is capable of doing—other aquatic life is shown being able to do this as well. Nobody in the show questions this. Kat is also able to speak shark, making her the only one who understands just how intelligent Kenny actually is.

Before the series properly aired, Kenny was featured in short interstitial segments, a mostly lost live action TV special that aired as part of Shark Week on August 19th, 2000 (that was filmed from his point-of-view), and two unaired animated pilots.

This cartoon provides examples of:

  • All Animals Are Dogs: Kenny has tackled and licked Kat like a Big Friendly Dog as a show of affection to her on multiple occasions.
  • All for Nothing: Kat says these exact words in "Will Work For Chum" when her dad admits he was joking about throwing Kenny back to the ocean, making them find a job to pay for his food bills.
  • Alliterative Family: Kat and her little brother Karl, not to mention that her pet's name also starts with a K.
  • Alliterative Name: Based on sounds rather than letters but Kat's name counts.
  • Alpha Bitch: Three of them attend Kat's school, and they're all named Phoebe.
  • Animal Talk: Kenny, Marty, and all the other animals are able to talk to each other.
  • Art Evolution: The second season has the characters with less sharp edges and smoother animation.
  • Artistic License – Law: In "Will Work For Chum", Kenny gets the mascot job because he's the only one willing to accept Dimwitty's decision to pay with all the hot dogs he can eat. In real life, Dimwitty would not at all be allowed to pay an official employee of his with any kind of free food and would likely get in hot water for such a decision.
  • Artistic License – Marine Biology:
    • Buster attempts to eat Kat along with Kenny in "Whaling on Kenny", despite the fact orcas don't eat humans. Tiger sharks (in fact, any sharks) on the other hand...
    • An In-Universe example occurs in "Mr. Popularity" where Kat becomes annoyed by an animated movie which unrealistically portrays shark biology. Namely the main great white shark character having parents (sharks do not practice parental care) and being a vegetarian who's friends with a squid (great white sharks are predators which eat squid).
      Kat: Why is that movie so popular when it's so wrong?
    • There's also sharks and other fish being able to walk and breathe on land, but that's an acceptable break.
  • Ash Face: In "I Love The Nightlife", Kat falls asleep during a chemistry class and blows the roof off of the school.
  • Ass Kicks You: In "Whaling On Kenny", Kat has set up a friendship between Kenny and Buster, an orca who happens to be one of Kenny’s natural enemies. At one point, Buster punishes Kenny by jumping up and squashing him as Kenny struggles to get out from under his heavy butt.
  • Beatnik:
    • Though not actually one, Grace seems to dress in a similar fashion.
    • In "I Love the Nightlife", Kenny and Kat goes to a poetry club where a beatnik speaks while Kenny plays the bongos.
  • Berserk Button: When something interferes with his feeding, Kenny gets noticeably more irritable.
  • Big Eater: Kenny non stop. His eating habits become a problem for Kat's parents, as one episode was about finding a job to pay for his food bills. He and Kat settle for a mascot job for the local hockey team, where it turns out they aren't paid with money but with all the hot dogs he can eat. He's not fired for causing panic, but because he ate all of the hot dogs.
  • A Boy and His X: A Girl and Her Shark. Kenny is very devoted to and protective of Kat and the idea of loosing Kenny (see Out-of-Context Eavesdropping below) sends Kat into panic mode.
  • Bungled Hypnotism: In the episode "Kid's Menu", Kat hypnotizes herself to remember to renew Kenny's shark tags. Unfortunately, it works too well, and she spends the next day only thinking about shark tags, and inserting the phrase "shark tags" into normal conversations and school assignments.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Kat's father Peter tends to be the victim of a lot of mishaps, usually caused by Kenny.
      Peter: I hate that shark.
    • Kenny himself is often the victim of a lot of physical comedy, like in "Watching Karl".
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: The Phoebes in "Mr. Popularity" when they watch a cutesy shark movie and believe all sharks are like the movie's main character, to near-fatal results.
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: When Kat decides to go vegetarian, she asked Kenny to go vegetarian with her, and because Kenny is a carnivore by nature, it is extremely difficult for him.
  • Depending on the Artist: Kat has two hairstyles: one that is completely straight and one with a curl.
  • Disco Dan: Peter loves the 70s', they were his "glory days". Grace hates that decade, and is glad they can't go the 70's party since Peter's disco suit got ruined by Kenny (which Peter thinks was caused by moths).
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Kat sometimes can be like this when training Kenny in episodes like "Pet Tricks" and "Regime Change".
  • Exiled to the Couch: Kat's dad in the episode where Kenny eats the package that had his anniversary gift for Grace in it; she refuses to believe the package was late and made him sleep on the couch for allegedly forgetting their anniversary.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: A variant. In "Whaling on Kenny", Kat has set up a friendship with Buster the orca for Kenny which, unknown to her, has lead Buster bullying Kenny badly; about halfway through the segment, Oscar finds her in the library where she's researching activities for the 2 to do together. After she offers to let him help, Oscar picks up one of her books, pages through it briefly and asks if Kat knew that orcas eat tiger sharks. Kat responds nonchalantly at first but then lets out a Big "WHAT?!" before grabbing the book to confirm the statement. She's... less than happy to find out what she's gotten Kenny into.
  • Extreme Omnivore: True to tiger sharks in real life, Kenny frequently eats junk and anything else inedible. This becomes a problem in one episode where he eats a package containing Kat's parents' anniversary gift, and in another where he eats the antiques at an antique show.
  • Feud Episode: "Ball of Contention"
  • Granola Girl: Kat arguably, since she decides to become a vegetarian like her dad Peter, who is a male example. In "Shark Shrunk", Kat believes it's to please his "hippie left-wing father".
  • Heel–Face Turn: The shark-hunting Captain Ahern; he initially tries to kill Kenny on sight, but after Kenny saves his life he not only gives up his shark hunting ways, but in a later episode he actually defends Kenny from a bunch of angry neighbors who believed the shark had stolen their food.
  • Hippie Parents: Kat's parents.
  • Hypocrite: During "Will Work For Chum", one of the people who came to audition for the shark mascot job becomes a Sore Loser and later heckles Kenny, outright calling him a disgrace to the "shark costume". This sore loser was also the only one who didn't wear a shark costume, which makes it laughable for him to make such bold claims even if he didn't realize too late he was heckling a real shark.
  • Hulk Speak: Mulch the great white shark from "Mr. Popularity" speaks this way. Lampshaded by Kenny.
    Mulch: Mulch eat kids!
    Kenny: "Mulch eat kids. Mulch eat kids." Mulch has really gotta work on his vocabulary. Use your words!
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Kat in "Whaling on Kenny". Kat had previously (since "Whaling on Kenny" was in Season 2) been established as being a near expert on sharks, especially tiger sharks. Why was it a shocking revelation that orcas eat them? Shouldn't a shark expert like her know sharks have predators too?
    • To say nothing of the fact that she thought that Kenny, a carnivore, could become a successful vegetarian.
    • In another episode, a pet trainer who repeatedly mistreated her students (especially Kenny) brought in a seal as a new pupil. When Kenny (who eats seals) naturally goes berserk, the trainer begins berating Kenny just in time to be caught by Kat who's disturbed by the treatment Kenny's receiving and appalled when she finds out about the seal, calling the trainer out on her stupidity. Fortunately the trainer is willing to listen.
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • Averted, Kenny doesn't try to eat people. Certain circumstances come close to playing it straight, whether they get on his nerves or if they happen to smell like a seal.
      Peter: Boy, for a fearless predator, he's pretty chicken.
      Kenny: You're lucky I don't like the taste of balding vegetarians.
    • Though he doesn't go through it, Buster in "Whaling On Kenny" threatens Kat with this and she's legitimately terrified at the possibility, which is itself even more nightmarish because orcas don't even try to chomp on humans when unprovoked in real life.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Kenny, a tiger shark, and Marty, a dachshund. Technically also Kenny's friendship with the human Kat.
  • Jerkass to One: Peter is normally a Nice Guy with people, but he doesn't exactly have the highest amount of respect or concern for Kenny, partially due to Kenny being a constant source of trouble, usually for Peter himself. He was even willing to sell Kenny to Plushtoy, only for Kat to step in and reject the offer.
  • Limited Social Circle:
    • The only human Kat hangs out with is a boy named Oscar; she tries to make friends with the Phoebes and their social circle, but was cruelly rejected.
    • In the episode where Kat, Oscar, and Kenny become a band, they were joined by a nameless girl.
  • Mama Bear: Kat towards Kenny and her mother towards both her children.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Peter. It's speculated by Kat that he was trying to impress his own hippie father by becoming one.
  • Nice Guy: Despite what people think, Kenny is actually a pretty decent guy when he's not chasing seals.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted with the three Alpha Bitches named Phoebe.
  • Only Known By Her Nickname: Kat is almost never referred to as "Katarina" and usually only by her teachers or parents if she is.
  • Out-of-Context Eavesdropping: In "Will Work For Chum", Kat overhears her parents talk about Kenny's eating habits and Peter quips they should throw him back into the sea to see if he eats the same amount. Had Kat not panicked, starting the search for a job to pay for Kenny's food bills, she'd realize her dad was just joking.
  • Papa Wolf: Messing with Kat, especially if Kenny is present, is a bad idea. Case in point: in "Whaling on Kenny" which features Kenny's "friendship" with Buster the orca, Buster had spent the entire episode bullying the frankly terrified Kenny. When Kat shows up and Buster knocks her to the ground, Kenny flips and launches into a speech that's half Not Afraid of You Anymore and half "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Parental Abandonment: True to how sharks behave, Kenny never met his birth parents. It sometimes makes him depressed. And also the reason he became close to a baby shark he and Kat encountered in "Kenny the Dad".
  • Poor Communication Kills: In "Shark Shrunk", Kat tries to be a therapist to analyze Kenny; she deduces that he has a fear of abandonment and afraid no one likes him. However, Kenny misinterprets that as her saying that nobody likes him for real.
  • Scary Black Man: Buster is a black, fierce-looking orca whale. Though his voice actor is unknown, he has the deep voice of an African-American like Michael Clarke Duncan for example.
  • The Scrooge: The aptly-named P.T. Dimwitty, owner of the local hockey team called The Sharks, was looking for a mascot. He only hires Kenny because he's the only one willing to accept what Dimwitty was paying. That being nothing, but all the free hot dogs Kenny can eat. He didn't mind Kenny causing a ruckus, but fired him and called animal control when Kenny ate all of the hot dogs.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: A lot of shark facts are thrown in the series, sometimes with Kat expositing them directly to the her classmates/the viewer and sometimes as actual plot points (for example, Kenny repeatedly losing his teeth in one episode and growing new ones.) A lot of myths about them are broken as well, such as showing that most sharks do not go out of their way to kill people.
  • Sleepless Alarm Clock: Happens to Kat in "I Love the Night Life" after sneaking out of the house to go on a nighttime adventure with Kenny.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal:
    • Kat understands Kenny and vice-versa, and is also able to talk to every other shark. The explanation given is that she's such a shark fanatic that she's learned how to understand them. It's implied that she's unable to understand other animals, given how she interacts with Marty. However, she is able to understand Marty in the "third season". Her parents question this, as shown in the intro.
      Peter: Honey, she's talking to that shark again.
    • In the Father's Day episode, under anesthesia, Peter was able to understand Kenny.
  • Spoiled Brat: Burton Plushtoy III takes advantage of his father's money to do whatever he wants, namely any underhanded thing to claim ownership over Kenny.
  • Status Quo Is God: During the segment "His Fate is Sealed", Kenny's inability to stop attacking seals when he sees one causes property damage at the shoreline park, which has the Cassidys to declare if he doesn't shape up, they'll kick him out. After failed tries, Kat hypnotizes him into thinking of his gross shark medicine when he sees seals. It works... too well. He doesn't chase the seals anymore, but he still ends up causing property damage by trying to run away from a seal. Grace realizes the cure was worse than the disease while Peter is still hit with another bill, and by the next episode, as in the second segment in the episode this was part of, Kenny is back to wanting to eat seals with the threat of kicking him out for it gone.
  • Straw Vegetarian: After Kat decides to become a vegetarian, she tries to get Kenny to become one. But she eventually realizes she shouldn't force him to do something he doesn't want to (or in his case, can't) do.
  • Swallowed Whole: In Whaling On Kenny, Buster (an orca) demands Kenny to fill up the swimming pool. After he says no, Buster swallows him up and keeps him trapped inside of his stomach until Kenny agrees to do his bidding.
  • Tailfin Walking: Guess who? Sometimes Kenny's tailfin gets animated as though it's an actual pair of legs.
  • Threatening Shark:
    • Subverted. While Kenny does cause a bit of trouble, he usually has good intentions when causing it. Although Peter believes this in the first few episodes, as do several other humans in the series.
    • Completely averted in "Whaling on Kenny" where Kenny becomes the victim of Buster, an orca who is an absolutely vicious bully and not just to Kenny either; when Kat shows up after finding out what Buster's been doing to Kenny, he knocks her flat and she looks legitimately terrified about what he could do next until Kenny jumps between them to protect her.
    • Played straight with Kenny's hammerhead friend, Dan, though he is more of a Jerkass than a vicious predator.
    • Played even straighter with Mulch the great white shark from "Mr. Popularity". He is a ravenous, Hulk-speaking predator who attempts to eat the Phoebes (whom he thinks are seals) upon tasting one of their blood and later Kenny when getting enraged by him.
  • Token Trio: The Phoebes: The blonde Caucasian, the African-American, and the Latina.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In "Mr. Popularity", one of the Phoebes bought a shark as a pet, after seeing a cute shark movie.
  • Took a Level in Smartass: In Season 1, Kat is very much a Nice Girl who never raises her voice and tends to mother Kenny a lot. In Season 2, Kat is a bit more assertive and prone to snarking at whoever is causing her grief.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: As seals are the natural prey of tiger sharks, Kenny goes crazy trying to eat them (this even causes problems in the first episode, where he repeatedly attacked a man who smelled like seal.) Fortunately, Kat is able to feed his craving with Seal Pops, popsicles that are somehow FDA approved with seal meat. He also develops a love of Sushi.
  • Uncatty Resemblance: Marty the Dachshund looks like his owner. Or is it vice-versa?
  • Vegetarian Carnivore: Invoked in one episode, Kat becomes a vegetarian and tries to get Kenny to become one as well. She realizes it's a bad idea after Kenny is unable to adapt to his new diet since he was born to be a carnivore.
  • Vegetarian for a Day: After watching a documentary on lions, Kat goes vegetarian. She forces Kenny to turn veg too. It backfires.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: At the end of "Special Delivery", we get to see Kenny empty the contents of his stomach in great detail.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy:
    • Kat believes Peter is the man he is today because he wanted to impress his "hippie left wing father".
    • Kenny spends the entire episode of "Father's Day" trying to get Peter to like him since he never had a father.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Because he's a fish, Kenny has a fear of cats despite being much bigger than them.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: During "Will Work for Chum", a disgruntled actor who wanted the shark mascot job heckles Kenny, believing him to be a talentless hack in an unscary costume. When he tries to remove what he thinks is a prosthetic head, he realizes that Kenny is a real shark and panics.
  • Youthful Freckles: Kat's freckles remain even after the show's art style changes.