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Western Animation / The Wild Thornberrys

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Just your average family.

The Wild Thornberrys was a Nicktoon that ran from 1998 to 2004, produced by Klasky-Csupo of Rugrats fame, (deep breath) created by Arlene Klasky, Gabor Csupo, Steve Pepoon, David Silvermannote  and Stephen Sustarsic, and developed by Mark Palmer, Jeff Astrof and Mike Sikowitz.

The show centers around Eliza Thornberry, an adventurous young girl who can talk to animals, an especially handy power when your parents travel the world to make Nature Documentaries. Naturally, there's a catch—she can't tell anyone she has this power, or else she loses it, and presumably, the shaman who gave it to her to begin with would be hard-pressed to give it back again. The cast is filled out by the aforementioned parents Nigel and Marianne Thornberry, the Nature Documentary's presenter and camerawoman respectively and Eliza's older sister, the deadpan and deeply-unenthusiastic- about-her-parents'-career Debbie. Also along for the ride was the deeply neurotic chimpanzee Darwin, and crazy wild jungle boy Donnie, Eliza's adopted younger brother.

The series has three films to its name, the Made-for-TV Movie The Wild Thornberrys: The Origin of Donnie (2001), and two theatrical films: The Wild Thornberrys Movie (2002), and the Crossover movie Rugrats Go Wild! (2003). This show has examples of some of the only non-villainous roles in Tim Curry's career - Nigel Thornberry and his father.

This show provides smashing examples of:

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  • Actually Not a Vampire: The episode "Blood Sisters" had the family encounter an old friend of Marianne who makes no effort in hiding that he is a vampire. He turns out to be not only an impostor of Marianne's friend, but also a crazy guy who thought he was a vampire because he watched American horror films and was unable to distinguish reality from fiction.
  • Affably Evil: The Komodo Dragon is pretty polite to Eliza and Darwin, other than that he makes it no secret that he plans to kill and eat them. When Darwin tries to give him fruit instead he politely declines.
  • An Aesop:
    • The show occasionally argued that misguided attempts to "help" animals who are apparently suffering often makes things worse. Case in point: when the Thornberrys are on the Galapagos islands, Eliza stumbles across a finch attempting to spear some hidden insect larvae with a thorn. She decides to make his life easier by giving him (and later on, additional finches) sewing needles. The finches nearly devour the insect population and soon the entire food chain starts falling apart.
    • Another episode had Eliza trying to free an elephant calf from a nature preserve, both of them believing the place was a prison...until she succeeded, saw just what poachers can do to wild elephants, and found that the calf's mother was deeply relieved to discover her behind that gate.
  • All Myths Are True: Subverted with El Gordita (who is not a vampire), but if the region that the family is in has lore, it's true. Namina Enkiyo? Yep. A dolphin that can transform into a beautiful human woman and leaves the sea seeking companionship with a human? Yep.
  • Aloof Big Sister: Debbie to Eliza.
  • Animal Talk: Animals can all converse with each other but not with humans, except for Eliza. When people hear Eliza talking to animals it sounds like animal noises and gibberish.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
  • Art Evolution: The animation looked a bit flat until midway through the second season, when the show began to use digital coloring. Over time, the animation became smoother and brighter.
  • Artistic License – Biology
    • In "The Dragon and the Professor", Eliza claims the Komodo dragon is the largest reptile in the world. It is actually the largest lizard (the title of largest living reptile belongs to the saltwater crocodile).
    • "Reef Grief" featured dugongs that resembled manatees more than dugongs and could communicate over long distances through humpback whale songs. Dugongs actually communicate through chirps and barks, and possibly infrasound.
    • If the episode is set at sea, you can count on a Super Persistent Threatening Shark to try to eat at least one of the main characters. In reality, sharks spend much energy simply maintaining their body temperature, and strongly prefer fatty prey that's sure to give the shark a return on calories.
    • "Kuality and Kuantity" featured a lyrebird that looked nothing like a lyrebird. Also, the koalas have only one thumb instead of two.
    • In "Luck Be An Aye-Aye" the aye-aye did not have the long fingers that the species is well known for.
    • "Bogged Down" had a stonefish (referred to as a rockfish, which can be a term for the species) which more closely resembled a lionfish.
    • While dingoes can be a danger to humans (especially children), they're not likely to specifically hunt down one person like the eponymous ones in "Dances with Dingoes".
    • The alligators from "Time Flies" have their lower teeth visible when their mouths are closed. They are also colored green, when real alligators are gray or black. On the other hand, their jaws are correctly wide and U-shaped.
    • Sumatran rhinos are portrayed with only one horn like an Indian rhino or a Javan rhino. Real Sumatran rhinos have two horns.
    • Big cats are portrayed with slitted pupils like domestic cats, instead of round pupils.
    • Wombats are portrayed as making high, chattering squirrel noises. In reality, they sound like this.
    • Tasmanian devils are colored brown instead of black, and they also make dog-like whining noises. At least they otherwise look and (mostly) act like the real animals, unlike the most popular one in cartoons.
    • Leopards are inconsistently drawn with solid spots or the accurate rosettes. Meanwhile, jaguars are portrayed with leopard-like rosettes (they're missing the dots in the center).
    • Rabbits are drawn with paw pads and pink cat-like noses, both of which rabbits lack in real life.
    • The tie-in book "Can't Have Ants" features a tamandua that looks like a giant anteater (down to the coloring and bushy tail), and a two-toed sloth is identified as a three-toed sloth.
    • The common ravens featured in the Playstation game The Wild Thornberrys Animal Adventure have their beaks and feet colored yellow instead of black.
    • Coconut husks in "Thornberry Island" are hairy like the shells, rather than having glossy skin.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: "Bogged Down" sees Nigel stung by a stonefish (that looks like a lionfish, but lionfish stings aren't as severe as stonefish stings), leading Eliza to race for the antivenom before he succumbs. She administers it by helping him swallow it and he pops up moments later, good as new. In reality, stonefish antivenom is given via intramuscular injection, needs to be given as soon as possible (Nigel was on death's door), and like all antivenoms, requires careful monitoring in a hospital, as the reactions can be severe.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology:
    • Eliza claims in one episode that alligators are "the closest things we have to a living dinosaur". In reality, ostriches and cassowaries are much closer (to a prehistoric dinosaur anyways, since all birds are biologically dinosaurs). That said, crocodilians are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs, including birds.
    • In the April Fools episode, Nigel refers to an alleged relic pterosaurnote  (which is called a "pterodactyl" as usual and predictably turns out to be an April Fools joke) as a "flying dinosaur". Pterosaurs weren't dinosaurs at all.
  • As Herself: Jane Goodall in "The Trouble with Darwin".
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The old Bornean woman who tells Eliza that Donny is returning to his real family has a vague continental-African accent, instead of anything remotely Bornean, where it be Malay or otherwise.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Debbie and Eliza, as demonstrated numerous times in the series.
  • Badass Family: Every Thornberry has shown fair amounts of badassery in several occasions, especially when protecting each other.
  • Balloon Belly: Eliza helps a Galapagos finch feed on insect larva from cacti by giving him a sewing needle. When she takes it back, the finch has gotten so fat that he struggles to fly.
  • Bare-Bottomed Monkey:
    • The first theatrical film has a bit where Debbie, while seated in a motorcycle, is treated to a baboon perching on the hood and Shaking the Rump right in her face. This is reincorporated in the film's Dance Party Ending where an entire troop of baboons start doing it.
    • When Debbie learns that failing as Secret-Keeper for Eliza's powers will result in her being turned into a baboon herself, she angrily rejects the idea on the grounds that she doesn't want to have "a big purple butt".
  • Bat Scare: Inverted on an episode. Eliza tried to greet a bat only for the bat to scream "Human!", frightening all the other bats into waking up and flying away in fear. With few exceptions (mostly Super Persistent Predators that see her as nothing but prey), Eliza befriends most of the animals she meets, and they are always ready to provide her with assistance/protection, specially against the very few animals that she doesn't befriend.
  • The Beastmaster: Subverted. Just because Eliza can talk to animals doesn't mean they're always going to listen. Animals frequently ignore her when they're hungry, frightened, or just not willing to cooperate. Oftentimes predators will continue to view her as prey, even if they find it interesting that she can talk to them.
  • Big Bad: Kip O'Donnell and Niel Biederman, a pair of poachers who occasionally antagonize the titular family, are the closest the show has to a main antagonist. Other than the pilot, they only appear in seven episodes before disappearing completely after the second season.
  • Big Damn Heroes / The Cavalry: Debbie in general. While she always bickers with Eliza and doesn't care for her interests, she's always the first person to jump in and save her sister's life once things look their worst, often diving headfirst into danger without much reservation for her own safety. Often Overlaps with A Friend in Need, I Got You Covered, and occasionally Changed My Mind, Kid. The "Debbie goes looking for Eliza in the wilderness, finds her in jeopardy and saves her life" bit was used so often that they lampshaded it when it happened in the series finale.
    Debbie: (as Eliza and Shane cling on the side of a cliff from an unstable tree) This is getting old...
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti: "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yeti".
  • Big Sister Instinct: Even though Eliza annoyed the crap out of her, you can bet that the minute her sister's in danger, Debbie will always jump in to save her.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • When Debbie attempted to teach Donnie proper words, she tried getting him to say "apple". He picked up said fruit and repeatedly said "pomme", the French word for apple.
    • Debbie manages to learn the click-heavy language of the !Kung Bushmen from one of her favorite musician's songs.
  • Bite of Affection: In one episode, the titular character becomes part of the efforts made to get two tortoises to mate because they're the last living tortoises of their kind. Eliza, who can talk to animals, introduces the two of them and gives them time alone. When she returns, she finds the male of the two biting the neck of the female. Mortified, she pushes him away from her and chides him for his actions. Not long after, she learns that biting is part of their mating rituals and essentially means they've accepted one another. She spends the rest of the episode trying to rectify her mistake.
  • Blind Without Them: Eliza's vision is pretty bad without her glasses, as shown many times.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Debbie, Donnie and Eliza in that order.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Debbie.
  • Broken Aesop:
    • In "Valley Girls", Eliza takes a tape recorder from Debbie without asking for permission. After trying to take a boulder from some gorillas to push the ComVee out of the mud, she learns from the gorillas that if you want something, you should ask for it. A very great lesson for the kids—except for the fact that Debbie would have said no if Eliza asked.
    • In "Hello Dolphin!", Nigel explains to Marianne that sharks are misunderstood creatures, with most shark bites being inquisitive inspections. Same episode later then has a shark relentlessly attacking the family and the raft they're on, even after being hit on the snout with a diving cylinder. (It was attracted to the scent of Debbie's blood, but still.)
    • In "Cheetahs Never Prosper", one of Eliza's more moderate actions — trying to spray a little water so a cheetah mother and cub can have a drink during the dry season — is forbidden by her parents on the grounds that it would be interfering with nature. Fair enough, except that Eliza's habit of assisting any wild animal she comes across (or simply playing with them because they exist) is very well known by her parents. If adopting a full grown male chimp from the Congo was interfering with nature, they never said anything about it.
  • Brutish Bulls: True to their real-life reputation, cape buffalos are brutish and willing to gore Eliza and Darwin just for throwing a stick in their direction.
  • Bubblegum Popping: Debbie frequently popped bubble gum but a more notable example comes from "Rain Dance". Marianne tells Debbie to give Donnie some of her bubble gum to keep his mouth from going dry; Donnie eagerly chews the gum, blows up a giant bubble and bursts it all over himself and Debbie.
  • Bumbling Dad:
    • Nigel, whose goofiness verges on Genius Ditz at times.
    • And his father Radcliffe Thornberry is shown to be just as goofy and fun-loving. But like his son, he is very competent.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: For all his numerous eccentricities, Nigel has a near encyclopedic knowledge of animals.
  • Butt-Monkey: Debbie and Darwin (butt chimp?)

  • Christmas Episode: "Have Yourself a Thornberry Little Christmas."
  • City Mouse: Debbie.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Kip and Biederman, the only recurring antagonists on the show, disappeared after the second season.
  • Cool Car: The ComVee probably counts, even if it's not really a car — it's apparently the size of an apartment, has at least one smaller vehicle stored inside it, is amphibious and seaworthy, can handle wilderness and mountain ranges, and can enter a nigh invulnerable "security mode".
  • Couch Gag: The opening theme ends with a Staggered Zoom in on a country on the globe, which is where the Thornberries are visiting for the episode.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Nigel appears at first as a Bumbling Dad whose wife is the real brains behind the show, but it turns out he really is a lot like Steve Irwin in being a talented zoologist and outdoorsman.
  • Dead All Along: Rosario Vega
  • Death by Origin Story: Donnie's parents.
  • Determinator : Nothing can stop Eliza from protecting/saving an animal in danger, and she'll also go to great lengths to protect her family and human friends. Same can be said about the whole family.
  • Directionless Driver: Marianne always drives, and she never asks for directions even when her sense of direction isn't exactly the best (though it works out).
    Nigel: I wonder if any other husbands have this problem...
  • Disabled Means Helpless: Eliza mistakenly believes this trope of a wheelchair-bound girl with cerebral palsy in "New Territory".
  • A Dog Named "Dog": The Galápagos finches from "Eliza-cology".
  • Dropped Glasses: Eliza's glasses tend to fall off fairly often. Naturally she is unable to see very well without them.
  • Evil Poacher: A common enemy for the family, particularly the recurring duo Kip and Beiderman. Sloan and Bree Blackburn from the Movie are far worse. Donnie's parents were also murdered by poachers.
  • Evil Sounds Raspy: Kip O'Donnell speaks in a very raspy voice and occasionally appears alongside Biederman to antagonize the Thornberrys.
  • Ethnic Magician:
    • The shaman who gave Eliza her gift in the first place comes from a tribe of Magical Nigerians.
    • "Dances with Dingoes" features an Aboriginal Australian who can speak to dingos and induce dreams with light shows.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • In-Universe, The Foundation that Nigel and Marianne work for and which produces their show sometimes tries to do things to boost ratings (despite the show being very popular already). They will sometimes even make unreasonable and downright dangerous requests, such as asking Marianne and Nigel to film tiger sharks, without a sharkcage!
    • The episode "A Shaky Foundation" played this to the max. The Thornberrys are unexpectedly joined by Tom Ravenhurst, a Foundation production official who turns out to be the son of the Foundation's head. He spends the entire episode trying to make some changes to the show. While his idea of giving Nigel a catchphrase wasn't bad, his other ideas greatly interfere with making a quality episode. He also treats the 12-year old Eliza like she's 5 (which naturally ticks her off). To make matters worse, he is incredibly stupid and proves Too Dumb to Live when he ignores warnings from Nigel about driving the ComVee up a very narrow mountain road, causing the ComVee to go out of control down the mountain and into a river. One really has to wonder if his father gave him his current job because he had similar results in previous employments.

  • Face Death with Dignity: Rebecca the Elephant in "Forget Me Not", who dies peacefully of old age at the end of the episode. She makes it clear to Eliza that she does not need nor want to be taken care of or healed, having accepted that it is her time to pass on, her life having been as long and full as she would have wanted. She also displays saintlike patience with the understandably distraught Eliza during the entire scene, assuring her that they don't need to necessarily make the moment a "goodbye" if she doesn't want to.
  • Faux Final Line: Delivered by Eliza in the episode "Pal Joey" to make Joey's mother believe they'd been sitting quietly and reading the whole day.
  • Fearless Fool: Nigel Thornberry goes after some seriously dangerous animals, always with an excited grin on his face. SMAAASHIIING!
  • Forced Transformation: The shaman who gave Eliza her powers was turned into a boar by the highest shaman in his tribe for devouring his prized sheep.
  • Foreign Queasine: Marianne makes capybara burgers in the first episode. They were in South America, though.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Eliza is choleric; Debbie is melancholic (is she ever!); Marianne is phlegmatic; and lots of luck getting more sanguine than Nigel.
  • Free-Range Children: The Thornberry children are usually allowed to wander around unsupervised in whatever environment they're in at the time.
  • Friend to All Living Things: The Thornberry family, minus Debbie (though she has her moments).
  • Girliness Upgrade: Eliza lets down her hair and wears more feminine clothing in the later seasons.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Debbie and Eliza, who clash almost every episode.
  • Gonk: Nigel Thornberry, whose odd appearance has led to him becoming something of a meme.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: In "You Otter Know" Donnie takes off with Debbie's clothes as she's bathing in the nearby hot springs.
  • Good Parents: Nigel and Marianne.
  • Guest-Star Party Member:
    • A rare non-video game example - Nigel and Marianne's nephew tags along with the family for a few episodes.
    • They were also briefly joined by Shane G, a young teen rock star, for the last five episodes of the series.

  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Debbie.
  • Halloween Episode: Or Día de Muertos, anyway ("Spirited Away").
  • Happily Adopted: Donnie was taken in at some point before the show began, but he wasn't officially adopted until "The Origin of Donnie".
  • Happily Married: Nigel and Marianne — the family that films nature documentaries together stays together!
  • Hate Sink: Sloan and Bree Blackburn are a poaching couple who are conceived as evil, uncaring animal hunters who take bloodthirsty glee in their actions. Sloan boasts about their plan to force elephants into an electric fence and Bree taunts the cheetah cub Tally about taking his fur for a coat someday. They each express nothing but smugness and sadistic joy at every turn and are the absolute worst of the poachers faced by the Thornberrys.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Eliza's ability to talk to animals also lets her imitate any sound of any animal, which she occasionally uses to great effect to scare or distract.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In "Pal Joey", Eliza invokes this by giving herself up to a pair of Tasmanian devils in exchange for Joey whom they captured, with plans to escape later. It backfires when the T. devils (with their ravenous appetites) do not keep their end of the deal and attempt to eat both her and Joey.
  • Honorable Elephant: Elephants, both African and Asian, are as a whole portrayed as far more civil and willing to befriend and help Eliza after talking to her.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Bringing your father's birthday present into the middle of a swamp and then fighting over it in a boat couldn't possibly result in it going overboard.
    • When Eliza discovers Donnie smuggling an Aye Aye in the ComVee, she hides it from her parents and brings it into the village where she knows the people are superstitious of it... even though she saw where its nest was and her parents almost certainly would have helped return it to safety.
    • Eliza doesn't bother calling the elephants for help through infrasound in "Birthday Quake", even though she's already done so with the same herd in an earlier episode.
    • In "The Wild Snob-Berry", musician Shane G. completely disregards Eliza's warnings and ends up angering a mother grizzly bear and immediately afterwards a wolverine. Instead of worrying about the fact that he's endangered everyone, he wants everyone to film it because it will "help his image" as a singer.
  • In Harmony with Nature: The various Ethnic Magicians in the show, though subverted by the shaman who gave Eliza her powers in the first place.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Marianne's mother greatly resembles her voice actress Betty White.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: with the Rugrats in the film Rugrats Go Wild!
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Eliza befriends older animals as often as young ones. While Darwin's age is never explicitly stated, he's implied to be getting up there.
  • It's All About Me: Debbie is your garden variety self-centered teenager.

  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Debbie can be nasty, but she's not that bad. Many occasions show that she really does care about her sister Eliza and her adopted brother Donnie. One particularly poignant example, however, would be in the episode "The Trouble With Darwin", where she grows attached to some orphan chimpanzees she had to take care of due to being mistaken for a newly hired helper and decides to continue looking after the baby chimps even after the mix-up is resolved.
  • Karma Houdini: Nothing is mentioned of what happened to the poachers who killed Donnie's parents.
  • Large and in Charge: The leader of a chimpanzee troop is much taller than Darwin and the other chimps.
    • The leader of a colony of seals towers over the others, and his imposing size is the main reason the Thornberrys can't reach their ComVee.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Debbie knowing Eliza's secret in the fifth season and Rugrats Go Wild! after the events of the first movie.
  • Limited Wardrobe: In earlier seasons, the entire family wore their standard outfits. Later on, this gets averted for Eliza, Debbie and Marianne.
  • Malicious Monitor Lizard: Affably Evil as he might be, the giant Komodo Dragon that Eliza encounters is very much willing to eat her and Darwin.
  • Mama Bear / Papa Wolf : Nigel and Marianne.
  • Meaningful Name: Eliza's gift makes her a "Doctor Dolittle" figure. Her name may be a Shout-Out to My Fair Lady's Eliza Doolittle.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Crocodiles, alligators and such are not very friendly creatures, even when they do talk to Eliza.
  • Never Say "Die": Played straight throughout the series. Because many of the life-threatening situations involve predator animals, “eaten” is often used in place of “die”. Stands out especially in the episode “Spirited Away,” when the family celebrates the Day of the Dead. Nigel describes it as the day “when the spirits of those long-gone are welcomed into the community.” No derivatives of words “dead” or “die” are ever used, except in Spanish. Even the name of the holiday is never translated into English.
  • Noble Wolf: The wolves of Yellowstone are rather noble, and they even chase off a bear that was threatening Eliza, Donnie and Darwin.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Donnie's parents, Michael and Lisa, saved the orangutan mother and her son from poachers, but unfortunately at the cost of their lives.
  • Non-Nude Bathing: In "You Otter Know", Debbie wears a sports bra when bathing in nearby hot springs. It's implied she's only semi-nude, as she wraps her towel around herself when she has to chase after Donnie who took off with her clothes.
  • Not Afraid to Die: In "Forget Me Not", Rebecca the Elephant makes it clear to Eliza that as she's passing on of old age, she does not need nor want someone to take care of or heal her, as she feels that it's simply her time to pass on and that she lived her life as long and full as she would have wanted.
  • Oh, Crap!: In "Naimina Enkiyio".
    Darwin: Can we please get out of the forest now?
    Eliza: Actually, I've been trying to find our way back for last hour.
    Darwin: Then that means we're lost.
    Eliza: I didn't say anything because I didn't wanna worry you.
    Darwin: (laughing) Worry, me? Oh no, I'm TERRIFIED!!!!!!!
  • Origins Episode:
    • "Gift of Gab" explains how the Thornberrys first encountered Darwin and also gives a more detailed explanation for why Eliza gained the ability to talk to animals. It was established here that the shaman gave Eliza her power in gratitude for freeing him from a trap while he was trapped in the form of a warthog because of a curse placed on him that could only be broken by someone who cared about animals.
    • The TV movie "The Origin of Donnie" explains the backstory of Donnie and how he came to live with the Thornberrys.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: "The Legend of Ha Long Bay" sees Nigel acting far more stern, and frankly unreasonable than he usually is. He insists that the strange eye Eliza saw down in the murky lake was just a trick of the light (instead of the more plausible explanation of an animal, which it turns out to be), and when she replies that she's not a kid and can distinguish fantasy from reality, he scolds her quite harshly.
  • Out of Order: The two-part special "Sir Nigel" is set just before the movie, but aired three months after it came out in theaters.

  • Poor Communication Kills: One episode has Eliza and her Chinese pen pal accidentally getting into trouble because they didn't know that the pandas were actually being transported to a safer place and thought they were instead being poached.
  • Power Trio: Eliza = Ego, Darwin = Superego, Donnie = Id.
  • Prince and Pauper: Eliza secretly switches places with a Mongolian girl who bears a striking resemblance to her ("Gobi Yourself").
  • Pun: For some reason, season 2 was the season of punny Idiosyncratic Episode Naming. Some particular examples: Koality and Kuantity, Chimp Off the Old Block, and the cringe-inducing gem Cheetahs Never Prosper.
  • Raised by Wolves:
    • Donnie was raised by a mother orangutan alongside her own offspring for several years after his parents were killed by poachers.
    • While in South America Donnie and Debbie meet a girl Donnie's age being raised by jaguars.
  • Real After All: The girl in "Naimina Enkiyio", ambiguously. Eliza sees her reflection on the muddy waters. Later she found her necklace in the same spot Eliza tried to make a bed to rest. She hears her calling her name. Then we see her on a tree branch watching the tribe and the Thornberrys, but her silhouette turned out to be the leaves and her "eyes" were the moon.
  • Redheads Are Uncool: Eliza has a few traits of this.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Predatory reptiles, especially crocodilians and snakes, are always hostile towards Eliza and other characters. In contrast to predatory mammals such as big cats and wolves, which at least can be reasoned with.
  • Required Secondary Power: Eliza's ability to talk to animals also lets her imitate any sound of any animal, which she occasionally uses to great effect to scare or distract.
  • Retcon: Eliza talks freely about her ability with an Aboriginal Australian shaman in season 2's "Dances with Dingoes". A later Whole Episode Flashback in the same season establishes that revealing her gift will result in its loss.

  • Not So Extinct: Two in the Playstation game The Wild Thornberrys Animal Adventure. In Egypt, the family discovers and films a Barbary lion (thought to be regionally extinct) which befriends Eliza and offers to take her and Donnie to the Great Sphinx of Giza. And in Tasmania, Eliza goes off to find a thylacine and succeeds in meeting a family of them after evading some Tasmanian devils which are enemies of the thylacines.
  • Sapient All Along: This show may be the most thorough example in terms of demonstrating that every single animal is actually sapient, each episode has a new location and group of species demonstrating this to Eliza. Environmental protection is always promoted, but not recognizing animals for the sapient beings they are.
  • Secret-Keeper: Debbie after the first theatrical film, under the threat of being turned into a baboon.
  • Secret Pet Plot: In one episode, Eliza finds a little wombat and tries to take it with her when the family travels to India for their next job. Naturally, the wombat does not take well to life aboard a ship, and Eliza has to keep her hidden from the authorities onboard, who happen to be trying to crack down on animal smuggling.
  • Shapeshifting Lover: Sort of. One of the legends which fall under that trope, The Pink Dolphin, is adapted in a Shapeshifting Best Friend. When Debbie makes friends with a South American girl, Eliza begins to think this girl is a river dolphin who wants to turn Debbie into one too because she is lonely. It's never revealed if Eliza is correct but it is distinctly implied to be the case.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Zoologists were hired as series consultants to ensure that all the animals depicted on the show were done so accurately and in their natural habitats. For example, that female lions do most of the hunting, komodo dragons smell with their tongues, camels store fat and not water, African elephants can communicate through infrasounds, hippos are extremely territorial and not cute, lazy animals portrayed on the media (as Eliza's cousin erroneously thought), etc.
    • A lot of work was also put into showing accurate portrayals of the indigenous peoples and their cultures and lifestyles. For example, in the episode "Luck Be An Aye Aye", the people of Madagascar try to kill an aye-aye Eliza befriends because they regard it as an ill omen, which unfortunately is also the case in real life.
  • Sick Episode:
    • "Operation Valentine" sees Eliza develop appendicitis while in the heart of the Australian outback.
    • "Bogged Down": Nigel gets poisoned by a stonefish during a filming, leading Eliza to rush back to the scary bog to fetch some antitoxin.
  • Silly Reason for War: Two different groups of primates were fighting each other because one group had tails and the other didn't. Eliza stops them fighting by getting both groups to wear coconuts as armour. The armour made it impossible to tell who had a tail and who didn't.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: You can bet every time Eliza encounters a snake, it will try to eat or bite her.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: The main feature of the show is Eliza's ability to talk to animals.
  • Superstition Episode: The episode "Luck Be An Aye Aye" mentioned above. Eliza befriends an aye-aye who she insists isn't the cause of the bad luck that plagues her, calling that a silly superstition like walking under ladders, while she walks under a ladder.
  • Taught by Experience: Debbie may not share the same intense love of animals as her family but their knowledge and traveling has left her very knowledgeable about the animal kingdom. She also knows a lot about subjects that relate to them and the places where they live, too.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: The episode "A Family Tradition," in which Grandma Sophie asks for the Thornberrys to give up their filming fossas in Madagascar and come back to America for Thanksgiving. However, Nigel and Marianne decide to just send an eager Debbie and Eliza back so they can complete their work, but chaos ensues when the girls change their minds at the last minute.
  • This Is No Time for Knitting:
    • Marianne gets irritated with Nigel when they are supposed to filming a documentary on the bird-eating spider and he keeps being distracted by a series of seemingly unrelated activities. He eventually explains that everything he was doing was to actually help him locate the spider so they could start filming. (Except for spinning on the ropes; that was just for fun.)
    • In "Flood Warning", Marianne is shocked that Nigel is finishing up a building project while their children are missing, only to discover he was building a boat to save them.
  • Threatening Shark: Along with predatory reptiles, sharks are another predator that Eliza cannot reason with. In fact, they won't bother to converse with her.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Eliza and Debbie, respectively.
  • The Unintelligible: Donnie only communicates via gibberish.
  • Valley Girl: Debbie speaks this way.
  • Volatile Tasmanian Devil: The main antagonists of "Pal Joey" are a pair of Tasmanian Devils that are very eager to eat Eliza, Darwin and the kangaroo joey they are babysitting, but they are also prone to bickering and fighting each other. The Playstation video game, The Wild Thornberrys Animal Adventure, also had Eliza getting menaced by Tasmanian Devils who are enemies of a surviving population of thylacines.
  • Was Too Hard on Him: In Part 1 of "The Origin of Donnie", Eliza harshly scolds Donnie for inadvertently putting some proboscis monkeys in danger of getting eaten by a crocodile, telling him she's never taking him anywhere again. She immediately regrets it, especially when Donnie goes missing afterwards.
    Eliza: I was pretty mean to Donnie, wasn't I?
    Darwin: Just going by the yelling sounds, I'd have to say... yes.
  • Wham Line:
    • From "Forget Me Not", when Eliza, assuming that Rebecca the elephant is exhausted and needs to rest, we get this when she strains herself trying to lie down.
      Eliza: Um, maybe you shouldn't do that... I mean since you're so tired, you might not be able to get back up.
      Rebecca: That's the idea...
    • From "The Origin of Donnie" special, Marianne sees a photo of Donnie's parents and realizes something that completely changes the context of Donnie's relationship to the Thornberries.
      Marianne: Nigel, look! Donnie's parents, we met them!
  • Wild Child:
    • Donnie was raised by orangutans.
    • One episode has Donnie and Debbie finding a girl in the jungle who is being raised by jaguars.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: When Debbie and Grandma Sophie are invited to a Bornean tribe's evil-spirit-expelling celebration, Debbie mistakes the villagers for cannibals preparing to eat them.

Alternative Title(s): The Wild Thornberrys Rambler


Donnie Thornberry


How well does it match the trope?

5 (30 votes)

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Main / TheUnintelligible

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