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Western Animation / Willa's Wild Life

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What would you do if you had your own zoo?
Would you bounce on a bear?
Let a giraffe brush your hair?
Have an elephant pick out your underwear?
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Willa's Wild Life is a Canadian/French animated television series from Nelvana and Futurikon produced in association with the Canadian network YTV and and the French network Télétoon (no relation to YTV's at-the-time rival). The show is created by American children's author Dan Yaccarino (who also created Oswald) and loosely based on a book he wrote called An Octopus Followed Me Home.

The series follows a 9-year-old girl named Willa (voiced by Canadian actress Jordan Todosey of Life with Derek and Degrassi fame) who has some very unusual pets. She has, so far, acquired a giraffe, two elephants, an alligator, a walrus, a bear, two seals, a camel, three penguins, and lots and lots of rabbits. Willa often finds herself in hilarious situations, and these colorful creatures offer Willa advice and wisdom from each of their respective points of view.

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The series celebrates the concept of multiple intelligences that embraces the notion that every one of us contains a host of different modes and types of intelligence, including musical, spatial and logical. The show's motto is, "It's not how smart you are; it's how you are smart."

The show ran for a single season of 26 episodes from 2008 to 2009. It also aired on Qubo in the United States. For the Qubo airings, special segments were added at the end of episodes where Willa will narrate the life lessons of what to do, what not to do, and how important the subject is, relating it to what happened in the episode.


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Willa's Wild Life provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Inky, Blinky and Bob keep referring to Willa as "Gladys". Additionally, Sara, Kara and Lara constantly misremember Willa's name as other names starting with "W" like "Willow" and "Wilma".
  • Adapted Out: Surprisingly, the octopus who forms the main subject of An Octopus Followed Me Home, the very book the show was adapted from, is completely absent from Willa's menagerie in the show.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Willa had red hair in An Octopus Followed Me Home. Additionally, the more technicolor animals in her menagerie have more normal colors in the original book.
  • Adaptation Expansion: While Willa may not have an octopus like she did in An Octopus Followed Me Home, she still has several animals who weren't present in the original book, namely a kangaroo, a camel, and a walrus. The other animals, she has in both in show and the original book.
  • Afraid of Doctors: In "Who's Afraid Of the Big Bad Vet?" Willa is shown to not like going to the doctor very much, and tries to avoid it by hiding from her dad. Then she finds out Tiny is afraid of going to the vet as well. They decide to go together so they can get over it.
  • All-Loving Hero: Willa happens to be extremely good-natured and is friendly to absolutely everyone.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Willa's rabbits come in a rainbow of bright colors. Also, Lou, one of the elephants, is yellow.
  • Animal Talk: All of the animals can understand each other and Willa, but as soon as another human enters the picture, they usually stay silent.
  • Babysitting Episode: The episode "Baby It's You" is about Willa having to watch over her neighbor's nephew, and she runs into trouble when the baby starts crying and she can't figure out what he wants.
  • Beary Friendly: Bert the bear is a big soft-hearted sleepyhead.
  • Butt-Monkey: Willa's Dad, of course. The animals tend to cause trouble for him.
  • Camping Episode: "Willa in the Wilderness". Willa and Dooley decide to go camping in Willa's backyard to prove that they can handle doing it alone. They get rained out and instead prove that they really can't.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Whenever Willa is facing something impossible is: "When there's a Willa, there's a way." She also say "I know, I know," "Oops," and "Dad, I need a hug".
    • ''WILLAAAAA!!'' from her dad whenever her animal friends cause trouble. He also say "Willa!" and "No!"
  • Clip Show: "Willa's Wonderful Life" is the standard "reminiscing on old adventures" variety.
  • Everything Is Better With Penguins: Inky, Blinky and Bob, the resident CloudCuckoolanders, and usually the comic relief.
  • Expository Theme Tune
    What would you do
    If you had your own zoo?
    Would you bounce on a bear?
    Let a giraffe brush your hair?
    Have an elephant pick out your underwear?
    Willa
    Willa
    Will your wildlife stay and play awhile?
    Cause it's so much fun playing Willa-style
    Willa
    Willa
    Willa's Wild Life!
    Willa: (speaking) Willa's Wild Life!
  • Friend to All Living Things: Willa. Her tendency to bring home every animal she found and keep it as a pet was how she ended up with her collection of companions.
  • Genial Giraffe: Jenny the giraffe is the wise and kind Team Mom of the animals.
  • Girl Posse: Sara, Kara and Lara. Sara is usually the one to make fun of Willa, with the other two "parroting" her. One episode even acknowledged this by having Kara and Lara ditch Sara for being too bossy and deciding to hang out with Willa instead.
  • Guinness Episode: The main plot of "Willa's Wonderful Life" is Willa trying to break a world record.
  • Height Angst: Both forms are used in the episode "Growing Pains". Willa spends the whole episode trying to make herself taller so she'll be able to ride a roller coaster. At the same time, her friend Evelyn spends the episode trying to get shorter so she'll stop outgrowing all her clothes.
  • Insomnia Episode: "Go To Sleep, Bert!" has the normally narcoleptic Bert unable to sleep, and distrupting everyone else while they're trying to sleep. Everyone spends the episode trying to get him back to sleep.
  • Ironic Name: One of Willa's elephants is named Tiny.
  • KISSING In A Tree: Sara, Kara and Lara tease Willa and Dooley with this rhyme in one episode.
  • Loophole Abuse: In "Willa's Top Dogs", Willa manages to get her seals to compete in the dog show because there was no rule that said the contestants had to be dogs.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Sara, Kara and Lara never call Willa by her actual name; they always use some other name that starts with a W, and Willa almost always tries to correct them, to no avail.
  • Missing Mom: For whatever reason, Willa's mother is never even mentioned.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Willa did not have a name in the original book, An Octopus Followed Me Home.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Gus the alligator. He's grouchy and rude, and frequently attempts to eat the bunnies. However, he does have a soft side, especially for Willa.
  • New Job Episode: In "Willa's Wild Pony Tale, Willa gets several new jobs to get money to buy a scrunchie.
  • No Name Given: Willa's dad is always just referred to as "[Willa's] Dad". He and Willa also have no last name.
  • Odd Name Out: The penguins are named Inky, Blinky and Bob.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Willa's dad seems to be perfectly okay with his daughter keeping zoo animals around the house.
  • Performance Anxiety: Willa gets hit with stage fright while rehearsing for a school play.
  • Picture Day: In "Bad Hare Day", Willa gets a cowlick and tries to get rid of it before her yearbook pictures. After she has KoKo try to trim it off (which just makesit worse), she resorts to wearing a rabbit on her head.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: Several episodes involve Willa trying to go somewhere, while the animals try to get her to stay so they don't have to be alone. This was also reversed in one episode, with Willa thinking the animals were being sent away, and she tries to prevent that from happening.
  • Sick Episode: "Nurse Willa." Willa planned to go hang out with her dad all day, only to find out he's sick. Willa decides to take care of him until he feels better, and so do the animals.
  • Sleepy Head: Bert the bear spends most of his screen time asleep.
  • Team Mom: Jenny the giraffe serves as this to Willa and the other animals.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Several episodes have a small subplot (usually involving some of the animals) to go along with the main plot.
  • Two-Teacher School: The vice principal, Mr. Tremble, is the only faculty member shown at the school.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: In "The Girl Who Cried Ouch", Sara pretends to have been injured by Tiny so that she can get Willa to do everything for her.
  • Younger Than They Look: Tiny and Lou are the youngest ones of the group, and since they are elephants, they're also the biggest.

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