“The Wild Thornberry’s” Created by Arlene Klasky, Gabor Csupo, Steve Pepoon, David Silverman, and Stephen Sustarsic; Directed by Peter Avanzino, Anthony Bell, Becky Bristow, Sylvia Keulen, Cathy Malkasian, Jeff McGrath, Carol Millican, Steve Ressel, and Mark Risley; Starring Lacey Chabert, Tom Kane, Flea, Danielle Harris, Jodi Carlisle, and Tim Curry; Originally aired September 1, 1998; Run time 22 minutes.
“The Wild Thornberrys” was created by husband and wife team Arlene Klasky an Gabor Csupo, the same duo who brought us “Rugrats” at the beginning of Nickelodeon’s original animated content era. The story follows a nomadic family of wildlife filmmakers as they travel the world exploring nature and investigating the different species they encounter.
The family consists of the father and mother, two daughters, a chimpanzee, and a feral boy. The youngest daughter, Eliza, has the ability to communicate with animals, a gift she was given after rescuing a shaman early in the series. This ability allows her to glean pertinent information in each episode that either teaches the audience a lesson or helps them solve the episode’s conflict. It also allows her to communicate with the family’s pet chimpanzee, Darwin, allowing him to be a full fledged character rather than a background accessory.
Donnie, the feral boy, voiced by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, is an adopted son of the Thornberrys. He came to them from a group of orangutans in Borneo. In a TV movie about his origins it is revealed that his parents were wildlife activists who come upon a pair of orangutans being threatened by poachers. His parents intervene and are killed in the process. In gratitude, the mother orangutan takes Donnie in as her own but later hands him over to the Thornberrys so that he can live with a human family. It is unknown how intelligent Donnie is, throughout the series he never rises above his feral attitudes but occasionally shows glimpses of civility.
The series tackled obvious issues such as conservation, deforestation, and endangered species, but also used the familial and natural conflict to discuss issues like togetherness, teamwork, and bullying. There were a total of three films made featuring the characters, including one cross over with “Rugrats.”
The show was finally cancelled in June of 2004 though Nickelodeon has been in talks about reviving some of their classic animated series, whether or not we’ll see more of the Thornberys remains to be seen.