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The Wild Thornberrys is an American animated television series that originally aired on Nickelodeon from 1998 to 2004.
This is me, Eliza Thornberry, part of your average family. I've got a dad, a mom, and a sister. There is Donnie, we found him. And Darwin, he found us. Oh, yeah, about our house. It moves, because we travel all over the world. You see, my dad hosts this nature show, and my mom shoots it. Okay, so we're not that average. And between you and me, something amazing happened... and now I can talk to animals. It's really cool, but totally secret. And you know what? Life's never been the same.
-- Eliza Thornberry, in the opening title sequence
The series focuses around a nomadic family of documentary filmmakers known as the Thornberrys, famous for their televised wildlife studies. It primarily centers on the family's younger daughter Eliza, and her secret gift of being able to communicate with animals, which was bestowed upon her after having rescued a shaman masquerading as a trapped warthog.
The gift enabled her to talk to the Thornberrys' pet chimpanzee Darwin. Together, the pair frequently venture through the wilderness, befriending many species of wild animals along the way or realizing moral truths and lessons through either their experiences or a particular animal species's lifestyle, or simply assisting the creatures, by which they become acquainted, in their difficulties.
The Wild Thornberrys, left to right, Nigel (bottom left), Marianne (with camera), Eliza (with glasses), Darwin (the chimpanzee), Donnie (with brown hair), and Debbie (sitting down, bored)
Eliza (voiced by Lacey Chabert) is the 12-year-old daughter of the Thornberrys. She has red hair in braids, glasses, braces, and freckles. She has four visible teeth connected by two braces. She is able to communicate with animals, especially her chimpanzee sidekick Darwin. She must keep this gift secret or she will lose her powers.
Nigel (voiced by Tim Curry) is Eliza's father. Sir Nigel Archibald Thornberry KBE is the son of Radcliffe (also voiced by Curry) and Cordelia Thornberry (Lynn Redgrave), an aristocratic and English couple. Born in England and having attended Harrow School in London, he travels around the world with his own family making wildlife documentaries. He is eccentric, enthusiastic, and cheerful even in the face of danger, and is also known for his exaggerated facial features.
Donnie (voiced by Flea) is a feral boy adopted by the Thornberrys, who (as revealed in the 2001 four-part TV movie, "The Wild Thornberrys: The Origin of Donnie") was raised by orangutans in Borneo. Donnie is 4, turning 5 in "The Origin of Donnie".
Debbie (voiced by Danielle Harris) is Eliza's 16-year-old older sister. She becomes the only family member to know about Eliza's power but is warned that she will be turned into a baboon if she ever tells anyone. Debbie dresses in grunge clothing and has peekaboo hairstyle.
Darwin (voiced by Tom Kane) is the Thornberrys' pet chimpanzee. He usually wears a tank top with horizontal blue and white stripes (used to be Debbie's lucky tank top) and blue shorts. He speaks with a distinct, upper-class English accent.
Neil Biederman (voiced by Michael Jeter & replaced by Jerry Sroka), a poacher & The thornberry's sworn enemy who poaches and kidnaps animals from above it, with his partner Kip O'Donnell (voiced by Keith Szarabajka).
Tyler Tucker (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas), Eliza and Debbie's cousin. He is Marianne and Nigel's nephew through Marianne's sister Nancy Tucker nee Hunter. He is a year older than Eliza but acts more immaturely than Eliza does. He doesn't really understand the dangers of living in the wild. He's a big know-it-all but generally has a good head on his shoulders, and he really cares about his cousins Debbie, Eliza, and Donnie. His parents are Dennis (voiced by Martin Mull) and Nancy Tucker (voiced by Mary Kay Place).
Shane G. (voiced by Christopher Masterson) is a pop superstar who travels with the Thornberry Family for five episodes whilst they are filming in Alaska. The Foundation orders Nigel and Marianne to take him with the family to promote Wildlife preservation among young people and Shane's fans. Both Eliza and Debbie gain a crush on the boy, however Debbie loses interest when Shane shows to have more similarities with Eliza than herself.
Santusa (voiced by Tia Texada), a Llama first seen in Nigel Knows Best. She can carries both of her. Darwin doesn't have to go. And Nigel Thornberry had left them back to Cusco tomorrow. When she gave her a walk so she makes noise in Nigel Knows Best.
Bim (voiced by Greg Ellis), a Koala whose British accent and befriended by Eliza, Darwin, & Donnie.
Lugan (voiced by Maureen Quinn), who was in the TV special.
Saiful (voiced by Pamela Adlon), which was in the TV special. and Adlon voiced Tano, a Cheetah Cub who Eliza tries to help find and who she, Darwin and Donnie help try to find his mother in the episode, Cheetahs Never Prosper.
Ron Fassler, Anne Lambton, & Jimmie Wood are Tak a little rat, Sheeba the eye patch wearing cat, & Bone, the three legged dog who helped Eliza find the Bangaboo in The Great Bangaboo.
Marion Ross as Rebecca, an elephant whom Eliza saved in Forget Me Not. She was originally saved by Nigel from poachers many years ago. At the end of the episode, she dies of natural causes. Eliza gets heartbroken after the elephant passes away and cries over death and her daughter Zita takes over the herd.
The Wild Thornberrys was produced by Klasky Csupo for Nickelodeon. It premiered in September 1998, and was the first Nicktoon to exclusively use 22-minute stories (episodes of other Nicktoons usually featured two 10 - 11-minute stories, using 22-minute stories only on occasion).
The series was designed to have a focus on parents after focus groups run by Klasky and Csupo uncovered that children were talking about the real struggles of the parent-child relationship; this was opposed to Nickelodeon's view of only featuring kids in children's programming.
Nickelodeon released all five seasons on DVD in Region 1 via Amazon.com through its CreateSpace Manufacture-on-demand program in 2010. Season 1 was released on June 24, 2010, and Seasons 2 through 5 were released on December 1, 2010.
On February 16, 2011, it was announced that Shout! Factory had acquired the rights to the series and would be releasing Season 1 on DVD on May 17, 2011. Season 1 was released on May 17, 2011 followed by Season 2, Part 1 on November 8, 2011. Season 2, Part 2 was released on April 24, 2012. Season 2, Part 3 was released on January 15, 2013, as a Shout Select title. Season 3 was released on June 11, 2013, as a Shout Select title. Seasons 4 and 5 were released in a box set on September 10, 2013 as a Shout Select title.
On December 1, 2015, Shout! Factory released The Wild Thornberrys: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1.
In Australia, all 5 seasons have been released via Beyond Home Entertainment. A 13-disc set titled The Wild Thornberrys: The Essential Episodes was released on June 3, 2015.
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Common Sense Media gave the series a rating of 5 stars, praising it for its ability to encourage young viewers to be empathetic toward animals, to want to find out about other cultures and ways of life, and to understand the vastness and diversity of the world. Knight Ridder called the series "sympathetic". The Native Voice complimented the series on its commitment to fun, adventure, detail, accuracy, and honesty.