The Wild Thornberrys is an American animated television series that aired on Nickelodeon. It was rerun in the USA on Nickelodeon and occasionally Nicktoons Network until 2007. The show was aired on Nicktoonsters in the UK.
The series follows the Thornberrys, as they travel the world in their Communications Vehicle, referred to throughout the show as their "Commvee," looking for rare animals to film. Their youngest girl, Eliza, is the main character and has the power to speak to animals because of an encounter with an african shaman, Shaman Mynyambo. She can speak to the family's pet chimpanzee, who is also her best friend. She travels the world with her family and usually helps animals solve their problems.
At the beginning of every episode, Eliza recites a monologue, which is then followed by the theme music. It states the basic premise of the show, and provides a brief back story.
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).
- Elizabeth "Eliza" Thornberry (Lacey Chabert) is the main character, who unknown to most gained the ability to speak with animals after an encounter with an african shaman (as shown in the episode "Gift of Gab"). Eliza is portrayed as a geek by her extensive zoological knowledge and her glasses and braces. She has freckles and long red-orange hair that is usually worn in pigtails like Pippi Longstocking, and occasionally a ponytail. She also has a companion-monkey (chimpanzee) like Pippi Longstocking; but instead of superhuman strength, Eliza has the "super-power" of being able to talk to animals; meanwhile the name "Eliza" invariably derives from the name "Eliza Dolittle," from the film "My Fair Lady" and Doctor Dolittle, due her ability to talk to animals. She almost always wears a yellow dress, though later in the series she sports other clothes. Eliza suffered a serious attack of appendicitis while rock climbing in the Australian outback. Eliza is 12 in the series, being four years younger than Debbie as stated in "Gold Fever".
- Deborah "Debbie" Thornberry (Danielle Harris) is a typical 16-year-old girl who is Eliza's older sister, interested in music and fashion, and who longs for the normal suburban life her parents' job deprives her of. Even though she ridicules Eliza, she truly does care for her. She commonly wears an orange camisole, a green flannel shirt, blue jeans (with holes deliberately torn in the knees as a 'grungy' fashion statement) and brown Birkenstock clogs. In The Wild Thornberrys Movie, she learns Eliza's secret after Eliza reveals it to the poachers that were threatening to kill her if Eliza didn't tell them how she knew about their plan to kill a herd of elephants. Debbie is amazed that Eliza gave up her gift to save her life and promises to keep her secret -- but only under the belief that if she doesn't, she'll be turned into a baboon. It is shown in the episode "Chew If by Sea" that Debbie suffers from chronic seasickness.
- Nigel Archibald Thornberry (Tim Curry), the only child of Colonel Radcliffe Thornberry and Cordelia Thornberry, travels around the world with his family making wildlife documentaries for his own show. He resembles Steve Irwin and David Attenborough, and speaks with an English accent. He somewhat resembles Lt. Col. Algernon Hawthorne in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, played by Terry-Thomas. He is easily excited and is usually calm, even in the face of danger, and his catchphrase is "Smashing!", and offered a professorship at Oxford University. Much to his mother's disapproval, Nigel turned down the professorship. Although he is an expert at the natural world, Nigel is pretty slow when faced with other things; but he is always fascinated by nature, even in the face of his own demise as a result of it.
- Lady Marianne Hunter Thornberry (Jodi Carlisle) is Nigel's wife and operates the film camera in addition to driving the ComVee. Marianne is a strong woman, often the voice of reason, and sometimes loses patience with Nigel. She is usually the one to take on disciplinary duties, forcing Eliza to stay in the confines of the comvee, or forcing Debbie to complete her schoolwork. Marianne was revealed to be kicked off her High School's Field Hockey Team by a frustrated Debbie.
- Darwin Thornberry (Tom Kane) is a chimpanzee who travels with the family and is a loyal companion to Eliza. He usually wears a regular sleeveless shirt with blue stripes and blue shorts. He speaks with a distinct upper-class British accent. He tries to be the voice of reason to Eliza, however she rarely takes his advice, since he is almost always hesitant to follow her plans; in response, she accuses him of cowardice, once calling him a "cry baby in a tank-top" for his hesitancy. He was found by Eliza, and was the first animal she ever talked to. In 'The Gift of Gab' Darwin was seen in a flashback, stealing the sleeveless tank top that was once owned by Debbie,
- Donald "Donnie" Michael Thornberry (Flea; Tyler Arfman; Dylan James) is a feral boy who (as revealed in the 2001 4-part TV movie, "The Origin of Donnie") was raised by orangutans (similar to Tarzan) after his real parents, a pair of naturalists, were killed by poachers. The special also reveals that Nigel and Marianne knew his parents, prior to Donnie's birth. He commonly wears a pair of leopard-spotted shorts (presumed to not wear underwear underneath) and he loves to eat bees. He talks very wildly and unintelligibly in animal-sounds (but nothing Eliza can understand), but is able to adapt to most environments. Donnie is 4, but turns 5 in "The Origin of Donnie".
The Commvee (an abbreviation of "communications vehicle") is a two-story mobile home; the main door leads up a flight of stairs to a main floor with the driver (on the right side, due to the family being American except Nigel) and passenger seat in the front, followed by a twin sized bed, table for eating at on the west side of the car, a kitchen on the eastern side, and a bathroom in the back which also serves as a dark-room for editing film. There is a "basement/1st floor" that contains one room with a big bed for Nigel and Marianne, a room with a two twin sized beds (for Debbie and Eliza) and two hammocks for Donnie and Darwin. There is also a small box near the floor of the "main story" that contains various switches which can inflate a raft for crossing rivers and the ocean to a "lock-down" mode in which iron plates cover the windows (as seen in Thornberry Island) for typhoons; there are other switches that can put the car into a submarine mode, or inflate a bag on top of the car for falling objects or rising to the surface of the ocean. Near the 'switch box' there is a hatch (as seen in Rugrats Go Wild) that gives access to a mini-sub.The Commvee also features the usual conveniences found in a motorhome, including air-conditioning and a stereo system with a cassette tape player. On the roof there is a satellite that barely ever gets reception, but is used to upload footage to the foundation. On the outside there are many compartments, supposedly for carrying equipment and other smaller vehicles such as the 'mini-comm' for short-range transport or picking up passengers and returning them to camp,the submarine for deep sea expedition (the bath-o-sphere), and the 'Congo-com.'
They also have a variety of cameras with which they film. The one mostly used is a shoulder mount or tripod mount camera. Marianne has been known to make specaility cameras for particularly difficult shoots.