The Wild Thornberrys Revisited

Going back to those favourite cartoons you watched as a child normally leads to a lot of strange and confused realisations about that show. You may pick out now-obvious sexual innuendo (I’ll never forget the moment in Bee Movie when the grandpa bee shouts “I did it with a grasshopper once, her crazy legs had me up all night long!”), adult humour, jokes that reference something you’ve since seen / read / heard so can finally understand, and sometimes, the shows are downright creepy and you wonder how you ever sat through an episode at the age of 7 without crying.

Well, recently I went back to one of my old favourites, The Wild Thornberrys, because as far as my memory was concerned, that show was awesome. Or, in the words of Nigel, I thought it was ‘smashing!’

For the most part, it really is. I really like The Wild Thornberrys. It’s colourful, captivating, has talking animals (yes!) and you learn facts about said talking animals. No, my wonder at how I never noticed some things as a child began during an episode with a gas station man who had a captured hyena in a cage, that he then taunted with meat. His creepy line (grunt) was, “Wanna see him dance?”

Nigel was not impressed.

I was also annoyed when, for the 3rd episode in a row, Eliza mucked shit up again. I wanted to face palm her face. That girl thinks she is always right – and doesn’t just leave it at thinking she’s right, she acts on it. She’s freeing hyenas willynilly, ditching Donnie, running through wildebeest, canoeing in arctic water, playing with cheetahs dying of thirst and then wondering why they’ve turned on her with the plans of making her lunch… Eliza thinks mostly of herself and assumes every animal she meets will love her. She also can’t stand it when somebody likes Debbie. She’s a loose cannon, who nearly gets herself and the family killed multiple times, all while sighing, squeaking and complaining nonstop.

When I was a kid, I thought Debbie was an over-reacting, whiny teenage brat. Little did I realise that Debbie acts this way because she lives with a group of people who isolate her, ignore her, ridicule her, and force her to live in an environment devoid of any safety, comfort, education options, or anything she is interested in. Every time Debbie purchases a CD player or ‘boom box’, Donnie, Darwin or Eliza either break it or throw it in water. This goes for everything Debbie buys – and she buys these things in an attempt to feel a part of the world she so desperately misses. Besides, teenager living in a van with your family non-stop? We’d all go crazy.

When it comes to Donnie I only have questions. Yes, after his parents were killed he was raised by an Orangutan for a year or two, but why oh why, does that mean he is irreversibly insane? Perhaps it is to do with the fact that Donnie is never disciplined (aside from the occasional scream from Debbie) nor does he receive education (Honestly, the boy isn’t speaking English yet and you’ve had him with you for 2 years? I think it’s time to work on that, sign language?) And also because he has never left the wilderness. No wonder the boy can’t move on from the world of his dead parents and adoptive, Orangutan mother – he still lives in it!

The mother of the group, Marianne, is constantly depressed over whether or not she’s bonding correctly with her daughters, yet never does much to correct this due to the constraints of her job. She’s also insanely jealous of any woman who comes close to Nigel (going so far as to injure her back when competing with one English beauty) which makes me worry for her ability to trust. This inability to bond or trust possibly comes from her overly-critical mother who feels the need to make Marianne feel bad about well, everything. Except for at the very end of the show when they need to make everything happy again. You know.

There are a few things you could say about Nigel Thornberry, as far as shortcomings go, but after everything I’d just like to wrap his whole bit up with saying he’s still awesome.

The Wild Thornberrys. I thought things were normal until I was older, I liked Eliza until I realised how impossible she is to like, I worry for Donnie and I feel a sense of pity for Debbie. Who would have thought. My only question is, are these things really there? Or now that I’m older and more cynical, and worn, do I just see them?

It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’m writing a critical essay on a kid’s television program. What happened to my life?

Author: SighOhJessica

I like stories, history, the bizarre, biographies, mysteries, justice, nature and mountains. I write about... not many of these things on my blog.

134 thoughts on “The Wild Thornberrys Revisited”

    1. Ah, Hey Arnold, there’s some memories…
      I bet I could analyse Helga like Debbie….

      Haha, nice comment 🙂

        1. Aww, thank you! Very much 🙂
          Your comment works in another way too – this post is over 2 weeks old and just been picked. Overdue indeed. I’ll stop deflecting compliments with humour. thank you.

  1. This Nickelodeon show was not particularly my go-to show when I was little, but it was for sure a show that would always spark up at least a few laughs every episode! Great review indeed!

  2. I remember loving this show! The teenager used to annoy me because she seemed whiny, only after growing through the motions of being a teenager, I can says I would have hated her environment too. 🙂

    Great Post! Congrats for being FP’ed

    Adieu, scribbler

  3. I’ve only ever seen one episode of “Wild Thornberries”, but I can see where children and adults would take it differently. Kids tend to have very literal, black and white, good and evil, interpretations of books and cartoons, whereas adults can be more sensitive and try to figure out why the characters act the way they do. I went through this with Calvin and Hobbs. As a kid, I just thought Calvin enjoyed making trouble, but now I see that he felt there was no other way to get his parents’ attention. All the thought that goes into creating these 2-D “people”!

    1. Ah, Calvin and Hobbs. I only really read some of it now that I’m older and to me it’s quite a sad, bleak comic. I’m sure my childhood self thought it was funny though.
      It’s quite amazing how much goes on behind the scenes of cartoons – so much more depth than what the child sees.

  4. I LOVED Wild Thornberries. I think it’s just that we can’t really go back, not really. You just have to try and live in the nostalgic moment. It’s like me and my sister, we used to love the movie Cutthroat Island with Gena Davis. Years later and after many acting classes, we rewatched it and were like, this is TERRIBLE! But it is still a favourite to watch because of the feelings of childhood that it evokes.
    Great post and congrats on being freshly pressed!

    1. It’s funny (and a tad depressing haha) when you realise how truly awful movies you liked as a kid were.
      You’re right about the feelings of childhood it evokes, I think that’s why I have some favourites from childhood that I like to watch when I’m sick – they’re comforting.

      Thank you very much and thanks for commenting 🙂

  5. This is SO awesome! Reading your blog made me feel like I’m 10 years old again, sitting in front of that old TV set and watching The Wild Thornberrys. I loved it and the yes,i agree. Watching the same cartoons again is just not the same.

  6. HAHAHA… too right you are about Donnie (and all the them but holy gees that poor kid). Maybe the point was to appeal to both children and adults. As children we might have wanted to live in the wild with talking animals and the comfort of our parents, but as adults we know it is very unrealistic and a different type of person would be raising their children in that atmosphere. The fact that you can look back on these episodes and pick them apart for their illogic is actually entertaining and amazing seems like you are exactly where you need to be! 🙂

  7. I LOVE your commentary! Makes me want to go back and watch a bunch of the old shows – and see what I think about them now! Rugrats, Doug, PepperAnn, is Are You Afraid of the Dark really as scary as I thought it was??

  8. I absolutely loved this. Going back and rediscovering a show is always enlightening. How our parents got through raising us, while having to watch these shows through the cynical adult filter that you described, is a miracle.

  9. Brilliant post! I think at some point we all get to the stage where we want to just relive those moments spent captivated in front of the tv… but you can’t ever relive the same moment, ay? haha! well done on being freshly pressed!

    1. Thank you very much! It is hard to recapture moments, I’m just learning that I have to make new ones instead of returning to the past! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  10. I loved that show as a kid, we still make impressions of Nigel now!!!!!!!! 😀 People always called me Eliza because i’m ginger and i love animals, but to be fair, i’m not her biggest fan either. Thanks for revisit to childhood, great post 🙂

    1. Thank you and my pleasure! I love impersonating Nigel, too. Did you know it was Tim Curry who voiced him? Which leads me to believe all Tim Curry characters are good for impressions.

  11. Never got into the show when I were a wee nipper – that Eliza girl always needed a smack.

    But then my tastes were warped long ago by a little slice of joygasmic bliss name of Ren And Stimpy.

    I tried rewatching it as a (technical) grown-up, see if I thought it any less weird now – it’s not, still as creepy and unsettling and dagnabbit funny as ever.

    They truly don’t make ’em like they used to.

    And no, Spongebob doesn’t even come close.

    1. I’ve never seen Ren and Stimpy but my friend had a Ren and Stimpy t-shirt that crept me out – I guess the show would even more!

      I wonder what the creepiest / most disturbing children’s show is…

      1. Ren And Stimpy. Except for the ones in which the hosts ended upon some kind of register of course.

        But in terms of intentionally creepy, rageaholic Ren and simpleton take the cake. And sneeze all over it.

  12. I used to watch this on CBBC and it was one of my favourites :). I too hated how rubbish Debbie was and I must say, I thought Donnie was hilarious! If only we saw then what we see now eh?! Great post.

  13. what an amazing post!!! I used to love this show when I was a kid.. Reading your post I’m really surprised at my self how I didn’t see these obvious things.. I used to hate Debbie back then and now I see her from a whole new perspective! And congratulations on getting freshly pressed.. Well deserved! 😀

    1. Thank you very much for saying so 🙂 And indeed, things do seem obvious now. It’s funny looking back at how you used to see the world.

  14. That was excellent! I over analyze things like that sometimes myself. Really “smashing” XD

    P.S., I just started my wordpress blog, could you do me a faves and check er’ out? Thanks!

    -Your manic neighborhood Raven

    ravenvinnie.wordpress.com

  15. Excellent review! I loved that show so much as a kid, but haven’t revisited it since middle school. Unfortunately, I also grew out of many beloved cartoons because I grew up. I think people are drawn to certain shows because they find the characters relatable. We loved Eliza because we were basically her at that age: bratty and self-righteous. I don’t think it’s that we’ve grown more cynical, but that we’ve grown more aware and mature. We don’t familiarize with Eliza anymore because we grew out of that phase! Anyway, congratulations for getting featured! :))

    1. That’s a really good reason as to why we suddenly can’t understand Eliza, but now feel more closely bonded to Debbie, or if you’re older, Marianne.
      The creators of kid’s shows are a lot smarter than we think, though often still slightly insane (episodes of Spongebob prove this)
      Thanks for commenting with that idea – I think you’re right!

  16. Hey, congrats on being Freshly Pressed! I can’t say I ever watched the Wild Thornberrys TV show but I definitely saw the movie. All your observations were very insightful (and really amusing), but the part about Debbie was my favorite. I think teenagers appear as wild, irrational freaks to everyone – except teenagers themselves. My only bit of constructive criticism is that you might want to go over your posts a few times to check grammar and syntax. For example; “No wonder the boy can’t move on from his dead parents and Orangutan mother – he still lives in it!” makes it sounds like Donnie ‘still lives’ in his parents… which would be disturbing in more ways than one. Aaaanyways! Lovely post, and I really like the rest of your blog too 🙂

    1. I should get around to seeing the movie! Maybe, I think I might be Wild Thornberrys-ed out. I don’t think anybody needs to watch about 80 episodes. You’re right about the teenagers part. I guess I had to wait until I’d gone through my teenage years before I could look at her a little deeper. She did scare me a bit as a child.

      Thanks for pointing out that line! I read it through a few times and didn’t even notice until you pointed it out – in my head it said (what I just corrected it to) “No wonder the boy can’t move on from -the world of- his dead parents…” My eyes see what they want to see when it comes to posts, and since I never thought I would be Freshly Pressed, or that it would be this one, I didn’t think too hard on the structure. Now I’m looking at it wishing I’d gone a bit deeper and not worried about my word count being high. Oh well, I’m happy! And glad people are liking it, too.

      I mean, no. I totally meant it that way. Yeah. Maybe Donnie DOES live inside his parents.

      Thank you and thank you! 🙂

    1. I was so surprised to find how sorry I felt for Debbie, especially when the family laughs at her. So I thought I’d make everybody else feel sorry for her too 😉
      Thank you 🙂

  17. Oh God I LOVED this show. And you’re so write, recently I watched The Wild Thornberrys movie…and realised at last how annoying Eliza actually is. No one was more surprised than me! This made me laugh, thanks for cheering me up after a particularly boring uni essay ¬_¬

    1. Haha I was surprised, too. Ah, Eliza you disappoint us all!
      Thank you, glad it cheered you up after that post-essay feeling 🙂

  18. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! I just checking in on WordPress to see what was going on in the blogging world and saw this post as the first one and I was like hmm I read something very similar to that before and then I realized it was you!!!!! Congrats Congrats Congrats!! Love the post, thought I commented on it before – but I guess I never got around to it.

    1. Thank you! I woke up incredibly confused. I pulled out my phone and paused, wondering why I suddenly had so many views. I wrote a post on NaNoWriMo last night so assumed it was a popular topic haha.
      Thank you again, and ah, I can’t believe it!

  19. I used to watch this with my now 18 year old son. He was twelve or so when we watched it. I thought it was a brilliantly bizarre cartoon. It wasn’t as bizarre as the other shows he watched, like “Courage the Cowardly Dog”, or “The Angry Beavers”, now those were some messed up cartoons!

    1. I’ve never seen ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog’, but I’ve seen ‘The Angry Beavers’ and yep, it was definitely weirder! I loved it, though.
      I always thought that ‘Rocko’s Modern Life’ was the most messed up from that era. It used to disturb my 10 year old self greatly.

    1. It’s such a stand out show, and it really was adventurous and appealing. It’s pretty much one of the only shows from my childhood I can watch in adulthood.

  20. This post had me cracking up! I loved the Thornberry’s and can only imagine what my thoughts would be if I re-watched as an adult. Debbie always seemed to be such a downer, but now I have a new compassion for the insanity she was surrounded by!

    1. haha, thank you! And yeah, she used to be so depressing, I’m glad you’ll see her in a new light 😉
      Now to check out another children’s show I used to watch….

  21. You have been blessed with a ‘writers perspective” That means you see things in an insightful, multifaceted, amusing and deeply compassionate way. You ponder. Pondering is good. This is only one little woman’s opinion but I have read a lot of writing and believe I am qualified to comment. Also I want to encourage you to keep writing so we can have the fun of reading it. : )

    1. I say, because you’re always so nice to me, that you’re qualified too 😉
      Thank you, though! I didn’t realise I never wrote back to your comment on here, sorry about that, I always find unread comments :S

  22. I used to watch this show all the time! In answer to your question: Maybe you are bored. Regardless of whether it was out of boredom that you just wrote a critical analysis of the Wild Thornberrys – it is a great analysis. I dunno of it’s the remnants of the lit student still hiding inside of me, but that was a great read and a great in-depth look 🙂 I loved it. Also, not I can’t get Cat-Dog theme out of my head either.

    1. Definitely boredom. Haha thank you, I also have a lit student hiding inside me… She was really excited when we wrote this. Thank you 😀

      Oh man, I just got cat-dog out of my head until I came back to check the comments…. ‘one fine day with a woof and purr a baby was born and it caused a little stir….’

  23. I don’t know that I ever really watched this show. I’d love to go back and do a critical essay on Pepperann or Recess though. I don’t watch cartoons now…in fact, I’m not even sure any exist.

    I did hear about a Nickelodeon or Disney show about a dog who blogs – how awesome is that?

      1. I never see any cartoons any more either, minus the occasional glimpse of Arthur on the afternoon telly.
        But I wanted to procrastinate haha, and the Wild Thornberrys seemed swell!
        The bits I’ve seen of new shows for kids seem awful, I judge this by the fact that the adults always seemed to like our kids shows when we watched them but can’t stand the new ones either!

        Thanks for the link! Ah, Disney.

    1. Aaw, I remember Recess! Such an amazing show, part of me doesn’t want to go back and watch anything now just in case it’s dodgier than I remember…

    2. I can’t believe i found someone who remembers those shows! And those Disney shows have really gone down. They are running out of ideas for television shows. Trust me, ive seen Dog with a Blog, and its kind of painful to watch.

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