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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Wild Thornberrys: Season 1
The Wild Thornberrys: Season 1
Vivendi Entertainment // Unrated // May 17, 2011
List Price: $29.93 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted May 30, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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Nickelodeon produced countless successful children's programs in the late 1990's and early 2000's and The Wild Thornberrys was one of the most cherished programs the network ran during those especially productive years. The network has always had an uncanny ability to bring audiences memorable animated series and this remains one of the most charming ones. Characters are given some decent development, the animation is uniquely appealing, and the environment aspect will lead to some decent educational value for children wanting to learn more about animals and foreign lands while getting entertained with these humorous and fun episodes.

The story focuses entirely around the family of Eliza Thornberry. Her parents make a television program that documents wild-life. Nigel and Marianne Thornberry are quirky, offbeat, and odd parents (genuinely deserving of all three descriptions) that have a clear passion for wildlife and the outdoors. This seems to have translated for Eliza fairly well and she may know a few things the parents don't about the wildlife. Eliza is a special kid with a unique ability - she can talk to animals! Her older sister, Debbie, doesn't seem to have as much interest in the environmental explorations (nor can she talk to animals) and it's clear that she is going through normal teen issues. No one is aware of Eliza's unique ability (at least in Season 1). Unless you consider Darwin - who is essentially Eliza's best friend and monkey. The family unit also contains a rather weird young boy named Donnie, who can't speak normally and acts in random bizarre ways regularly while remaining the foster kid of the family.

Each episode in the first season tends to follow a pretty predictable formula and there aren't any ongoing story arcs that drive the episodes along. These episodes are almost entirely standalone fare, but it isn't a detriment to the creativity or energy of the series. Eliza ends up going off on her own (well, with Darwin) and explores some foreign country land while meeting and talking to various groups of animals. These encounters usually lead to some kind of troubled situation. Sometimes the characters have to help the animals and at other times they may simply want to avoid being eaten! The parents are usually too focused on making the television show to pay as much attention to their children as they probably could... in addition to Eliza wandering off all the time, the older sister Debbie tends to feel ignored and irritated with her parents (though this remains a result of her not always "getting her way"). There are a few reoccurring villains that pop into the episodes here and there but they aren't given enough development to become truly memorable or engaging (at least in comparison to the central characters).


The animation is similar to Rugrats, which was also produced and created by Gabor Csupo (who was heavily involved in the creation of The Wild Thornberrys). The series has a unique style that can only be seen in a few of these classic Nickelodeon series and that were clearly produced and animated with many of the same creative individuals. The animation seems squiggly and offbeat at times which is extremely appropriate for the show given its bizarre characters and storytelling. The animation compliments the general vibe of the series and the character designs, landscape settings, and animal artwork helps to benefit the entire production by making the series more enjoyable as a visual success.

The characters truly make this a series worth watching. If it wasn't for the entertaining and memorable writing, which assuredly helped establish these well-rounded characters, The Wild Thornberrys would be a far less entertaining series. Children will be able to connect to these frequently wacky and funny characters with each episode. The environmental aspect will also spark interest in children to learn more about foreign continents and the animals that inhabit them. The focus of the series tends to slant more towards entertainment than on education, but sometimes that is enough of a reason for children to watch a series and with this program they can still learn something along the way.

While the humor will undoubtedly appeal more to children, this series can also appeal towards older audiences as well (especially with the humorous parents as the father character is voiced with much enthusiasm by the always delightful Tim Curry). The Wild Thornberrys is a nicely made half-hour of entertainment and with this Season 1 release the twenty included episodes should transport viewers for several hours of family fun.


The DVD:


The Wild Thornberrys looks pretty good on this Season 1 set. The episodes are spread across four discs (with five episodes per DVD) and the overall quality seems to be pretty consistent with how the series looked during its television broadcast. Colors never leap off the screen at audiences, but the unique animation is reasonably well served with decent enough depth and clarity. There is some grain and dirt on the image occasionally. Interlacing was sometimes a minor issue but it wasn't distracting most of the time.  The show is presented in the original television broadcast ratio 1:33:1 (full frame). Fans won't be disappointed if expectations are reasonable.


The English language stereo sound mix for The Wild Thornberrys is clearly a product of its time. There isn't anything even remotely fancy about the audio but the dialogue, music, and effects sound reasonably clear and should be decent enough for fans. Any limitations in the audio are due entirely to the original production and do not represent a disappointment in the presentation.


Shout Factory has not included any extras on this release. This is certainly a disappointment, but it is nice that the company released the set at all (after the series received Amazon.com DVD-R releases previously). Being able to purchase these sets as standard pressed discs for a lower price is something that is well appreciated. 

Final Thoughts:

The Wild Thornberrys is one of the best animated series from Nickelodeon. This Season 1 DVD set contains 20 episodes that mix some educational value with great entertainment. Children of all ages can enjoy this show, adult fans who grew up on the series will still appreciate its charm, and parents can find some elements to appreciate. The PQ/AQ is clearly representative of the time the show was produced during, but at least things look as good as when the show aired on TV. Fans of The Wild Thornberrys shouldn't hesitate to purchase this reasonably priced set. Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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