"The Wild Thornberrys Season 2 Part 2": Nature Bites (In a Good Way)
The Wild Thornberrys doesn’t mess around with its premise. In the very opening theme we get it. There’s a family that travels the world in a vehicle called a CommVee, filming nature documentaries, and the girl talks to animals and has her own adventures. It’s a strong set-up, and while it could get formulaic, the show is pretty good at giving the family many different locations to journey to (and they’re not just something generic like “the jungle” or “the ocean”). It also gives Eliza, the girl, a diverse selection of animals to talk to. It’s no surprise it was one of the longest running Nicktoons and has had multiple feature-length movies.
The DVD release of Part 2 of season 2 of The Wild Thornberrys consists of about a quarter of the second season, a grand total of 8 episodes on two discs. Although some episodes are more entertaining than others, it does capture the heart of the series.
In “Two’s Company” Eliza meets the last two turtles of a certain species and tries to make a love connection between them. It’s pretty hilarious that the turtles are so old and yet still shy around each other.
“Show Me The Bunny”: Eliza has to defend a rabbit from a predator. It’s an amusing game of cat and mouse that runs a bit long in the beginning, but manages to escalate into something more.
“Reef Grief”: Nigel lets Eliza accompany him on an expedition, and the CommVee gets trapped underwater. It’s one of the better episodes of the set, where the danger is real and the odds are stacked against Eliza.
“Thornberry Island”: The CommVee goes into lockdown and the family gets stranded on an undiscovered island. It’s the best episode of the set, filled with intra-family conflict and topped with a heartwarming emotional moment towards the end.
“Dances With Dingoes”: When Debbie sees Eliza interacting with a pack of dingoes, Eliza has to convince Debbie that she can’t talk to animals. There’s a trippy dream sequence that’s pretty funny if you can get past the fact that it’s incredibly disturbing.
“You Otter Know”: Eliza meets some friendly otters and has to save them from an oil spill. It’s a fun episode because of how adorable the otters are.
“Have Yourself A Thornberry Little Christmas”: The family celebrates Christmas in the African wild. Lots of different subplots are juggled, and it may not be as meaningful and touching as most Christmas episodes try to be, but there are loads of entertaining animal antics.
The Wild Thornberrys can’t help but be a charming show. Taking a page out of the Rugrats’ “Book of Oblivious Parents,” Nigel and Marianne for the most part do their own thing filming the documentaries while Eliza is free to play with Darwin and the animals, and Debbie and Donnie annoy each other. Eliza is cute in a dorky sort of way, and Lacey Chabert’s voice fits her well. Tim Curry as Nigel Thornberry, on the other hand, is just bizarre. Nigel’s always so chipper about what he does, but Tim Curry normally plays characters that are total slimeballs. It’s a weird fit that somehow works brilliantly, giving Nigel a ton of funny moments, as in “You Otter Know” when he poorly attempts to speak Russian.
As great as Nigel is, Donnie is definitely the king of funny moments. You’d think Nigel and Marianne would keep a closer eye on the wild kid they took into their care, but at least his random and destructive behavior is fun to watch. Some of the highlights in this set include Donnie meeting a female version of himself, waterskiing with Marianne’s film, and stealing Debbie’s clothes to play dress-up, chattering like a demented chipmunk the entire time.
Nigel and Donnie are consistently funny, but the rest of the family isn’t. Debbie has this strange idea that she’s some cool and popular teenager despite the fact that she has no friends. While her interactions with Donnie are funny and she is a good foil for Eliza, she can be irritating at times. Darwin is cool and you can’t really go wrong with a monkey in shorts and a striped shirt, but he doesn’t get utilized too well in this crop of episodes.
The animals are a real treat, particularly because they all have hilarious voices. Obviously Eliza isn’t going to get mauled by a bear or anything, but I’m glad the show doesn’t try to sugercoat how vicious nature can be. So for Wild Thornberry fans, this is a must have. And for those who aren’t completely sold on the show, it’s still a good sample of what the series offers.