Australian Council on Children and the Media

Wild Thornberries, The

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Short takes

Not recommended under 5, PG to 12 (Viol. Distress. Scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Wild Thornberries, The
  • a review of Wild Thornberries, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 10 April 2003.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not recommended
Children aged 5-12 Parental guidance
Children over the age of 12 Will be able to view this film with or without parental supervision.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Wild Thornberries, The
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: None
Length 85 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Eliza Thornberry and her family travel around the world in order for her parents to make unique nature documentaries. While in Africa Eliza rescues a wild warthog from a trap; the warthog turns out to be the magical shaman Mnyambo who grants Eliza the power to talk to animals. It is through this power that she communicates with the many different creatures that she sees. One night on the savannah a baby cheetah cub is taken by poachers and Eliza herself is nearly killed. Eliza sets off to find the poachers and in her search uncovers an even bigger plot to kill thousands of elephants during a rare solar eclipse. Having lost her power to speak to the animals Eliza manages to work miracles, by using her previous knowledge, her intuition and her heart in order to save the cheetah cub, her family and a thousand stampeding elephants from certain death.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

This film contains a fair amount of violence.

  • Within the first few minutes of the film there is a dramatic chase scene between a cheetah and a herd of grazing gazelle. Soon one is singled out and although “the kill” is not actually shown soon afterwards the female cheetah is telling her cubs to come and have dinner.
  • A baby cheetah cub is chased by poachers in a helicopter and is eventually abducted by them, despite the mother’s efforts to stop them (pouncing onto the man as he hung out of the helicopter and violently clawing at his back). The mother is eventually thrown off and crashes back to the ground.
  • Eliza clings to a ladder hanging from the helicopter, as she pleads with the poachers to let Tally, the baby cheetah go, one of the poachers reaches down to cut the ladder and Eliza falls towards the ground. She is saved at the last minute when her sister speeds underneath her with the family’s motor home and Eliza lands safely on the roof.
  • A rhinoceros is shot by poachers. Eliza hears his cries for help as he lies bleeding to death on the African plain. The poachers that tried to kill the rhino in the first place arrive on the scene to “help” and later in the film it shows them in possession of a large Rhino horn, among many other things, thus inferring that the Rhino was killed after all.
  • Eliza, Darwin, and Donny, Eliza’s younger brother are themselves kidnapped by poachers and are bound and held hostage, until Tally (who was taken by the same poachers) helps them escape.
  • Slone, one of the poachers, brandishes his knife at Eliza in a menacing way while he “thanks” her for returning it to him.
  • Eliza’s sister Debbie is violently grabbed by Slone and is dragged towards a cliff where he threatens to throw her over unless Eliza reveals how she knows so much about their secret poaching plans.
  • An African native grabs Slone around the head, in order to try to free Debbie, but he is thrown off.
  • A helicopter with poachers in it crashes into the side of a mountain, although we don’t see the actual impact.
  • On a number of occasions, during the climax of the film, the poachers set off a series of explosions aimed at frightening the mass of elephants into stampeding towards an electric fence which contains sufficient voltage to kill them all.
  • During one such explosion Eliza is thrown off the back of an elephant and is nearly crushed during a stampede.
  • Once again Eliza is grabbed by Slone, who sarcastically states how tragic her upcoming death will be. He then throws her out of the helicopter into the raging river below. Her family’s attempts to save her fail until at last she is rescued by Shaman Mnyambo.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Most of the violent scenes in this movie, as they show violence being perpetuated on helpless animals and or young children, would be potentially frightening for children under five:

  • There are two scenes which would be particularly disturbing to young viewers. One is the scene where the wounded Rhinoceros was crying for help as it lay dying on the ground. The second is the scene in which Tally is forcibly taken by poachers. As the scene ends Tally is shown captive, speeding away in the helicopter while his mother remains defeated and grieved on the ground.
  • The scene portraying the chase at the beginning of the film as well as the scenes depicting frightened, stampeding elephants towards the end of the movie were accompanied by intense, dramatic music that greatly added to the suspense of the audience. This could easily be overwhelming to some younger viewers.
  • While Eliza is at boarding school she has a dream where she hears Tally calling to her for help. In the dream, Eliza tries time and again to reach Tally, but as they are in some sort of vast, raging ocean the waves keep pulling Tally out of her reach until at last Tally disappears. Shaman Mnyambo appears to Eliza in the form of a rock mountain telling her to return to Africa to save Tally, his mountain then crumbles and a rockslide engulfs Eliza, which is when she wakes up. Due to the intense music that accompanies this scene and the pitiful sounds of Tally begging for help as he once again disappears, this scene may confuse and scare many young children.
  • The scene in which Eliza loses the power to speak to animals, in order to save her sister from the poachers could scare younger viewers as her powers leave her in the form of a violent storm.
  • While left alone in the jungle with her little brother one night Debbie and Donny hear violent crashing and slamming noises that shake their trailer. Debbie is obviously scared, and a few tense moments follow before the children realise that it is only their grandparents and their heavy trunks parachuting into the campsite.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be frightened by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Depending on their age and maturity most children between the ages of eight to thirteen would be able to handle the material contained in this film. There are a number of scenes which parents may wish to discuss with their children in order to reassure them and to help them understand, most notably the scene in which the rhino is dying and the scene in which Tally is abducted.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

There is nothing in this film that would be overly disturbing to an early adolescent.

Sexual references

This film contains no sexual references.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is no human nudity. However bare baboon butts do make a number of appearances.

Use of substances

There is no use of drugs or alcohol in this film.

Coarse language

The film contains no coarse language. However there are a few instances of name-calling. Debbie continually refers to Eliza as “my brat sister.” On one occasion Debbie explains how Eliza “talks like a monkey and dresses like a geek.”

In a nutshell

The overall message from this movie is that everyone has special gifts and a special destiny, that you don’t need magical powers to effect change. As Eliza demonstrated in the end, the will to make a difference can, in itself, create miracles. It is about demonstrating courage and bravery to overcome obstacles no matter how impossible they may seem. Finally it is about the struggle of the animal to exist in man’s world and the importance of compassion and understanding to help stop the injustices that they currently suffer.

Some values that parents may wish to encourage are: bravery, helpfulness, determination, tolerance of differences and compassion for animals.

Some values that parents may wish to discourage are: deceitfulness, hypocrisy, violence as a way to solve problems and greed.

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