Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The Problem with Animorphs

I recently finished rewatching (for the first time in 10 years) the Animorphs TV show. Among Animorphs fans, this TV is infamous for how it flopped, not like the Avatar movie we don’t speak of, but it gets a bad reputation nonetheless. I remember being super excited for it as a kid and as a kid I’m sure it was amazing, but I was seven when it premiered, so honestly I probably wasn’t too hard to impress. All the same, I don’t think the TV series deserves as much grief as it receives. It certainly has its problems (which I’ll cover) but it has it’s redeeming qualities too.

Let’s start with its problems. The biggest of which is the time period it was made; produced as the books were still being written in the 90s, CGI was expensive and problematic, especially for their low budget. Nowadays even the cheesier CGI is still pretty good. If a movie or TV series was produced for Animorphs now, you could ditch the Andalite and Hork Bajir puppets and have CGI aliens that would look realistic and be much cheaper to create.. In addition to the limited alien special effects (which is why Ax and Visser Three were constantly in human morphs), all the bigger animal morphs were limited. We never saw actual fight scenes between the battle morphs and the controllers. But here in the 21st century we’ve had realistic CGI animals in Narnia, Jungle Book, and Lion King just to name a few. An Animorphs series made nowadays could easily have some Hork Bajir/Gorilla fights.

Besides special effects, there’s another big issue that the Animorphs series had: lack of direction. Like I mentioned before, the TV show came out alongside the books. I don’t know what kind of input (if any) K.A. Applegate had in the episode plots, but there was no clear cut plot, besides going mission to mission. Granted that’s how the first 30-40 books were, but at least there was an endgame in mind. This resulted in most of the episode plots being pulled from the first 20 books and a running plot about the Andalite disc that Elfangor gave to Tobias (which turned out to just be a message to Tobias from his father). No show has a perfect idea of where they’re headed when they begin (especially a kids’ show) but Animorphs really seemed to be in the dark.

Now for the good: the characters. The characterization and acting of our six Animorphs was spot on. Marco’s dry wit, Rachel’s toughness, Jake’s calm leadership, Cassie’s soft nature, Ax’s enthusiasm over anything human, and Tobias’s tortured distance (granted, that mostly came in the books after he was trapped as a hawk, not before). As I’ve been reading the books and watching the TV show, I’ve come to appreciate how well the actors performed. Especially considering the above problems. 

In the end, Animorphs is a book series about humans, morals, and human relationships. The TV show didn’t really have a chance to get into morals, but they did a phenomenal job showing us what it’s like to be human… even when you’re an Andalite. It was a victim of the time period it was made, but it's still worth watching.

If you want to check it out, the Animorphs TV series is available for digital purchase on Amazon Video and iTunes. 

iTunes: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3

Amazon: Volume 1, Volume 2

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