The Wild Thornberrys is often regarded as one of the best Nicktoons of all time, but it's actually really messed up. Sure, the TV show has some great episodes, but Donnie's dark backstory definitely makes us do a double-take. How could this little boy be treated the way he is?
Though none of Nigel and Marianne's children have a normal life (they're busy being homeschooled, traveling the world, and talking to animals), Donnie has a particularly tragic experience. His life has been marked with loss and abandonment. When he's not busy trying to learn the English language on his own (he's picked up a few words despite never being educated), he's struggling to show his adoptive family his unique talents.
Donnie's horrible past is one of the bleakest Thornberry secrets. The adopted feral child is treated like an afterthought and is treated as such the moment his beloved orangutan surrogate mother gives him up. What Nickelodeon never explains is how the Thornberrys get away with their horrid mistreatment, how the village got away with it, and how the poachers who claimed Donnie's parents' life got away with it.
Donnie Is Completely Feral By The Time He's Found By Nigel And Marianne Thornberry
Donnie isn't blood-related to Eliza or her sister, Debbie - a fact that casual viewers of the series may not know. Nigel and Marianne Thornberry actually find the boy while filming a show on orangutans.
The Thornberrys are familiar with Donnie's parents before as they'd met the couple on their honeymoon but by the time they reunite with Donnie, he is completely feral.
Eliza Understands Animals But For Some Reason She Can't Understand Donnie
Despite the family's propensity to treat Donnie like a pet, he's a human being. How do we know? Well, besides the fact that he has human parents, Eliza can't understand a word he says. If Eliza can understand every type of animal noise on the planet, she'd be able to understand Donnie if he were some sort of primate hybrid speaking the orangutan language.
It makes one wonder if Eliza might be able to understand her adopted brother if she only tried.
The Only Way Donnie Gets Clothes Is By Stealing ThemVideo: YouTube
One might assume that Donnie insists on remaining perpetually uninhibited by clothing, but that's not the case. It's totally possible that the Thornberrys just don't care enough to clothe him or make him wear clothes like parents would do for any stubborn son.
In Rugrats Go Wild, the crossover movie between The Wild Thornberrys and Rugrats, Donnie finally gets an outfit but he has to take it from Chuckie first.
Donnie Might Able To Learn The English Language If Someone Would Only Try To Teach Him
Donnie is actually really smart. This is proven by the complex drawings he makes in his origin episodes. Still, the Thornberrys don't really bother to teach him English; they don't seem to attempt at all. Donnie does pick up bits of English during his time with the family, so it's not like he lacks the ability for it.
Are they too self-involved or do they think that he's a lost cause?