‘The Wild Thornberrys’: The Legendary Rockstar Who Voiced Donnie

Nickelodeon dominated the world of children’s animated TV series in the 1990s and 2000s. One of their most beloved titles was The Wild Thornberrys, which told the story of a wacky globe-trotting family and a spunky lead character who can talk to animals. The show even featured some high-profile voice actors.

Eliza Thornberry
Eliza Thornberry during “The Wild Thornberrys Movie” Premiere at Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California, United States | Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

‘The Wild Thornberrys’ was a beloved Nickelodeon cartoon

The Wild Thornberrys centered around the travels and antics of the Thornberry family. Nigel, the family’s patriarch (voiced by legendary actor Tim Curry), was a nature documentary show host, while his wife, Marianne, was his camerawoman.

Older sister Debbie encapsulated everything about being a brooding teenager. Her younger sister Eliza — the show’s main character — is the opposite in every single way. While Debbie dreads traveling to new places around the world and encountering different wildlife, Eliza loves getting to experience these places.

What made Eliza unique is her ability to talk to animals as if they were people. This included the family’s pet chimpanzee, Darwin.

Donnie was a chaotic yet central character

One of the show’s most beloved characters was Donnie, Debbie and Eliza’s brother and certified wild child.

Nigel and Marianne were old friends with Donnie’s parents in Borneo. But poachers killed his parents and an orangutan raised Donnie in the wild. The Thornberrys took them in and he was a part of their family ever since.

Throughout the series, Donnie is known for not speaking any coherent words. Instead, he speaks high-speed jibberish and frequently bounces around the screen, often providing comic relief in tense moments.

To bring the character of Donnie to life, he needed to be voiced by someone with an equally larger-than-life presence.

Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers
Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers performs during Band Together 2 at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on December 14, 2017 in San Francisco, California | Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

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The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea was the voice of Donnie

Flea, the legendary bassist and founding member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, provided the voice of Donnie throughout the Wild Thornberrys series and movies.

In many ways, Flea was a perfect fit for the role. As a part of one of the most iconic rock bands of all time, he was no stranger to wild behavior both on and off stage.

“Donnie is a wild, animal-like five-year-old boy,” Flea said in a behind-the-scenes video of the show. Donnie’s frenetic jibberish came naturally to him every time he stepped up to the mic to record.

Flea acted in other movies and TV shows

The Wild Thornberrys was far from Flea’s first acting gig. Prior to joining the Nickelodeon show, he had appeared in several popular movies and TV shows.

Early in his acting days, Flea landed the role of Needles in Back to the Future II and Back to the Future III. Not long after that, he appeared alongside Keanu Reeves in the 1991 flick My Own Private Idaho.

In the decades since, Flea remains part of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and continues acting. He appeared in iconic movies such as the 1998 Psycho remake, The Big Lebowski, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Baby Driver, Inside Out, and Queen & Slim.