In an upcoming episode of Nickelodeon’s popular series The Wild Thornberrys, patriarch Nigel Thornberry (Tim Curry) receives the highest honor that can be bestowed on a Brit – knighthood. The animated ceremony will air as part of the one-hour special titled Sir Nigel on Sunday, March 30 (8-9 p.m. ET/PT).
Nigel’s knighthood ceremony was intended for inclusion in the theatrical feature The Wild Thornberrys Movie, but was cut for pacing reasons. As the scenario plays out on the small screen, Nigel’s daughter, Eliza (Lacey Chabert) fears her dad’s awesome honor may be a double-edged sword. Lynn Redgrave guest stars as Grandmumsy Thornberry in an adventure that brings the family back to civilization. Teenage daughter Debbie enjoys a lavish shopping spree while Eliza desperately tries to save a pair of wary golden eagles from an evil gamekeeper.
To promote the show, the animated adventurer/naturalist/filmmaker recently sat down to talk about his knighting and his unusually wild family life.
Q: Was being knighted by the Queen a dream come true? Can you describe it and rank it with your other amazing accomplishments?
A: The bestowal of my knighthood was quite an honor, though I’ve never put too much stock in awards and such. Nonetheless, it certainly ranks near the top of my list. After all, I’ve always been something of a Monarchist. It was quite stunning, actually, standing there before Her Majesty, my head bowed. I was most fascinated by Her Majesty’s shoes. I’d never really thought about the Queen’s feet, but there they were, neatly fitted into a lovely pair. But I’d wager that my knighthood was a dream come true for my dear mom and dad.
Q: What were a couple of your wildest and funniest experiences in the wild?
A: I quite fancy the time a group of Masai warriors invited me to participate in a tribal wedding ceremony except this time I was to be the betrothed. She was a lovely girl, actually. Had three cows of her very own.
Q: Can you provide a list of your top accomplishments? Is there an achievement that eludes you or a challenge that you have yet to meet?
A: At the top of my list would be the moment when a lovely young girl named Marianne Hunter agreed to become my wife. Then of course, there’s the arrival of my daughters, which I also rank highly. There are a number of other events in my life that round off the list, including the time I helped to deliver an elephant calf during an especially difficult birth. I plan to write a book about my adventures in the wild.
As for challenges I have not yet met, suffice to say that it is my hope that I can open the world’s eyes to the dangers facing the animals of this planet, and in doing so, raise the level of compassion humankind has for creatures big and small. There are many crises in the animal kingdom playing out every day. Species are disappearing by the day because of man’s need to expand and develop pristine lands. My challenge is always to inspire young viewers to learn more about the world, learn about natural resources and sustainable lands, write letters in support of groups that help save animals and their habitats.
Q: How tempting is the professorship you were offered at Oxford? Are there certain joys of civilization that you yearn for as you traverse the globe?
A: The offer was quite tempting, indeed There is no other city on earth like London, and for me it will always be home. While I am most fortunate to have my family at my side whilst adventuring around the globe, I do occasionally yearn for a more settled life — one in which figgy pudding needn’t be such a stranger to the dinner table. Try as she might, Marianne has never quite mastered the art of figgy pudding.
Q: Coming from an upper crust British upbringing, to what do you trace your wanderlust and your fascination with and love of animals?
A: I think my love for animals started at a very young age. Our estate was home to many: pheasant, ponies and foxes. For as long as I can remember I have had a profound connection to creatures.
Q: Of all the animals you’ve filmed, what are some of your favorites? Why?
A: I’m quite partial to elephants, I’m afraid. Back when I was younger, my college chum Jomo and I saved one marvelous beast from poachers. I felt a connection to that animal unlike any other. Her name was Rebecca.
Q: Is Eliza a chip off the old block? What characteristics do you share with your daughter? Why do you suppose she and Debbie are so different?
A: I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” There is no more apt an adage to describe my daughter’s similarities to me. I, too, have put myself in harm’s way while in the aid of animals. Eliza’s compassion and reverence for the animal kingdom knows no bounds, and while I do think some of that impulse is learned behavior, it is without question a part of her own genetics.
And while Deborah shares those same genetics, I fear that her compassion for the animal world does have its limits. But she does revel in the comings and goings of teen boy bands, magazines and fashions with the very same gusto that her sister relishes the animal world. And while I have no explanation for this, I respect that it’s these differences that make each of us unique in the world.
Favorite dessert: Great Grandmumsy’s figgy pudding, of course.
Secret talent: I’m quite the musical theatre talent.
My kids think that I’m: Daft, and I don’t know if they’re wrong.
Favorite song: I Am the Walrus.
Three words that describe me: Witty, dashing, and British.