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"Tell me a story/Read me a poem
Wrap it in memory/Sing me the song
Then let me hold it/Deep in my heart
Where it can speak to me all the day long
The adventure of virtue/The adventure of truth
The thrill of the knowing that it's up to you
Build me a new day shining in the sun
This is my story/The adventure has begun..."
Adventures from the Book of Virtues is an American TV series that ran from September 2, 1996 to November 2000 on PBS. Based on the bestselling morality book The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett (who also conceived this series), it follows the adventures of 11-year-old Zach Nichols and 10-year-old Annie Redfeather as they run into typical ethical issues facing normal kids...and their Talking Animal friends at Plato's Peak are there to help them solve their problems with stories from The Book of Virtues.
The inhabitants of Plato's Peak are:
- Plato, a bison, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson
- Socrates (also known as "Sock"), a bobcat, voiced by Frank Welker
- Aristotle (also called "Ari"), a prairie dog, voiced by Jim Cummings. Keeper of the Book of Virtues.
- Aurora, a hawk, voiced by Kath Soucie (who also voices Annie)
This is the first television series from PorchLight Entertainment, as well as the first primetime animated series for PBS. It is dedicated to teaching Christian life lessons to kids, such as of courage, faith, honesty, loyalty, compassion, gratitude, responsibility, perseverance, self-discipline, and friendship. For a TV series, the animation uses quite an advanced movie quality, giving most of the designs a Disneyesque art style.
This series includes examples of:
- An Aesop
- Aesop's Fables: Some of its stories appear in the show.
- Animation Bump: Happens frequently.
- Anthropomorphic Zig-Zag: Plato often shifts back and forth between all fours and two legs.
- Art Evolution: The animation design in the second half of season two has been changed, noticeably streamlining the designs on Zach and Annie to make them look a little like teenagers, in addition to darkening the backgrounds a bit and making the cells lighter. Finally, starting with the third season's second half, the animation quality is a little less smooth than the first two seasons and also added black outlines on the characters, even though the backgrounds are lighter again and the character designs are completely unchanged.
- Bag of Holding: Ari's bag of books.
- Berserk Button: Don't touch and break Zach's dad's camera.
- Never climb on Zach's elderly friend Mr. Cleveland's plaque and break it.
- Also, don't insult a friendly junkyard man named Jake in "Respect".
- The Bible: A few stories, like the Good Samaritan, come from here.
- Binocular Shot: When a binocular or spyglass is used by the characters in some episodes.
- Blinding Camera Flash: This happens to Zach at the beginning of "Honesty", when he touches his dad's camera and accidentally breaks it.
- Bolt of Divine Retribution: At the beginning the first episode "Work", a raging thunderstorm occurs, so everyone rushes to the cave--except for Sock, who just sits on a branch of a tree. When told by Plato that the tree isn't very safe to sit on during thunders, Sock disagrees, thinking the tree is very safe. Cue a lightning strike hitting the branch he's sitting on, and thus he falls on the ground.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: On occasion, near the end of "Honesty" (1998), Sock appears in front of the screen and talks directly to the audience right after Zach accepts Annie's apology letter.
- Broke Episode: "Self-Discipline", "Generosity", "Integrity", "Charity" and "Honesty" (1998).
- Cash Cow Franchise
- Cats Are Mean/Cats Are Snarkers: Sock.
- Character Focus: Almost every episode would focus on either Zach or Annie back and forth. However, the first episode focuses on Sock.
- Chorus-Only Song: The theme song, titled "The Adventure Has Begun".
- Christmas Episode: "Tales of Compassion" (2000), a two-part episode.
- Clip Show: The ending of "Wisdom", where Annie and Zach told recaps of their previous adventures.
- Clutching Hand Trap: This happened to Sock in "Moderation", when he tries to take a cookie out of the jar Zach gave him.
- Conspicuously Light Patch: While early episodes avoid this trope, other episodes seem to use it a lot. Especially noticeable is that the dirt could be colored lighter if animated.
- Contemptible Cover: The various picture book adaptations published when the show premiered, which feature illustrations that are slightly Off-Model and a bit rounded, such as on the noticeable covers. Just wow.
- Continuity Nod: In "Trustworthiness", Zach's backpack is found by Sock, who digs into it looking for something. This makes Zach toss the backpack away and shoo him, causing it to spill its containments. Zach gives his lunch bag containing a sandwich to Annie and quickly packs them up in frustration but Annie immediately eats his sandwich, which leads him to accuse her of eating it. Then Annie holds out another bag containing a sandwich, making him happy. This is later repeated at the end of "Honesty" (1998) where Zach and Annie are having a picnic, but Sock steals Zach's bag of sandwiches, which makes Zach angry. Then Annie holds out another bag of sandwiches and Zach turns pleased again.
- Also, the first "Self-Discipline" is about Zach's desire to buy a video game with his mom refusing to let him. The second one has him playing a video game at the beginning.
- Covers Always Lie: The logo of the series, which depicts a lineup consisting of black silhouettes of the main characters standing against a red background with the show's title underneath them, along with a large yellow jungle font for "ADVENTURES", seems like it would fit well for an animated nature series, but the actual show itself is more about characters telling Christian values, fairy tales and other famous stories. However, the logo could be accurate, given that the show involves a Native American girl, wild animals that talk, and even a jungle-style theme song.
- Critical Research Failure: In-Universe; in "Integrity" (1998), Zach takes to school his dad's replica of his school report from Egypt, which causes a lot of embarrassment in the class when he reads it out loud. Annie lashes out on him for lying about it.
Annie: How could you do that, Zach?! How could you lie about your project?!
Zach: I wasn't exactly lying, I just told the story.
Annie: ...You lied!
- Deadpan Snarker: Most of the characters, though Sock and Ari are the most prominent.
- Death Glare: In "Honesty", Plato does one to Sock in response to Sock's Incredibly Lame Pun.
- Descended Creator: Michael Donovan, who served as voice director of the show, went on to voice Sock from the second season (second half) onward.
- Determinator: The kids in "Determination".
- Deus Ex Machina: Many of the kids' problems were solved in this way.
- Disneyfication: Generally averted with most of the stories.
- Diving Save: Sock does this to Annie in "Responsibility" after Annie falls off her bike and slides down the cliff.
- Doing It for the Art: Despite having the series air on PBS prime time, series conceiver William Bennett had a strong hatred towards PBS because he felt the network raises money from the government. This is apparently the main reason why he decides the series won't be funded through federal money, but instead it will be funded through sales of an interactive CD-ROM series, home videos, and a series of books.
- Dropped Glasses: Happens to Ari in "Trustworthiness", for most of the episode.
- Epic Fail: Sock is often prone to this trope due to his clumsiness.
- At the beginning of "Generosity", Zach was carrying a load of canned goodies for donation. Sock walks in feeling sleepy and accidentally bumps into him making the cans fall on the ground burying him and roll down, and even one of them rolls down into one of Ari's tunnels. Then the kids went on to gather up the cans in boxes.
- Episode Finishes the Title: Oh so much.
- "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Some of the episodes.
- Every Episode Ending: Plato reciting a few of the lines from a famous poem.
- Fable Remake: Zach and the Beanstalk in "Courage" (1998).
- Face Palm: Zach's dad in "Honesty", after he sees his camera broken by Zach.
- Zach himself also does it in one episode.
- Failure Is the Only Option: In "Courage", Annie has to race with another girl at the school field. As they run, they jump over a hurdle, even though Annie trips over it and falls flat on her face and the other girl wins making her lose. Annie gets upset because of this, pounding on the track with tears coming out of her eyes.
- Fantasy Helmet Enforcement: The kids always wear helmets every time they ride their bikes.
- Feud Episode: Several. Here are a few examples:
- "Responsibility", of course.
- In "Self-Discipline", Zach has an argument with his mother for not buying a video game and letting him get an allowance.
- In "Respect", Annie and Zach were angry at Jake, the junkyard man who let them find parts of his go-kart.
- In "Generosity", Zach and Annie get into a heated argument over which name to choose for their picnic campaign. They're just being generous, according to Plato.
- In "Patience", Annie loses her patience with a younger classmate during a school contest.
- In "Honesty" (1998), Zach is mad at Annie for not letting him pay her fifteen dollars, so they argue for a while until Annie decides to write a trustworthy letter to him.
- At the beginning of "Integrity" (1998), Zach lies in the class by telling them his dad's Egyptian replica of a school report he's taking, which makes Annie so furious at him.
- Five-Man Band: The animals.
- Forgiveness: Almost every episode, most notably "Responsibility".
- Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: At the beginning of "Friendship", Annie's "new friend" is a strange girl named Sarah who constantly teases her, so she stops being her friend.
- Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better: Plato walks on all fours, but Sock and Ari usually stand on two legs.
- Framing Device
- Furry Confusion: Besides the main animal characters, some episodes have non-anthropomorphic animals show up when Zach/Annie isn't at Plato's Peak. Some examples include a dog that Zach plays fetch with in "Loyalty", Jake's pet dog in "Respect", and two squirrels that Zach mistakes for Sock and Ari in "Determination".
- Furry Reminder: The animals at Plato's Peak.
- Gang of Bullies: The Wolf Pack in "Humility" (1998).
- GASP: Annie has one in "Honesty" (1998) right after she yells, "Fine!" at Zach, who leaves angrily.
- Gentle Giant: Plato.
- Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: Invoked by Sock in "Respect", when he climbs on the bookshelf and sees a book titled Gravity.
Sock: Hmm. Gravity. (falls)
- Great Big Book of Everything/Portal Book: The Book of Virtues, itself kept by Ari.
- Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: In the episode "Charity", Plato is seen wearing only a large white sheet around his body, and Ari and Sock are only wearing green and blue jackets respectively, due to the snow. However, in another episode involving snow, "Humility" (1998), they lack these clothes, just as in all other episodes.
- High-Pressure Emotion: Happens to an angry Sock in "Respect" after Ari taunts him by grabbing his nose.
- Hurricane of Puns: Occurs in "Honesty".
- The Hyena: Sock always laughs maniacally. For example, in "Honesty", when he hears Plato say "big picture" and thinks it's funny, and later in "Loyalty", when he watches Ari with his binoculars.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode title is basically the name of a virtue that was explained in every episode.
- Impossible Hourglass Figure: Annie's mother.
- Impossible Shadow Puppets: There's one done by Sock at the beginning of "Determination".
- Incredibly Lame Pun:
- Interspecies Friendship: Zach and Annie (both humans), Plato, Aurora, Sock and Ari.
- Know When to Fold'Em: Basically the premises of the two "Perseverance" episodes.
- In the first one, Zach and Annie give up on their guitar and karate lessons respectively, because Zach said that playing a guitar is boring and Annie said that karate is very hard. At the end of the episode, after being told stories with the episode's virtue, the kids get over their problems and happily revisit the two topics.
- In the second one, Annie was racing with Zach on their bikes in the woods, but gets outrun by him when he wins the race and becomes so disappointed about it that she wants to quit. Later on, Annie tries racing with Zach again after resolving her problem and somehow manages to outrun him.
- Limited Wardrobe: The kids. Usually, Zach wears a yellow shirt and blue jeans, while Annie wears a pink shirt and lighter pants.
- Lions and Tigers and Humans, Oh My!
- Meddling Parents: Both Zach's and Annie's parents can be these sometimes.
- The Mentor: Plato, to the kids.
- Mucking in the Mud: At the beginning of "Self-Discipline", Annie and Zach were walking on mud while they enter Plato's Peak.
- In one scene of "Moderation", Sock is seen stepping in a puddle of mud, much to Ari's annoyance.
- Naive Everygirl: Annie.
- Negative Continuity: The episodes do not seem to take place in linear fashion; no character speaks in memoriam of a previous incident, and there is no intimation that the kids act based on a previously referenced virtue.
- Never My Fault: In "Responsibility", Annie blames Zach for her bike accident, but he keeps telling her that he didn't ask her to race. This leads to an argument between them.
- Later in "Integrity", Annie tries blaming Zach for making her sell their weathervanes really fast, but it was actually the fact that she cut the corners.
- In one scene of "Trustworthiness", Zach doesn't believe Annie for taking his sandwich and eating it.
- Niche Network: The Kids' Movie Channel in "Moderation" (1998).
- Non-Human Sidekick: The Zach and the Beanstalk story on "Courage" (1998) gives Zach a fast-talking white field mouse named Samuel J. Fieldmouse.
- Not the Fall That Kills You: In "Responsibility", Annie falls off her new bike after crashing into a rock because she accidentally races with Zach (while actually delivering her mom's cakes), but is eventually saved by Sock from hitting the ground.
- Obstacle Ski Course: The plot point of "Humility" (1998).
- The Odyssey: The story of the cyclops appears within the show.
- Off-Model: In certain shots of many episodes, you can see that a character's body part, clothes or articles of their skin or fur is filled in with the same color as their main body or clothes by mistake, and even in a few shots, one color disappears. Also, the designs on Zach and Annie are noticeably different in some episodes.
- Oh Crap: In "Responsibility", the animals get this look when they see Annie racing towards the rock.
- Zach also has one at the beginning of "Compassion", when he sees that his neighbor's house is in flames.
- Then in "Courage", Sock does this by screaming when a spiral (which he thinks is an earthquake) is being dug around him and Ari pops out underneath him.
- The characters may have this reaction during some of Sock's Epic Fails.
- Ari in "Charity", when Sock is about to shove a giant snowball on top of him.
- Once Per Episode: Each episode has the animals telling the kids a classic story that accompanies the episode's virtue, whether it is a fairy tale, a folk tale, a tall tale, a fable or a myth.
- The Other Darrin: Everybody is entirely recast in season two's second half after the series returned from its two-year hiatus. For example, in the first season as well as the second season's first half, Zach was voiced by Pamela Adlon, but for the rest of the series, he was voiced by Andrew Francis.
- Platonic Life Partners: Zach and Annie.
- Playing a Tree: Not an inanimate object, but in the first part of the "Compassion" Christmas episode, during a school play based on A Christmas Carol, Annie apparently got cast as Ebenezer Scrooge by her teacher because she yells at her classmates for not making up their minds.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Sock and Ari. Especially Sock.
- Plucky Girl: Annie.
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Annie. But she's not too white.
- Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: Out of the four animal characters, Plato, Sock and Ari are named after the three famous philosophers of the Greek Mythology. Also, Aurora is named after the Roman goddess of dawn.
- Occasionally, Plato lampshades this in "Courage":
Ari: Talking brave and being brave--they're two different things.
Plato: Aristotle, you're as eloquent as your namesake, the great philosopher.
- Right in Front of Me: At the beginning of "Perseverance", the kids let Sock use their binoculars so he can see Plato's Peak using it, but then Plato steps up in front of him and asks Sock what is he looking at. This startles Sock, who jumps into Zach's arms screaming as Annie catches the binoculars.
- Running Gag: Ari popping out of the ground accompanied by a Screen Shake, which often startles a character (usually Sock).
- Scenery Porn: Most of the backgrounds for the episodes had the quality of paintings.
- Security Cling: See Right in Front of Me.
- Sent Off to Work For Relatives: In "Selflessness", Annie is sent by her parents to work at her younger cousins' house.
- Separate Scene Storytelling: Happens Once Per Episode (see above).
- Serious Business: Zach's dad's camera in "Honesty".
- Mr. Cleveland's plaque in "Loyalty".
- Sesame Street Cred: The characters in the story segments are voiced by such big names as Malcolm McDowell, Ed Begley, Jr., Tim Curry, Shelley Duvall, Elijah Wood and Mark Hamill.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: This happens twice to Sock: Once in "Perseverance", where he only shows up at the beginning; and again in "Courage" (1998), where he goes away when Ari (who has been toned down during this part) tells Zach the story of Zach and the Beanstalk. Also, he's completely absent in "Responsibility" (1998).
- Plato often recites Rudyard Kipling and other famous authors.
- At the beginning of "Perseverance", when the kids tell Sock that Plato's Peak looks just like Plato, he reminds them "Next you'll be tellin' me there's a mountain in South Dakota that looks like four presidents!". He's actually referring to Mount Rushmore.
- In "Honesty", during the Frog Prince story, the frog at one point says: "Badgers? We don't need no stinking badgers!"
- When a new kids' movie cable channel arrives in "Moderation" (1998), Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz were mentioned in the letter that the cable company sent to Zach's family. Also, at the beginning of the episode, The Black Stallion was seen as one of the movies playing on the channel.
- Similarly Named Works: Most of the episodes in the third and fourth seasons have the same titles as the ones from the first two seasons.
- Speak in Unison: Sometimes used by the characters.
- Split-Screen Phone Call: Done between Zach and Annie at the beginning of "Moderation" (1998).
- Talking Animal: The animals at Plato's Peak.
- Talking to Herself: Kath Soucie voices both Annie and Aurora.
- Those Two Guys: Sock and Ari.
- Title Montage: The opening contains clips from early episodes of the first season, mostly combining them as Welcome Titles of the kids entering Plato's Peak and meeting the animals for the first time. However, the last few shots in the intro are exclusive.
- Tomboy: Annie.
- Tough Room: Averted most of the time with Ari and especially Sock, when they constantly come up with a joke or have an injury, and then the other characters (such as the kids) laugh at the animals' humor.
- Though sometimes, the latter plays this straight.
- Two for One Show
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Zach and Annie, type 2.
- Watch Out for That Tree: At the end of "Humility" (1998), Sock slides down the snow hill on a snowboard and accidentally crashes into Ari, resulting in both of them rolling into a Human Snowball, and finally, they (especially Sock) crash into a tree.
- Write What You Know: Because of his species, Plato is inspired by Bennett's nickname, "Buffalo Bill".
- You Are Grounded: Zach gets this treatment from his parents in "Moderation" (1998) because he's gone overboard watching the Kids' Movie Channel with Annie.
- ↑ However, this trope excludes Samuel the mouse, the story character.