Disney Adventures / Winter 1999

--Stephen Timblin

Five teens who must save the planet? It's gotta be the "Animorphs".

The Animorphs books by K.A. Applegate have it all -- invading aliens, fierce animals and teenage heroes with the power to morph. From lions to lizards, the five teens battle evil alien Yeerks by changing into any animal they touch. And now the Animorphs book series itself has morphed -- into a TV show.

We went to Toronto, Canada, to get the inside scoop at the Scholastic Productions set where the series is filmed. Here's our report from the land of lions, tigers and teenagers.

The Fab Five

Jake (Shawn Ashmore)
Favorite Animorphs Book: The Invasion
Favorite Animal on Set: Jesse, the golden retriever
Would like to Morph into: "Any bird would be great."
Bonus Bit: Shawn's big break into acting came when his twin brother landed a role in a commercial but was too sick to attend. Shawn went in his place, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Tobias (Christopher Ralph)
Favorite Animorphs Book: The Invasion
Favorite Animal on Set: Jesse, the golden retriever
Would like to Morph into: A hawk
Bonus Bit: You won't see too much of Chris this season -- his character gets stuck in the hawk morph early on. But will his character ever become human again? Chris wouldn't spill the beans, so we'll have to wait.

Cassie (Nadia Nascimento)
Favorite Animorphs Book: The Andalite Chronicles
Favorite Animal on Set: The Bengal Tiger
Would like to Morph into: "A cute little monkey"
Bonus Bit: During one scene, Nadia had to hold a knocked out cockroach in her hand. But the cockroach decided to wake up as soon as filming began. Nadia freaked and tried to throw the bug into it's box, but missed. "All the guys ran off screaming, leaving it up to Brooke and me to pick it up," she says. "We screamed too-- but we got it."

Rachel (Brooke Nevin)
Favorite Animorphs Book: The Andalite's Gift
Favorite Animal on Set: Bongo, the lion
Would like to Morph into: "A giant grizzly bear"
Bonus Bit: Brooke has read more Animorphs books than any of the other actors, "Brooke is the main reason the books are selling so well," jokes Chris.

Marco (Boris Cabrera)
Favorite Animorphs Book: The Predator
Favorite Animal on Set: Jesse, the golden retriever
Would like to Morph into: "An eagle"
Bonus Bit: One day on the set, Nadia and Brooke changed Boris' name on his director's chair to "Doris". We would never have done that. Why? Because Boris once won a high school wrestling championship.

Animal Tales
D.A. snagged five behind-the-scenes secrets while on the set.

1. That gross cracking sound you hear when a cast member morphs is not really bones crunching. It's the sound of pretzel sticks being broken next to a microphone.

2. Shawn once had to pretend that a mushroom soaked in soy sauce was an alien Yeerk. Besides having to act like the mushroom was alive, Shawn had to pull it out of his ear and stomp all over it.

3. During one scene, Shawn needed to touch a Bengal Tiger, the most dangerous animal on the set. While Shawn was petting it, the tiger jerked its head, and his fingers went right up the tiger's nose!

4. Bongo, the lion, has more acting experience than the five Animorphs combined. The 12-year-old has acted in more than 15 movies, including George of the Jungle.

5. While waiting in their trailers to go on camera, Nadia and Brooke make up dance routines to Spice Girls CDs.

Disney Adventures / Transcript by Pam