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Animorphs Shaping Up as a Nick Hit

Animorphs, Nickelodeon's new primetime live
action-adventure series, has gotten a lot of buzz already, and deservedly so.

Having an adult male transform into animals didn't
work for Manimal on Brandon Tartikoff's NBC in the 1980s, but the concept does
work here for Nick, with five teens able to morph into any animal that they touch.

This series is, like other Nick shows, directed at
youngsters, who undoubtedly will love it. But adults can enjoy it, too.

Based on a series of books by K.A. Applegate, the series
pits five teens against parasitic extraterrestrial villains called Yeerks, who are out to
conquer the Earth. There are elements of The X-Files (including the line,
"Trust no one,"); 1960s science-fiction TV series The Invaders; and the
movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In fact, the latter is mentioned by the
father of one of the boys in the second installment.

Early on, Jake (played by Shawn Ashmore) realizes that the
high-school principal's body is inhabited by the Yeerks.

The first two episodes, in which Jake becomes the
group's leader, only briefly explore the youngsters' lives, but the series will
presumably give each character a chance to shine. The other teens are: Tobias (Christopher
Ralph), a mysterious loner who is new to town; Marco (Boris Cabrera), Jake's buddy,
whose mother recently died; Rachel (Brooke Nevin), Jake's cousin, who's into
gymnastics; and Cassie (Nadia Nascimento), his nature-loving friend, who conveniently
lives on an animal preserve.

In the opener, a friendly alien named Elfangor gives the
teens the power to morph. A warning -- they may die if their transformation lasts more
than two hours -- undoubtedly will come into play later.

The teens' metamorphoses into such animals as dogs,
cats, rats, horses and hawks are, of course, accompanied by eye-catching visual effects
and bone-crunching sound effects. And we learn that in shape-shifting, the kids'
human and animal minds fight for dominance.

Mixed in with X-Files-like paranoia are touches of
teen humor, such as when one character says, "So, now what: Save the world? Can we
eat first?"

With Scholastic Productions delivering episodes very close
to airdate, by press time, we'd only seen the two-parter that sets up the
series' premise and introduces the main characters.

Animorphs airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m., with Nick
repeating each episode Saturdays at 9:30 p.m.