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The Toronto Sun

Creature Discomforts
- Cynthia Stillar

Flying animal feces, territorial lions and edgy tigers are all in a day's work for the cast of the kids' show, Animorphs, the popular new TV series filmed on location at The Bowmanville Zoo.

Animorphs - airing Saturday mornings on YTV - is based on the best-selling children's novels of the same name by author K.A. Applegate.

A mix of live action and special effects, the show chronicles the escapades of five teenagers who can morph into any animal they touch.

The morph shots, with their bone-crunching, tendon-snapping sound effects, make for some great viewing.

The teens - played by Shawn Ashmore of Brampton, Brooke Nevin of Toronto, Boris Cabrera from L.A., Nadia Nascimento from Vancouver, and Christopher Ralph, of St. John's, Newfoundland - have to get their homework done and save the world from an invasion of evil alien Yeerk slugs.

But, according to Ashmore, working with a host of animal stars is what keeps life interesting on the Bowmanville set.

"The hawk has what we call 'projectile craps' and he can shoot them, like, three feet, so you have to watch out. He's hit many an actor and crewman - he can just fire them like mad."

Nevin, the 15-year-old local actress who plays Rachel, does most of what she calls "intimate scenes" with Tobias the hawk - making for an anecdote of her own.

"To entice the hawk to come, you have to put food where you want it to land. To get it so it would jump onto my arm I had to hold a raw chicken leg," says Nevin with a giggle. "It was so gross."

But the hawk isn't the only animal worth keeping an eye on - it turns out the show's lion likes to mark its territory, a lot.

"The lion has some gland that can shoot a spray backwards, like, 15 feet - and if it gets on your clothes, they're ruined," says Ashmore, "No matter how much washing you do, the smell won't come out."

Then there's what Ashmore refers to as his 'Bengal tiger story.'

"I had to do one scene with a Bengal tiger and I'm in this cage with my hand on the tiger's head and I am scared stiff - then something caught its attention, it turned its head, and both my fingers went right up its nostrils.

"It was instinct to want to whip my hand out of its nose but I knew if I did, it would attack me or something," says Ashmore with a good-natured laugh.

Not surprisingly, Ashmore's come up with a survival tactic of his own.

"No matter what kind of animal I am around, if they turn around, then, like, I run."

But it's just par for the course for this quirky half-hour show that's a cross between Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and The X-Files.

The show is the brainchild of Scholastic, the production company responsible for Goosebumps, the award-winning - and very creepy - TV show.

No news as of yet on a second season, but, as Nevin says, "The general consensus has been that Animorphs will be back."

Of course, that's if the Yeerks don't get 'em first.

The Toronto Sun