Free Willy (TV series)

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Free Willy
Free Willy (TV series).jpg
Genre Animation
Created by Patrick Loubert
Voices of Zachary Bennett
Paul Haddad
Gary Krawford
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 21
Executive producer(s) Patrick Loubert
Michael Hirsh
Clive A. Smith
Lauren Shuler Donner
Richard Donner
Location(s) Warner Bros. Studios, Florida
Running time 33 minutes
Production company(s) Nelvana
Regency Enterprises
Le Studio Canal
Warner Bros. Television
Original network ABC
Global Television Network
Original release September 24 – November 26, 1994 (1994-11-26)

Free Willy is an American/Canadian animated television series, inspired by the 1993 film of the same name.

This television series was produced by Warner Bros. Television, Regency Enterprises and the Canadian company Nelvana for Warner Bros. Studios. The show, which aired for one season (1994) on American Broadcasting Company (ABC), continues the adventures of the orca Willy and Jesse, the boy who freed him from captivity as shown in the film. In retrospect, the series also anticipates multiple plot elements of the film sequel, Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home, released the following summer. The overarching conflict is reminiscent of Moby-Dick: a powerful oil baron, known to the main characters only as a cyborg called "The Machine" until the final episodes, loses his arm and part of his face to Willy while committing an environmental atrocity and wants revenge upon "that rotten whale... and his boy".


Jesse, age 14, has been adopted by his foster parents, the Greenwoods, and they have moved from Seattle to the Pacific coast. He is given a job at the Misty Island Oceanic Reserve, a local wildlife rescue and research institute where Randolph, his Native American mentor from the movie, now works. In the first episode, Jesse discovers he has the ability to talk to animals and understand their speech; Randolph, a Haida, explains that he is a Truth Talker. This revelation allows for Willy and the other sea creatures featured in the show to have full personalities and more prominent roles in key plot events. Jesse and Randolph work with Mr. Naugle, the head biologist, and Marlene, a research assistant, who are studying Einstein, a dolphin, and Lucille, a seal, teaching them behavioral communication with normal humans.

The main villain of the series, similar in personality to Captain Ahab, is a cyborg called "The Machine" who holds Willy responsible for his loss of an arm and part of his face. It was initially implied that Willy had bitten them off, but a flashback revealed that his submarine was destroyed upon encountering Willy, hurling him into another ship's screw propeller. His appearance recalls Locutus of Borg and the Phantom of the Opera. When not using his new submarine to create environmental havoc, he dons a mask and glove (perhaps a nod to the contributions of Michael Jackson to the films) for disguise and continues to run an oil company under his former identity, Rockland Stone.

Early in the series, The Machine jettisons his ship's skipper, a rather nervous fellow by the name of Captain Frye, revealing he has created, à la Frankenstein, four green, slimy, synthetic henchmen called Amphonids from inanimate toxic waste. They mainly function as comic relief, oddly reluctant to carry out instructions to pollute and destroy the environment, preferring to slouch around and entertain themselves, and often making costly and catastrophic errors for The Machine.

Throughout the series, Jesse is constantly fighting plots and schemes hatched by The Machine to destroy Willy, such as releasing deadly parasites and creating genetically modified giant squid predatory to orca, and to despoil the ecosystem, such as wanton spilling of garbage, toxic waste and oil into the sea. Meanwhile, he attempts to influence the ostensibly reasonable industrialist Mr. Stone to adopt environmentally friendly industrial practices through his publicist, P.R. Frickey.

While the first half of the show centers mostly around Willy and Jesse's adventures at the Misty Island Oceanic Reserve, the second half takes them to the Arctic with eco-activist Ben Shore. They discover an untouched paradise island with various healthful benefits ("Paradise Found") and are greeted by Arktos, a bear who claims Jesse is the "protector" of the island, and other talking animals. Unfortunately, The Machine follows and attempts to industrialize the island, destroying its natural beauty and benefit to the ecosystem. Ben heroically demolishes the passageway to the island after Jesse and Willy escape, thwarting The Machine, but injuring and trapping himself. However, the healing effects of the island restore Ben's health and he lives happily in his environmental utopia, having given Jesse a carved eagle necklace as a keepsake to carry on his work. Ben also recovers from the missile from the Machine he took to save Jesse and Willy. Upon returning to Misty Island, Jesse and Willy become entwined in a Christmastime plot ("Yuletide or Redtide") to use a biodegradable jetski (assumed to be a gift from his parents, Glen and Annie, but actually from Stone) for the release of deadly red tide to thrive in the unseasonably warm water, implied to be an effect of global warming. Unchecked, the microbes would simultaneously destroy Willy, the ecosystem and Jesse's reputation. When The Machine is defeated by teamwork and a sudden cold spell, saving everyone's good cheer, the Amphonids make themselves into a distorted Christmas tree and actually sing along with the townspeople, to their master's chagrin. Toward the end of the series, Jesse, Willy and Annie finally realize that Rockland Stone is The Machine and proceed to turn his attempts to manipulate Jesse to their advantage. Specifically, in the second to last episode, The Machine kidnaps Marlene's old teacher, the balding chemist Dr. Elliot, and plots to combine his oil solidification formula with a massive intentional spill to suffocate Willy and his friends under a solid orange crust. When he brazenly impersonates Elliot (using a different mask) to influence Marlene into giving Stone Industries one million dollars from Institute funds, Jesse's knowledge allows himself and Willy to see through the disguise, save Dr. Elliot, prevent the fraudulent donation and stop the oil with the formula. In the series finale ("Ghost Ship"), the heroes finally unmask The Machine before the public, bringing him to justice and freeing Willy, the other sea creatures, the people of Misty Island and the environment at large from his reign of terror.


No. Title Original air date
1 "Truth Talker" September 24, 1994 (1994-09-24)
2 "Cry of the Dolphin" October 1, 1994 (1994-10-01)
The Machine's illegal toxic waste dump on the ocean floor kills a dolphin family and poisons Einstein, a shy but super intelligent baby dolphin.
3 "Stone" October 8, 1994 (1994-10-08)
The Machine's new whale-stunning sonar pulse is just what he needs to illegally harvest whales for their oil.
4 "Defenders of the Deep" October 15, 1994 (1994-10-15)
Annie feels she and Jesse are growing apart so she invites him to take a cruise with her on Stone Corporation's new whale watching science ship, unaware that the ship's captain is using the ship to dump garbage on the ocean floor.
5 "The Eel Beast" October 22, 1994 (1994-10-22)
Marlene learns to trust Willy as she and the orca must work together to rescue Jesse from a deep labyrinth of caverns inhabited by a large eel.
6 "Cephalopod" October 29, 1994 (1994-10-29)
The Machine's improper genetic research creates a giant squid he names Goliath, who's purpose is to destroy Willy.
7 "Sealed Fate" November 5, 1994 (1994-11-05)
Lucille thinks it's fun to be a human, and to make more human friends she volunteers to be apart of a sea circus.
8 "Shark Masters" November 12, 1994 (1994-11-12)
The Machine is luring hundreds of sharks into Misty Island's coastal waters in hopes of ruining the tourist economy.
9 "Hope" November 19, 1994 (1994-11-19)
The effects of pesticides on birds and animals are dissected as Lucille introduces the institute gang to Faith, a brown pelican who's eggs are breaking too soon.
10 "Milestones" December 3, 1994 (1994-12-03)
Jesse faces the Machine who's trying to wipe out all the salmon streams in the Misty Islands by illegal clear cut logging.
11 "The Catch" December 3, 1994 (1994-12-03)
The institute's battle against illegal fishing takes a political turn as our heros use the law to stop illegal drift netting in international waters.
12 "The Treasure of Misty Cove" November , 1994 (November , 1994)
Jesse finds a gold doubloon and is gradually overcome by gold fever as he and a reluctant Willy search for pirate treasure.
13 "Ghost Ship" November 26, 1994 (1994-11-26)
Frustrated in their quest to unmask The Machine's true identity, Jesse and Willy stumble on a clue from The Machine's past: an unearthly ghost ship full of volatile war material.
14 "Voyage of the Eco Ranger II" November , 1994 (November , 1994)
The Machine flees the Misty Islands and plans revenge on the Misty Island Institute. Randolph's old friend Ben Shore arrives and helps them defeat the Machine and save the institute. After that, Ben, Randolph, Marlene, Jesse, Lucille and Willy head to the Arctic.
15 "Tip of the Iceberg" November , 1994 (November , 1994)
16 "The Hunted" November , 1994 (November , 1994)
17 "Paradise Found" November , 1994 (November , 1994)
Jesse and Willy discover an untouched island after swimming through an underwater passage. The Machine unfortunately follows them and plans to industrialize the island's beauty for it's natural benefits.
18 "Pier Pressure" November , 1994 (November , 1994)
19 "Live and Let Dive" November , 1994 (November , 1994)
20 "Turmoil" December , 1994 (December , 1994)
Marlene's former teacher, Dr. Elliot, has created a new formula called an oil solidification to permanently stop oil spills. The Machine hears about the formula through a news report, kidnaps Dr. Elliot and holds him hostage, creates an oil spill and also makes a nearby town in Plunket Sound (disguised as Elliot) to pay "a good deal" for it in cleanup efforts. It's up to Jesse and Willy to rescue Dr. Elliot and stop the spill from growing.
21 "Yule Tide and Red Tide" December 10, 1994 (1994-12-10)
The Eco Rangers return home in time to celebrate Christmas and Jesse receives a special gift from an unknown benefactor, a jet-ski. While trying it out, he finds out that it was actually from the Machine, (who filled it with a sample of a red tide from Florida) spewing the microbes into Misty Island's unseasonably warm waters causing a red tide.

Voice cast[edit]

Characters not seen in the movies are described in parentheses.

Home media[edit]

Although the show has never received a Home Video release in North America, a double box VHS of it did get released in the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s.

The show's first 13 episodes were released through Amazon Video and iTunes in October 2011, but the last 8 episodes have yet to be released.


External links[edit]