This article is about the book series. For the TV series, see Animorphs (TV series).

Or see Anamorph (disambiguation).

The original cover of the first book in the series, The Invasion.[1]
Author K. A. Applegate
Country United States
Language English
Genre Science fantasy
Publisher Scholastic Publishing
Published June 1996–May 2001 (original run)
May 2011–September 2012 (re-issue)
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback)
Audiobook or tv series

Animorphs is an English language science fantasy series of young adult books written by K. A. Applegate and published by Scholastic.[2] It is told in first person, with all six main characters taking turns narrating the books through their own perspectives. Horror, war, dehumanization, sanity, morality, innocence, leadership, freedom, and growing up are the core themes of the series.

Published between June 1996 and May 2001, the series consisted of 54 books and includes ten companion books, eight of which fit into the series' continuity (the Animorphs Chronicles and Megamorphs books) and two that are gamebooks not fitting into the continuity (the Alternamorphs books). The series was originally conceived as a three-part series called The Changelings, in which Jake is named Matt, and his little brother Joseph takes the place of Cassie.[3] The books were also adapted into a television series on Nickelodeon in 1998.

Plot summary

The story revolves around five humans, Jake, Marco, Cassie, Rachel, and Tobias, and one alien, Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill (nicknamed Ax), who obtain the ability to transform into any animal they touch. Naming themselves "Animorphs" (a portmanteau of "animal morphers"),[4] they use their ability to battle a secret alien infiltration of Earth by a parasitic race of aliens resembling large slugs, called Yeerks, that can take any living creatures as a host by entering and merging with their brain through the ear canal. The Animorphs fight as a guerilla force against the Yeerks, led by Visser Three.

Throughout the series, the Animorphs carefully protect their identities; the Yeerks assume that they're a strike force sent by the Andalites, the alien race that created the transformation technology, to prevent them from conquering Earth. To protect their families from Yeerk reprisals, the Animorphs keep up the facade.

Though the Animorphs can assume the form of any animal they touch, there are several limitations to the ability. The most vital is that they can only stay in animal form for two hours or they will be unable to return to human form. Others include having to de-morph back to human in between morphs, only tight clothing being able to be carried over with a morph, and having to consistently maintain concentration during a morph to prevent the animal's natural instincts from overwhelming the human intellect. A benefit to morphing is that it allows the team to heal any superficial, non-genetic injury, sustained as a human or in a morph. Also, while in morph, they can communicate with anyone nearby through thought-speak.


In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Applegate talked about the source of inspiration and realization for the Animorphs series: "I grew up loving animals and lived with the usual suburban menagerie of dogs, cats and gerbils," she said, "I really wanted to find a way to get kids into the heads of various species and decided that a science-fiction premise was the way to do this." Applegate tried to accurately depict the various animals, and did research such as visiting "a raptor center where they rehabilitate injured birds".[5] "When Tobias becomes a hawk, I want the reader to see the world as a hawk might see it—to soar on the warm breezes and hurtle toward the ground to make a kill," she said.[5]

To develop the characters for Animorphs, Applegate would go through teenage magazines such as YM and Seventeen (both of which are referenced in the books when describing Rachel), cutting out pictures and piecing them together to get an idea of what sort of kids the Animorphs would look like. Applegate stated in an interview online[6] that many of the names for her alien creatures, races, and locations are actually scrambled names of local street signs or companies that she happens to notice. For instance, the word nothlit was derived from the hotel name Hilton. According to the Anibase, Applegate did not make up the titles for the Animorphs books: it was up to the Scholastic editors to create the titles for the books based on the outlines provided by the author, having to select a word that not only fit the book's storyline, but sounded good with the characteristic "The" preface. One of the author's favorite books, The Lord of the Rings, lent several words and images to Animorphs: the elvish word for Orc, "yrch", became Yeerk; the flaming red Eye of Sauron inspired the Crayak, and Ax's middle name, "Esgarrouth", is based on a town in the books called Esgaroth. The human name of Ax's brother, Elfangor, is Alan Fangor and his last name is in reference to the Fangor region or Fangorn Forest. Also there was a minor reference to Gondor, in the form of a fictional company named "Gondor Industries" in the 14th book. (It may also be significant that Visser Three's host is named Alloran, a rough homonym of Gandalf's Valinorean name "Olórin", and that one of the minor alien races is called "the Five", which is also a term used in The Lord of the Rings for the Istari.) Applegate's writing was inspired by her family. All books after The Unknown were dedicated to Applegate's son, Jake, as well as her husband and co-writer, Michael. Her son was born premature in 1997, and she worked on the Animorphs series at night, in the lobby of the hospital where he was in Neonatal Intensive Care (NIC).


The names given here are the ones used throughout the majority of the series; in the last few books, Jake reveals his full name to the reader. He's the only human Animorph to reveal his full name.


Jake Berenson is the leader of Animorphs. Despite being a natural at it, he's very reluctant to lead the team; though he ultimately accepts the role. The war takes on a deeper meaning for Jake when he finds out that his older brother Tom has been infested by a Yeerk.
He is the only member of the team to have some relationship with all of the other human members prior to the war: Jake and Rachel are cousins. He and Marco have been best friends since early childhood. He and Cassie have always had an attraction to each other. He is one of the only people who acknowledges Tobias and treats him with kindness.
Rachel has the most bloodthirsty nature in the group, earning her the nickname of "Xena, Warrior Princess". She is also good in gymnastics and has an interest in fashion. She is Jake's cousin and is Cassie's best friend, although her warrior nature often conflicts with Cassie's pacifistic mindset. She and Tobias develop an attraction for one another during the series.
Tobias has low self-esteem and was often bullied in school before becoming an Animorph. With both his parents dead, he lives with his aunt and uncle who share custody of him. Tobias is trapped in a red-tailed hawk morph in the first book. During the series, he regains the power to morph, but his natural form is now as a hawk. He admires Jake because he always showed him respect and kindness when no one else would. He also develops a close friendship with Ax.
Cassie lives on a farm with her parents, who are both veterinarians. She is the most knowledgeable about animals and she is also an environmentalist. She is best friends with Rachel, although their personality and style are polar opposites. Cassie is also an estreen, the Andalite term for someone who is naturally talented at morphing.
Marco is the comic relief character in the series. He is also the one who coined the term "Animorphs". Marco is very pragmatic, often proposing the most direct solution to a given problem. Marco lives with his father, who is depressed over his wife's "death" in a boating accident. At first he doesn't want to fight in fear that his father can't survive without him. He is given a reason to, though, after he finds out his mother is still alive and the host body for Visser One, the leader of the invasion of Earth.
Ax is an Andalite who is thought to be the only survivor of a bloody battle that took place in outer space and whose ship has crash landed on Earth. He is the younger brother of Prince Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul, who gave the Animorphs their morphing ability and died shortly after. He considers Jake his 'prince' (similar to an earth military commander) and he has a strong friendship with Tobias. The other Animorphs call him "Ax" because it is difficult to pronounce his full name.

Other main characters

Born as Esplin 9466 Primary and later known as Visser One, he is the leader of the Yeerk forces on Earth and the main antagonist in the series. He inherited the planet from Edriss 562, who was Visser One at the time. Sadistic and cruel, with a penchant for torture, he almost solely inhabits the body of a fully-grown Andalite warrior, Alloran-Semitur-Corrass, and is the only Yeerk to have an Andalite host. He also has the Andalite ability to morph, and is shown throughout the series to have acquired some exceptionally powerful morphs from many different planets.[7]
A seemingly all powerful, God-like being who intermittently helps the Animorphs, including giving Tobias the ability to morph again. He tries to refrain from direct involvement in the war to avoid antagonizing his evil counterpart Crayak because combat between the two of them causes destruction on a galactic scale. He subtly orchestrated many of the key events of the series. In The Ellimist Chronicles, it is revealed that he was once a simple member of an insectoid race who, through a number of experiences, became a drastically different being.
The arch-enemy of the Ellimist who seeks absolute control over all intelligent life. He develops a personal vendetta against Jake after Jake ruins his soldier species, the Howlers. The Ellimist claimed that he originated from another galaxy and was driven out by another power even greater than he was; The Ellimist Chronicles details his early conflicts with the Ellimist prior to their evolution into beings of seemingly limitless power.

Secondary characters

Characters' age

Throughout the publication of the series, there was some dispute about the exact ages of the Animorphs at the time they obtained the ability to morph. However, with the help of various hints in the course of the series, many fans guessed their ages to be approximately 13-14 (with thirteen being the more likely) at the start. For example, at the beginning of the first book, The Invasion, Jake mentions having tried out for his junior high basketball team and not making the team; this puts Jake, Cassie, Marco, Rachel, and Tobias, at the very least, around the age of 11-14 as junior high (or middle school) in the United States is generally grade 6–8. However, as Marco describes them as "idiot teenagers with a death wish" in the first book, it's very likely that some or most of them are older than twelve. This is also supported in the second book, The Visitor, when Rachel looks at a photo "taken a couple of years ago" of her and Melissa Chapman, taken on Melissa's "twelfth birthday, or some birthday". Although Rachel cannot remember what birthday it was, this supports the idea that the Animorphs are thirteen or fourteen. In #22: The Solution, Rachel states that Jake is "not even in high school." This suggests that none of the characters are because they eat lunch together in school earlier in that book. #26: The Attack definitively confirms the characters attending middle school when Jake, in the first chapter, says that he is "a middle-school kid" in his narration. Also, in #41: The Familiar, Jake wakes up one morning as a 25-year-old, and in the preview for that book in the previous one, it says he sleeps for a decade, suggesting his age was fifteen before his journey into the future.

#52: The Sacrifice provided a clear answer as to the question of grade level. In chapter 1 of the book, Ax says in his narration that Jake, Rachel, Cassie, and Marco are all currently of age to be attending high school. This puts the Animorphs' ages as anywhere between fourteen and seventeen (as high-school students in the United States typically fall within this age range). However, the publication of #53: The Answer offered a definite answer to the question of age. Jake says outright at the start of Chapter 2 in #53 that he is sixteen, started the war when he was thirteen, and has been fighting the war for over three years. Marco also states in Chapter 8 of the final book that Jake is sixteen. Throughout the course of #54, two or three more years passed. Cassie mentions that she is nineteen in her final scene of #54, although the other characters' ages are never explicitly confirmed. In the end, the characters are either nineteen or twenty years old depending on how long they had been in space just before the series' conclusion.


Each book in the series revolved around a given event during the war waged between the Animorphs and the invading Yeerks. Within a year and a half after the first book was published, the series had close to ten million copies in print, with Scholastic claiming a "stronger initial sell-in," than any of its other series up to that time.[8] The series debut was preceded by a large marketing campaign which included posters on buildings, giveaway items in bookstores, and ads on Nickelodeon TV.[8]

American editions

In the United States, the books were most popular as A5-sized paperback volumes, and were usually between 150 and 200 pages long, divided into just under thirty chapters.

The front covers featured images of the narrating Animorph undergoing the various stages of one of the morphs from the story, with a few exceptions (noted in each book's article). Behind the morphing character were images of clouds and skies, which became more colorful and elaborate as the series progressed. All the covers of the regular series books had a small cutout over part of the full morph's anatomy, revealing a computer-generated illustration on the first page, which was printed on glossy paper. The illustration shared the image of the full morph with the front cover, but placed within an environment from the story. The book spines repeated the narrating character's face from the front cover, and the spine color changed with every new episode, resulting in a very colorful collection when viewed from any angle. A small excerpt from one of the book's chapters was printed on the inside of every front cover.

As of the eighth book, The Alien, the Animorphs logo, the author's name, and the book's title were printed in glossy, metallic-look ink, rather than the flat colors that had been used for the first seven books. In addition, the author's name and book title were surrounded by solid black rectangles. The majority of the books in the series were printed only in "metallic-ink editions". All further reprintings of the first seven books had this treatment applied to them as well.

The books in the series' final arc, beginning with the 45th book, The Revelation had yet another treatment applied to the cover, a variation on the new metallic style; the change affected only the main 'Animorphs' logo: instead of consisting of white letters superimposed on a metallic, colored background, the last ten books featured a logo with colored letters over a dark grey background, in contrast with the white logo background from the series' "opening arc". The final book, #54 The Beginning had a unique cover style, with the logo consisting of a glowing outline.

Every book featured an introduction to the series on the back cover, in the voice of Jake, one of the Animorphs.

We can't tell you who we are. Or where we live. It's too risky, and we've got to be careful. Really careful. So we don't trust anyone. Because if they find us... well, we just won't let them find us..
The thing you should know is that everyone is in really big trouble. Yeah. Even you.

As of book 51, The Absolute, the introduction read as follows:

Here's the deal these days: They know exactly who we are. They know exactly where we live. We've got a few secrets left, and we're gonna use them. But just know that the end is coming. And we don't know how much longer we can do this. How much longer can we fight.
What about you? Where will you be when it ends? Think about it. Think hard. Because the countdown has already begun...

In addition to this text, each book also carried an introduction, or teaser of sorts, to its own storyline.

Another interesting feature of the books was a flipbook composed of the bottom right-hand corners of all of the book's pages. A step of the cover morph was printed on each page, less than an inch tall, in black-and-white. When the pages were flipped from front to back, the narrating Animorph could be seen morphing into the animal.

International editions

The Animorphs series was printed in over twenty-five languages and other English-language markets, and the books in those countries sometimes had different designs, layouts, cover quotes, and even different cover morphs, as is the case for the fifth book, The Predator, whose UK edition showed Marco morphing into a lobster, in contrast to the American edition's gorilla morph. Japanese-language covers were hand-drawn; The Invasion showed Jake morphing into his dog Homer, a morph that was featured on the cover of The Threat in the American editions. Gallimard Jeunesse is the French publisher and Tammi is the Finnish publisher. The German publisher, Ravensburger, has also published some of the volumes as audio plays.

Animorph Classics

In 2010, Scholastic announced plans to re-release the series with new lenticular covers and updated pop culture references. The re-release lasted from May 2011 to September 2012, ending after #8: The Alien due to tepid sales.[9]


Many of the novels from the #25-#52 range were written by ghostwriters. Typically, K. A. Applegate would write a detailed outline for each book, and a ghostwriter, usually one of Applegate's former editors or writing protégés, would spend a month or two writing the actual novel. After this, Applegate, and later her series editor, Tonya Alicia Martin, would edit the book to make it fit in with the series' tight continuity. Ghostwriters are credited for their help in the book's dedication page: "The author would like to thank [ghostwriter name] for his/her help in preparing this manuscript."

The only books in this range fully written by Applegate herself after #26: The Attack are #32: The Separation, #53: The Answer, #54: The Beginning and all of the Megamorphs and Chronicles books.

The following books in the series were ghostwritten:[10]

Applegate originally intended to write every Animorphs book herself. However, due to many contributing factors—such as the birth of her son and the difficulties involved in writing Everworld (which was originally intended to be mostly ghostwritten, like Applegate's third Scholastic series Remnants), she ended up having a large number of the books ghostwritten.


The Animorphs toy line was introduced in 1999 by Hasbro. They were marketed as part of the Transformers series, despite there being no in-universe connection between the two franchises. However, the Animorphs toys were commercially unsuccessful and the toy line was soon cancelled. After the cancellation, several toys planned to be part of the Animorphs line were slightly remodeled and released as part of the Beast Wars Mutants line.


Television series

A television series by the same name ran from September 1998 to March 2000 in the United States and Canada. Animorphs comprised 26 episodes over two seasons, which aired on YTV (first season) and Global (second season) in Canada and Nickelodeon in the United States.


In September 2015, film websites began reporting rumors that Universal Pictures had plans to adapt the book series into a film, based on a report by the film website The Tracking Board.[11] The site also claimed that Universal would be working with Silvertongue Films, a production house launched to develop Scholastic books into feature films, and that Deborah Forte would be producing.[12][13]

See also


  1. "Animorphs Animorpography: The Invasion". Scholastic. 2008-09-27. Archived from the original on 29 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  2. Animorph's reference page
  3. "Katherine (Alice) (K. A. Applegate) Applegate (1956–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Adaptations, Work in Progress, Sidelights - York, Scholastic, Series, and Animorphs - JRank Articles". Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  4. Animorphs: "The Invasion"
  5. 1 2 "Author: K. A. Applegate". Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
  6. "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". 1999-04-20. Archived from the original on April 20, 1999. Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  7. Applegate, Katherine A. The Hork Bajir Chronicles. United States: Scholastic, 1998. Print.
  8. 1 2 Lodge, Sally (1997-11-03). "Scholastic's Animorphs Series Has Legs". Publishers Weekly. 244 (45): 36–38. ISSN 0000-0019.
  9. "Scholastic to Re-Launch the Wildly Popular Animorphs Books by Bestselling Author K.A. Applegate in May 2011". Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  10. "IAm K.A. Applegate, author of Animorphs and many other books. AMA : IAmA". 2011-04-28. Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  11. "The Animorphs Are Getting Their Own Movie Because Nostalgia". Cinema Blend. 2015-09-11. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  12. "'Animorphs' Film Updates: Universal Pictures to reboot classic 1990s best-selling book series? Film to rival Sony Pictures' 'Goosebumps' adaptation". Venture Capital Post. 2015-09-14. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  13. "{TB EXCLUSIVE} Universal Is Developing An "Animorphs" Movie Based On The Bestselling Book Series". The Tracking Board. 2015-09-09. Retrieved 2016-05-02.

External links

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