A small colony of leafcutter ants has set up an “alternative” civilization in the Amazonian rainforest. These ants have some new theories about how to organize their society.
RAINDROP, the protagonist of this animated series (ages 5 to adult), is an inquisitive young female with the temperament of a rebellious ten-year-old girl (the human variety). The wilder aspects of existence captivate her imagination, filling her with wonder and dread, although she also sees the grand design of life, and the incredible beauty on display. As she explores her surroundings, safety is the least of her concerns.
Two things are amiss in her life. The first is injustice and the existence of bullies. MULCH, the local bully, picks on her friend RASPY. She defends her friend, but gets picked on as well. Like many bullies, Mulch is a little smitten with his new victim (Raindrop), although he would never admit it. Raindrop is also worried that ants go missing sometimes, and no one seems to mind. The euphemism for this in the leafcutter world is “taken.” Most ants accept this fact with relative ease — except stubborn Raindrop, of course.
RAINDROP is a precocious little ant, completely in love with the world surrounding her. She stands up to bullies (often unsuccessfully) when she can, and frequently convinces her friends to venture out into the forest with her — against their better judgment. She wants answers, and won’t take “I don’t know” for an answer. Raindrop expects her friends to be better than they are (they’re not bad at all), and is often disappointed in them.
LITTLE CLAY is new to the world of ants. He’s a young dung beetle with a noble heart, come to learn the ways of the leafcutters. At the beginning of the series, the ants ignore him and forget he’s even around. Clay is a naturally outgoing (and loves to sing), but this strange new environment forces him to turn into an introvert. Little Clay loves rolling things up into balls, but rolling dirt, leaves and mud into balls is frowned upon in leafcutter society. The need is almost an addiction with him.
POLLEN is an exceptionally beautiful ant. She’s honest and loyal to a fault. She also has a mind of her own, and will go against the advice of creatures around her. This ant is only vaguely aware of her own beauty, and the effect it has on other ants. She’s wide-eyed, inquisitive and attentive, but she can also be incredibly shy. When she’s embarrassed, her cheeks redden and she suffers from uncontrollable hiccups, although she somehow manages to maintain her graceful poise.
THE GURU is a red-eyed tree frog who lives at the top of a giant Kapok Tree, some distance from the leafcutters’ village. He’s a bit like Confucius, or some ancient Zen master, in his appearance and manner. The Guru espouses wisdom to all who dare climb his tree seeking counsel, but his wisdom often comes in the form of riddles and enigmatic sayings. Sometimes his devotees don’t catch the hidden depths of his obscure messages, or they misinterpret him entirely.
TREE BARK is an ant from another society (bullet ants). He’s an adventurer who has set sail on a small twig boat to see “the world.” Tree Bark is wise, worldly, helpful, courteous and full of useful knowledge. He wears an eye patch, even though he has two very good eyes. He just doesn’t like to use them both at the same time, fearing he’ll wear them out. Tree Bark shipwrecks near the Leafcutters’ colony. The leafcutters take him in and help him convalesce. He’s drawn to their alternative way of doing things, and decides to stick around for a while.
Papaya (Raindrop’s father) is good natured and affectionate. He wants his daughter to love life. Although he’s always positive and supportive, he’s a hopeless dreamer who often muddles things up. He has too many dreams, and gets easily distracted.
Lily (Raindrop’s mother) is the complete opposite of Papaya. She is a neurotic mess, worried about accidents, anteaters, illness, famine, floods and lightning. Raindrop’s mother is a true hypochondriac when it comes to her daughter’s health.
Nana Liana (Raindrop’s grandmother) is not only Raindrop’s grandmother, but she’s also a former queen and the mother of the current queen — therefore mother or grandmother to most of the ants. Visually, she’s everything a cranky old grandmother should be. Her face is wrinkly, and she uses a twig cane to walk about. Sometimes she thinks she’s still queen, and blurts out inappropriate remarks. In fact, Nana Liana is a fairly intolerant ant. She doesn’t understand the younger generation at all — and don’t get her started about caterpillars and moths, creatures she absolutely loathes.
Additional Characters: Amber & Orchid (the twins), The Dung Beetles, Bida-Bida (the evil finch), Green Leaf (the schoolteacher), Ana (the anaconda), Mulch (the bully), Zombie Ants and lots more!
The Ant Colony
Leafcutter ants are vegetarians. Their names are derived from the natural world. The name “Leaf’” is very popular.
Some of the females wear their antennae up like hair, tied back with nets and scarves. On special occasions, the adults don decorative body paint (war paint, weddings). With the exception of a few adornments, the ants wear no clothes, which will upset a colony of puritanical ants that comes to visit later.
Females outnumber males. Females do most of the hard work. The males shoot the breeze, paint portraits, weave scarves for the females and reminisce about their brief time with the QUEEN.
Raindrop’s frustration that no one seems to notice or care about disappearing ants — and that they’re disappearing with greater frequency.
Her quest to find out why being taken doesn’t bother anyone except her (and Mulch, as she later discovers) sends her on many adventures. She climbs the giant Kapok Tree, meets the Guru, battles Mulch, rides snakes, visits the dung beetles, sails on the river, persuades her friends to take greater risks, challenges social norms, organizes search parties … all in the name of getting the answers she needs.
Little Clay’s true identity, grappling with his nascent abilities (he can hypnotize reptiles and some mammals) and his difficulties integrating into ant society. Little Clay is a dung beetle in an ant’s world. Normally, a song would help ease his sorrows, but leafcutters don’t sing. They don’t understand what music really is. When he breaks out into song, he’s even more misunderstood.
Clay takes Raindrop to meet his family, where she learns about the healing power of music, and about her friend’s power over reptiles. Little Clay’s father is BIG CLAY, king of the dung beetles. That makes Clay a prince, with many lofty expectations hefted upon his shoulders.
Papaya, Raindrop’s father, is not happy. A month long “walkabout” ends after a few hours because he forgot to pack food. He’ll take the young ants out for a hike and gets lost for days. He means well, but just can’t get his act together. We’ll discover later that his destiny is interlocked with the Queen’s. She won’t take it easy on him, and he’ll have to make some hard choices about his future, and how best to protect his family.