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The Thirteenth Year is a 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie. It was released May 15, 1999 and is a mix of comedy and fantasy. It was directed by Duwayne Dunham, who has directed other children and Disney movies, including Little Giants and Halloweentown.

Plot summary

Cody Griffin is an adopted teenager. His biological mother is a mermaid who left him on the Griffins' boat when he was a baby. As she left, she was spotted by Big John Wheatly, a fisherman who had since became obsessed with finding mermaids. Cody established himself as a quick swimmer in the town he lives in, attracting the attention of a girl named Sam. He was under a lot pressure from a big swim meet coming up and because he's failing biology. He's partnered with Jess Wheatly, the class geek who was a marine biology expert.

1999 print ad.

After Cody's thirteenth birthday, he began to feel strange. As he woke up in the morning, he turned off his alarm clock and zapped it. Thinking nothing of it, he went downstairs and drank some milk, which was when he noticed that something was wrong as his hand was stuck to the milk container. Stranger still, when he starts drinking water, he can't seem to stop himself. He went to Jess for help, who agreed to figure out what's going on with him as long as Cody taught him to swim in return.

Jess ran various tests on Cody and learned that he can generate electricity, climb walls, talk to fish, swim extremely fast, and sometimes, when he gets wet, scales appeared on his hands and arms. Eventually, he came to the conclusion that Cody was turning into a merman. Jess researches some of Big John's notes and learns that merpeople can live amongst humans until the thirteenth year after their birth, which is when their biology will forcibly try changing them into their aquatic forms. Cody also starts having dreams of swimming underwater without needing to hold his breath and that there is something in a light he must find.

Following his dreams, Cody swims around, enjoying himself and noticing that his scales haven't reappeared. All the while his mermaid mother is watching him from behind a buoy, wondering how he is doing. Despite sensing her presence, Cody brushes off the feeling and heads to shore, where he notices his fins have comes back. Sam arrives, forcing Cody to hide his arms in the sand. She offers to swim with him, but he rebuffs the offer, offending her to the point of walking away.

In spite of the strange reactions of his body to water, as well as the objection of his adoptive parents when they found out, Cody decided to attend the swim meet. He not only won the meet and beaten Sean, but broke the state speed record, sprouting fins in the process in addition to the scales. Sean saw the scales and surmised that Cody was cheating, he followed him to the locker room to confront him. Cody avoided him by sticking on to the ceiling, but Sean called out to him, saying that he saw something and will find him out. Cody safely made it out of the stadium and went home with his parents after they found out that he was not in his room, but the scales on his arms weren't going away. Cody tried to calm his parents by claiming that nobody saw the changes, but Jess showed up later and told them that he saw everything and that people are talking about Cody.

Sam showed up at Cody's house and fainted at the sight of his scales. When she came to, she was freaked out. He told her that he's still the same guy and to not be afraid. While sworn to secrecy for his safety, she was disturbed by the discovery and left.

Cody, still sensing he may find what he dreams are trying to tell him, heads out that early morning to swim around. He dives under the water, discovering it to be just like his dream. He sees the light and swims for it, meeting his mermaid mother; they hold hands, which glow upon touching. However, the happy reunion is cut short by Big John, who had caught sight of Cody's mermaid mother. He heads for shore, confusing Big John.

Later that day, Cody found Sam at the beach. She apologizes to him and they have their first kiss. He showed her his regular arms, and told her he wanted to show her something. They went into the water: after a moment, he was able to contact his mermaid mother, who Sam found beautiful. He suddenly gasped in pain and stumbled back to the shore. While lying on the ground, he told Sam to go get his parents.

Much to his shock, Cody watched as his feet turned into fins, which means his biology can no longer handle keeping a human form. Thinking that Sam had come back, someone throws a blanket over Cody. Jess came down to where Cody was, but saw that he was gone. He then saw Big John's boat and panicked because Big John had seen Cody's fins at the swim meet earlier. Big John is planning on using Cody to lure in his mermaid mother; he bears no ill intent, just wanting to prove to others that he isn't crazy. As Cody is asking for water due to his changing biology, Big John pours a couple of buckets worth on him.

Jess boards Big John's ship, and Cody asks him for help getting into the water as his change is hastening. Just then, his mermaid mother appeared, he and Jess tried to warn her, but Big John drops a fishing net on her.

Cody asked Jess to help his mermaid mother, who then took a knife and jumped into the water to cut the net. He freed her, but the net got caught on his leg, pulling him under. Jess passed out, but Cody jumped in and brought him to the dock where Big John, Cody's parents, and Sam were. Once Jess was pulled out of the water, Mrs. Griffin and Sam did CPR on him, but he doesn't respond to it. Cody then decided to use his electricity to shock his heart, successfully reviving him.

Cody's mermaid mother showed up again and he told his parents that she wanted him to go with her; she's the only one who can help him with his changes and can probably turn him back into a human. She didn't want him to leave at first, but she came to an agreement with the mermaid who telepathically promised to let him back before school starts.

After saying goodbye, Jess told Cody that he and his dad want to know about everything that happens while he's gone and Sam told him not to betray their relationship by falling for mermaids. Leaving his clothing behind, Cody went into the water and completed his transformation into a merman with his mermaid mother's help. Done with his change, he lovingly hugs her, earning a smile in return. He swims back up and leaps through the surface, showing his fully transformed fish tail, and waves goodbye to his friends and adoptive parents before swimming off.


  • Chez Starbuck - Cody Griffin
  • Bridget and Kendra Byrd - Cody as a baby
  • Justin Jon Ross - Jess Wheatley
  • Courtnee Draper - Sam
  • Brent Briscoe - Big John Wheatley
  • Tim Redwine - Sean Marshall
  • Dave Coulier - Whit Griffin
  • Lisa Stahl - Sharon Griffin (as Lisa Stahl Sullivan)
  • Brian Haley - Coach
  • Kristen Stewart - Extra - In the Fountain Line (uncredited)
  • HBHS Marching Band - Background Band
  • Stephanie Chantel Durelli - Mermaid
  • Regan Burns - Joe


The film was shot in 1998. The ocean scenes were primarily shot in the Newport Beach communities of the Balboa Peninsula and Corona del Mar.

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia page The Thirteenth Year. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. Text from Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.

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