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I enjoyed many episodes of `Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom' over the
years -- a fascinating and educational experience! Each week Marlin
Perkins and Jim or Stan would lead us on an adventure in an exotic part of
the globe to learn about or save wild animals.
What really made this show a winner is Marlin Perkins. His enthusiasm kept you glued to the set. Marlin was one of those rare individuals -- one who achieved a career doing what he really loved. He was no young buck any more, nor very big but he took on every physical challenge that came up. Once Marlin and Jim captured a huge boa constrictor who came very close to crushing Marlin. Once they picked up the giant viper, he pulled the two men around, successfully getting them into a river. The two men kept wrestling the powerful snake who managed to wrap himself three coils around Marlin. Fortunately Jim was able to pull a black cloth bag over the boa's head, who then thought it was night and went to sleep. If I'm ever in boa country I'll bring a heavy black sack.
Many times they tagged animals with radio transmitters to track their migration habits. Sometimes they would capture an animal who had wandered into a populated area and take him or her to a wildlife refuge. That really brought home the need for `civilization' to protect endangered species from extinction. Other times they just photographed animals in their natural habitat. They never killed or injured an animal.
The only time I took exception to their activities was when they captured a baby hippo for a zoo. They drove a huge road grader into a pond between the mother and they young hippo. The road grader managed to block the angry, powerful mother while a team of men hustled the little hippo out of the water and into a truck. I'm not a member of PETA, but the cries of the baby and mother really tugged on your heartstrings. Perhaps they should have waited till the baby was big enough to go out on his own.
One thing I'll never forget was how Marlin always segued from the show to the commercials, something like, `Just as this mother ocelot protects her cubs, you can protect your family with Mutual of Omaha.' Corny -- but effective. Johnny Carson once did a parody of the show, sponsored by `Shifty of Encino.'
Overall, a wonderful program, worth watching. I'd like to see `Wild Kingdom' come back on syndication. The Discovery Channel has some excellent nature shows today, using more advanced technology and a larger knowledge base, but I've never seen any actor draw you into a show like Marlin Perkins.
I have fond memories of the original series, not just because it was so
well done but because I worked for Don Meier Productions, in Chicago,
c. 1977-78. It was a great place to work for a first job out of
college. (At the wages they paid, though, I was pretty much forced to
The show had been in production for 15 years at that point, and was a well-oiled machine. The ever-dapper Don Meier had cinematographers scattered around the globe shooting raw footage. The footage was sent to the offices on Chicago's Magnificent Mile, where very experienced editors would piece together each show. Then, the writer (Allan Eckert?) would create a script that conformed to the visuals -- just the reverse of how fictional stories are shot and produced (although this may still be the method used with wildlife and other documentaries).
One of my jobs was to edit in the commercial segues, usually spoken by Marlin Perkins ... "Just as the mother lion protects her cubs, you can protect your family with Mutual of Omaha ..."
It was a treat to watch these pros at work, and to learn from them. Animal Planet and all the animal-related shows on the Discovery Channel owe much to these pioneers. Though it would be great to see the old shows (and Marlin, Jim, Stan) on TV again, I believe the advances in animal photography and documentary production make that, sadly, unlikely.
Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom" series, which intrigued while it educated
from 1963 to 1968 is back in 2003-04 on the Animal Planet network,
co-produced by the BBC.
Based on the original format by Don Meier, in which Marlin Perkins played so big a role as expedition leader, the series now has Alec Baldwin narrating.
One recent show on "Cave Elephants" (2004) was shot on location in the Serengeti preserve in Africa. Never before footage of local animals were recorded while they made their trek into an ancient volcano to find precious salt need for their survival.
Using infra-red lighting, we were able to observe the happenings in pitch-black conditions. As the outside land yields less and less salt, predators mix with prey as they proceed on the inner rocky trail to their goal.
Personal friends who've gone on the Kenya-Tanzania safari (the site of this particular show) have reported that it's the closest thing to heaven on earth. Now that there are stiff penalties for poachers, an entire new breed of wild animals exist, living in peace with humans. And the African land is rich in natural resources and beauty (it's said every human originated in this, the "Mother Country.")
"Wild Kingdom" captures these pleasures, and reminds us of our need to preserve with steadfast commitment our fellow earthly inhabitants. Every program in the "Wild Kingdom" series appears a collector's item, and we end totally awe-struck by the miracle of nature.
If you, like myself. enjoy watching well-produced wildlife/nature
shows, then the super-thrilling "Wild Kingdom" TV series, which
successfully ran from 1963-1988, should be of some real interest to
So, sit back, relax, and see why this Emmy award-winning series, which was hosted by zoologist Marlin Perkins (with co-hosts Jim Fowler and Stan Brock), is so highly praised and credited for increasing ecological and environmental awareness wherever it was televised.
These informative episodes from Wild Kingdom take the viewer right across the globe to study the fascinating behavior of animals and their endless struggle to survive as man continues to encroach on their dwindling territory.
Excellently photographed in living color, Wild Kingdom is truly an exciting look at animals in their natural habitat.
This show's episodes have running times that vary from 30-90 minutes.
I grew up watching this in the 1960's and I enjoyed it but it always creeped me out because everything would be going along just fine, some pair of animals having babies and then following them growing up and playing and hunting etc. but then always right on Queue, some larger animal would come along and kill one or both of the parents and there would be Marlin Perkins, explaining how with the parents dead, the offspring would have to fend for themselves and would not survive long. Only years later did I understand that the show was totally sponsored by an insurance company and that was the whole idea! You get the family all together, watching a happy show and then you kill the parents and there's the poor kids left all alone in the world. How will they fend for themselves? By you buying Mutual Omaha Insurance of course.
I would like to second Huck's comments.
"Wild Kingdom" was my first show and the beginning of my career. I was one of those guys in the the offices on Chicago's Miracle Mile. I was a young lad, hired as an apprentice sound editor by the late, great Jim Bourgeois, my mentor and Master. Jim's company, Sync Marc, which included editors Richard Albrecht and Denny Hough was subcontracted by Don Meier to do sound editing.
"Wild Kingdom" was very well done, and in a way spoiled me because I thought all shows would be that good, both technically and creatively. It set my standard. Production was, in deed, a well oiled machine and post followed suit.
I fondly remember my frequent trips to Zenith for mag transfers of SFX, BGs, and MX. We are in the digital age with many advances, but "Wild Kingdom" taught me about the power of FILM, physical FILM, in my hand.
The toss I always liked was, "Just like the Giant Antellope, you too need protection. Mutual of Omaha..." well....I think he said that....Or did I just cut a new one from trims?
Here's to a great show and a personal milestone.
FOLLOWING HIS EXPOSURE to national prominence after hosting ZOO PARADE
(NBC, 1950-57) Marlin Perkins proved to be the ideal host for this
project. Scholarly in appearance and obviously highly knowledgeable, it
was as if we had a Professor of Zoology before us.
THE BIG DIFFERENCE between ZOO PARADE and this MUTUAL OF OMAHA'S WILD KINGDOM were many. In spite of their both being nature programs about mainly exotic, wild forms of fauna, the approach was very different in both cases.
WHERERAS THE CONSTRUCTION of the ZOO PARADE show was live and on location, the location was,in this case, Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. Weekly installments would zero in on one particular family of animals or upon a certain wild region (i.e., the Serenghati). The Sunday half hour would be devoted to whatever the subject was, with live remote televising of the subject animals directly from their housing pens. Local NBC Newsman, Jim Hurlbut assisted.
THE THEME AND subject matter of WILD KINGDOM mandated that the format be far different. On sight filming was done in Africa, Asia and places like Borneo, New Guinea and the outback of Australia. The Arctic and Antarctic weren't off limits, either. Filming featured the animals in the particular, often being threatened by some natural or man-made potential disaster. Marlin and Jim Fowler were always on hand to help out and to do the voice-overs.
AT ONE POINT, Mr. Perkins remained home, leaving the field work to Fowler and Stan Brock. Marlin did, however did participate as in studio host. He would also provide segue-ways for the commercials; doing monologues something like: "The Grizzly Bear always prepares for the worst of Winters! You'll be prepared for whatever emergency with insurance from Mutual of Omaha!"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
CBC news program "The Fifth Estate" reports scenes in "Wild Kingdom" and "Wild America" were faked. An internal PBS investigation gave confirmation. In approximately 1995-6 Marty Stouffer told the Denver Post "sometimes we will take a tame animal out for a walk, and if a chase develops, we will film it" - what he calls a "factual recreation." In the earlier "Wild Kingdom", a tame bear was dropped in the Florida Everglades, circled by two hydroplane boats, and lassooed into submission. Marlin Perkins was asked about fakery on camera - he asked for the camera to be turned off and then reportedly struck CBC "Fifth Estate" reporter Bob Mckeown in the nose.
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