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Martin Luther Stouffer Jr. (born September 5, 1948), is the narrator and producer of the wildlife and nature documentary television program Wild America that originally aired on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). He was raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas. His name has been legally changed to Marty Stouffer. Along with his brother Mark, he also produced the TV series of John Denver specials for ABC in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Another half-dozen one-hour Specials for the National Geographic Society were also produced during that same time period. Stouffer's special "The Predators" was narrated by Robert Redford and his special "The Man Who Loved Bears" was narrated by Will Geer and Henry Fonda.
At age 18, Stouffer traveled to Alaska on his own with a 8mm movie camera. He returned home to a warm reception by an audience of 1,800 local Arkansas residents in the Fort Smith Municipal Auditorium who turned out to view what was basically a home movie. To that audience, he first aired an unsophisticated movie of his adventure in the North, paid for his summer vacation many times over, and easily made an early decision to spend his life creating many more such productions. Soon after that success and his decision to pursue a career in wildlife documentary-making, he graduated from college and began his career in earnest. In 1970, Stouffer graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in English. From there he traveled to Botswana to spend most of a year filming a feature-length documentary entitled Botswana, Where a River Dies. While in Africa, he was confronted with the massive and wasteful killing of animals, political unrest and human tragedies. As a result, he returned to America with the intention of producing films promoting nature conservation. One of these efforts was The American Wildlife Project.
Marty Stouffer's Wild America
By the mid-1970s, Stouffer had compiled several full-length specials that aired on television as prime time network documentaries. At that time, he approached the programming managers at the PBS about a half-hour-long wildlife series. PBS signed for the rights to broadcast Stouffer's series Wild America in 1981. The series almost immediately became one of the most popular aired by PBS, renowned for its unflinching portrayal of nature, as well as its extensive use of unique film techniques such as extreme slow motion, close-ups and time-lapses through the seasons of the year.
Stouffer's stories, incorporating dramatic "facts of life," and told simply in his home-spun style, won the hearts of a loyal audience. It was one of PBS's most highly-rated regular series, never leaving the Top Ten, and in more than one year, it was the Number One highest rated regular series to air on the network. It remains the most-broadcast Series which has ever aired on Public Television. At the time, it was common for producers to limit the number of broadcasts to 4 airings over a period of 3 years. Stouffer saw no good reason for that limitation and he was the first producer to offer unlimited broadcasts of the series by the network. Many of the 260 PBS stations chose to broadcast the programs multiple times each day throughout the weeks. In some weeks, according to Nielsen ratings, it was viewed by more than 450 million viewers. In total, the Wild America episodes have been viewed untold billions of times by hundreds of millions of viewers. Wild America has become the strongest, most popular and most recognized brand in existence on the subject of North American wildlife and nature. It has amassed sales of videos, both VHS and DVD, totaling more than $60 million.
Failed Kickstarter Project
In March 2015, Stouffer attempted to finance a 4K resolution remastering of Wild America via a Kickstarter campaign. The Kickstarter ended in failure March 18, 2015 having raised only $3,410 of the target $1,250,000 (0.27%) and amassing just 39 backers.
Controversy and ethics
In 1993, Stouffer was fined $3,000 in a Federal court in Grand Junction, Colorado for building a hunting camp on public land. In 1995 or early 1996, Stouffer was fined $362,000 by a jury in a civil lawsuit for illegally cutting a six-mile trail through property owned by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies in Colorado to access Stouffer's illegal hunting camp on Forest Service land; Stouffer was attempting to gain better access to an elk migation path by building the trail.
The lives of Marty Stouffer and his brothers Mark and Marshall, in the town of Fort Smith, Arkansas, were adapted for the 1997 movie, Wild America. Headlined by child actor Jonathan Taylor Thomas, the movie dramatized how the boys became intrigued with the production of wildlife documentaries. Both Mark and Marshall are filmmakers as well.
- Bledsoe, G. "Marty Stouffer". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved 2009-04-14.
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- Florio, Gwen. "'Wild America' Host Accused Of Staging Tv Kills Some Ex-employees Said Caged Animals Were Used. Representatives Of 2 Parks Cited Repeated Complaints." Philadelphia Inquirer. February 10, 1996.
- Williams, Ted. "Phony wildlife photography gives a warped view of wildlife." Audubon. March-April 2010.
- "Tayman, John. "Wildlife: Marty Stouffer's Apocyrphal America." Outside. June 1996.