Marlin Perkins bottle-feeding a young kangaroo.
|Starring||Marlin Perkins (1963-1985)
Stephanie Arne (2013-present)
|Narrated by||Marlin Perkins|
|Country of origin||USA|
|Original network||NBC (1963–1971)
Animal Planet (2002–)
|Original release||January 6, 1963
September 17, 2002 – May 22, 2011
Wild Kingdom, sometimes known as Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, is an American television show that features wildlife and nature. It was originally produced from 1963 until 1988, and was revived in 2002. The show's second incarnation currently airs on Animal Planet in the U.S.
The original Wild Kingdom grew from discussions that started in 1962 between zoologist Marlin Perkins and V. J. Skutt, the chairman and CEO of insurance company Mutual of Omaha. The company had been the sponsor of an earlier animal-related show, Zoo Parade, that Perkins had hosted from 1952 until 1957. Also intimately involved with the creation of Wild Kingdom was Zoo Parade producer Don Meier, who was credited as the series' creator. Mutual of Omaha sponsored and lent its name to the new program.
Liz and Henk Maartens, from Irene, Pretoria in South Africa won five Emmy Awards for the documentary series Wild Kingdom in 1970. One Emmy Award was for camerawork while the other Emmy Awards were for aspects of production.
Wild Kingdom was first broadcast by NBC. The half-hour show aired on Sundays starting January 6, 1963. and continued until 1971, when the program entered first-run syndication. As a prime-time syndicated program, Wild Kingdom enjoyed great popularity. Although most of the programs aired after 1971 were repeats, new shows continued to be produced until 1987. Several episodes were filmed by cameraman Roy Pinney. Perkins was the host for most of the show's history until he was forced to retire in 1985 for health reasons. He died of cancer the following year at age 81 and Jim Fowler, Perkins' long-time assistant and sidekick, became the host.
One of Wild Kingdom's film editors, Bernard Braham, A.C.E., was offered membership with the American Cinema Editors in 1979 and won a prestigious EDDIE award in Hollywood for best documentary of the year, for the episode "Desert Spring". His competition for the award was a National Geographic episode titled "Gold". He was also nominated for several other awards.
Perkins often introduced commercial spots by tying them into the subject of the show. For example, at the end of a segment about lions, he might say something like, "Just as the mother lion protects her cubs, you can protect your children with an insurance policy from Mutual of Omaha..."
The format of the show often featured Perkins narrating off-camera, describing Fowler's on-camera work with the wild animals. This was commonly parodied as Perkins saying "I'll wait here [someplace safe] while Jim [does something or other with the dangerous animal]". However, according to a 1997 interview with Fowler, Perkins never said any such thing: according to Fowler, "Johnny Carson started the jokes about me and Marlin in his monologues".
Wild Kingdom increased ecological and environmental awareness in the United States. Its exciting footage brought the wilds of Africa, the Amazon River and other exotic locales into the living rooms of millions of Americans. It created an interest in commercial nature programming that was a precursor to cable television networks such as the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.
The original series has not been seen since it went off the air. (Mutual of Omaha owns the rights to the series.) However, several episodes have now been released on DVD from BCI Eclipse (under license from Mutual of Omaha). Some episodes are also available on an official YouTube channel.
The success of "Wild Kingdom" led to several other wildlife documentary series going on the air, including Animal World, Wild, Wild, World Of Animals. and Lorne Greene's New Wilderness. But many fans of wildlife documentaries still consider "Wild Kingdom" the "gold standard" against which other such shows are compared against.
The show came under heavy criticism in the 1982 investigative piece "Cruel Camera" by The Fifth Estate, a news magazine program on Canada's CBC Television network, for staging scenes and for animal cruelty. Several interviewees who had worked on Wild Kingdom confirmed the rumors that many of the sequences were staged, such as in the episode where Perkins and crew captured a bear in the Florida swamps. In fact, the bear had actually been "placed" there by the production. Perkins denied such allegations on camera, and when interviewer Bob McKeown pressed him, said, ''I'd like you to stop your camera right now, please.''
In 2002, a completely new Wild Kingdom, also sponsored by Mutual of Omaha, began airing new Wild Kingdom specials on Animal Planet. The specials proved to be so popular that, in 2005, the network began airing new weekly episodes during the original Sunday night timeslot.
New host and web series
On November 3, 2013, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom premiered a series of webisodes that featured new host Stephanie Arne, a new format and new stories about the world’s wildest places and creatures.
Webisode 1: “Reef Madness” Wild Guide Stephanie Arne dives with the Coral Restoration Foundation to explore efforts to save the precious coral reefs of the Florida Keys.
Webisode 2: “Where the Buffalo Roam” What’s big, brown and built for survival? Wild Kingdom follows one of America’s iconic animals across the South Dakota plains.
Webisode 3: “Tegu Invasion” Containing the unwanted guests that are taking over the Florida Everglades.
Webisode 4: “California Condor: Extreme Survival” Back from the brink of extinction, the California Condor is one of the world's great conservation success stories.
A second season of new Webisodes began in July, 2014 and the third season began March, 2015.
- "Wild Kingdom".
- Animal Planet :: Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom Archived October 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Classic Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom: Nostalgia". Wildkingdom.com. 1963-01-06. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- "The Fearless Guides". Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom Official Website.
- "TV's Wild Man; Jim Fowler talks about his life as one of the world's best-known naturalists". weeklywire.com. 1997-09-02. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
- Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom WildKingdomTV's YouTube Channel
- Corry, John (1986-03-24). "'CRUEL CAMERA,' ABOUT ANIMAL ABUSE". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-02-16.
- Wild Kingdom - Episode 1 - Reef Madness WildKingdomTV's YouTube Channel
- Wild Kingdom - Episode 2 - Where the Buffalo Roam WildKingdomTV's YouTube Channel
- Wild Kingdom - Episode 3 - Tegu Invasion WildKingdomTV's YouTube Channel
- Wild Kingdom - Episode 4 - Condor: Extreme Survival WildKingdomTV's YouTube Channel
- Official website (site sponsored by Mutual of Omaha)
- Animal Planet Wild Kingdom site
- Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom at the Internet Movie Database
Super Bowl lead-out program
The New Adventures of Perry Mason