Exploring the Wild Kingdom

News Release Date: 
May 16, 2013

“Exploring the Wild Kingdom” Chronicles Iconic Show

LINCOLN, Neb. (May 16, 2013) -- Every Sunday night beginning in 1963, 34 million Americans took part in a ritual that included cooking their TV dinners and tuning in Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom.” The program captured unpredictable wildlife encounters -- from charging elephants and cute baby lions to 200-pound snakes.

Oshkosh, Neb. native Don Meier was creator and executive producer of the original show, and his work is chronicled in the new documentary “Exploring the Wild Kingdom,” airing Friday, May 31, at 7 p.m. CT on NET1/HD.

The documentary explores the dynamic evolution of the program, as well as Meier’s broadcast production skills and his instinct to continually reinvent “Wild Kingdom.” It also looks at the physical and technical challenges Meier faced as he traveled around the world, producing the program.

“It was not intended to educate a scientific audience, but it was rather to be enjoyed by the general public.” Meier said.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of “Wild Kingdom.” For a quarter of a century, it helped inspire environmental consciousness in a new generation of viewers. The show also pioneered the use of color film and new sound technology that brought animals from lush jungles, scorching deserts and icy Arctic areas into television homes across America. The program ended in 1988.

Iconic host Marlin Perkins, director of the St. Louis Zoo, was paired with younger hosts who wrestled alligators and dodged venomous snakes while he talked about wildlife in ways his audience could understand. “We always edited it so that the program looked as though you were looking over Marlin’s shoulder and participating with him in the action,” added Meier.

“Exploring the Wild Kingdom” is a co-production of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications and NET Television. Production support was provided by the Nebraska Foundation and NET.