Back in the day, the weekend’s television schedule consisted of Hee Haw, The Lawrence Welk Show, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and Marty Stouffer’s Wild America. We only had five channels to choose from, two of which were the same network, and one that could only be seen with wavy lines and then only if the tin foil on the antennae was placed in the correct position.
While it seems we were forced to watch certain television shows due to lack of options, I think it allowed us to be more cultured and have something in common to have conversations about. We would laugh and pretend to be pickin’ and a grinnin’ with Roy Clark and Buck Owens. We would sit in amazement while watching a fleet footed cheetah launch towards a herd of gazelles and tumble in a mass of claws, fur, and teeth.
One of the episodes of Wild America proved inspiration for my first big game bow hunt kill. Stouffer took us the Dakotas. There I witnessed the fabulous thunderbeast, the American bison. The people of the bison, the Lakota tribe, lived with the great animal. It was during a time of resurgence of the once nearly extinct symbol of the west.
Shows such as Wild America is what made household names of Stouffer, Marlin Perkins, Jim Fowler and Jacques Cousteau. And it is what brought animals we would never have thought about seeing in the wild into our living rooms. The family watched them together and was mesmerized with both the cruelty and beauty of the wild.
These are the shows that inspired documentaries that are now shown on networks devoted towards nature and are seen exclusively on big screens like IMAX. Without shows like Wild America, I dare say there would be far less people who enjoy what the wild, nature and our planet offers.
Marty Stouffer took to Alaska with a video camera at the age of 18. After his return, he was greeted by nearly 1800 people in Arkansas who watched nothing much more than a home movie. Stouffer was hooked as well as his brothers.
Stouffer went on to create a number of specials, but Wild America was a highlight, enjoying a run of 15 years from 1981 until 1995 on PBS. While Wild America still can be seen occasionally as a rerun special, the film is outdated and there are challenges to keeping it able to run.
Now Stouffer is leading a charge to preserve Wild America for all. For one, he has initiated a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.
The goal is to re-master 120 episodes into 4k Ultra HD digital video. Once this is completed, Wild America can be enabled for use in internet-based education and entertainment. The uniqueness of Wild America’s slow motion and up close videography helps in understanding animal behavior, and with the long run of the show, virtually every representative mammal, bird, fish, and reptile of North America is featured.
“For years, educators have thrilled students with Wild America videos accompanied by our in-depth teaching guides. This project will provide teachers simplified access to their favorite wildlife content while making it even more engaging for their students with added clarity,” says Stouffer.
The Kickstarter campaign is active through March 18, 2015 and can be accessed through Kickstarter.com with key words Wild America.
The show used to end with “I’m Marty Stouffer. Until next time, enjoy your Wild America.”
I have enjoyed it Marty, and I hope many generations to come will also.