Marty Stouffer is the man responsible for the PBS documentary series Wild America. Which one of the most popular television programs in the world during it’s 12-season run. Despite the popularity of the program and the impact that it’s original run has had on subsequent nature-themed documentary shows. Marty Stouffer isn’t heard from much anymore. Join Facts Verse as we explore why you don’t see Marty Stouffer from Wild America these days.
Wild America Popularized Nature Documentaries
From 1982 to 1994, the documentary series Wild America aired on PBS and considered to be one of the most popular shows of it’s time. A man named Marty Stouffer created the series. And he inspired to create the documentary show as a result of his own real-life experiences. Marty has always been a nature lover and a filmmaker. And it’s a magic moment when he realized that he could put both of these loves together and find success.
Marty’s journey started all the way back in September of 1948. Marty’s born in a small Arkansas city called Fort Smith, and he grew up with a strong predilection for both hunting and fishing. Alongside his brothers, Marty could found hunting and fishing from an early age. One of these brothers Mark Stouffer, who would go on to help Marty with his future endeavors quite a bit. These brothers were lucky enough to have access to an 8mm camera. And it’s not long before they got the idea to combine their passion for the outdoors with their new hobby of filming things.
While Marty and his brothers did plenty of filming with their 8mm camera as children. It not until the future documentarian’s college years that he truly got inspired to take his filmmaking endeavors seriously. During the later 1960s, Marty went on a journey with two of his college friends to Alaska. Where they spent an entire summer hunting and fishing amongst the state’s wilderness. During this journey, Marty used his old 8mm camera to try and film some professional-looking footage of what he’s up to. When he returned home from his trip to Alaska. Marty then went about assembling this 8mm footage into a feature-length documentary film that he played for his fellow students. As well as other people around his home city of Fort Smith. The film well received, and Marty quickly realized that he onto something with his filmmaking.
Marty Has Always Loved Aspen, Colorado
Marty had ambitions of becoming a wildlife documentarian, but he still had to pay the bills. As a result, he could found working a few different jobs before eventually going full-time with his filmmaking. While on summer break from college in 1968. Marty ventured to Aspen, Colorado, with a friend, as the two had offered a construction gig there. Marty would eventually go on to call Aspen, Colorado, his home. Though not before taking a regrettable gig with a safari company in Africa that he would later call traumatizing.
Marty graduated from college in 1970, and it’s at this point that the nature-loving aspiring documentarian decided that he needed to get some hours in around the globe. Due to his experience in the wilderness. The future star able to secure a position with a safari company functioning out of Botswana, Africa. During his time working with the company, Marty’s tasked with killing many African creatures. And he claims that he came to feel pretty bad about it after doing it for a while. Marty would eventually quit his gig with the safari company. Though not before securing some footage of his time amongst the African wildlife.
This time, Marty collected his footage on 16mm film instead of 8mm film. However, this increase in film size didn’t make the future documentarian any more satisfied with the final product. According to Marty, attempting to assemble this African footage together into a feature-length documentary made him realize that he only wanted to film wildlife in the USA. Marty has claimed that American wildlife is what the television audience wanted to see. And the success of Wild America proved him right!
Following Marty’s time in Africa, the aspiring documentarian returned to Aspen, Colorado, and began filming bighorn sheep. Marty allegedly spent a period of around two years putting together a short documentary feature on the creatures. And it’s during this period of time that he got the idea to make Aspen his permanent residence. The move occurred in the beginning of 1973, and big things awaited Marty soon afterward. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Marty Stouffer’s Early Television Successes
After moving to Aspen, Colorado, Marty Stouffer devoted himself full-time to creating wildlife documentaries. The filmmaker’s first big success came in 1977, when one of his documentaries aired on the NBC network. The documentary went by the name of The Predators. And Marty’s able to secure movie star Robert Redford as it’s narrator. The documentary proved a hit. And it wasn’t long after it’s airing that the ABC network came knocking on Marty’s door looking for their own nature documentary to compete with NBC’s.
Marty ended up creating a documentary for the ABC network that focused on the documentarian’s time raising a grizzly-bear cub. Marty had raised the cub in his apartment in Aspen, Colorado. Before releasing it out into the wild, and his documentary shared the experience. The documentary aired on ABC in 1978, and narrated by Henry Fonda. The success of both this documentary and the Robert Redford-narrated The Predators made Marty a pretty big deal in the entertainment industry. Several networks came knocking at the documentarian’s door. But it ended up being PBS that Marty developed a lasting relationship with.
In 1982, the documentary series Wild America first aired on PBS. The series represented the culmination of all that Marty Stouffer had attempted to do with his documentary filmmaking up until that point. Unsurprisingly, the show became a big hit with television audiences. The show lasted for twelve seasons, yielding 120 half-hour-long episodes, as well as a dozen one-hour-long television specials. In addition to all of these episodes of the series, Wild America also loosely adapted into the 1997 film of the same name. Which starred Home Improvement’s Jonathan Taylor Thomas in the role of a young Marty Stouffer. The film’s a dramatization of Marty and his brothers’ early experiences that led to Marty going on to create his hit PBS documentary series.
Wild America Eventually Usurped in Popularity
Although Wild America came to an end in 1994, the show lived on through syndication deals for many more years before slowly usurped in popularity by competing nature documentary series. According to Marty, he has hours and hours of footage that he’s filmed in the past few decades. But there’s no one that wants to give him the money to edit it all together. It seems that the entertainment world is content with the 120 episodes of Wild America that already exist.
Marty also spends much of his time nowadays attempting to preserve the original episodes of Wild America. He started up a crowd-funding campaign a few years back to try and secure money that he wanted to use to convert the 120 original episodes of the show into 4K. Though the campaign wasn’t successful. One of the things that Marty blames for no longer being able to get funding for his documentaries is the fact that so many other production companies have created derivative works.
Of all the companies that are around today creating nature documentaries that resemble Marty Stouffer’s Wild America. The company that Marty seems to have the biggest problem with is National Geographic. According to Marty, the National Geographic brand outright stole the essence of his esteemed documentary series when creating much of the television content that it’s known for today. Marty claims that National Geographic approached him many years back in an attempt to get the Wild America brand. And Marty didn’t relent. It seems that the National Geographic brand then decided that it was going to take matters into it’s own hands and simply ape Marty’s style. Of course, it’s hard to copyright the simple idea of going out into the wild and filming what you see. Though Marty claims that National Geographic has ripped him and his works off in a much deeper way than this.
Marty Stouffer ended up having so much of a problem with National Geographic that he sued the company. Though many might look at Marty Stouffer’s lawsuit against National Geographic and say that it was slightly frivolous, National Geographic had created many television programs featuring names that were certainly very derivative of Wild America. Such programs included Untamed Americas and Surviving Wild America. It’s not hard to look at the names of these programs and come to the assumption that National Geographic was trying to cash in on the television audience’s inherent goodwill towards Marty’s Wild America, especially when given the context that National Geographic had previously tried to purchase the Wild America brand out from under the documentary filmmaker. However, the judge ended up deciding in favor of National Geographic.
We May Hear from Marty Stouffer Again!
Although not much is heard from Marty Stouffer nowadays, it’s not for the nature-loving documentarian’s lack of trying! Marty claims that what he’s focused on currently is trying to convert the many half-hour long episodes of Wild America into digital shorts that would be more suited for today’s audiences. Of course, the documentarian is also still trying to get new projects off the ground, though it seems unlikely that Marty will ever get funding to complete editing on the many hours of footage that he claims to have filmed since Wild America came to an end all the way back in 1994.
Though Marty Stouffer is apparently just as busy as ever doing what he loves, it seems that he is having a hard time getting his work out there. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Wild America’s Marty Stouffer attempted to sue National Geographic and lost, and that Marty claims he has hours and hours of unedited footage that he’s filmed since Wild America came to an end in 1994? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!