Famous PBS brothers come to Palace stage in ‘Wild Kraffs Live’ nature tale
As kids, growing up in Warren Township, N.J., brothers Chris and Martin Kratt set out exploring the wildlife in their back yard whenever they wanted to have an adventure.
Some 40 years later, and the brothers are still exploring nature together — but now their “back yard” has expanded to include fascinating animal habitats around the world, in places such as China, India, Australia, the African Savannah and South America.
For college, the brothers each chose his own path (Chris to Carleton College in Minnesota and Martin to Duke University in North Carolina), but their shared love for wildlife, biodiversity and the environment would soon bring them back together to embark on a joint career as authors, filmmakers and explorers and interpreters of the natural world.
The two are are hosts of the enormously popular nature series, “Wild Kratts,” airing on PBS Kids, which combines live-action footage and animation as they present animal information, science principles and stories about all types of creatures, such as King Cobra, tigers, Monarch butterflies, panda, dolphins and elephants.
Together they created such educational children’s television series as “Kratts’ Creatures,” “Zoboomafoo” and “Be the Creature,” which aired on the National Geographic Channel and Knowledge Network. Initially, some were made with very unsophisticated (cheap post-college) recording, film and editing equipment, but they sent them to scores of potential clients to get their names know.
In a recent telephone chat from Atlanta, where ecologist Chris Kratt, 48, was visiting family, the nature show host said he and brother Martin, 52, share their time between Vermont and Ottawa, Canada, where their animation facilities are located.
To spread their message about the fascinating world of animals beyond television, the two often go on the road with their “Wild Kratts Live” show, which comes to Stamford’s Palace Theatre on Thursday, April 19.
“We have always loved animals ... we were fascinated by them as kids,” he said. Through their television series, stage shows, zoo appearances and travels around the world, Chris said their goal is to make learning about science and the natural world “compelling fun” while delivering “fun stories.”
For those unfamiliar with their television show — which is popular with kids as young as two, teenagers and adults, he says — the brothers search out specific animals on location. The animation is used for up-close examination of a particular animal that would probably not be available or possible in the wild. Plus, the animation portion builds in an adventure story in which the brothers and friends sometimes go nose-to-nose with comic villains.
The brothers (Chris has dark hair, Martin’s is sandy) don “Creature Power Suits, which allow them to have the same powers, abilities and characteristics as the animals they are studying. Martin always wears a blue suit; Chris is in green.
The Stamford audience will experience the brothers with and without their special suits as they go on a “typical” Kratts adventure, while they present a lot of animal “wow facts,” Chris said.
According to his bio, Chris served as an intern at Conservation International in Washington, D.C., and later founded the Carleton Organization for Biodiversity. His ecology studies have been funded by the Explorers Club and the National Science Foundation. Martin said he’s “dedicated to teaching people about wild creatures and working for the preservation of endangered species.”
The brothers have authored eight wildlife books for children, including “Creatures in Crisis” and “Where’re the Bears?,” published by Scholastic. They are recipients of numerous academic, foundation and TV awards.
Chris said he loves traveling the world (and collecting stamps for his passport). But one need not be a frequent-flyer to revel in the animal kingdom: “We encourage ‘creative creature adventuring’ as an activity for kids, as well as families — in your back yard or in a local park.”
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