For the last two decades, the Kratt brothers – Chris and Martin have been teaching kids about science and nature acting as positive role models and uniting families with their creature adventures and science discovery shows. The duo are the creative minds behind Wild Kratts series that has been running since the last 10 years and has a large heterogeneous audience.
They hold various credits under their belt including Zoboomafoo and Kratts’ Creature and have about one million subscribers following their Wild Kratts YouTube channel. Now, the brothers are coming up with a new animation special Wild Kratts: Cats and Dogs which is set to air this summer on the PBS Kids channel. The special will explore the relationships between dogs and cats in the wild.
Animation Xpress got in touch with Chris and Martin Kratt to know about their stupendous journey from live-action series to the super-cool animated versions of Kratt brothers in their series.
What inspired you to come up with the Wild Kratts animated series?
Chris & Martin Kratt: We had been filming wildlife all around the world for years and no matter how long we stayed in the wild and how lucky we got filming cool animals doing incredible things, there were always animal behaviors that we knew existed, but just could never film. Some things, like filming a caracal catching three birds out of the air in one leap, you might never be lucky enough to film no matter how long you spent camping in the Kalahari. And some things, like being in the deep sea and filming a battle between a giant squid and a sperm whale are technologically impossible to film right now because of the intense pressure of that environment. But with animation, we can show kids so many of the most incredible animal behaviors and actions that have never been seen before!
Tell us about your upcoming animated special Wild Kratts: Cats and Dogs?
Chris & Martin Kratt:Cats and dogs are some of the most popular and beloved pets. In this special, we try to go back to their wild origins and get to the essence of what makes a dog a dog and a cat a cat! We also explore the relationships between dogs and cats in the wild and who is actually chasing who?! All the while, the characters are trying to figure out if they are a dog person or a cat person. Like every episode of Wild Kratts, we learned a lot researching and writing it, and we hope that kids come away with lots of new wow facts and insights too.
How has your content evolved over the years?
Chris & Martin Kratt: Over the years, we’ve used several different elements in our television series, including live action, puppetry, claymation, graphics, animation, documentary, studio, and narrative – always focusing on those elements that best communicate the heart of the series to the intended audience demographic. Our current series, Wild Kratts, employs animation as a way to delve into incredible animal behaviors those that we know exist, but are difficult or impossible to film and also to explore animals in terms of their unique abilities and creature powers and allow viewers to imagine what it would be like if we could have those abilities.
Certain elements remain in everything we do, including our interest in exploring animals from a very personal perspective and trying to understand what it would be like to be those animals or walk a mile in their paws.
Can you name your key team members who helped to make the Wild Kratts one of the longest-running series?
Chris & Martin Kratt: We have a great team at Wild Kratts, starting with our producer, Cheryl Knapp, who has been with us since our first series, Kratts’ Creatures aired on PBS in 1996! Along with Cheryl, we’ve been lucky enough to have worked with the same composers from the beginning–Paul Koffman and Tim Foy of Pure West. Over the last six seasons of Wild Kratts, our current and past teams have had so many phenomenal artists and people, it would be impossible to mention them all by name. But their dedication and talent has made the series a success.
What are the elements that make Wild Kratts so entertaining for kids?
Chris & Martin Kratt: What really seems to resonate with kids is that Wild Kratts looks at animals in terms of their creature powers – those amazing abilities that represent the essence of who they are. The series explores what it would be like to run like a cheetah, swim like a dolphin, or walk on walls like a gecko. Kids love to imagine what it would be like to do what the animals do, and Wild Kratts’ stories are centered on those amazing abilities. They are also drawn to the humor, animal/science information, and creature adventure. Through letters, emails, and live events, we are often reminded about what the series means to children and families.
What was the idea behind creating the ‘Creature Power Suits’?
Chris & Martin Kratt: Imagining what it would be like to be an animal is the inspiration. What if you could fly like a peregrine falcon? Run like a cheetah? Swim like a dolphin? That’s what kids wonder, and Creature Power Suits give kids a way to think about animal abilities in an experiential way – with superhero action!
How open are kids to watch such content? Have you seen a growth in demand?
Chris & Martin Kratt: Kids have an insatiable hunger for information on subjects they love like animals. Every animal has an incredible creature power, some kind of wow facts about them, and a fascinating connection to science. With over five million species of animals on our planet, we never have a problem coming up with new episode ideas. Even with Wild Kratts already at 158 episodes, kids want more, more, more!
Wild Kratts continues to be watched across a remarkably broad demographic, earning a reputation for being one of those rare series that kids and families can agree on. Our series has the ability to capture not only younger children, but older children as well.
All your episodes focus mainly on wildlife, how do you manage to create your content differently from one another?
Chris & Martin Kratt: Each animal has a different lifestyle and abilities. We start with the unique abilities and behaviors of that particular animal and build each story around those elements. We also explore an age-appropriate science concept that lies at the center of that animal’s lifestyle or creature power.Stories grow out of the animal content and animal character, as well as from the Wild Kratts team who are always on a mission to better understand their fellow creatures.
Are schools using your show to teach kids about biology, zoology, and ecology?
Chris & Martin Kratt: Yes, we are thrilled that schools and educators frequently use Wild Kratts to teach both natural history as well as science concepts including biology, physics, chemistry, and more. Our educational theme is Animals Can Take You Anywhere in Science. Because no matter what animal you explore, there is a core science concept that is critical in that animal’s life. PBS has created a free resource specifically for educators and students called PBS Learning Media. It allows teachers to access materials that we have worked with PBS in creating.
Being Zoologists, how many animals/birds have you encountered in your lifetime, and how many have been featured in your series?
Chris & Martin Kratt:That’s a great question and we keep trying to tally this up. We think we’re around the 8,000 mark of encountering different species of animals. And as far as featuring in all our series, we’ve met almost a thousand. With millions more to go, we’re just beginning!
What were the challenges you faced when you first launched the show?
Chris & Martin Kratt: One of the challenges we faced when developing the show was finding an animation style that was graphic enough to handle the comedic elements of the stories, yet realistic enough to be able to communicate the animal information features, and behaviours that we want to showcase.
We are very proud of our animation team’s ability to animate each and every animal’s movements and behaviours in a realistic way. Our team takes great efforts to study and understand each animal so that it is accurately portrayed. It is a challenge that our skilled animators relish.
Wild Kratts has a tremendous global reach, it is a massive hit in Canada and the US. Can you share the response you are receiving from other countries?
Chris & Martin Kratt:Wild Kratts is now available in 44 languages and airs in 189 countries around the world. Broadcasters include Super RTL in Germany, TVO/Knowledge Network/Télé-Québec in Canada, and Discovery Kids across Latin America, to name a few. The series has also been expanding its reach on streaming platforms across many international territories. While Amazon is the exclusive platform in the U.S., Netflix and others are reaching audiences in other markets.
Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
Chris & Martin Kratt: Along with the new hour-long special Wild Kratts: Cats and Dogs set to air this summer, we have some exciting new episodes in the works. We are very excited about all of the educational games that kids can access on PBS Kids website, as well as traveling exhibits in museums across the country. Our popular Wild Kratts Live stage show we hope can resume touring shortly, and our Kratt Brothers YouTube channel features lots more cool animal content.
We’ve also been so inspired by the great many fans who ask us what they can do to help animals, that we’ve begun some exciting new projects through our non-profit, Kratt Brothers Creature Hero Foundation. Together we are improving our backyards and local habitats for wild animals and creating a brand new global Creaturefuge (wildlife refuge) to protect critical habitat and the creatures who call it home.
Tune in on PBS Kids channel on 12 July to watch Kratt brother’s new hour-long special Wild Kratts: Cats and Dogs.