13 Snappy Facts About The Crocodile Hunter

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In 1996, an Australian wildlife expert came from seemingly out of nowhere to become one of the world’s most famous television stars. Steve Irwin’s beloved wildlife series, The Crocodile Hunter, aired its final episode 10 years ago—on September 4, 2007—one year after Irwin was killed when a stingray pierced his chest during the filming of a documentary, Ocean’s Deadliest. Yet Irwin’s legacy has carried on, both through repeated viewing of his hit series and with the help of his family: wife Terri, daughter Bindi Sue, and son Bob. Here are 13 things you might not have known about The Crocodile Hunter.

1. STEVE IRWIN GREW UP AT A ZOO.

Irwin discovered his love of animals, and talent for handling them, at an early age. “My dad was a wildlife expert,” Irwin told Larry King in 2004. “His field was herpetology, one who studies reptiles, and my mom was a wildlife rehabilitator.” When Irwin was still a child, his family moved to Beerwah, near Queensland, Australia, to open the Beerwah Reptile Park in 1970. Steve spent his formative years helping to run the park, including feeding the animals, and eventually became its owner. It’s still in operation, but is now called the Australia Zoo.

2. IRWIN MET HIS WIFE, TERRI, AT THE AUSTRALIA ZOO.

Though Steve Irwin was the indisputable star of The Crocodile Hunter, his family—including his wife, Terri—played an integral role in the series. Much like her husband, Terri discovered her love of animals at an early age. She was born in Eugene, Oregon, where her family ran a trucking business and her father would regularly bring home injured animals he’d come across on the road. In 1986, Terri opened Cougar Country, a facility that helped to rehabilitate foxes, raccoons, bobcats, bears, and, of course, cougars and release them back into the wild.

In 1991, Terri took a trip to Australia and visited the Australia Zoo, where she first laid eyes on Steve during one of his crocodile shows. “I was absolutely floored,” Terri told Barbara Walters in 2006. “That was it. This man was a real-life hero. I fell then and there, love at first sight, not a problem. I said to my friend, ‘I got to meet this guy.’” The couple got engaged just four months later.

3. THE FIRST EPISODE WAS FILMED ON THE COUPLE’S HONEYMOON.


© 2002 - Metro Goldwyn Mayer

Appropriately, Steve and Terri spent their honeymoon traveling around Australia trapping crocodiles for relocation. Then they got a call “that there was a crocodile that needed help,” Terri recounted to Scientific American. “We dropped our honeymoon, we went to north Queensland, and we helped this crocodile and filmed a documentary on the premise that the cameraman just chases Steve around. Steve hadn't been to acting school, he had no preconceived notions. His background was exactly what you see on television, he's done that all his life. We thought we'd do one show. What happened was, it did really well, so we did a part two. And from then on, we found that Steve's natural behavior in the wild happens to be fascinating!” Recognizing that Steve’s enthusiasm would be a huge draw for audiences, Animal Planet picked up The Crocodile Hunter as a regular series.

4. IRWIN BELIEVED HIS ENTHUSIASM WAS THE KEY TO THE SHOW’S SUCCESS.

When asked by Scientific American about what he attributed the show’s immense popularity to, Irwin quipped, “Nothing to do with my looks, that's for sure! Yeah, I normally get a big croc out in the foreground of any filming.” But he did have a real theory: “You know what I reckon it is? My belief is that what comes across on the television is a capture of my enthusiasm and my passion for wildlife. Since I was a boy, from this house, I was out rescuing crocodiles and snakes. My mum and dad were very passionate about that, and I was lucky enough to go along. The first crocodile I ever caught was at nine years of age, and it was a rescue. So now what happens is the cameras follow me around and capture exactly what I've been doing since I was a boy. Only now we have a team of, you know, like 73 of us, and it's gone beyond that.

"As the audience, I want you to come with me, right? So we get cameras, every one of us, if we've got a four- or five-man film crew, including myself and Terri. Every one of us can use a camera. I have one in my green backpack that I pull out for the hardcore shots where you've gotta get right in there, so the camera's always right there, in there, while I'm doing my thing. So when I'm talking to the camera, I'm talking to you, in your living room.”

5. THE SHOW’S POPULARITY SPREAD FAR BEYOND AMERICA.

Though The Crocodile Hunter was a huge hit in America as well as Irwin’s native Australia, its popularity reached far beyond those two countries. The series was seen, and beloved, by more than 500 million people in 130 countries around the world.

6. CREATING AWARENESS ABOUT CONSERVATIONISM WAS THE SHOW’S MAIN GOAL.


© 2002 - Metro Goldwyn Mayer

While many viewers tuned into The Crocodile Hunter to witness Irwin’s zany antics while going head-to-head with some of the world’s most feared creatures, Irwin’s main goal was to educate the public about these animals and dispel the many myths surrounding them.

“I've always seen Jacques Cousteau as a hero,” he said. “He's a legend, like my dad, just a legend. And so what he did for conservation in the '60s through the '70s was just phenomenal. And I want to be just like him, you know? I want to have a milestone, you know? I want to create history. So we've gone beyond the media that we're working with now, and we're taking the media, we're taking the ‘Croc Hunter’ message, we're taking conservation, and the greening of our planet to kids’ toys, to shirts, you know, our shirts will be an advertisement of conservation. It's like we're taking it to the nth degree. In fact, we probably won't stop there either. If there's another medium where we can just get people excited about conservation we'll take it, we'll run with it.”

7. THE SHOW’S POPULARITY ALLOWED HIM TO EXPAND THE AUSTRALIA ZOO.

The success of The Crocodile Hunter allowed Irwin to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams by expanding the Australia Zoo to include a “Crocoseum.” The space gives visitors the chance to see how crocodiles behave in nature by housing them in clear water ponds. “Crocodiles use the murkiness of the water in their territory to camouflage from their prey,” explains the zoo’s website. “By using clear water, we can highlight for you the dangers that can be lurking just below the surface of a seemingly serene billabong.”

8. HE WASN’T IMMUNE TO BEING BITTEN, AND KNEW IT MADE GREAT TELEVISION.

It's only natural that some of Irwin’s animal co-stars would make their reluctance to be put in front of the cameras known. "Steve Irwin's all pretty interesting on the telly or in the movie and that, but by crikey, it's great when he gets bitten," Irwin told ABC Australia. "Now and again I do get bitten ... And it's that, you know, that sense of morbidity that people do have. There's no use sticking your head in the sand and going, 'Oh, no, they're only here because, you know, I talk well.' Nah, man, they wanna see me come unglued.”

9. HE CAUSED A MAJOR CONTROVERSY WHEN HE FED A CROCODILE WHILE HOLDING HIS INFANT SON.

In 2004, during a live show, Irwin caused a media stir when footage and photos of him emerged feeding a chicken carcass to a croc with one hand while holding his one-month-old son, Bob, in the other. Comparisons were quickly made to the time, two years earlier, that Michael Jackson had dangled his newborn son, Prince Michael II, over a hotel balcony. But Irwin was quick to dismiss the allegations that he had put his child in harm’s way. He claimed that the photo that surfaced was actually just taken at an amazingly great angle, which made it appear as if his son was much closer to the croc than he ever actually was.

“They were very lucky,” Irwin told Larry King of the photographers who snapped the photo. “They, out of those three news crews, they showed it at the head and saw this stacked vision and they're like, wow, this is great stuff! Bam! That was it. It just went.” When King asked whether Bob was ever in danger, Irwin said, “Not once, ever never. The funny thing is I've been doing it with Bindi for like five odd years and I would never endanger my children.”

When King asked why Irwin had gone on the TODAY Show to apologize for the incident if Bob was never in danger, Irwin insisted that, “I was apologizing for scaring people. That was never my intention. My intention was strictly and only to show people, here's my little baby boy. I would never endanger my son as you wouldn't yours nor any good father.”

10. HE WAS AFRAID OF PARROTS. 

Though Irwin wasn’t afraid to face off against some of the world’s most terrifying reptiles, he wasn’t totally fearless when it came to animals. When asked if there was any type of animal that did frighten him, Irwin admitted that, “The only animals I'm not comfortable with are parrots, but I'm learning as I go. I'm getting better and better at 'em. I really am … For some reason parrots have to bite me. That's their job. I don't know why that is. They've nearly torn my nose off. I've had some really bad parrot bites.”

11. HE DISCOVERED A NEW SPECIES OF TURTLE.

While on a fishing trip with his dad, Steve caught a turtle on his line that didn’t look like any creature either Irwin had seen before. So they took some pictures and sent them off to herpetologist John Cann, who confirmed that the animal was a never-before-discovered species. In honor of its discoverers, Cann named the species Elseya irwini, or Irwin’s snapping turtle. (Baltimore’s National Aquarium is the only place to see one outside of Australia.)

12. THERE’S A SNAIL NAMED AFTER HIM AND HIS FAMOUS CATCHPHRASE.

You didn’t have to watch much of The Crocodile Hunter to learn that Irwin was famous for shouting the phrase “Crikey!” In 2009, Dr. John Stanisic, a scientist at the Queensland Museum, discovered a new type of tree snail and named it crikey steveirwini. Stanisic told ABC Australia that the creature was "a colorful snail, with swirling bands of creamy yellow, orange-brown and chocolate giving the shell an overall khaki appearance” and that “It was the khaki color that immediately drew the connection to the late Crocodile Hunter." Crikey!

13. ROBERT IRWIN IS FOLLOWING IN HIS FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS.

Whatever your opinion on the controversy that swirled around Steve feeding a crocodile while holding his infant son, one person who clearly wasn’t frightened was Robert Irwin himself. Now 13 years old, Bob—who appeared alongside his mom Terri and sister Bindi on Steve Irwin's Wildlife Warriors and co-hosted Wild But True for Discovery Kids Channel in 2015 and 2016—is clearly looking to follow in his famous father’s footsteps. Earlier this year, he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where he introduced the host to a handful of animals (including a cuddly sloth).

Bindi Sue has also become a television staple. Beginning in 2007, Bindi had her own Discovery Kids series, Bindi the Jungle Girl. She also starred with her brother on Growing Up Wild for The Pet Collective YouTube channel. In 2015, she showed off her dancing skills when she was crowned the winner of the 21st season of Dancing With the Stars.

12 Festive Facts About A Christmas Story

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Which Oscar-winning star wanted to play Ralphie Parker's dad? Which actor went on to have a seedy career in the adult film industry? Can you really get your tongue stuck to a metal pole? On the 35th anniversary of A Christmas Story's debut, here are a few tidbits about the holiday classic to tide you over until TNT's 24-hour Christmas marathon.

1. JACK NICHOLSON WAS INTERESTED IN PLAYING RALPHIE'S DAD.

Though Jack Nicholson was reportedly offered the role of The Old Man Parker, and interested, casting—and paying—him would have meant doubling the budget. But director Bob Clark, who didn't know Nicholson was interested, said Darren McGavin was the perfect choice for the role.

2. IT OWES A DEBT TO PORKY'S.

What does Porky's—a raunchy 1980s teen sex comedy—have to do with a wholesome film like A Christmas Story? Bob Clark directed both: Porky's in 1982 and A Christmas Story in 1983. If Porky's hadn't given him the professional and financial success he needed, he wouldn't have been able to bring A Christmas Story to the big screen.

3. RALPHIE SAYS HE WANTS A RED RYDER BB GUN A LOT.

For anyone keeping count, Ralphie says he wants the Red Ryder BB Gun 28 times throughout the course of the movie. That's approximately once every three minutes and 20 seconds.

4. THESE DAYS, PETER BILLINGSLEY SPENDS HIS TIME BEHIND THE CAMERA.

Peter Billingsley, a.k.a. Ralphie, has been good friends with Vince Vaughn since they both appeared in a CBS Schoolbreak Special together in the early 1990s. He doesn't do much acting these days, though he has popped up in cameos (including one in Elf, another holiday classic). Instead, Billingsley prefers to spend his time behind the camera as a director and producer. He has done a lot of work with Vaughn and Jon Favreau, including serving as an executive producer on Iron Man (in which he also made a cameo).

5. YES, YOU CAN GET YOUR TONGUE STUCK ON A PIECE OF COLD METAL.

Mythbusters tested whether it was possible to get your tongue truly stuck on a piece of cold metal. Guess what? It is. So don't triple dog dare your best friend to try it.

6. ONE OF THE YOUNG ACTORS MOVED ON TO A CAREER IN ADULT FILMS.

Scott Schwartz, who played Flick (the kid who stuck his tongue to the frozen flagpole), spent several years working in the adult film industry. In 2000, he turned his attention back to mainstream films. His most recent role was as "Disco City Hot Dog Vendor" in the 2017 TV movie Vape Warz.

7. RALPHIE'S HOUSE IS NOW A MUSEUM.

Next time you're in Cleveland, you can visit the original house from the movie. It was sold on eBay in 2004 for $150,000. Collector Brian Jones bought the house and restored it to its movie glory and stocked it up with some of the original props from the film, including Randy's snowsuit.

8. THE IDEA FOR THE FILM CAME TO BOB CLARK WHILE HE WAS DRIVING TO PICK UP A DATE.

Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, and Ian Petrella in A Christmas Story (1983)
Warner Home Video

Director Bob Clark got the idea for the movie when he was driving to pick up a date. He heard Jean Shepherd on the radio doing a reading of his short story collection, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, which included some bits that eventually ended up in A Christmas Story. Clark said he drove around the block for an hour until the program ended (which his date was not too happy about).

9. IT PARTLY INSPIRED THE WONDER YEARS.

The Wonder Years was inspired in part by A Christmas Story. In fact, toward the very end of the series, Peter Billingsley even played one of Kevin Arnold's roommates.

10. YOU CAN STILL BUY A RED RYDER BB GUN.

The real Red Ryder BB Gun was first made in 1938 and was named after a comic strip cowboy. You can still buy it today for the low, low price of $39.99. But the original wasn't quite the same as the one in the movie; it lacked the compass and sundial that both the Jean Shepherd story and the movie call for. Special versions had to be made just for A Christmas Story.

11. THE LEG LAMP CAN ALSO BE YOURS.

Peter Billingsley and Melinda Dillon in A Christmas Story (1983)
Warner Home Video

While we're talking shopping: you know you want the leg lamp. Put it in your window! Be the envy of your neighbors! It's a Major Award! You can buy it on Amazon (there's a 40-inch version, as well as a 20-inch replica). If you're not feeling quite so flamboyant, they also make a nightlight version.

12. IT SPAWNED A TRIO OF SEQUELS.

A Christmas Story led to two little-talked-about sequels. The first one was a 1988 made-for-TV movie, Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss. Jerry O'Connell played 14-year-old Ralphie, who is excited about his first job—as a furniture mover. Of course, it ends up being awful, and it might make him miss the annual family vacation at Mr. Hopnoodle's lakeside cabins.

My Summer Story, a.k.a. It Runs in the Family, debuted on the big screen in 1994. Kieran Culkin plays Ralphie, Mary Steenburgen is his mom, and Charles Grodin is his dad.

And in 2012, the direct-to-video sequel A Christmas Story 2 picked up five years after the original movie left off, with Ralphie attempting to get his parents to buy him a car.

An earlier version of this story appeared in 2008.

10 Timeless Facts About The Land Before Time

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Five years before Jurassic Park roared into theaters, a gentler, more meditative dinosaur film endeared itself to audiences of all ages. Initially met with mixed reviews, The Land Before Time is now regarded as an animated classic. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the Steven Spielberg-produced film, which arrived in theaters 30 years ago.

1. IT WAS CONCEIVED AS A DIALOGUE-FREE MOVIE.

Gabriel Damon and Candace Hutson in The Land Before Time (1988)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In the mid-1980s, executive producer Steven Spielberg began toying with the idea of a Bambi-esque dinosaur film. “Basically,” he later said, “I wanted to do a soft picture … about five little dinosaurs and how they grow up and work together as a group.” Inspiration came from the “Rite of Spring” sequence from Disney’s Fantasia (1940)—a scene in which prehistoric beasts wordlessly go about their business. At first, Spielberg wanted his own dinosaur characters to follow suit and remain mum. Ultimately, however, it was feared that a non-verbal approach might bore or confuse the film’s intended audience. As such, the animals were given lines.

2. DIRECTOR DON BLUTH WAS AN EX-DISNEY EMPLOYEE.

Don Bluth grew up idolizing Disney’s work, and began working for the studio in 1955. Over the next two decades, he did various odd jobs until he was brought on as a full-time animator in 1971. Once on the inside, Bluth got to peek behind the magician’s curtain—and disliked what he found there. “I think [Walt Disney] would’ve seen that the pictures were losing their luster,” Bluth said. Frustrated by the studio’s cost-cutting measures, he resigned in 1979. Joining him were fellow animators Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy. Together the trio launched their own company, Sullivan Bluth Studios, and began working on The Land Before Time in 1986.

3. OVER 600 BACKGROUND PAINTINGS WERE MADE FOR THE FILM.

Most of these depicted beautiful but barren wastelands, which presented a real challenge for the creative team. As one studio press release put it, “The artists had to create a believable environment in which there was almost no foliage.” Whenever possible, Bluth’s illustrators emphasized vibrant colors. This kept their backdrops from looking too drab or monotonous—despite the desolate setting.

4. LITTLEFOOT’S ORIGINAL NAME WAS “THUNDERFOOT.”

This was changed when the filmmakers learned that there was a triceratops in a popular children’s book called Thunderfoot. Speaking of three-horned dinosaurs: Cera evolved from a pugnacious male character called Bambo.

5. THE FILMMAKERS HAD TO CUT ABOUT 10 MINUTES OF FOOTAGE.

“We compromised a lot with The Land Before Time,” Goldman admitted. Nowhere was this fact more apparent than on the cutting room floor. Spielberg and his fellow executive producer George Lucas deemed 19 individual scenes “too scary.” “We’ll have kids crying in the lobby, and angry parents,” Spielberg warned. “You don’t want that.”

6. “ROOTER” WAS INTRODUCED AT THE URGING OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGISTS.

In Bambi, the title character’s mom dies off-screen. The same cannot be said for Littlefoot’s mother, whose slow demise goes on for several agonizing minutes. Naturally, there was some concern about how children would react to this. “A lot of research went into the mother dying sequence,” Pomeroy said. “Psychologists were approached and shown the film. They gave their professional opinions of how the sequence could be depicted.” Thus, Rooter was born.

One scene after Littlefoot’s mom passes, the wise reptile consoles him, saying “You’ll always miss her, but she’ll always be with you as long as you remember the things she taught you.” Sharp-eared fans might recognize Rooter’s voice as that of Pat Hingle, who also narrates the movie.

7. JAMES HORNER DID THE SOUNDTRACK.

The late, Oscar-winning composer behind Braveheart (1995), Titanic (1997), and Avatar (2009) put together a soaring score. Along with lyricist Will Jennings, he also penned the original song “If We Hold On Together,” which Diana Ross sings as the end credits roll.

8. THE ACTRESS BEHIND DUCKY PASSED AWAY BEFORE THE MOVIE’S RELEASE.

Judith Barsi’s career was off to a great start. By age 10, this daughter of Hungarian immigrants had already appeared in 70 commercials and voiced the leading lady in Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). For The Land Before Time, Barsi voiced the ever-optimistic Ducky, which was reportedly her favorite role. Then tragedy struck: In July of 1988, Barsi’s father József murdered both her and her mother before taking his own life.

9. IT HAD A RECORD-SETTING OPENING WEEKEND.

From the get-go, The Land Before Time had some stiff competition. Universal released it on November 18, 1988—the same day that Disney’s Oliver & Company hit theaters. Yet, for a solid month, Bluth gave Oliver a box office beating. The Land Before Time enjoyed the highest-grossing opening weekend that any animated film had ever seen, pulling in $7.5 million to Oliver & Company’s $4 million. Since then, of course, The Land Before Time has long been dethroned; today, Incredibles 2 (2018) holds this coveted distinction with a $182.7 million first-weekend showing.

10. THERE ONCE WAS TALK OF A LAND BEFORE TIME STAGE MUSICAL.

“The time has come for dinosaurs on Broadway,” the late theatrical producer Irving Welzer told The New York Times in 1997. Emboldened by the recent cinematic success of Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1996), Welzer expressed an interest helping Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, and the rest of the gang make their Big Apple debut. Soon, however, the idea faded.

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