Animal Planet remembers Irwin with all-day tribute
By Lynn Smith
Los Angeles Times
By Lynn Smith
A stingray ended Steve Irwin's life, but Animal Planet is ensuring the Crocodile Hunter's legacy will live on in hours of tributes, memorials and specials on the cable network that became identified with his adventures.
Animal Planet, owned by Discovery Networks, will air a 15-hour package "Croc Rules! Remembering Steve Irwin" on Sunday featuring the best of Irwin's programs as well as interviews with celebrities and crew members who knew Irwin and promotions for his Wildlife Warriors conservation fund. The fund supports study and protection of endangered animal species around the world.
"It's very important that the message he was trying to get out stay out there," said Dan Russell, vice president of programming for Animal Planet.
John Stainton, Irwin's longtime friend, producer and director, is also planning a one-hour tribute that will air in a few months, Russell said.
Irwin died on Sept. 4 when he was fatally wounded by a stingray while filming an underwater segment off Australia's Great Barrier Reef for a Discovery Kids pilot that was to feature his daughter, Bindi. Production of that show has been put on hold.
The network is committed to finishing another show Irwin had been in the midst of making, "Ocean's Deadliest Predators," Russell said.
Russell said response to shows selected to air since Irwin's death has been "phenomenal," nearly double the normal ratings of his shows.
"The world has definitely lost a very special person," said Russell. "He was so pure about what his mission was" that his constantly boisterous nature was sometimes mistaken for an act, he said, but in fact, "that's how he was, 24/7."