Animal reality stars take a bite out of stereotypes
Some reality TV stars have avid fans, no paychecks and lead modest lives. Their one demand: Plenty of naptime. You may think the puppies, kittens and pot-bellied pigs of “Too Cute!” are only popular among children and old folks. But don’t be surprised if you discover, as I did, that your spouse not only is a fan of the Animal Planet show, but has enlisted friends who are addicted, too.
“That is the genius of Animal Planet,” said David Stefanou, senior vice president of programming for True Entertainment production company.
Mr. Stefanou said the show is expanding its offerings this season to include holiday programs, “pint-sized” animals, live “kitty” and “puppy” cams, and more. “It’s their gift to the world,” he said.
Who has time for this? The next time you’re on an airplane, note how many passengers have their personal TV screens tuned to the show. I bet you’ll see, as I have, that most are taking two-minute breaks to watch “Too Cute!” No wonder the show ranks in the Top 10 series on Animal Planet.
“Every ‘Too Cute!’ episode is loaded with ‘aww’ moments, but my favorite this season features the bulldog puppy Dexter — he’s a squeezable, chunky little guy with sad eyes, and he tries so hard to jump over a rail that’s only a few inches off the ground,” said executive producer Lisa Lucas. “Gets me every time.”
Not that it’s easy to get those “aww” moments. Crews travel all over the country to film the stars about 4 hours a day for eight to 10 weeks. Then they take about 70 hours of footage and mold it into 34 one- to two-minute clips.
Like some reality stars, those chosen for “Too Cute” can be ornery. They bite or scratch or kick. Some even urinate on the crews.
And now the crews need to figure out how to interact with species beyond the canine and feline variety.
“Puppies and kittens are very popular on Animal Planet, but on ‘Too Cute!: Pint Sized’ you’ll meet Prickle the hedgehog, who enjoys a swim in her baby pool alongside her puppy pals,” said Ms. Lucas. “The health and safety of the animals is always our first priority and because we’re often working with tiny animals we are always very conscious and careful. We are very conscious of how and where we move and use lights that don’t emit much heat. We also take plenty of talent nap breaks!”
Ms. Lucas and Mr. Stefanou shared humorous stories about the shows’ stars that never made it to the tiny screen. They’ve used some of the footage for holiday specials.
“‘Merry Cuteness’ is Animal Planet’s holiday gift to ‘Too Cute!’ fans,” said Ms. Lucas. “We’ve gathered tons of the very best ‘Too Cute!’ scenes featuring puppies, kittens, a ferret, a hedgehog, even a baby goat, and wrapped them up in a holiday hour — just baby animals playing and being adorable against a backdrop of holly and holiday music.
“I watched the first rough cut and I seriously could not stop grinning — it’s THAT cute,” she said.
As the saying goes, “Stay Tuned” for broadcast details. Want some holiday fun a bit sooner? Animal Planet will premiere “America’s Cutest Pets” at 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18. The one-hour show from Disney World will be a “Howl-O-Ween PETacular,” Animal Planet promises.