GRAVENHURST - There are some things that are distinctly Canadian: maple syrup; the RCMP red surge; an undying love of hockey; that chilling haunt of a lone flute marking the start of a Hinterland Who’s Who vignette during Saturday-morning cartoons.
VOICE OF A NEW GENERATION..
Muskoka Wildlife Centre co-founder Jody Gienow is celebrating her 10th season as host of Hinterlands Who’s Who educational vignettes, which are celebrating 50 years since they began in 1963. Seen with one of her rescued animals, Blossom, the Awesome Opossum, she gets to travel the country to create the educational, 60-second video clips.
Photo by Neil Etienne
For well more than two decades, starting in the early 1960s, that trademark Hinterland theme was as common and well-known as the national anthem. The 60-second vignettes, that began in black and white in 1963, were created by the Canadian Wildlife Service to educate people about Canada’s native wildlife and are some of the country’s first public service announcements. Over the years the list of animals profiled grew, colour was added, but the opening song remained the same.
“I think I’d be like any Canadian kid growing up and hearing that flute; it gets ingrained in your memory,” said Jody Gienow, co-founder of the Muskoka Wildlife Centre on Highway 11 north and the voice of a new generation.
The creation of new vignettes stopped after the 1980s until 2003 when Hinterlands Who’s Who was reborn, thanks to a funding partnership between the Canadian Wildlife Federation and Environment Canada that remains intact to this day, and Gienow has been the English-language host ever since.
“For all of my life I’ve been teaching about wildlife but being part of Hinterlands is an honour I never could have imagined,” she said. “To be part of something I grew up watching and learning from is simply an incredible opportunity.”
Hinterland is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and Gienow, now 36 years old, her 10th season as host. There are a few events planned to help celebrate the anniversary, not the least of which is a chance to win an educational visit by Gienow and a few feathered, scaly or furry friends from the wildlife centre.
Gienow explained that when Hinterland announced its return about a decade ago, it held a series of auditions for hosts in Ottawa. The first rounds saw almost 300 people show up, and many were professional actors. Those making the choice decided rather than seek out an actor, they would have a professional in the wildlife sciences play the host. Gienow said she had done some work with Environment Canada and the federation in the past through her wildlife centre and she was asked to attend an audition.
“It was just a silly adventure, I wasn’t thinking anything about it other than it was a fun thing to try, but they called back,” she said. “I was so surprised.”
Since the first reinvention of Hinterland in 2003, Gienow’s been host for about 25 vignettes with three more that will come out in 2013, including one on peat bogs, another on wolverines and a third on bats. A vignette requires she travel to a featured animal’s habitat and so far that’s been coast-to-coast-to-coast. From the rainforests of BC to the rugged, sea-worn eastern coast to the freezing Arctic tundra and the seemingly barren deserts of southern Alberta, Gienow said hers has been a stunning experience.
“It’s so eye-opening; I’d never travelled Canada before and now I’ve seen so much of it and I never would have had that chance otherwise,” she said, adding her experience in the winter deserts of the Arctic and across the prairies were two of the most memorable. “People think these areas are pretty barren but I was astonished by the life there; it felt like I had been transported to a different world.
“For people who haven’t travelled this country, it’s almost impossible to imagine all the different regions and just how diverse this country is; it’s simply an amazing place,” she added.
With her professional background, Gienow helps write scripts, choose animals or regions to feature and also hosts a series of webisodes for Who’s Who that are different and a bit longer than those shown on TV.
For the anniversary year, Hinterland is hosting a make-your-own-video contest that is open to all ages with a visit by Gienow one of the main prizes. People can go to hww.ca for more information about the contest and anniversary events.
The wildlife centre will be opening up for the season during March break and can draw upwards of 40,000 people to the region annually. For more information about the centre, check out muskokawildlifecentre.com.