Born in 1986, this '80s baby and '90s kid remembers the colorful and naughty side of millennial youth.
Dr. Mahamayavi Bhagavan Antle (Or Kevin for Short)
Doc Antle has earned an infamous household name for those with active Netflix subscriptions.
The reluctant star of the Tiger King series of documentaries rose to pop culture status during the COVID-19 pandemic when millions upon millions of curious tiger lovers tuned into the TV-MA television event to learn about all of the many faces behind America's most fascinating and legally ambiguous private tiger zoos.
Throughout the 1990s, Doc Antle was an elusive celebrity, occasionally appearing on The Jay Leno Show with his specially trained animals, on news stations in special stories about tiger safety, and just before Tiger King first aired, on social media accounts of the stars, such as accounts belonging to WWE superstars Undertaker and Michelle McCool, who posed with Doc Antle's tigers as part of a charity project to raise funds to help save the endangered species.
Some of those early news stories featuring Doc Antle also featured his second wife Radha Hirsch, whom Doc had known since she was 11.
While most people didn't know it at the time, a few of his on-screen wives were just between 14 and 16 years old when they appeared with him, and a third micro season of Tiger King placed a special focus on these inappropriate and public relationships on Netflix.
Between shocking stories of Doc Antle's underage wives and alarming tales of tiger cub mistreatment was a tiny glimpse of Antle's extensive filmography.
A quick search on IMDB will pull up quite a few films Doc Antle has either acted in or provided off-screen animal training for, and you may be surprised to find that many of these films are modern children's classics for those who grew up in the 90s and early 2000s.
Mighty Joe Young - The 1998 Reboot
A little girl named Jill raises a baby mountain gorilla after both she and her new furry son lose their birth mothers to murderous poachers in the now classic Disney reboot of the 1949 film of the same name. Millennial tweens and kids of the late 1990s spent Christmas Day 1998 in heated theaters gasping and cheering on the friendly gorilla, hoping for a peaceful ending while watching Joe escape from one potential tragedy after another in a bid to find freedom.
The film used a mixture of early CGI, futuristic animatronic robots, classic actors in suits, including future Austin Powers 2 star Verne Troyer as baby Joe, and reference footage of real animals, with Doc Antle on set as an animal trainer.
Wild America - 1997
After voicing young Simba in Disney's The Lion King, Jonathan Taylor Thomas found himself the star of a Warner Brothers feature about three teenage brothers on a crazy journey through the Western states of America as they videotape pranks, film wildlife, and meet many strange faces along the way.
Considering that Doc Antle himself also tried filming his own wildlife film in the 80s, it seems only fitting that he took interest in the project, aiding the cast as an animal trainer and as an animal coordinator.
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Doctor Doolittle - The 1998 Reboot
Eddie Murphy plays title character Dr. John Dolittle, a doctor and surgeon who has been able to talk to animals since he was a child, who now finds himself trying to hide and dampen his natural gift to appease small-minded people around him, including his own family.
Aside from—you guessed it—training the animals, Doc Antle also allowed his tigers to appear on screen with the movie doctor.
So Many Jungle Books!
Perhaps the largest scale film project Doc Antle found himself involved in seems to be the most fitting. And that is the meta series Disney created around Joseph Rudyard Kipling's famous novel, The Jungle Book, which was loosely based on a few real-life feral children.
Disney's films, starting with the 1967 animated feature, (of which Doc Antle is not a part of) follows the adventures of Mowgli, an abandoned, lost, sometimes fully or partially orphaned, feral boy from India, raised from infancy by wolves, who finds himself on a wild adventure in India, typically trying to evade the dangerous Shere Khan, the self-proclaimed lord of the tigers who is racist against humans.
Doc Antle served as the tiger trainer for the 1994 film Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, which was one of the first films Disney touted as a direct sequel and remake of the 1967 cartoon all in one. This film was the first from Disney to feature an adult Mowgli, played by Chinese-Hawaiian actor Jason Scott Lee.
Doc Antle reprised his services on Disney's 1998 prequel and remake The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story, which followed European and Filipino actor Brandon Baker as Mowgli.
While you won't see a cartoon Doc Antle on Disney+ anytime soon, he did play a very big part in the 2003 animated feature The Jungle Book 2, which was a direct sequel to the 1967 film.
For each animated feature involving animals, The Walt Disney Company usually brings in live animals to the animation studio to have their animators study the anatomy of various animals up-close and in-person.
For this feature, the studio brought in Doc Antle and a variety of his animals, so the animation team could study their natural movements and create more realistic animation sequences.
Aside from these Disney films, Doc Antle was also the main tiger trainer for TriStar's 1997 film The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo, which starred Caucasian and Native American actor Jamie Williams as Mowgli. The film piggybacked off of the Disney run of films, being sold to theaters as yet another remake of the 1967 cartoon, which was not the case.
While Tiger King is rated TV-MA and therefore not suitable for anyone under the age of 18—including potential wives for the accidental Netflix star—these G and PG-rated films have been considered family viewing ever since Millennials first saw them as children and tweens in the 90s.
Considering the news stories that have popped up about Doc Antle since Tiger King first aired, it goes without saying that, when it comes to these films, parents are strongly cautioned.
© 2021 Koriander Bullard