Bill Burrud, the child actor who grew up to produce and host "Animal World" and other popular television travel, adventure and animal programs, has died. He was 65.
Burrud died Thursday night at his Sunset Beach home after a heart attack. Earlier Thursday he was in the Huntington Harbour offices of his Bill Burrud Productions, working on a one-hour special for Disney's cable Discovery Channel called "Sea Mammals."
"I love it; I eat it up," Burrud had said of his work in a Los Angeles Times interview in 1983. "I won't quit until I go to the great tube in the sky, as they say."
Born Jan. 12, 1925, in Hollywood, the son of an early travelogue filmmaker, Burrud was destined for a life before the camera. He made his stage debut at the age of 7 in the road show, "Music in the Air," and acted in 28 movies, ranging from "The Cowboy and the Kid" to "Captains Courageous."
Giving up acting when he entered junior high school, Burrud graduated from Hollywood High School, majored in business administration at USC, and served as an officer on the destroyer Coolbaugh during World War II.
His first post-war job was on Santa Ana radio station KVOE where he sold air time to sponsors and created a weekly fishing program, interviewing fishermen at Port Orange, now the site of the Balboa Bay Club.
Burrud edged into television by creating weekly travelogues for KTTV, filming 29 Palms or Death Valley or some other scenic place on his wind-up 16-millimeter movie camera.
In 1954, he formed his production company, going on to produce and host more than 800 half-hour episodes in 14 series about travel, adventure or wildlife.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, Burrud hosted and produced up to five live television shows a week--in series such as "True Adventure," "Vagabond," "Wanderlust" "and "Islands in the Sun." He gave Los Angeles' KCOP-TV Channel 13 a reputation as the "travel-adventure station."
He also became known as a champion of endangered animals. In 1974, Burrud produced a one-hour special called "Where Did All the Animals Go?" which he made available free to television stations around the country as a fund-raiser for Kenya's Tsavo National Park. Burrud always rated it one of the most rewarding projects of his career.
Burrud's "Animal World" ran from 1968 to 1976, and he narrated "Safari to Adventure" from 1969 to 1975. His "Animal Odyssey" still runs Sundays and his "New! Animal World" runs daily on the Discovery Channel.
Among Burrud's other series were "World of the Sea," "Assignment America," "The American West" and "The Wonderful Women of the World."
Although his company remained small by Hollywood standards, it has registered steady success for nearly four decades.
"We've always tried to emulate, in a small way, what Disney has done in a large way," Burrud once said. "What we're trying to do is give as much entertainment as possible, and entertainment with a warmth in it."
Burrud is survived by his wife, Marlene, and four sons, John, Bob, Gary and Tom.