It’s finally arrived – I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! is back for its 19th (yes, really, it’s been going for that long) outing in the jungle.
Our motley crew of celebrities this time include a footballing legend, a breakfast DJ and reality TV royalty, all looking to swap the mod-cons of takeaways and toilets for hammocks, the dunny and Bushtucker Trials (where Ant and Dec wait and snigger).
But there’s more to jungle life than camping and creepy-crawlies – the I’m a Celeb operation is a well-oiled machine, with a huge team working behind-the-scenes to make the show a huge success.
Here’s all your I’m a Celeb questions answered….
The series is based in Murwillumbah in New South Wales and is filmed inside Springbrook National Park. This has served as the setting for the show since its second series in 2003 – it was previously filmed in Cairns, Queensland.
And while on screen all you see is the camp itself plus a series of suspension bridges and the studio where Ant and Dec broadcast, there is plenty more going on behind the scenes.
Ant and Dec in the I’m A Celeb jungle (ITV, SD)
The camp also features an on-site medical facility, a space for props storage and an area where family and friends of the celebrities gather on the morning of each eviction.
Each evicted contestant is then put up at the five-star Versace Hotel in Surfers Paradise for some much-needed R&R. After being subjected to jungle rations and Bushtucker Trials, they’ve certainly earned it.
Picking a stellar line-up for I’m a Celeb is no rush job – it’s something which the team start work on as soon as the most recent series draws to a close.
Speaking at a BAFTA Masterclass earlier this year, I’m a Celeb’s creative director Richard Cowles explained: “We come back, we have a meeting with who controls the network and we talk about what we liked and what we didn’t like and then [celebrity producer] Micky [Van Praag] starts casting for this year.
“It’s a machine that never stops.”
Van Praag explained she casts the show “like a comedy, not a drama” – read our extensive behind-the-scenes piece on the casting process right here.
How does the I’m a Celeb line-up prepare for the jungle?
Harry Redknapp, I’m a Celeb (ITV)
Evidently, it’s a mixed bag. While Harry Redknapp last year confessed that he’d never even watched an episode before (not that that hindered him, mind you, he still won), Fleur East made sure she knew exactly how I’m a Celeb worked…
“My YouTube history was just I’m a Celeb,” she explained at the BAFTA Masterclass. “The minute I signed on, I just went online and battered it. I didn’t know what I was going to face so I tried to prepare myself mentally.”
Meanwhile, third place campmate John Barrowman, who was signed to the 2018 series as early as April, made sure he gained weight to prepare for the harrowing jungle conditions.
“I started eating a lot more. I put a little bit of weight on, and I knew if I went in I would lose weight,” he said.
“I know everyone wants to see muscles, but the young men who were in the situation found that really difficult because they were so tired. The rest of us older ones with a little meat on our bones were fine!”
What do the celebrities eat in the jungle?
Apart from critters and kangaroo penis, the celebrities have quite a strange diet while Down Under – wallaby arms, ostrich egg and crocodile feet are just a few of the appetising dishes on the menu in the jungle.
Rice and beans is another dish regularly served up to the celebs in the jungle should they fail at a Bushtucker Trial – and the portions really are tiny.
But even if celebs do feel weak or faint, they’re very rarely given extra grub.
“There’s been a couple that have had a few dizzy spells and we’ve given them some electrolyte drinks and some glucose,” Medic Bob told the Mirror in 2017.
“If you could see how much rice and beans they get per person, per day, I think you’d be quite shocked. The little bit of rice is quite tiny and the little bit of beans is quite tiny.”
So much for Harry Redknapp’s dream of a bacon sandwich from the van round the back…
What if contestants are vegetarian, or vegan?
Fleur East, X Factor (Getty)
Eyebrows were raised in the 2018 series when vegetarian James McVey, and vegan Fleur East, were accused of eating meat on the show.
East reportedly shelved being a veganism to fully embrace jungle life.
“She said she would eat everything – this was her choice,” an insider from the show told the i.
In 2017’s series, vegan Shappi Khorsandi was hoping to eat meat in the jungle – before having an adverse reaction to a meal.
“”I had meat, and I was really, really physically sick, five times in one hour,” she said. “It was horrible.”
She then was given specialist vegan food packages for her remainder of her time in camp.
Elsewhere, other celebrities have had meat dishes substituted with tofu.
What happens if deadly critters infiltrate camp?
Yes, there’s always questions every year about how genuine the experience is in the I’m a Celeb camp – but the celebrities really are in the element, with snakes and rats often paying visit to our cast.
While our celebs are told not to touch anything or to call for the security team if they spot any vicious creatures, it doesn’t always go to plan.
“We were told if we ever saw anything to just shout ‘ranger’ and stay where you are. It’s like telling kids to not touch candy,” Barrowman joked.
“We were like, ‘Wow look at that python eating a rat!’
“There’s a speaker where if there’s an emergency they can speak to you and it boomed, ‘Step away from the snake.’
“Did we listen? No. But a man comes out dressed in camo and puts it in a bag.”
What happens if someone gets hurt?
Barrowman knows first-hand the process of the medical team after he fell and injured his leg during his time in the jungle.
“Micky [Van Praag] was right there,” he explained. “Soon as I was taken out, I knew I wasn’t in danger, no matter what chaos was going on around me, there was someone there with staff as they got me in the ambulance.
“They were with me in the truck, and they took me to get x-rayed in the hospital visit where Micky stayed with me.”
Despite having left camp conditions for one night, Barrowman insisted on replicating the experience of his campmates.
“They put me in a hotel room but they stripped it of all its stuff,” he said. “I said I wasn’t going to take a shower, I wanted to go back in as I was.”
Van Praag is also keen to make sure the families of our celebs are up to date on whether they’re coping in camp.
“I don’t like anything to be a surprise for the friends or family or watch anything that might upset them, or seeing their loved ones not in a good way,” she explained.
“I give them a ring to say, ‘Look, we did a trial, it’s really scary, it’s completely fine, they did really well.’ I just like to give little heads up – I spend every single day talking to friends and family.
“Even if they’re not heavily featured in tonight’s show, we just have a chat to let them know what they’re all up to. It’s harder for the friends and family sometimes.”
How do producers pick what we see every night?
After 19 years, producers know what works televisually for die-hard fans, using basic building blocks of challenges and the Bush Telegraph to craft a narrative.
“It’s a honed process,” explained Richard Cowles. “We get the pay-off from trials and challenges, but it’s a democratic way of watching television.
“You have a lot of producers and a lot of loggers who watch through everything and decide what’s going to go through to the end. And there’s a constant funnelling why some of your stories wont get to the end because a producer earlier on that one storyline is better than another. But we’re aware of what’s happening and what relationships we want to follow.
“The Bush Telegraph is vital for us to tell a story.”
What does the winner of I’m a Celeb get?
While our celebrities receive a fee for taking part in the jungle (this is decided beforehand and doesn’t change whether they win the show or not), all our campmates win should they be voted number one is the honour of King or Queen of the Jungle.
That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no real benefit of taking part.
“Of course it gives you a career boost,” Barrowman said. “Hallelujah!”
I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! launches Sunday 17th November at 9pm on ITV