Have you seen this dog?
It’s a mutt – mischievous, medium-sized, scruffy and street-smart with soulful eyes. Comfortable as hero or underdog, yet likely to be a stray. Must be a fast learner, able to charm millions and willing to work for food.
Brandon Camp, whose father created Benji nearly 40 years ago, and movie trainer Mark Forbes have set out to find a new Benji in a nationwide search. A Facebook page ( facebook.com/benjithemovie) has been set up so pet owners and shelter staffs can post pictures and videos.
Camp and Forbes will scour photos of pets from shelters across the country, along with sites like petfinder.com and adoptapet.com.
The original 1974 movie Benji, about a stray who helps save two kidnapped children, was written, produced, directed, financed and distributed by Camp’s father, Joe.
It spawned four sequels, several TV specials, a Saturday morning TV series, a syndicated comic strip and all kinds of merchandizing deals. More than 73 million people saw Benji at theaters, and more than a billion watched it on television.
The original Benji was Higgins, adopted in the early 1960s from the Burbank Animal Shelter by an animal trainer. The second Benji was Higgins’ daughter, the third a distant relative and the fourth adopted from the Humane Society of South Mississippi.
Brandon Camp said the new movie will stay true to the heart of the original Benji. “Parents and grandparents will recognize the spirit of Benji,” he said. “He was always a mutt and will always be a mutt. He is the everydog.”
Camp says he will know when he looks into the right dog’s eyes. Forbes said he’ll need to spend a little time with the dog to judge its temperament. The trainer is looking for a dog that can perform a sad scene so that the viewer cries. The dog must be athletic, fearless, outgoing and happy to please with goofy traits.
There will be backup Benjis, but no stunt doubles, the men said. The actors haven’t been cast for the movie, which will be produced by Walden Media ( The Chronicles of Narnia series).