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After a "dogged" search through animal shelters nation-wide, Benji creator/producer Joe Camp, finds a new Benji. Now, movie industry animal training veteran, Anne Gordon, begins training the new Benji for starring role in new film, Benji Returns - The Promise of Christmas.


  • Agonizing Selection Process Eased When Camp’s son – Writer/Director Joe Camp III - Recommends Non-Hollywood Trainer Used In Son’s First Film -

Dana Point, CA – January 11, 2001 - Benji creator, Joe Camp and Mulberry Square Productions, today announced the appointment of Anne Gordon as head trainer for the new Benji. Benji’s original trainer, Frank Inn, now retired, will consult.

Camp was interviewing and considering several of Hollywood’s finest and best-known trainers when his oldest son, Joe Camp III, called and recommended Anne Gordon, a seasoned trainer who had worked the younger Camp’s first picture and had just moved from Washington state to Southern California. The father took his son’s advice and interviewed Gordon several times, grilling her on the rigors and unique problems of training for a movie wherein the dog actually acts and expresses emotion on the screen. Many critics suggested that the original Benji should receive an Oscar for his acting.

Benji’s creator liked what he found in Gordon. “She’s got sort of a renegade spirit,” Camp says. “Like us. We’ve never been a part of the Hollywood venue. We’ve always worked independently, living in Dallas and just figuring things out for ourselves. That’s the way Anne grew up in the business, figuring it out on her own. I like that. And she’s got awesome credits to prove that her way works.”

Gordon trained the animals for the new film Vanilla Sky (Paramount) starring Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz, (December, 2001); Grizzly Falls, Men of Honor starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., Robert DeNiro and Hal Holbrook; The Jack Bull an HBO film starring John Cusack; Abilene, Camp’s son’s film starring Ernest Borgnine (February, 2002); and Gordon trained and coordinated all the animals for the popular television series Northern Exposure. Other film and television projects involving Gordon include Practical Magic, Legends of the Fall, Homeward Bound, Harry & the Henderson's, and The Soprano's.

Prior to training for films and television, Ms. Gordon was head zoo keeper at the Wild Animal Training Center in Riverside, California where she trained lions, tigers, camels, zebras, chimpanzees and numerous small wild and exotic animals.

“We are thrilled,” says Camp, “that Anne has agreed to take up the torch lit by legendary trainer Frank Inn.” Inn, 85 and in well-deserved retirement, will be credited as Consultant and Trainer Emeritus on the next Benji film. Both Camp and Gordon agree that Inn’s decades of experience, which dates all the way back to the original Thin Man pictures with Myrna Loy and William Powell, will be of immense value.

Gordon said, “To have the opportunity to be Benji's trainer is a dream come true. Joe Camp could never find anyone who will work any harder to give him everything he wants for his next picture.” Benji Returns – The Promise of Christmas is scheduled for theatrical release in December, 2002.

Over 65 million people nation-wide have watched Camp search for the new Benji in animal shelters across America. The search has unfolded on network television plus over 150 network affiliate local television stations, as well as radio stations and newspapers all around the country. The story has appeared on ABC’s Primetime Thursday, Good Morning America (twice), CNN, AP wire news, Copley News Service, Entertainment Weekly Daily News, E! Entertainment and has been covered by syndicated radio shows such as Radio Disney, Westwood One, Pet Talk America and Animal Planet.

Camp’s search began in Chicago on August 12, 2001, because The American Humane Association had reported that the original Benji having been rescued from an animal shelter caused more than one million dogs to be adopted across the country. Joe Camp wanted this to happen again. “Mission accomplished,” says Camp. “Now every time someone looks into the new Benji’s face they will see the kind of loving, caring companion they too can find at their local animal shelter. And this time around,” Camp adds, “we’re going for way more than a million adoptions.”

Twenty-six additional shelter dogs of all sizes and breeds will also be named to appear in the new movie, one from each of 26 markets. These dogs will become local poster dogs in their hometowns for their shelters’ adoption efforts.

More than 71,000,000 people have watched Benji movies in theaters, over half of them adults. All Benji movies grossed within the top 10% of box office grosses for their year of release, and more than one billion people have watched Benji movies and programs on television. Two of the twenty-one titles in Benji’s Video Library have been awarded platinum, two are golden, and all have been digitized, re-mastered with fully stereo tracks, and re-released this fall. Two of Benji's primetime specials were nominated for Emmys.

For more information, please contact Julia Hutton, Public Relations for Benji at (480) 460-2126 or Angela McNeill at Mulberry Square Productions at (800) 530-7947 or visit the website at

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