The lovable mutt from the 1974 family film classic Benji will be honored with a statue to celebrate the movie’s 50th anniversary.
According to the official announcement, the city of McKinney is funding the statue with support from Daisy Riddle family in memory of their beloved dog.
Susan Norris was hired to sculpt the piece. Pictured is a sketch of the upcoming work.
Filmed mostly in downtown McKinney, Benji followed the adventures of an adorable dog, a spooky house and kidnapped children. (Some scenes were filmed in Dallas and in Denton.)
Before the movie was released, director Joe Camp declared it was the first “live-action dramatic picture [shot] totally from an animal’s point of view.” The movie was shot four to 18 inches above the ground, and the filmmakers had to create custom tripods and dollies to capture that perspective. Audiences loved it. The $500,000-dollar G-rated production was a smash hit and went on to earn $45 million. The movie’s theme ‘I Feel Love’ was nominated for an Academy Award.
Benji went on to spawn 1977’s For the Love of Benji, 1987’s Benji the Hunted and 2004’s Benji: Off the Leash! as well as a 2018 Netflix reboot.
Higgins, the dog who played Benji in the original film, got his start as a TV dog during the 1960s. For the second and third movies, the role was passed on to Benjean, Higgins’ daughter. As a child, I met Benjean and trainer Frank Inn at Northpark shopping mall in Dallas as part of a promotion for Benji the Hunted, which also starred Benjean. I remember the dog’s coat being soft and Frank Inn’s mustache being glorious.
The artwork for the statue will be unveiled in February 2023, and a special screening will follow the ceremony. The sidewalk statue will be on the corner of Tennessee and Virginia streets.