(Silver Spring, Md.)—Lights, camera…bark! Discovery Family Channel (DFC) today announced FROM WAGS TO RICHES WITH BILL BERLONI, an all-new original series produced by Earth Touch, bringing viewers into the world of award-winning eminent theatrical animal trainer Bill Berloni. Known as a tireless advocate for animals and for casting and cultivating the original Sandy—the dog featured in Broadway’s beloved Annie—Berloni possesses the unique ability to transform shelter dogs into stars. FROM WAGS TO RICHES WITH BILL BERLONI will debut in August 2015 on DFC, as part of the network’s month-long dog-themed programming event entitled “Pawgust”.
“Bill Berloni is truly a unique breed: a brilliant trainer with a big heart, many of the dogs he puts on stage are dogs that he has personally rescued,” said Tom Cosgrove, general manager of Discovery Family Channel. “This new series will charm the entire family with adorably gifted animals, larger-than-life characters and the amusing chaos that comes with owning a veritable backyard zoo.”
“FROM WAGS TO RICHES WITH BILL BERLONI is the first result of our move into factual entertainment and a wonderful natural fit with the Earth Touch brand,” added Phil Fairclough, Managing Director at Earth Touch. “We’re confident Bill’s amazing world will be a hit with viewers of all ages, and we’re delighted to be making this with Discovery Family Channel.”
Through a combination of patience, persistence, trial-and-error and a pinch of Dr. Doolittle, Berloni has honed his revolutionary humane training techniques for actor and animal alike to ensure a successful performance for Broadway, movies and television. FROM WAGS TO RICHES WITH BILL BERLONI will follow Berloni in his work as an animal trainer, while also spotlighting his dedication to rescue work. As Director of Animal Training and Behavior to the Humane Society of New York, Berloni specializes in matching the right humans to the right animals. Berloni’s personal passion for animal activism has also opened up the door to a pool of untapped talent— allowing him to rescue countless homeless dogs, and to give them a second life as stars on stage.
When their careers are over, the animals ‘retire’ to the Berloni Family Farm, home to dozens of animals, from dogs and cats, to pigs and llamas. Each hour-long episode of FROM WAGS TO RICHES WITH BILL BERLONI will also feature an inside look into Berloni’s happy and hectic home life in Connecticut with his wife Dorothy, daughter Jenna, their menagerie of 26—and counting!—dogs, birds, and a handful of other farm animals. Audiences will join the Berlonis through their days filled with training, touring and saving animals.
In television’s first-ever Pawgust, Discovery Family Channel will celebrate the Dog Days of Summer with a month of totally pawesome animal-themed specials and movies for the entire family—four-legged friends included—to enjoy!
FROM WAGS TO RICHES WITH BILL BERLONI is produced for Discovery Family Channel by Earthtouch USA. For Earthtouch USA, Phil Fairclough and Sue Norton are executive producers. For Discovery Family Channel, Sarah Davies is vice president of production and development, Ron Simon is executive producer, Tom Cosgrove is general manager, and Henry Schleiff is Group President.
About Bill Berloni
Bill Berloni was a 20-year-old apprentice at the Goodspeed Opera House when a producer offered him his big break: a chance to act professionally and gain his Equity Card. In return, all Bill had to do was find and train a dog to play Sandy in the original production of Annie.
What Bill didn’t know was that this was a bigger challenge than it seemed. Animal performances in movies or television can be stitched together using different takes, different camera angles, and even different animals. To perform in a featured role, an animal actor would have to be trained to ignore the distraction of the audience and respond to the same cues the same way night-after-night, just like his human counterparts. It had never been done before.
Bill found his dog at a local animal shelter – beginning his career-long commitment to using rescued animals. Through a combination of patience, persistence and trial-and-error, he developed his revolutionary humane training techniques – learning how to teach actor and animal alike to create a successful performance. Annie became a huge hit and Sandy became “the longest running dog on Broadway,” never missing a performance in more than seven years.
Since then, Bill and his handlers have provided domesticated animals of all species and sizes, found in shelters, humane societies or rescue leagues, for Broadway, off-Broadway, national tours, regional theatres, special events, the New York City Ballet, motion pictures, television and commercials. When their careers are over, the animals return to Bill’s Connecticut farm.
Bill is widely recognized as an expert in animal behavior and for his dedication to rescue work. In addition to his work as a trainer, Bill is currently Director of Animal Training and Behavior to the Humane Society of New York. He has a BFA in theatre, and is a published author and actor.
About Discovery Family
Since its debut in October 2014, Discovery Family has marked four consecutive months of month-to-month grown in Prime among household delivery[i], and has grown its viewership by double digits in daytime, attracting children and their parents to Hasbro Studio’s popular animation programming, including MY LITTLE PONY, LITTLEST PET SHOP and TRANSFORMERS RESCUE BOTS.
Available in nearly 70 million U.S. homes, Discovery Family is a joint venture of Discovery Communications and Hasbro. The smart entertainment choice for families, Discovery Family offers award-winning children’s animation programming in Daytime with the highest-quality, real-world content that appeals to the entire family in the Natural History, Adventure, Animals and Science genres at night.
About Earth Touch
Earth Touch is composed of three affiliated companies: production companies in Durban and Washington DC, and a sales and distribution office in London. Earth Touch is a specialist in factual production and distribution, in particular natural history documentary and factual entertainment series and films. It has an extensive archive of over 4000 hours of high-quality HD material, as well as a total of 140 hours of blue chip original programming. Learn more at www.earthtouchnews.com
[i] Source: Nielsen Live+3, NHI Calendar (9/27/10-3/15/15), Time Period Based Dayparts.