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Recasting the $1 billion chimp

Sep 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

In promos for the upcoming Pepsi promotional stunt “Play for a Billion” on The WB, a chimpanzee known as Mr. Moneybags is presented as the one who will arrange dice randomly to arrive at the winning number. It turns out there are two Mr. Moneybags and one is female. The first chimp cast was the ladylike Bella. “The chimp world is more insular than you might think,” said Matti Leshem, CEO of Diplomatic Productions and co-executive producer of “Billion” with Diplomatic founder Michael Davies (producer of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”). Bella appears in the promo art with hosts Drew Carey, Jamie Kennedy and Holly Robinson Peete. But her big break crumbled when Kendall appeared. Boom! Bella was out of everything but the promos. “It was love at first sight. I saw it in Kendall’s eyes,” Mr. Leshem said. “Bella was a very good chimp. I am not casting aspersions.” Turns out Bella isn’t completely out of work. While Kendall was “strenuously” rehearsing, The WB affiliate relations Exec VP Ken Werner turned to Bella for a videoconference call with affiliates. Bella performed her little heart out. She sat in Mr. Werner’s lap, opened his water bottle and mugged her way through a handful of questions. She then walked around munching on money (appropriately enough) and eating popcorn from the hand of The WB Entertainment President Jordan Levin, before returning to Mr. Werner’s lap. “I clearly was her favorite,” he said. “At the end, we had a little goodbye.” Now shouldn’t someone write in a chimp role in The WB’s new-and chimpless-“Tarzan”?