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Dancing Baby cha-chas from the Internet to the networks

Dancing baby
The Dancing Baby  
January 19, 1998
Web posted at: 1:41 p.m. EDT (1341 GMT)

From San Francisco Bureau Chief Greg Lefevre

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Internet-savvy animation fans have known about The Dancing Baby for years; he populates hundreds of Web sites and has been the subject of untold numbers of e-mail missives. Now the tiny tyke, strumming his air guitar and dancing the bugaloo, has made it to the mass market via "Ally McBeal," the Fox sitcom that won a Golden Globe award Sunday night.

vxtreme Dancing babies
CNN's Greg Lefevre explains the phenomenon

Who is this toddler, who boogies to your favorite tunes wearing nothing but his diaper? He is a figment of Michael Girard's imagination. "The dancing baby," he said, "actually goes back to an initial cha-cha motion that I created as a demo file years ago." The baby was one of several sample animation files he created to show off his animation software product, Kinetix Character Studio.

The foot-loose infant's star rose soon after. Copies of the diapered dancer now animate computer screens across the Internet. CBS's "Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel" profiled the baby on its show last week. And Hollywood recently seized on the baby as a plot device on "Ally McBeal."

"Ally McBeal's" co-executive producer, Jeffrey Kramer, said the show had been looking for ideas to explore Ally's biological clock. "We use fantasy elements in the show, and what better biological clock than to see this little baby who comes in as an apparition and haunts her," he said.

Scene from "Ally McBeal"
The Dancing Baby has appeared on the Fox program "Ally McBeal"  

Animation, of course, is not new. The breakthrough in his product is that Character Studio builds animations on a standard home computer, making it possible for amateur animators to play with sophisticated motions.

Janelle Brown, culture writer for Wired News, calls the dancing baby a "meme," which Wired defines as "a contagious idea" -- like the kids of the "South Park" comedy series, and "Max Headroom" before them.

"These kinds of funny animations and jokes and little projects have always proliferated on the Web, and they've always been very much a 'Web thing,'" Brown said.

But the baby isn't just a Web thing anymore. The child has been let out of cyberspace, and into the mainstream.


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