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The shipped cha-cha dancing motion file assigned to the Baby model data

The "dancing baby," also called "Baby Cha-Cha," refers to a 3D model of a baby and a variety of 3D-rendered animations of that baby dancing for several seconds, which became a popular meme in the late 1990s.


History of the phenomenon

A short clip of the dancing baby became one of the earliest examples of an Internet phenomenon in 1996, when it was circulated widely through email, later picking up a soundtrack (the "Hooked On a Feeling" intro), and being distributed widely over the Internet and via more traditional media. The dancing baby originated with a model from Viewpoint Datalab's model bank (now sold exclusively by Digimation) and a collection of experimental testing data and files (skinning and motion). They were released in Autumn/1996 as product sample source files with the 3D character animation software product Character Studio that is used with 3D Studio Max (both products from Autodesk).

The original sample files were animated by Michael Girard and Robert Lurye. The models were produced by a development team at Character Studio, Unreal Pictures and Kinetix, including Susan Amkraut, John Chadwick, Paul Bloemink, John Hutchinson, and Adam Felt. The resulting raw animation[1] was cleaned up, lit, and textured by Ron Lussier, who passed it around his workplace (LucasArts), starting the email chain.[2]

Part of the original Dancing Baby data consists of animation keyframes that were manually and automatically generated in the "Biped" portion of the Character Studio toolset. Contrary to popular misconceptions, none of the original Dancing Baby animation data (keyframes) were created using any motion capture.


Subsequent to its release, animators in the commercial sector have used or modified the Dancing Baby source file using the Character Studio product to produce different versions of rendered visualizations for use in media. This helped develop the Dancing Baby animation into a meme or media and internet phenomenon. More stylized versions and parodies were created shortly thereafter, including a "drunken baby," a "rasta baby," a "samurai baby," and others, but none ever became as popular on the Internet as the original file, which still remains in active circulation. The dancing baby video and its variations have appeared in a broad array of mainstream media, including television dramas such as Ally McBeal, commercial advertisements, and music videos.

Appearances in mainstream media

  • The dancing baby character and animations quickly made the rounds on the Internet through email. It was then featured as a recurring hallucination on the television program Ally McBeal, accompanied by a Vonda Shepard cover of the song "Hooked on a Feeling." On the series, the baby was meant to signify the ticking of Ally's biological clock.
  • The dancing baby was also featured in a Blockbuster Video commercial immediately after gaining mainstream media attention. In the commercial, the baby dances to the Rick James hit, "Give It to Me Baby".
  • In line with the Ally McBeal appearance, in a Celebrity Deathmatch match between Lucy Lawless and Calista Flockhart, the dancing baby suddenly appears in the ring with his back turned to the camera. After a moment of dancing, he turns around and is shown to be Dennis Franz in nothing but a diaper; referee Mills Lane shouts at him, "I told you I didn't want you in my ring, Dennis Franz!"
  • At the height of the Ally McBeal series, a dance group called Trubble released a song called Dancing Baby (Ooga-Chaka) which charted well in Australia in late 1998/early 1999 and hit #21 on the UK charts.
  • In the television series Millennium, the episode "Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me" features a demon who manifests himself in the form of a baby, dancing to the Black Flag song "My War." Writer/director Darin Morgan based the baby on its use in Ally McBeal; as he commented, "It's a terrifying thing, that baby. She dances with it, and you go, 'There's something really wrong with this person.'"[3]
  • The Dancing Baby is a recurring feature on VH1's I Love the 90s series, and it also appeared on Best Week Ever.
  • Iowa State University basketball games frequently feature the dancing baby on the scoreboard during timeouts.
  • The Dancing Baby appeared on an episode of Unhappily Ever After, with Dennis Franz as the baby. It was parodied in the opening of The House that Dick Built, episode 15 from the 4th season of 3rd Rock from the Sun, with Harry Solomon (French Stewart) as the baby.
  • The Dancing Baby also makes an appearance in the Xbox and PS2 title, Silent Hill 4.[citation needed]
  • An easter egg exists in Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire where the hero dances in the Dead Parrot Inn. When he does so, he imitates the exact moves of the Dancing Baby[citation needed].
  • The Dancing Baby is also spoofed in Simpsons episode, The Computer Wore Menace Shoes. In which Homer creates a website, which features a dancing Jesus using the same moves as the baby.
  • The Cincinnati Ohio classic rock station WEBN featured the dancing baby dancing to the song "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC on a television commercial for the station.
  • On the Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip episode "4 A.M. Miracle," when Danny asks Cal to repair a baby doll that is computerized and reacts like a real baby, Cal asks "Want me to make it dance, too?"
  • In the EA Sports football game FIFA 99, the editor includes an animation of a player doing the Dancing Baby dance.
  • The Dancing Baby was used in an animation featured at the end of a level in the game RollerTyping.
  • In the Journeyman episode "The Year of the Rabbit," a scene from Ally McBeal with the Dancing Baby appeared anachronistically in a scene set in 1997. In actuality, the Dancing Baby's first appearance on Ally McBeal was in an episode from 1998.
  • In the computer game Zoo Tycoon, the gorillas will sometimes do the same dance as the dancing baby.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Original baby animation from Ron Lussier's burningpixel.
  2. ^ From the Dancing Baby FAQ, care of Ron Lussier
  3. ^ Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me

External links

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