Fish don't sleep. Elephants don't fly. Babies don't dance. Or so they say. Thanks to the latest computer animation technology, babies can indeed dance. The three-dimensional "Dancing Baby" has been bouncing around the Internet for about two years, wiggling its hips, dipping its head and playing air guitar to a variety of tunes. Incarnations of the baby have been seen doing gymnastic jumps, walking in a drunken stupor, smoking and urinating. One version even shows the baby dancing, then getting run over by a car. The baby made the leap from the Internet to television media in FOXs Ally McBeal this past January, taunting the title character at random moments. Viewers can also see the Dancing Baby in a Blockbuster advertisement. The baby has spawned t-shirts, hats and mousepads. From its immaculate conception about two years ago, "Dancing Baby" has become the newest, coolest media phenomenon of the nineties.
The Dancing Baby, first created by Unreal Pictures Inc., was released in August 1996 as a prototype to demonstrate the capabilities of the new character animation system for 3D Studio MAX. Originally, the creators made an adult skeleton dance. Next, they had an alien dance. None of these characters made an impact. But one fateful day, the designers superimposed an image of a large plastic baby doll over the dancing adult skeleton. A star was born. Shortly thereafter, company employees began sending the animation file through email, and soon it became an Internet favorite, accompanied by music ranging from B.J. Thomas' "Ooga-Choka" to Peter Gabriel's "Digging in the Dirt."
The Dancing Baby is one of the few things to successfully transition from the Internet to television. Justin B. Wood '98 observes, "It's advertising, looking for shock value. We're so numb to advertising now, they need something with shock value." Shocking indeed. The Dancing Baby attracts the attention of even the most distracted viewers with its unnatural gyrations. As Angela L. Kung '99 suggests, "People like the strange, the new." Reflecting on the broader implications of the Dancing Baby, Jimmy S. Lee '99 adds, "It's all about transcending the limits of societal constraints."
Reactions to the Dancing Baby have been mixed. Bom S. Kim '00, who first was introduced to the hip-shaking figure early last year, has set up a link to the Dancing Baby on his web site. Explains Kim, "I get tons of email about it from people from South America and Europe. Basically I get two kinds of responses: people either think it's wrong or hilarious." He himself finds it amusing, which is why he placed it on his web site, but adds, "Some of the different versions--Drunken Baby, Baby Peeing--that's wrong."
Many take issue with how unnatural the Dancing Baby is. Anatole K. Kleiner '98 points out its deficiencies. "It makes [the baby] look disproportional. Babies are usually fatter and they have bigger heads." Caroline J. Choi, a Winthrop House resident tutor and student at Harvard Medical School, suggests why some may find it disturbing, explaining, "It's kind of robbing the baby's innocence--a real baby physically cannot move like that." Since dancing often has sexual connotations, many find the Dancing Baby almost pedophilic. As Wood notes, "It's sexualizing an infant!"
At the same time, others find the baby "funny" and "bizarre." Choi comments, "I think it works on the show 'Ally McBeal.' I like the show, so its fine." Lee has his own reasons for reacting positively to the baby, claiming, "I wish I could dance like the baby, that baby has moves." "People have told me that it disturbs them. But it doesn't disturb me at all. They need to chill--its a dancing baby."
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