A new video from Great Big Story positions the “dancing baby” as one of the original memes, spreading somehow in a more wholesome manner than in the irony-drenched, post-everything, commercialized hellscape that is the modern internet. While you could probably quibble with the specifics of this categorization, it is certainly one of the early popular examples of the tastes of online culture, and it made its way impressively throughout pop culture, most notably as a recurring figure on Ally McBeal.
Great Big Story tracked down the creator to make him answer for his crimes. Initially, the baby was just a tech demo intended to show that different animations could be mapped onto varying character models. Eventually, it was made into a GIF by a LucasArts employee, which became the version most widely shared throughout advertisements, TV shows, and merchandising everywhere. GIFs are weirdly hypnotic, and the early animation of the dancing baby had a lifelike quality that certainly lent itself to sharing. Original animator Michael Girard pins its fame on the way the image resides in the uncanny valley, looking disgustingly close to a human form while still recognizably far from it.
The video fills Girard’s home with dancing babies before asking him the million dollar question: Does he regret creating it? “Yes,” he says, “100 percent.” So do we all, Michael. So do we all.