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Baby Bloomer

April 02, 1998|GREG JOHNSON

The gyrating, diaper-clad baby that boogies in Blockbuster Video's recent Oscar-night commercial is a child of the Internet.

The computer graphic was dubbed Baby Cha-Cha when it was created in 1997 to serve as a product pitchman for Character Studio, a 3-D animation system made by Kinetix, a Bay Area division of Autodesk Inc.

In the original animation, San Rafael, Calif.-based designer Ron Lussier crafted a baby that danced what appeared to be a cha-cha. The baby was shipped to animators to prove that "it's easy to produce 3-D characters who have real personality and charisma," said Kinetix General Manager Jim Guerard.

The baby eventually danced its way onto the Internet, where graphics enthusiasts dreamed up more than a dozen new babies--including "car crash baby," "psycho baby" and "oogachaka baby," which takes its name from the 1960s hit by the rock group Blue Swede.

Television producer David E. Kelley saw the baby on the Internet and incorporated it into the popular "Ally McBeal" television show on Jan. 5. Blockbuster then licensed rights to the baby for a series of commercials, the most recent being a spot in which Baby Cha-Cha dances on top of an Oscar-like pedestal to the music of Rick James' "Give It to Me Baby."

The Oscar commercial was created on Character Studio, moving from storyboard to finished product in 10 days. The ads were conceived by Young & Rubicam in New York.

A new version of Character Studio incorporates video of real-life movement, such as an athlete leaping hurdles, which can then be harnessed to produce fluid 3-D version of the baby doing the same movement.

The dancing baby has grown so popular that Kinetix contracted with a licensing firm to handle inquiries from companies that want to use its image on everything from T-shirts to lunch boxes.

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