Thursday, July 23, 2009
Gidget, The Taco Bell Dog. 1994-2009
Yes, even the famous Taco Bell Dog has passed away.
The Taco Bell chihuahua was a popular advertising figure and mascot, voiced by Carlos Alazraqui, and developed by TBWA and used by Taco Bell, which is a division of Kentucky, United States-based Yum! Brands. The Chihuahua is a breed commonly associated with Mexico, as are the tacos the restaurant serves. At least two dogs were used as models: the original was named Dinky, but was replaced shortly thereafter by a dog named Gidget. Dinky and a dog named Taco would also be stand-ins for Gidget.
In September 1997, Taco Bell used the dog in one advertisement in the Northeastern United States. The positive response to the dog led to the company using it in advertisements across the United States.
The dog (sometimes depicted as a Mexican revolutionary wearing a beret or as a bandit wearing a sombrero) was made to speak through special effects. His advertising catch-phrase was "¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!" ("I want Taco Bell!"). The voiceover work for these commercials was provided by voice actor Carlos Alazraqui.
The figure grew popular, so much so that toy figures of the dog were produced, and "Yo quiero (X)" became a recognized piece of pop culture. The dog also started two other catch phrases, "Drop the chalupa!" which briefly became an oft-quoted phrase on SportsCenter, and "Viva Gorditas!," meaning "Long live Gorditas!" In a noted crossover with the 1998 Godzilla film, the dog famously attempted to trap the legendary monster in a box, goading the beast with the phrase "Here, lizard lizard lizard..." only to see Godzilla's size and respond "Uh-oh... I think I'm going to need a bigger box." (a reference to Jaws)
Some Latin Americans accused the dog of being a thinly veiled cultural stereotype. The company stopped showing the dog in advertisements in 2000. It was incorrectly rumored that Taco Bell ended the commercials because the dog died. Tom Kenny, a voice actor and friend of Alazraqui, said that Hispanic advocacy groups lobbying for the end of the campaign led to the cancellation of the Taco Bell dog. Mr. Kenny criticized the cancellation.
In 2003 Taco Bell lost a lawsuit brought forth by two Michigan men who had pitched the concept of the Chihuahua to Taco Bell six years earlier. Taco Bell had turned them down but went forward with the campaign with TBWA. The men sued and in 2003 a jury awarded them $30.1 million in compensation plus nearly $12 million in additional interest three months later. Taco Bell in turn sued TBWA saying it should have been aware of the conflicts. In 2009 a three-judge federal appeals panel ruled against Taco Bell.
Gidget died at 15 of a stroke on Tuesday, July 21, 2009.
Gidget is now eating the big Chalupa in the sky! Just don't leave a big mess, please!