The Hampster Dance is one of the earliest Internet memes. Its original incarnation was as a web page in 1998. Created by Canadian art student Deidre LaCarte as a GeoCities page, the dance features rows of animated GIFs of hamsters and other rodents dancing in various ways to a sped-up sample from the song "Whistle Stop" by Roger Miller. In 2005, CNET named the Hampster Dance the number-one Web fad.
Canadian art student Deidre LaCarte (of Nanaimo, British Columbia) was in a competition with her best friend and sister to generate the most Web traffic when she created the Hampster Dance page in August 1998. She named the site Hampton's Hamster House in homage to her pet hamster, "Hampton Hamster", who on the page declared his intent to become a "Web star."
The Hampster Dance site originally consisted of a single page with just four hamster (and other rodent) animated GIFs, repeated in rows by the dozens, and with an infectious background tune that looped endlessly. At the time the page was created, embedding background music in HTML pages was a fairly novel browser feature. The clip, a 9-second looped WAV file, was a sped-up sample of Roger Miller's "Whistle Stop", a song written for the opening credits of the 1973 Disney animated feature film Robin Hood.
From its creation in August 1998 to March 1999, the Hampster Dance site only recorded about 800 total visits (roughly four per day). In February 1999, word of the website spread by e-mail and early blogs. By March, the site gathered approximately 60,000 views in four days. Soon the site was even featured on bumper stickers and in a television commercial for Internet service provider EarthLink. A common office prank at that time was to set a co-worker's browser homepage to the Hampster Dance Web site, which led to televised news reports that furthered its notoriety to an international level. The site later expanded, revealing the names of all four characters (Hampton, Dixie, Hado, and Fuzzy) and offering themed versions for birthdays, graduation, holidays, etc. Fans of the site created variations on the original theme, using politicians such as Dan Quayle and Cynthia McKinney, as well as household objects such as Pez dispensers.
The popularity of the website led to the creation of a full song called "The Hampsterdance Song", which was produced by the Boomtang Boys and released in July 2000. Disney did not allow the use of the actual "Whistle Stop" clip, so the Boomtang Boys created a sound-alike re-recording. The liner notes for the single include the statement "Includes elements of 'Whistle Stop' by Roger Miller". A cartoon video was produced for the single which introduced a cartoon "band" of four hamsters, though the song was solely credited to "Hampton the Hampster"; the band was later dubbed "Hampton and the Hampsters". The song reached number-one on the Canadian Singles Chart while peaking at number 32 on the RPM charts. In Australia, "The Hampster Dance Song" was released in 2001, and reached number 5 on the ARIA singles chart. The song proved to be very successful on Radio Disney, where it became the station's all-time most played song, and was later included on the compilation album Radio Disney Ultimate Jams. Prior to the release of "The Hampsterdance Song", a similar song featuring an unofficial sound-alike rendition of "Whistle Stop" was released as "Cognoscenti vs. Intelligentsia" and performed by the Cuban Boys. This version peaked at number 4 on the Christmas 1999 UK singles chart.
Following the relative success of "The Hampsterdance Song" single, entire albums featuring the fictional band were released, including Hampsterdance: The Album (2000), Happy Times Ten (2002), The Hampster Dance Party (2002), Hampsterdance Hits (2004), and A Very Hampsterdance Christmas (2008). Some follow-up singles were moderately successful in Australia, such as "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" (a cover of the John Denver song, reaching number 12) and "Hampster Party" (reaching number 44). A flash animated series was planned by Nelvana, but never made it past the planning process.
Continued popularity led LaCarte to get a professional redesign of the site and add an online store offering T-shirts and CDs of the fictional group's music. For some time the hamsterdance.com and hampsterdance.com domains were owned by humor business Nutty Sites, and LaCarte thus used the domains hamsterdance2.com and hampsterdance2.com. LaCarte originally owned the hampsterdance.com domain, but in early 2000 it was transferred to Nutty Sites for undisclosed reasons. In late 2001, she acquired both domains. Unfortunately, the original website hampsterdance.com no longer exists. However, similar copy-cat versions inspired by the original site still exists for viewers.  
The Hampsterdance Song
|"The Hampsterdance Song"|
|Single by Hampton the Hampster|
|from the album Hampsterdance: The Album|
|Released||July 3, 2000|
|Producer(s)||The Boomtang Boys|
|Hampton the Hampster singles chronology|
"The Hampsterdance Song" is a song by Hampton the Hampster. It was released in July 2000 as a single. It was produced by the Boomtang Boys. Although the audio on the original site was a sped-up clip from the Roger Miller song "Whistle Stop" featured in Disney's 1973 film Robin Hood, Disney did not allow the sample to be used in the single, so an original recording, sung by Rob DeBoer, was created and used instead. The rap portion of the song was performed by Tony Grace.
|Canada (Nielsen SoundScan)||1|
|Canada Top Singles (RPM)||32|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||60|
|US Billboard Hot Country Songs||70|
|US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi Singles Sales||4|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
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