Taco Bell chihuahua
February 7, 1994
|Died||July 21, 2009
Santa Clarita, California
|Notable role||Taco Bell Chihuahua|
|Cause of death||Animal euthanasia|
Gidget (February 7, 1994 – July 21, 2009), nicknamed the "Taco Bell Chihuahua", was a popular advertising figure and mascot for the Taco Bell restaurant chain from 1997 to 2003. It was voiced by Carlos Alazraqui, and developed by TBWA. The Chihuahua is a breed commonly associated with Mexico, as are tacos.
At least two dogs were used as models in the commercials. The original dog cast for the lead role was named Dinky, but was replaced at the last minute by the director with the Chihuahua that was originally cast as the "girlfriend" named Gidget. Taco was another Chihuahua and was a stand-in for Gidget.
In September 1997, Taco Bell used the dog in one advertisement in the Northeastern United States. The advertising campaign began during a peak in the "Burger Wars," in which several fast food chains were engaged in large advertising campaigns against each other. The dog (sometimes depicted as a Mexican revolutionary wearing a beret or as a bandido wearing a sombrero) was made to speak through special effects. Her advertising catchphrase was "¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!" ("I want Taco Bell!"). Her voiceover was provided by Carlos Alazraqui while Perry Herman played the national announcer.
The figure grew popular, so much so that toy figures of the dog were produced, and "Yo quiero (X)" became a recognized piece of popular culture. The dog also started two additional catchphrases: "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 tried to trap the 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 need a bigger box" (a reference to Jaws), and another Godzilla crossover involving him making an order through a drive-thru speaker on Godzilla's tail, making an order too large for the workers.
In July 2000, Taco Bell ended the chihuahua advertisements, ended its relationship with their creator TBWA, and replaced the company's president, after same-store sales fell by 6% in the second quarter of 2000, the largest such decline in Taco Bell history. It was incorrectly rumored that Taco Bell ended the commercials because the dog died. Some Latin Americans accused the dog of being a cultural stereotype, and Tom Kenny, who is a friend of Carlos Alazraqui (who was the voice of the Taco Bell chihuahua), said that Hispanic advocacy groups lobbying for the end of the campaign led to the cancellation of the Taco Bell dog. Other reports say the use of the dog was discontinued because it failed to increase Taco Bell's revenue stream in spite of the dog's popularity.
In 2003, Taco Bell lost a lawsuit by two Michigan men, who had pitched the concept of the Chihuahua to Taco Bell six years earlier at a Licensing Show in NYC. Taco Bell worked with Thomas Rinks and Joseph Shields for over a year developing the Chihuahua campaign and commercials, but Taco Bell failed to pay the men according to court documents. 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.
Further career and death
Gidget was euthanized on July 21, 2009 at age 15 after suffering a stroke in the home of her trainer Sue Chipperton. She was cremated and her ashes were retained by her trainer. Taco Bell Corp. said in a statement that Gidget would be missed by many fans and said. "Our deepest sympathies go out to her owners and fans."
- "Advertising Mascots - Animals". TV Acres. Retrieved July 15, 2011.
- "Taco Bell replaces top executive and Chihuahua, too". CNN. 2000-07-19. Archived from the original on June 21, 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-04.
- Hernandez, Greg; Johnson, Greg (2000-07-19). "Taco Bell Replaces Chief, Chihuahua as Sales Fall". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
- "For Whom the Taco Bell Tolls". Snopes. 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
- Stevenson, Mark. Mexico slams Burger King for 'whopper' of insult. Associated Press. 13 April 2009.
- Lawson, Tim and Alisa Persons. The Magic Behind the Voices: A Who's Who of Cartoon Voice Actors. "192."
- "Michigan Creators Awarded $30.1 Million in Lawsuit over Ownership of Taco Bell's Chihuahua.". thefreelibrary.com. 2003-06-04. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
- Williams, Carol J. (2009-01-24). "Taco Bell loses $42 million Chihuahua ruling". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
- Taco Bell Loses Chihuahua Case--Again Amlaw Daily - January 26, 2009
- "Interview With Settlement Winner Tom Rinks". American Morning. CNN. 2003-06-05. Retrieved 2006-10-04.
- "Douglas A. Dozeman - Grand Rapids". Lawyer of the Year 2003. Michigan Lawyers Weekly. Archived from the original on July 1, 2004. Retrieved 2006-10-04.
- Walker, Rob (Aug 26, 2002). "The Recycled Mascot. Why is the Taco Bell Chihuahua selling car insurance?". Slate. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
- IGN, "Gidget Profile", http://stars.ign.com/objects/022/022326.html, May 29, 2012
- "Taco Bell Chihuahua Dies". CBS News. July 22, 2009. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
- Jablon, Robert. "Taco Bell ad star Gidget the Chihuahua dies at 15". ABC News. Retrieved 18 November 2015.