Taco Bell chihuahua
February 7, 1994
|Died||July 21, 2009
Santa Clarita, California
|Years active||1997–2000; 2002; 2003|
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 2000. It was voiced by Carlos Alazraqui, and developed by TBWA. The Chihuahua is a breed commonly associated with Mexico, as are the tacos the restaurant serves.
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. His 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 TB 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. Coincidentally, this was a day after Carlos Alazraqui's 47th birthday and he also mourned Gidget's death. 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."
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