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Big Mouth Billy Bass

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The original Big Mouth Billy Bass

Big Mouth Billy Bass is an animatronic singing prop, representing a largemouth bass, invented by Gemmy Industries on December 16, 1998; sold beginning January 1, 1999; and popular in the early 2000s.[1][2]

Gemmy Industries[edit]

Gemmy (/ˈɛmi/) is an American novelty manufacturing company,[3] best known for its animatronic and inflatable characters. It is currently headquartered in Coppell, Texas. Founded in 1984, the company originally began producing ballpoint pens.[4] Gemmy eventually ventured into novelty manufacturing, and in 2000, it achieved marketing success with the Big Mouth Billy Bass. Following that success, the company began predominantly making animatronic figures focused on the Christmas and Halloween seasons.[5] The company distributes product internationally, especially to the United Kingdom and Japan.[citation needed]

Design and features[edit]

The fish is made of latex rubber with an internal plastic mechanical skeleton. At first glance, the product appears to be a mounted game fish. The item was conceived by a Gemmy Industries product development vice president following his visit to a Bass Pro Shop.[6] The mounted fish turns its head, wiggles its tail on the trophy plaque, and sings cover songs, such as "Don't Worry, Be Happy" (1988) by Bobby McFerrin; and "Take Me to the River" (1974) by Al Green. Green claims he received more royalties from Big Mouth Billy Bass than from any other recordings of the song.[7]

The singing mechanism was originally activated by a motion sensor and was designed to startle a passerby. Eventually, a button was added to activate it. There have been many variants of Big Mouth Billy Bass produced by Gemmy. These use different types of game fish and aquatic animals. Variants include Big Mouth Billy Bones (a skeleton fish that sings "Bad to the Bone" by George Thorogood and the Destroyers), Travis the Singing Trout (a rainbow trout that sings "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich; and "Rock the Boat" by The Hues Corporation), Cool Catfish (a catfish that sings "Bad to the Bone"), Rocky the Singing Lobster (a lobster that sings "Sea Cruise" by Frankie Ford and "Rock the Boat"), Lucky the Lobster (a lobster that sings "Doh Wah Diddy Diddy" and "Rock the Boat"), and Frankie the Fish (a blue cod fish from a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish commercial that sings an original song called "Give Me Back That Filet-O-Fish" plus a remix).[citation needed]

Spin-offs and other versions[edit]

The concept was later adapted into a large mounted deer head, known as Buck – the Animated Trophy (voiced by Clint Ford) as well as a medium-sized mounted bear head.[8]

On December 7, 1999, a special holiday version of the Big Mouth Billy Bass was released. The fish had a Santa hat on his head and a ribbon with a sleigh bell on his tail.[8] An anniversary edition followed in 2014.[9][better source needed]

A version from 2000 features a great white shark which plays John Williams's theme from Jaws and a cover of Bobby Darin's version of "Mack the Knife".

In 2018, Gemmy Industries partnered with Amazon to create an Amazon Alexa-enabled version of the animatronic. This variant pairs with any Amazon Echo device through Bluetooth, and it will move its mouth when responding to Alexa commands. It also shakes its tail when playing music through Amazon Music but does not lip sync to songs. When not connected to an Alexa device, the fish sings an original song titled "Fishin' Time" when its red button is pushed.[10]

In late-2021, TikTok user Kevin Heckart hacked a Big Mouth Billy Bass to not only lip-sync to any voice track or song, but to also dance via head and tail movements to whatever song is played through any smart speaker connections. Heckart later made a similar hack to the Cool Catfish and Frankie the Fish by the same company along with Loftus International’s Tommy Trout as well as an orange Chinese Big Mouth Billy Bass 15th Anniversary Edition knockoff in mid-2022, all of them synced to an Amazon Alexa playing Nathan Evans's cover of The Wellerman.[citation needed]

A remake of the original Big Mouth Billy Bass was released in 2021. This new version cut "Don't Worry Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin for Luke Bryan's 2015 "Huntin', Fishin' and Lovin' Every Day" in addition to Talking Heads' 1978 iteration of "Take Me to the River".[11]

In popular culture[edit]

It was reported that Elizabeth II had a Big Mouth Billy Bass displayed on the grand piano of Balmoral Castle.[8] The Netflix drama The Crown incorrectly depicts Prince Andrew giving it to her as a birthday present in 1997.[12]

The success of the Big Mouth Billy Bass has led to several pop culture appearances, including product placements. Some of the device's notable appearances include The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Sopranos, King of the Hill, WALL-E, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, The Office, Peppa Pig, What We Do in the Shadows, The Act of Killing, We Bare Bears, Solar Opposites, Big City Greens, King Tweety, Arthur, and Barbie.[13][14][15][16][17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Overall, Clancy (August 25, 2017). "Report: Big Mouth Billy Bass Still Good For A Laugh". The Betoota Advocate. Retrieved November 4, 2017.
  2. ^ "Bizarre Inventions that Made Serious Bucks". www.business-management-degree.net. January 2, 2022. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  3. ^ "Gemmy". www.gemmy.com. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  4. ^ "About Gemmy". www.gemmy.com. Archived from the original on May 7, 2021. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  5. ^ Scott, Amy (December 18, 2019). "Remember Big Mouth Billy Bass? Of Course You Do". Marketplace. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  6. ^ Sobey, Ed; Sobey, Woody (2008). The Way Toys Work: The Science Behind the Magic 8 Ball, Etch a Sketch, Boomerang, and More. Chicago Review. pp. 21–23. ISBN 9781613743096.
  7. ^ Waters, Mike (October 20, 2017). "Guy Turns His Big Mouth Billy Bass into an Alexa!". 105.7 The Hawk. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved November 4, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Schuessler, Heidi (December 14, 2000). "Getting Under the Skin of a Fish That Can Get Under Yours". The New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  9. ^ Entis, Laura (October 15, 2014). "King of Kitsch: Meet the Company Behind Big Mouth Billy Bass and a Dozen Other Novelty Items From Your Childhood". Entrepreneur. Retrieved November 4, 2017.
  10. ^ "Amazon.com: Big Mouth Billy Bass – Compatible with Alexa : Amazon Devices & Accessories". www.amazon.com.
  11. ^ "NEW FOR 2021 Gemmy Animated Big Mouth Billy Bass Singing Fish". YouTube. October 30, 2021. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  12. ^ Lampen, Claire (November 11, 2022). "The Queen Loved Her Big Singing Bass". The Cut. Retrieved November 14, 2022.
  13. ^ Bartkowiak, Mathew J. (October 19, 2012). Sounds of the Future: Essays on Music in Science Fiction Film. McFarland. ISBN 9780786456505. Retrieved November 4, 2017.
  14. ^ "The Great Money Caper". The Simpsons Archive. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  15. ^ Wise, Kathy (July 1, 2020). "Big Mouth Billy Bass Inventor Says He's No One-Hit Wonder". D Magazine. Retrieved May 18, 2021.
  16. ^ McAlinden, Carrie (June 5, 2017). "True surrealism: Walter Benjamin and The Act of Killing". BFI. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
  17. ^ Rife, Katie (September 17, 2021). "What We Do In The Shadows hits the jackpot". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 20, 2023.

External links[edit]