If you were alive and on the internet back in the late 1990s, it was hard to escape the Dancing Baby. An unsettling 3D animation of a baby getting its groove on, it was one of the earliest examples of an internet meme, and it exploded into the public consciousness (back when being online was still a minority thing) when it was featured in one of the biggest TV shows at the time, Ally McBeal.
Nobody's been asking for it, but now this early piece of online 3D art is back, thanks to a games programming student at the University of Bolton. Jack Armstrong has found the original source of the dancing baby and re-rendered it in HD so that we can all once more enjoy its unnatural undulations.
The original dancing baby animation came with an animation package used with an early version of 3ds Max, and in a time before YouTube it was shared all over the place, first as a video file and later in GIF form. And at a time when we were being bombarded with a lot less online stuff than we are now, it took a lot longer than you might expect to wear out its welcome. The lifespan of a modern meme can be measured in days; the dancing baby was around for a good couple of years, guaranteed to turn up in your inbox on a semi-regular basis.
And while many would be perfectly happy to never see it again, that hasn't stopped Armstrong from giving it a new lease of life. In a fascinating Twitter thread he explains how a friend asked him to convert the dancing baby to popular online sandbox game, Garry's Mod, and how that led him on a search through Wikipedia entries, archived web pages and dodgy old abandonware sites to find the original files.
Having finally tracked down the 24-year-old 3D model and turned it into a player model for Garry's Mod, Armstrong decided to recreate the original dancing baby video using 3ds Max. Not only was he able to render it in HD, he was also able to interpolate the original file's keyframes so that it it animates at a super-smooth 60fps; the final icing on the cake was the addition of the tune that accompanied the dancing baby on Ally McBeal: Blue Swede's cover of Hooked on a Feeling.
"I hope by re-rendering such a classic meme in HD and putting the model to new use," says Armstrong, "I have advanced the preservation efforts of the internet." We suspect he might not be entirely serious, but nevertheless: we salute his sterling work.
And before you ask, yes, of course someone's already suggested the thing that you're all thinking about right now:
What the world needs now is Dancing Baby Yoda. (So mote it be)February 9, 2020