Baby dancing into hearts, wallets

That Dancing Baby isn't even close to hanging up his boogie-woogie diaper.

Cha Cha Cha:
Kinetix's Dancing Baby

The toddlin' tot who was born as an e-mail mascot on the Internet and came of age as a pop icon after appearing on the Fox TV series Ally McBeal is becoming an international hit now that the show is airing in Japan, Europe and Australia. And the mamboing moppet is about to launch a merchandising baby boom.

Kinetix, the software company that originated the so-called Baby Cha-Cha, is expanding the rug rat's product line in late August with 70 new items. Back-to-schoolers can tote the baby on notebooks and pencils. There are party items such as pinatas and Mylar balloons, a Halloween costume (adult and child sizes), boxer shorts and other apparel, a window suction-cup doll, Beanie-style babies and mouse pads.

Official T-shirts (350,000 sold) have been out since March, and a CD inspired by the baby's favorite song, Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede, is in stores (300,000 copies sold in four weeks).

But the doodad destined to find its way to desks of techheads is an 8-inch mechanical Dancing Baby encased in a cardboard computer console. Click the toy mouse, and the kid kicks up his heels to the "ooga-chaka" chant. Price: about $25. Wholesale orders have already reached more than $2 million.

In discussion: a TV series and a movie. The little bopper may even pop up again on Ally McBeal.

Kinetix exec Jim Guerard says the baby's popularity isn't about to droop like an old Huggie. Cha-Cha even gets e-mail at the company's Web site. And the baby shows off 500 new moves, including kung-fu action, in the just-released sequel to Kinetix's Character Studio animation software (about $1,500).

Free-for-all image copying may go on over the Internet, but Eric Henry of Logotel, the baby's licensing agent, is monitoring fakes (like the T-shirts that featured the Spice Babies). And he is making sure that Cha-Cha maintains a certain level of decorum, unlike such online cousins as the Drunken Baby.

That means the Titanic-inspired greeting card with the 50 drowned Dancing Babies floating in the water hit an approval iceberg. Rest easy, Leo.

By Susan Wloszczyna, USA TODAY