Taco Bell Dog Story

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The Taco Bell Chihuahua (A.K.A. Gidget) Age 3 Why her? Putting the wow in Chihuahua, this 8-pound, 11-inch-tall charmer has become the hottest animal pitchster since Spuds McKenzie, with a rep helped in no small part by her Godzilla tie-in spots. The 30-second ads — in which she tries to trap the creature in a box by calling out in a Se´┐Żor Wences-like voice "Heeere, Lee-zard Lee-zard Lee-zard" — are more fun than the $120 million monster who laid an egg. How Gidget got her start The ads, created by TBWA Chiat/Day creative directors Chuck Bennett and Clay Williams, were born while the duo was lunching in Venice, Calif., and saw a Chihuahua "cruising alone down the boardwalk, looking large and in charge," says Bennett. After a casting call, Gidget's bat-like ears, expressive eyes, and natural acting ability got her the gig. Work habits Cold comfort is the key to Chihuahua temerity: The breed can be prone to shivering. A blanket is draped around Gidget pre-camera, then whisked away for her close-up. And like most celebrities, Gidget needs cosmetic assistance. Digital animation gives her brow the proper ironic take, and her mouth moves via a mechanical jawline morphed onto her image. Comic Carlos Alazraqui gives the diminutive dog her distinctive voice; the voice-over vet's winning take was read, he says, "like the dog was asking for privileged information." Creative crutches Gidget has one vice, a stuffed toy called Mrs. Hedgehog, which she prefers to have on every set. Then director Rocky Morton — who brought Max Headroom to life — blows in Gidget's nostrils as part of what he calls "pre-shoot bonding sessions." Such preferential treatment might be going to her head. According to her trainer, Sue Chipperton, Gidget's become quite accustomed to riding in style: "If she sees a limo door open that's not ours, I have to say, 'No, Gidget, we're taking a taxi.'" Next? More ads about the Gorditas revolution, thanks to a one-year contract with the taco maker.

What the fancy Taco Bell executives DON'T want you to know is that their on-location shoots are catered by a great deli named Saul's, not Taco Bell. What they also don't want you to know is that all the up-tight suits sure like getting their faces licked by two little Chihuahuas, and will gladly get on all fours to play tug-of-war with a stuffed taco toy.

The whole campaign was shot on location in LA in about four days. All the necessary film was shot, and all the pictures were taken at once. The rest of the production happens at a graphics boutique in Abeline,TX as the need arises. Basically, all the footage was taken in those four days, with the dogs in costumes and all on a pefectly white soundstage. That's it! From there, all the images of the crowds, the location, the sound, the ani-morph effects of the Hoeks talking, is done on computers. It's that simple.

The filming was easy, "walk this way, walk that way, stop, sit, bark," they had to edit out a whole lot of leg lifting, but hey, the Hoeks weren't getting paid to be professional, they were getting paid to be cute.

The photography was a little more intense, because of the close-ups, and all the bright lights, and every thing was shot twice, once with the Ebe, and once with the Skin- that made the boys a little cranky. But let me tell you, a basket full of Milkbones goes a long way towards soothing the savage Chihuahua.

The food on the set was really good, three square meals, all the Danish you could wolf down, lots of bottled water being
poured into dog bowls. And everyone was really nice. One of the costume designers even made little leather jackets for the boys, they look pretty cool in them.

On the last day of the shoot, they brought in this gourmet dog cake made out of carotts and carob, decorated with gourmet dog biscuits (they hated it-Evil ate some and then threw it up). Everyone gathered round and sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" to the boys and clapped. There was a lot of hugging and all that. They took cast pictures. Someone brought in an inflatable Godzilla and gave it to the boys who proceeded to alternately hump the tail, and chew the toes off (it deflated quickly).

It was a good time, we got our check, and then we were on a plane headed for home. Simple as that. They were in the back yard chasing squirrels and eating the other's poop that very afternoon as if nothing had happened.


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