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Dance Fever

Merchandise featuring Ally McBeal’s Baby Cha-Cha is on the way

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If you haven’t gotten enough of the computer-generated dancing baby on the Internet, on “Ally McBeal” and on the Blockbuster commercials, just wait: Soon the eerie tot will be shaking its diapered booty on everything from T-shirts to neckties and lunchboxes.

Kinetix, the software company that introduced the baby as a demo on its 3D animation program “Character Studio,” was approached by a few companies eager to help expand the baby craze after the “Ally” cameo. Kinetix struck up a deal with Logotel, which also handles the licensing for “South Park” and “The Far Side.”

Logotel president Eric Henry sees no end to the baby’s merchandising possibilities. “The baby will be put in other incongruous positions — though tasteful,” he says. On shirts, magnets and coasters, the baby will be seen snowboarding, skiing, even getting out of a limo with a tuxedo bib.

On May 15, you will be able to dance along with the infant’s CD, which will feature a moving baby hologram on the cover. The music will be “a rerelease of ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ (the baby’s most popular accompaniment) with baby-like sounds,” says Henry “There will also be a dance mix and a latin dance mix.”

Since February, 250,000 shirts (about $1.7 million wholesale) have been sold. “Our initial goal was to sell maybe a million dollars worth of merchandise,” says Henry. “But the way things are going, we think the sky’s the limit.”

Henry estimates that the fad could thrive for 18 months to two years, but some say that’s wishful thinking. “Is there some short-term appeal? Absolutely,” says Marty Brochstein, executive editor of the Licensing Letter. “But I think even 18 months might be optimistic.” Computer animator Ron Lussier agrees, and he’s the one credited with starting the dancing baby craze. (Lussier enhanced the baby’s movements and showed his version to his then co-workers at LucasArts entertainment, who began sending it around by e-mail.) “I gave it that dance because I thought it was disturbing and weird,” Lussier says. “I would never wear a shirt with that thing on it.”