Here’s another mascot I was bound to do eventually. As well as another mascot that made a big impact towards the American Culture for a lifetime. And that mascot is none other than Taco Bell’s Chihuahua. Before Taco Bell became controversial due to health issues, reports of food poisoning, and the lack of info on what’s inside their meat. The mid 90s was a more simpler time for the company, and the Taco Bell Dog represented that era. So without further a-do let’s talk about the Taco Bell Dog.
Back in September 1997, Taco Bell & TBWA Worldwide company created a commercial about a chihuahua who craves for Taco Bell. The effect of a dog talking was done in the same fashion as other live action talking animal medias by the use of computers to make it seem like the dog was talking. Voiced by Carlos Alazraqui(Rocko himself), while a total of two different dogs were used to portray the mascot. The first dog was name Dinky while the one you see for the remainder of commercials was Gidget Chipperton. The first commercial of the dog was an instant hit, once people heard him say “Yo Quiro Taco Bell”(I want some Taco Bell) the dog became a celebrity. Thus a series of commercials were made for the next four years featuring the dog as a Che Guevara impersonator, hanging out with Zilla, & teaming with Colonel Sanders & a random Pizza Hut Delivery Woman(an article for next week). The one-liners and the suave attitude the dog has towards anything that’s offered on the menu at Taco Bell was what made him so memorible. During the 90s there wasn’t a living person who wouldn’t know who this dog was. The most memorable commercial would have to be the one with Ricardo Montalban making a cameo appearance. To those of you who are between the ages of 57-34 would know him best as Mr. Roarke of Fantasy Island or Ramado from Escape from the Planet of the Apes/Conquest of the Planet of the Apes while those of you between the ages of 33-20 would know him best as Armondo Guitierrez from Freakazoid. The dog eventually received merchandising deals that includes bobble heads and talking plushies(which I still own one that’s somewhere in my closet). Beisdes the “Yo Quiro Taco Bell” quote, the dog has used other memorible quotes like “Drop the chalupa!” which became immortalized on the Sportcenter channel. “Viva Gorditas!” which was used for the dog’s revolutionary commercials and finally “Uh-oh. I think I’m going to need a bigger box” for the Zilla commercials.
The Taco Bell Dog’s popularity came to an end in 2001, for what reason? There were numberous reasons what Taco Bell no longer uses the dog for their ads. First off, the taco Bell corperation ended its relationship with TWBA along with a replacement president after store sales fell 6% in the second quarter of the year 2000. Secondly there were rumors that the dog past away when it was alive and well. Other reasons involved Latin Americans accusing the dog to be a cultural stereotype. With support of this claim Carlos Alazraqui’s voice actor friend Tom Kenny(Hefer from Rocko & Spongebob himself) said that Hispanic advocacy groups lobbying for the end of the campaign led to the cancellation of the dog’s commercials. Which I find that fact to be a bunch of bull. If Latin Americans had issues towards the Taco Bell Dog, then why was Speedy Gonzales pardoned when they told Warner Bros. they weren’t offended by the mouse. Not to mention Speedy Gonzales, Slowpoke Rodridges, and every single Looney Tune that takes place in Mexico are more stereotype material compared to the Taco Bell Dog commercials.
The Taco Bell dog would make one final appearance in a 2002 Geico commercial where he attends a Geico Spokesperson Audition, which we see a waiting room filled with “Possible Geico Stars”. The Geico Gecko himself was next and right when he approaches the door he comes across the previous audition who was the Taco Bell Dog. The Gecko says hello to him, but the dog wasn’t too happy about seeing another talking animal trying to compete with him which he reply “Ah, great a talking gecko.” The Geico Gecko has remained a mascot for Geico much longer than Taco Bell had their own dog for a mascot. Since he’s still widely used for Geico, he’s no where close to being a forgotten character as of yet. Though, I’ll se about doing a Geico article in the future, since they had so many gimmicks and mascots over the years besides the gecko.
In 2003, Taco Bell lost a lawsuit by two Michigan men, who pitched the idea of the dog to Taco Bell 6 years earlier. The company turn them down, but took the idea with TWBA as their own creation. After the two guys sued the company, they received $30.1 million plus $12 million in additional interest three months later. Taco Bell in turn sued their former partner TWBA with a statement that they should have been aware of the conflicts. On July 21, 2009; Gidget the Taco Bell dog passed away at age 15 due to a stroke. The dog was cremated, and the ashes were retained by its owner Sue Chimeny.
Despite Taco Bell no longer using a dog for their ads, Taco Bell Dog will always be remembered for being part of Taco Bell’s more peaceful era. All of the merchandise on the dog can be found at various auctions and collector stores. While the one liners he mutters are often quoted in certain TV shows, movies, or sporting events. So after telling the history about this dog, I like to wrap this article up with every single Taco Bell Dog commercial I could find. For next week will be the long waited KFC, Taco Bell, & Pizza Hut crossover commercials.