Dan Fowlks: The Musical Dad Behind That Viral Video

(image via Dan Fowlks)

Have you seen this video? It’s very cute. I’m not going to steer you wrong when it comes to precious moments, I promise.

 

What’d I tell you? Cute, right?!

We here at The Dad like it, too. Executive Editor, Joel Willis, explains the appeal.

“I love this video so much because it shows an involved, cool dad bonding with his kid. This is what modern fatherhood is all about.”

At The Dad, we have quite a bit of absurd and ridiculous humor, along with some snark, but we also spotlight authentic dad moments. This video shows the genuine joy that comes along with all of that and makes it all worth it.

We wanted to learn more about Dan Fowlks, the man who charmed the pants off the world singing “Dream Lover” to his young daughter, Novie. I contacted him to find out what it’s like to be an involved, cool dad with a massively viral video.

The Dad: Hi Dan, we love the video! Where did the idea come from?

Dan: Over the years I have sung to my kids around the house. This particular song, “Dream Lover,” was one I was working on last year. One night, I decided to record myself so I could hear how I sounded. While my wife was taking the babysitter home from a date we were on, I started singing to my daughter, Novie. Her reaction to it caught me by surprise, so I kept singing and feeding off her energy. She was clearly enjoying it.

The Dad: It’s extremely cute. I’m usually pretty reserved but I was basically giggling and squealing the entire time. Tell me a little about how the video picked up steam on the Internet.

Dan: I shared it on my personal page in December and received some fun reactions to it on my friends list. In January, I came across the The Dad Online and figured it would probably be something they’d enjoy, so I tagged them. [The Dad Executive Editor] Joel reached out to me about posting it and I said “surely.”

Dan in the backyard with his son, Cope.

The Dad: We knew right away it was a special video. We were surprised it hadn’t gone viral already! You gave us permission to feature the video and it took off immediately. Since upload 3 weeks ago (on January 17), it has reached over 37 million people across the world, with over 2 million reactions and 17 million views on Facebook alone. Amazing.

Dan: I thought it was really nice to see so many people reacting positively to it. Then, the next day, seeing it had over 1 million views on The Dad, and then finding it on some European pages climbing over 10 million views! It started getting a little nerve-racking because it was one of those things that is out on the internet and there is no getting it back.

The Dad: What kind of responses are you getting?

Dan: The responses have been quite overwhelming. So many people watched it many times over and found joy from it, which has been quite rewarding. Some people commented that they turned off the Grammy’s to watch the video–that has the most humbling comment.

The Dad: A few people were worried that your daughter might fall off the bed. What do you have to say to ease their fears?

Dan: I knew she wasn’t going to fall off because I was literally right in front of her. Also, if she did fall off, the song would have ended and it would have been a moment that I would not have shared. It’s funny how people watching it think she is going to fall off and no matter how many times you watch the video something amazing always happens… she never falls off.

Halloween night, 2017.

The Dad: What do you think makes the video so special?

Dan: Seeing somebody so young react to good music is revitalizing and makes you wonder, where did she learn that? She was 10 months old at the time. Clearly, music is a special gift we have. Personally, I believe that we exist well before this life. Whatever other life that is, something remarkable happens when music touches our hearts and souls.

The Dad: Any celebrity feedback? Has Beyoncé seen it?

Dan: I was waiting to go in for an audition and looked at my phone and saw that Orlando Bloom shared the video to his social media. I had to take a double take at that.

The Dad: Have you learned any lessons about being a parent? Do you have any advice for your fellow dads out there?

Dan: From my experience with parenthood, I still just see myself as a “kid” who has kids (that might sound weird). Kids are not dumb; they are pretty smart and very observant. It is okay to get down to their level and simply talk with them. For instance, there have been moments when I needed to express that I have never been a parent before, so everything is as new to me as it is to them. I believe your kids will see you differently and that it is okay to make mistakes, correct them the best you can, but then move on.  

Music and being creative in the home has worked very well for our family, there was a time when I was doing a film that took me away for many days out of a month. Before I left, I sat down and drew a little sketch picture of me with my son and me with my oldest daughter. It was nothing of artistic merit to be hung in a museum, but they cherished it enough to hang it on their wall above their bed. Simple things like that, I feel, go a long way as a parent.

The Dad: What’s next for you, Dan?

Dan: Well, the sporadic world stage was an interesting experience, to say the least. For me, it is back to auditions, writing, and looking for opportunities to create. It has opened an opportunity to share more of my music, that I never thought would happen because I never thought so many people would ever hear me sing and play. It has been nice feedback, so I will be recording and getting some music out there, and hopefully, people will like what I have to offer.

Dan and his son watching the sunset in Southern Utah.

Dan has been a super nice guy throughout all of this. Dude’s got talent. He deserves all of the opportunities and attention he gains from the success of the video. We sent him a The Dad shirt and hope he wears it with pride.

Check out Dan Fowlks’s website and music.

 

This Day In Internet History — January 15, 2006: The Dancing Baby Becomes A Granddaddy (Of Memes)

(YouTube/uninvitedinno)

Greetings, Internet historians! Some of you may remember a little television show from 1997 called Ally McBeal (come on, it was only 21 years ago). When you think of that show, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? I’ll wait.

If you didn’t say “that stupid dancing baby,” then you’re a damn liar.

Don’t get me wrong, Ally was a compelling protagonist — and who didn’t love the frequent cameos from theme song performer Vonda Shepard? We all loved all that shit. 

Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart with theme song performer Vonda Shephard (Credit: 45worlds.com)

But the thing that stuck in the deepest recesses of our craws was the animated dancing baby, AKA Baby Cha-Cha, AKA Oogachaka Baby (I swear to God I’m not making these up).

Baby Cha-Cha (Credit: Giphy)

When Ally McBeal tanked, the baby didn’t get thrown out with the bathwater. In fact, to this day, Baby Cha-Cha holds a revered place in Internet history. Called “the granddaddy of memes,” the dancing baby was one of the first ever GIFs, as well as a pioneer of what it means to go viral.

A Brief History of Dancing Baby

The story of how the dancing baby got on the Internet is actually a fascinating peek into the history of modern technologies.  

Back in 1996, animators Michael Girard and Robert Lurye developed Baby Cha-Cha as a product sample to demonstrate what their 3D character animation software could do. Why they chose to create a weird dancing baby and not, say, a sick as hell werewolf snapping zombies in half and firing a machine gun at a blood-red moon, is beyond me. But, okay, a dancing baby. Fine. Cool. Whatever.

Impressed by the 3D animation, Ron Lussier of LucasFilms fixed up the file and emailed it to a slew of co-workers. They, in turn, forwarded it to their pals, and so on. I’ll beg the reader to remember a time before Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, etc., when people actually had to EMAIL interesting things to each other.

Dear Meg Ryan, You’ve gotta see this dancing baby!!! (Credit: Giphy)

It didn’t take long before the baby danced into email inboxes all around the country. Says Lussier, “I heard people say they had received it back again from people outside the company, across the country…it quickly traveled to the Internet and became the strange phenomenon that it was.”

Then, the dancing baby became one of the first ever GIFs. Perhaps even THE first. Web developer John Woodell, whom I will now call a “GIF pioneer” created a compressed animated file from the source, to demonstrate a new technology that converted moving images into GIFs. By the way, GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, and you can pronounce it any way you damn well please.

Credit: Giphy

And that’s when Ally McBeal got hold of it. Used as a metaphor, the dancing baby appeared often on the show as a hallucination, meant to represent McBeal’s biological clock. (I found out recently that the character of Ally was ONLY 27 YEARS OLD! Come on, The Patriarchy, give a lady some time!) The baby usually sashayed along to Blue Swede’s cover of the B. J. Thomas song “Hooked on a Feeling.”

Since Ally McBeal averaged about 12 million viewers per episode, the dancing baby immediately became a superstar. Its image was brandished on merchandise and parodies swept the cultural landscape. Even The Simpsons did a take on it, called “Dancing Jesus.”

Credit: YouTube

Baby Granddaddy

On January 15th, 2006, some horrible person uploaded a video to YouTube called “Oogachaka Baby,” enabling people to watch the dancing baby at their leisure. The video gathered over 3.3 million views, prompting The Washington Post to call it “the granddaddy of Internet memes.” But, in my opinion, it’s a crime that not all of the 1,300 YouTube comments said: “please remove this immediately.”

Credit: YouTube

Don’t worry, the good news is that the dancing baby swiftly declined in popularity. People stopped feverishly searching the term “dancing baby” near the turn of the 21st Century, or, when they did, they meant to see actual footage of real babies dancing. Still, it’s not hard to stumble into long-running fan sites, like dancing-baby.net.

Shake Your Booty Into The Sunset

Let’s close it out with a quote from Ron Lussier (Remember him? He’s the one who emailed the dancing baby to all his friends in 1996). This comes directly from the FAQ section on his fan site.

Q: That baby is so stupid and ugly! Why did you do that?

A: I’m glad it bothers people. I think that’s cool!  🙂   I fixed up the file because I thought it was really bothersome in a cool way, but also bothersome in a crappy unfinished way. I tried to, at least partially, finish it. That’s my “enhanced” version you used to see on many web pages.

Thanks a lot, Ron! See you in hell, buddy!