If you were around during the turn of the millennium, you probably remember the Hampsterdance. What started as a simple website featuring 392 animated GIFs of dancing hamsters and an infectious .wav file quickly became a viral sensation. The Hampsterdance infiltrated the culture, spreading through email and word of mouth, before social media even existed.
The Birth of a Web Star
In 1998, Deidre LaCarte, a martial arts instructor and art student from Nanaimo, B.C., created the Hampsterdance as part of a competition to see who could get the most people to visit their website. Little did she know, her quirky page about her pet hamster, Hampton, would soon become an internet sensation.
The website featured a collection of animated dancing hamsters set to a catchy tune, a sped-up version of a song from Disney’s Robin Hood. The music was a crucial element in the Hampsterdance’s success, as it caught people’s attention and made them happy.
Within a month, the Hampsterdance had reached one million visitors, and the numbers kept growing. The website became a cultural phenomenon, receiving thousands of letters from fans, including one from a father whose daughter found joy and happiness in the Hampsterdance during a difficult time.
From Meme to Merchandise
As the Hampsterdance gained popularity, it also faced challenges, including copyright issues and copycat websites. Some individuals went against the spirit of the Hampsterdance, creating adult versions or even videos of hamsters being killed, which Deidre vehemently opposed.
The domain name, hampsterdance.com, was also a point of contention. Another individual had purchased the domain and profited from the advertising revenue generated by the website. Eventually, Deidre and her team acquired a partner, forming Hampton Hampster Productions. They also released “The Hampsterdance Song,” a recording by The Boomtang Boys that became a No. 1 hit in Canada.
Despite the success of the song, the Hampsterdance’s journey into merchandise and entertainment faced numerous challenges. Deals fell through, legal disputes arose, and the original vision of an animated TV show and toy line never materialized. The Hampsterdance’s legacy lives on through licensing deals with companies like Hallmark, but the original website’s domain is now in the hands of Bill Porfido, who purchased it from Deidre.
The Legacy of the Hampsterdance
The Hampsterdance remains a nostalgic symbol of the early internet and a reminder of simpler times. It captured the imagination of millions and inspired countless copycats and parodies. Despite the twists and turns of its history, the Hampsterdance continues to bring joy to people and serve as a quirky piece of pop culture.
As we reminisce on the Hampsterdance, we can appreciate how it was able to make such a profound impact without the influence of social media and smartphones. It reminds us of the power of simplicity and the ability of everyday individuals to create something that resonates with people around the world.
So the next time you hear or see a reference to the Hampsterdance, remember the fascinating and twisted true story behind this viral phenomenon, and let it bring a smile to your face.