For the stars of viral animal videos, fame can be a cruel mistress. One day, you're the darling of Buzzfeed. The next, you're snorting lines of cat nip from a rolled-up eviction notice.
Teddy Bear, the talking porcupine, has managed to avoid that fate. Two years after his star first rose, it's still burning strong thanks to his uncanny Super Bowl predictions and festive holiday costumes. The national TV bookings are still coming in, as are the YouTube clicks.
And it's all because someone gave Allison Blankenship a Flip video camera. Blankenship, who runs Zooniversity, a wildlife-rescue and animal-education center in Dallas, tested it out by filming the resident porcupine eating his snack. She posted it on YouTube, where it sat unwatched for six months until someone decided Teddy Bear was talking.
"Honestly, when I shot that very first one with that ear of corn, I didn't hear what other people heard in it, because to me it just sounded like porcupine noises," she says.
To Americans, those noises sounded like English. In the Netherlands, they heard Dutch. In Japan, they heard Japanese. Teenagers were convinced Teddy was spewing unfiltered profanity. Millions watched.
Blankenship was content to leave it at that, but Teddy Bear now had a fan base. Some of them threatened to set up a Facebook page if she didn't do it first. They also demanded more videos, which Blankenship dutifully produced.
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"The first year, we did all sorts of ones that were holiday-based," she says. "In retrospect, they got a little too goofy with the costumers and hats."
After a while, Teddy fever died down. "Teddy Bear, the Porcupine, Cools Off with a Frozen Banana" was a dud. So was "Teddy the Porcupine's Easter treat." Blankenship put away her camera and focused on her business. Then, last month, she caved to the increasingly insistent demands of Teddy's followers and filmed a couple of clips of him eating a pumpkin. They blew up, getting about a million views.
Blankenship describes the experience as "a crazy two years of viral insanity." It's been fun, even if it hasn't drummed up many bookings. Blankenship plans to continue, so long as the masses keep demanding it.
Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly stated Zooniversity is based in Grand Prairie. It is located in Dallas.