Anybody can dress up in a T-Rex costume and make a funny video. But only one guy has been paid to do it by the NFL, Whole Foods, and the Toyota Grand Prix.
He’s Daniel Hale, aka Ralph the Rex.
Hale is a shy 27-year-old who had to buy a costume for an office party, so he chose a dinosaur to be completely hidden.
The LA-based former golf pro lost his job working for the PGA, leaving him with lots of time to create crazy videos.
And when he started to gain millions of followers, Hale sought business advice from his uncle, James Hetfield, the lead singer of Metallica.
Yeah, it’s a crazy story.
It all started in October 2015, when Hale’s workplace was having a party. “I hated dressing up for Halloween,” he said, “so I figured I’d put something over my face.” Hale chose a T-Rex costume online that cost about $100. Inside the costume, he came alive. “I feel more like myself when I put on the costume.”
He named his character Ralph the Rex. “The name Ralph came from my dad,” Hale said. Growing up playing golf, his father told him if he ever hit a ball out of bounds into someone’s backyard, “Tell them your name is Ralph Jones.”
It became a family joke. “‘Hey dad, what should I name this pet?’ ‘Name it Ralph.'”
Not long after the Halloween party, Hale lost his job. “I decided to start making videos since, you know, people have pages for their dogs and other animals, why not a T-Rex?”
Hale, then 25, had no experience in film or production, but he and his sister started creating hilarious short stories of Ralph the Rex trying to survive in a human world. “First video ever was me running in my living room, and I ended up hitting the fan.”
Everything changed that Christmas, when Hale brought in his brother-in-law and a couple cousins to create a pack of dinosaurs. Together, they made a video attacking Christmas decorations, before Hale’s father chases them off with a flagpole.
Between two Facebook postings, the video gained more than 40 million views.
“We couldn’t believe it,” Hale said. “It was a shock.”
Somehow a celebrity (or two) had seen the video and began spreading it around. Next thing Hale knew, companies were approaching him to buy the rights to the videos. “We decided to see if we could make it a business.”
Hale insisted on only licensing the videos and maintaining ownership. He credits his uncle, Hetfield, for encouraging him to hold out for better terms. “You don’t want to sell your soul necessarily when someone offers you something,” Hale said.
For example, Hale was originally offered a contract with a YouTube partner to split revenues 70-30 in the partner’s favor. “I waited it out a year, and now I have a contract that’s 70-30 in my favor.”
The success of the videos was soon followed by requests for personal appearances. The first came from the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which wanted Ralph the Rex to judge a bikini contest. Race officials put him up at a local hotel, and Hale convinced one of the Grand Prix models to put on another T-Rex costume and have a pillow fight with him in his room for a video.
“I told her, ‘Just don’t hold back, go for it!’ And she put me in my place with the pillow fight.”
It turned out to be his most successful video ever. “That one exceeded about 60 million views.”