updated 09/04/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 09/04/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT
The idea for Billy was hatched in the fall of 1998, when jewelry designer Barbara Pellettieri, 39, and her husband, Joe, 39, a product developer at Gemmy Industries, an Irving, Texas, novelty company, were driving by a fishing-supply store. "How about a fish on a plaque?" said Barbara. "He's wiggling! He's singing! It would be hilarious!" Joe agreed, and Billy—whose lips perfectly mouth the recorded tunes, thanks to motors run by a computer microchip—was unveiled at a trade show late last year. Reaction was "incredible," Joe recalls. "We had to box the fish up at night because we thought someone would steal all of them."
The Pellettieris, who live in South-lake, Texas, with kids Tyler, 9, and Isabella, 3, have reeled in no big bucks for their creation. "Developing ideas like Billy is part of my job," explains Joe. But that hasn't dampened his creativity. Joe's latest project? Johnny the Talking Toilet.