You will not find him in any comprehensive listing of Disney animated characters, but Fresh Up Freddie was indeed born within the walls of the Walt Disney Studios complex in Burbank, California. Specifically, he was created in the H-wing of the animation building by a unit of the company whose history has been largely swept under the rug. Freddie was never destined for big-screen greatness; his sole purpose was to be a cartoon pitchman for 7-Up.
The Disney Studio produced hundreds of television commercials during the 1950s, primarily ones associated with their own television programs: Disneyland, Zorro and the Mickey Mouse Club. Commercial production was not anything that Walt Disney himself was particularly proud of, and hence it remains largely undocumented in most Disney historical texts. Fresh Up Freddie was born out of the 7-Up company's sponsorship of the weekly Zorro television show that premiered in 1957.
Of the numerous animated characters created by the commercials unit, Freddie is of particular note due to his similarities in design and personality to two other Disney birds, Panchito and the Aracuan, both of whom originated in the 1944 feature film The Three Caballeros. In appearance he was a rooster much like Panchito; in mannerisms he was dodge-about hyperactive in a way that often directly mimicked the Aracuan bird. Freddie was created and designed by Paul Carlson and Dave Detiege, who were both very active with the commercials unit. According to Carlson, 7-Up bought 26 commercials at $100,000 apiece. The actual animation was farmed out to freelancers. Though initially without a name, the bird was ultimately given the moniker "Freddie," a likely tribute to 7-Up bottler Fred Lutz, Jr. Freddie was voiced by Disney vocal veteran Paul Frees, best known for his zany renditions of Ludwig Von Drake.
Freddie was used as part of a larger advertising campaign that extended to radio, print and even premium items and merchandise. The consistent buzz-line for the campaign had Freddie saying, "Right now, you're probably asking yourself--" followed by a query relating to the subject of the ad, i.e., "What does a ghost hunter drink to quench his thirst?" or "What does a hot test pilot drink for a quick, refreshing lift?" Magazine and comic books ads featured full page Freddie adventures. Freddie would interview fictional celebrities on radio spots, and Freddie was often incorporated into newspaper grocery store ads thanks to 7-Up co-op advertising programs.
Freddie even got into a little hot water with the FBI in 1959. According to a newspaper account:
"7-Up ran an amusing radio commercial that had "Fresh Up Freddie" Interviewing a make-believe film personality, Kim Schullz. Freddie uttered the following words at the end at the interview, "Thank you, Kim, we'll be seeing you in your latest picture 'I Was a Wonderfully, Terrific Teenager for the FBI'. The FBI wasted little time pulling out the law books and showing Seven-Up that you can't use the word FBI without written permission. They killed the commercial."