Friday, October 4, 2013

The rise and fall of the Rock-afire Explosion

This is the Chuck-E-Cheese animatronic band. 

Known today for being creepy and broken, this band sits at the back of many Chuck-E-Cheese franchises. But it wasn't always this way. In fact, the Chuck-E-Cheese band (known also as "Studio-C") isn't the Chuck-E-Cheese band at all! They're actually another band that's been dismantled and put back together with a new coating of cloth and paint. Who is this original animatronic band? Well, to answer that question we'll need to travel back in time, to the 1980s. 

Enter Showbiz Pizza place, an establishment created to be an arcade mixed with a pizza parlor, and every kid's dream. And within the flashing lights, loud kids, and greasy pizza, sat Showbiz's crown jewel: The Rock-afire Explosion.

Singing a mixture of original music and covers of popular songs, the Rock-afire set Showbiz above the rest. But times got tough, and Showbix ended up getting bought by its rival, Chuck-E-Cheese's. But the Rock-afire's creator, Aaron Fechter felt that he had poured too much of his heart and soul into his creation to give them up. 

So the Rock-afire fell into obscurity, and the remaining bands were converted into the Chuck-E-Cheese bands we know today. (This is partially why they look so freaky, as they are the result of mixing and matching different parts from the Rock-afire, then dressed up totally differently. That, and the fact that maintenance for such a contraption is costly and many of the parts were custom built for band.)

But the Rock-afire are not forgotten! 
Their rise and fall from glory is beautifully captured in this documentary, aptly named "The Rock-afire Explosion"

The trailer for the fantastic documentary. 

I think the Rock-afire are due for a comeback, and on Youtube, they are already making a splash performing more recent music, programmed by Fetcher himself. 

The work that goes into making each character sing and move with the music is nothing short of impressing. See for yourself!  

1 comment:

  1. A couple of corrections...

    The picture of the Chuck E. Cheese band is not a converted Rock-afire Explosion or a Studio C. Converted RAE setups have three stages. Studio C stages only have a Chuck E. robot and not the other characters. The picture shows a one stage setup, which is and has always been CEC.

    Chuck E. Cheese did not buy Showbiz. It was the other way around. The company (originally known as Pizza Time Theatre, Inc) went bankrupt back in the mid-80s and Showbiz bought them out. For awhile they ran both CEC and Showbiz separately until around 1990 when they decided to focus all their marketing efforts on one brand. They owned the CEC characters, but were paying royalties to Fechter to use the Rock-afire characters. So they converted to CEC when Fechter refused to sign over the character rights. Various sources inside the company also indicate he was becoming a thorn in their side for other reasons, so they made the decision to cut him out.