(PCM) We are definitely left with some nostalgically sad feelings upon learning that child entertainment restaurant/play place Chuck E. Cheese will be retiring their infamous ( and slightly creepy) animatronic band. The company revealed that they will begin phasing out the animatronic band at select locations throughout the country before eventually phasing out the robots all together.
Chuck E. Cheese has faced criticism over the years for just how out-dated the animatronic band, which was initially called Munch’s Make Believe Band before changing over to Chuck E’s Make Believe Band, is and the fact that they never seem to change their set-list and also break-down a lot! It make sense since Chuck E’s Make Believe Band has been on the same stages since 1989! The company feels it is about time that they evolve and find new ways to entertain children that are more on par with current times.
The plan is to install a large dance floor to get the children up and moving and possibly dancing around to more current hits with the Chuck E. Cheese characters in costume instead. We feel kind of bad for the poor individual who has to wear that Chuck E. Cheese mouse costume all day long!
Nine years after Munch’s Make Believe Band debuted, Chuck E. Cheese’s attempted to phase them out with Studio C, which was introduced in 1998. The reasoning was that the animatronics were becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and, due to lax security, they were (and still are) highly susceptible to vandalism. The stage was redesigned and replaced in 2010 and that is when the official name change to Chuck E’s Make Believe Band occurred.
The band was made up of Chuck E. Cheese as the front man, Helen Henny on vocals as well, Mr. Munch tickling the ivory, Jasper T. Jowls shredding the guitar, and Pasqually P. Pieplate banging it out on the drums. May they all rest in peace (and quiet) finally!
For those of us old enough to remember, we already lost one great animatronic band that existed prior to the formation of Munch’s Make Believe Band/Chuck E’s Make Believe Band and that was the late great Rock-afire Explosion. The Rock-afire Explosion enjoyed their animated hey-day rocking out when Chuck E. Cheese was still called Showbiz Pizza from 1980 to 1990.
The Rock-afire Explosion show was pioneering in many respects to other animatronic shows of the early 1980s, by featuring life-sized characters capable of facial expression; some were even able to be programmed in such a way that they could actually play simple melodies on musical instruments. They were created by a man named Aaron Fetchter, who also did some of the voice work for the characters as well.
The characters in The Rock-afire Explosion were various animals ranging from a dog to a gorilla. They would perform medleys of classic rock, pop, and country music, as well as original compositions. You may remember characters such as Billy Bob who was on bass/vocals and was the mascot of Showbiz Pizza, along with his friends Looney Bird (vocals), Dook LaRue (drums), Fatz Geronimo (keyboard/vocals), Beach Bear (guitar/vocals) and of course our beloved Mitzi Mozzarella on vocals as well!
When Showbiz Pizza was bought out and merged with Chuck E. Cheese, the process of concept unification began and all of the Rock-afire Explosion characters were phased out and replaced with new Chuck E. Cheese characters. Unused animatronics and props were either sold off to other restaurants, put into storage, or destroyed. Currently, Fetchter, sells both new and used animatronic equipment in addition to giving tours of the warehouse. In 2008 he sold one of the last two unused Rock-afire shows to a restaurant in Jordan, the final show has yet to be sold.
According to Fandom.com, in the 2000’s, spurred by the growing online Rock-afire fan community, Fechter reunited some of the Rock-afire performers and began to program shows set to fan-requested songs. Videos of the performances, posted to YouTube upon completion, are credited with helping to further revive interest in the group and Showbiz Pizza, and spurred individuals who owned their own Rock-afire bands to begin programming new shows themselves.
In 2016,it was reported that Fechter planned to open a new restaurant chain, featuring the Rock-afire Explosion and food cooked using hydrillium, a substance invented by Fechter. We have yet to see this come into fruition as of yet.
The history of the animatronic characters and eventually bands dates back to the early 1960’s with Walt Disney. Disney saw animatronics as a novelty that would attract visitors to his World’s Fair displays and later his movies and theme parks. He also recognized that the figures could replace actors and actresses in repetitive shows, giving audiences consistent shows that were always on schedule.
Disney and his team of WED imagineers soon developed the Enchanted Tiki birds for the attraction at Disneyland (1963) and the first human animatronic figure in the form of Abraham Lincoln for the 1964 World’s Fair. Although the Enchanted Tiki Room’s original concept was a restaurant with performing birds, the concept never materialized, however it did pave the way for inventors such as Fechter to create animatronic bands such as the Rock-afire Explosion and the later formation of Chuck E’s Make Believe Band.
Sadly, though with technology growing and changing everyone seems to be ready for the next best thing!