Did you have Showbiz where you grew up? I sure did. I loved it. My memories of it are pretty cloudy, I swear the one on the Northwest side of Chicago had a giant room with a slanted floor that hordes of young children ran up and down. That was all there was too it, just a slanted floor!
Of course, the place offered lots of other excellent entertainment for hyperactive elementary schoolers- like animatronics. Animatronics are like the poor man’s robotics… They don’t actually have the ability to make decisions or function independently, but they can move and talk realistically. Showbiz Pizza had an amazing animatronic band, the Rock-afire Explosion, starring a giant guitar playing bear.
It turns out, there are still lots of people that are obsessed with the Rock-afire Explosion. Showbiz Pizza bought out Chuck E. Cheese in the 1980’s and, eventually, all the stores converted to being Chuck E. Cheese’s. While a few stores are still using the Rock-afire Explosion, most of the animatronic bands were sold off, and kooky fans bought them up! On youtube you can find quite a few videos of Rock-afire performing current pop songs. These are programed in by the fans that own them.
There was a documentary made last year about the folks behind the Rock-afire Explosion and the people that are still in love with it today. It looks really good! I hope it comes to Portland soon, at the moment it’s just playing in film festivals. Here’s the trailer.
It’s obviously a pretty nerdy pasttime, but things like this always make me really happy. I’m glad that people can find something that they can love and be so passionate about. I love that human beings are so strange and obsessive. We’ve all got our own thing going on, and I love seeing what other people come up with.