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Rock Afire Explosion: Then and Now.

Updated on May 17, 2012

Remember ShowBiz Pizza?

In a world before YouTube, Memes, iPhones, CGI, Playstations, Xboxs or Wii, robots entertained children.

Every birthday, I remember my mother packing us all up in the car and heading to Pistol Pete's Pizza. It was the best day of the year, not just because I stuffed myself silly with pizza soda and cake, but because I got to watch the Rock Afire Explosion robotic band perform!

The Rock-afire Explosion is considered by many to be the greatest animatronic rock band of all time. The day the band was removed from the restaurant was a very sad day for me. In the 1980s the band was synonymous with ShowBiz Pizza Place restaurants, for which it was specifically designed. Other private chains like Pistol Pete's Pizza also purchased the show for use in its restaurants until 1995. The show's combination of three full stages, incredible music talent, amazing cast of characters, and animation have left an endearing mark on the hearts of its fans.

The Rock-afire Explosion once absent from the public's view for nearly two decades now has a new lease on life. A new interest has emerged because of the Rock-afire's presence on YouTube. Over the last few years, the Rock Afire has earned back many of its original fans, myself included, and have even begun gaining many new ones

The Rock Afire Story

I tell my personal experience with the Rock Afire Explosion

The Characters

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Rock Afire ExplosionBilly Bob BrockaliFatz GeronimoMitzi MozzarelaDook LaRueBeach BearRolfe & EarlLooney Bird
The Rock Afire Explosion
The Rock Afire Explosion
Billy Bob Brockali
Billy Bob Brockali
Fatz Geronimo
Fatz Geronimo
Mitzi Mozzarela
Mitzi Mozzarela
Dook LaRue
Dook LaRue
Beach Bear
Beach Bear
Rolfe & Earl
Rolfe & Earl
Looney Bird
Looney Bird

Show Configuration - What did it look like?

The entire Rock Afire Explosion
The entire Rock Afire Explosion

The Rock Afire Explosion show used a three stage design, giving the show flexibility in the presentation of its shows.

How did it work? - The magic inside the puppets

While considered dated today, when built, show used state of the art technology. The puppets were animated by pneumatic valve banks which are controlled by means of 4-track synchronized audio. The audio originally came from dual reel-to-reel players, one that held the main showtape, and one that had a birthday/special shows reel. When Cyberstar was added, the audio and video was contained on S-VHS tapes.

Two of the tracks go to the sound system for stereo sound (left and right speakers), and the other two audio tracks contain the programming signals. These signal tracks are fed into the computer (a custom designed set of driver boards contained within a gray file cabinet and affectionately known as the "graybox"). One signal track travels to the top drawer of the cabinet and the other signal track goes to the bottom drawer, and that controls the two sides of the show.

The signals tracks are also passed through a DBX box that converts the analog audio into a square wave that the graybox can understand. The signals are routed inside the graybox by the playback boards, and sent to each character driver board, which then sends the signals to the individual valve banks telling them when to pneumatically fire off each movement.

After Rock Afire saw its resurgence on YouTube. The show's programer and creator, Aaron Fechter began creating new shows. He still uses the original 8-bit computer equipment.

One thing the Rock-afire excelled at was the show lighting. Aside from the yellow, blue, red, amber, and green ceiling and ground flood lights, the Rock-afire had several special effects lighting including Rolfe's applause sign, Dook's bass drum, and Billy Bob's campfire and gas pump. Perhaps the most impressive of all lighting was the Rock-afire Explosion sign, and Fatz's Tune Machine. Both included a series of lights in assorted colors that could keep time with the music and create dazzling displays of light - it also didn't hurt that both were equipped with a special strobe light to really intensify things.

Spotlights were also an important aspect of the lighting. Each character in the Rock-afire had an individual spot. There were also some special spots that accentuated other stage elements, like the Sun, Moon, Antioch, and even Beach Bear's guitar.

Rock Afire's Digital Return

After 20 years in exile, the Rock Afire Explosion made a smashing return on YouTube in 2008. Aaron Fechter's Official Rock Afire Channel boosts over 2 million views and new videos are added every month!

Suscribe to the official YouTube channel here!

The Rock Afire Explosion at Smitty's Super Service Station - It's Christmas Time!

Happy Holidays! Die Hard Rock Afire fan Damon has given his show a Christmas make over!

About the Rock Afire Documentary

Rock Afire Explosion is the story of a small-town disc-jockey, a struggling inventor, and an animatronic rock band, that quickly becomes an eccentric portrait of childhood memories, broken dreams, and the resilience of the human spirit. With the closing of Showbiz Pizza Place in the early nineties, and the subsequent removal of the Rock-afire Explosion. Chris Thrash, a car salesman from Phenix City, Alabama who recently purchased a Rock-afire Explosion, has led the charge with his inventive programming and clever song choice. Aaron Fechter, creator of the Rock-afire Explosion and sole employee of Creative Engineering Inc., has worked closely with his fans with the hopes of revitalizing what was once a 300 employee, 20 million dollar per-year industry.

Watch the documentary instantly on Amazon!

Join Aaron Fechter and the in an all new feature length documentary about the rise and fall of the Rock Afire Explosion!

Click to read the review
Click to read the review

Rock Afire Explosion Documentary Review

During my Rock Afire Explosion searches, I came across a review published in November 2011 on Dig Boston's website.

Click on the picture to read the review! ---->

What ever happened to J-Fatz?

He was featured on the 2008 Rock Afire Documentary as the special Fatz ordered by the Jordan customer. A lighter "friendlier" monkey version of the Fatz character that was intended to become the mascot of their restaurant. Unfortunately, Aaron later reveals in this Creative Engineering Tour video, made in December 2010 that the Jordan customer failed to complete the deal. The Jordan Show, minus J-Fatz, now serves as Creative Engineering's portable show, available for rent.

Click the image to watch the video! ------->

Original Rock Afire Videos - The original material from ShowBiz Pizza

Once the Rock Afire was pulled from the stores, these tapes went the way of the dinosaur but thanks to YouTube, the material has returned!

Where are they now?

Help us to locate as many of the 280 Rock Afire Shows as possible! Submit links, photos, anything to shed of light on the mysterious whereabouts of Billy Bob and his crew!

Rock Afire Collectables

If you have a Rock Afire show or just looking to collect, eBay is your choice!

2nd Generation Rock Afire - Prototype Designs

Watch her move!
Watch her move!

One unfortunate aspect of the Rock-afire Explosion is the unrealized future that they may have had. Just as Creative Engineering was about to make a huge breakthrough in its character development, Showbiz pulled the plug on the Rock Afire explosion show. R&D funds disappeared and production of the Rock-afire Explosion was completely halted. Many future projects were never implemented, or even completed.

A new version of Mitzi was being created that had new arm and hip movements. She had the ability to actually dance by swaying at the hips and bringing her arms in front of her body with smooth, sweeping movements. A new version of Beach Bear was planned that had the ability to stand up off of his surfboard, and big plans were made for the updated 2nd Generation version of Dook. The updated Dook had new arm and wrist movements, which gave him the ability to play a full set of drums. He could swivel at the waist, and play drums that surrounded him, raise his arms to hit crash cymbals above him, and even reach one arm across the other while playing. It is believed that eventually every character was slated to have a 2nd Generation model, or at the very least, some type of animation upgrades.

Rock Afire goes Platinum with Kokayi in "Roxtar"

Rock Afire's very first music video

CheeseVention - Rock Afire to the Core

Nothing is strong than the heart of a fan. Like myself, there are many who want to keep the spirit of what made their childhood alive. Two such fans are "J" and Jenn. The husband/wife team created CheeseVention, the annual convention celebrating Showbiz Pizza, the Rock Afire Explosion, and Chuck E Cheese.

Rock Afire to the core, Jenn built and regularly puppeteers her very own version of Looney Bird.

An Interview with Chris Thrash.

Considered by many as the ultimate Rock Afire band, Chris describes how he came about his show.

The Rock Afire Investment

Mike Garay, a Rock Afire Collector, describes his ongoing effort to reconstruct a Rock Afire Show, piece by piece.

A Fan Shares his Rock Afire and Showbiz Memories

Written by a fan, this blog tells the story of a birthday party at ShowBiz back in 1983.

Click on the picture to read the blog --->

Geekologie: Guy pools roommates to purchase a Rock Afire on eBay

$14,000 for a complete working show is quite a deal! Several years ago, a complete, working, Rock Afire was sold on eBay to a man and his roommates. Talk about fans at heart! Hopefully they got the show up and running!

Click on the photo for the actual article! --->

The "New" Rock Afire Explosion - The Sequel Show

In the early 1990s the Rock-afire Explosion was given a drastic makeover. The show was brought up to date and down in size by utilizing the much smaller "Mijjin" style animatronic characters. New features such as revolving stages and dance choreography (Dancetronics) were introduced, making the New Rock-afire much more versatile than the Classic version. Adding to its versatility, the New Rock-afire could be purchased with extras like karaoke, or downsized versions to fit different customer budgets.

Aspects of the Mijjin animatronic characters weren't entirely stable. A lot of work still needed to be done to prevent breakage that never got done. The New Rock-afire was not as reliable or structurally as sound as the Classic show and Creative Engineering didn't have the opportunity to fix that. Perhaps if the New show had sold more units, and a greater demand had been placed on upgrades, many of these structural deficiencies would have been corrected.

SOURCE: showbizpizza.com

A Fan Defends the Rock Afire Explosion

Hank of the VlogBrothers YouTube channel rants against the haters of the Rock Afire Explosion. An impressive, self explanatory rant dedicated to Fatz whose highest rated comment is from Aaron Fechter himself! Check it out, and like it. 44 people are Chuck E Cheese fans.

Touring CEI
Touring CEI

Take a tour of Creative Engineering Inc.

For a fee, Aaron Fechter will take time out of his day can give you a complete grand tour of the Creative Engineering warehouse. Everything inside is how it was in the 1980s. There are hidden treasures everywhere!

Click the pic to begin the tour--->

Touring Creative Engineering Inc. - The Photo Tour Part 1

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Moonrockers was a last ditch effort by Creative Engineering to market the Rock Afire Explosion after it was officially pulled from Showbiz Pizza. There is only one example remaining of this show varient. It is currently for sale by Creative EngineeriMitzi and Beach Bear as the Moonrockers. The Moonrockers was a last ditch effort by Creative Engineering to market the Rock Afire Explosion after it was officially pulled from Showbiz Pizza. There is only one example remaining of this show varient. IFatz and Dook as AliensAaron's oldest animatronics. Sadly Latex deteriorates after about 20 years.The Mijjians from the New Rock Afire Explosion.The last two unsold Rock Afire Explosion shows.The Mask Rack. All masks are for sale.The 'mobile' Rock Afire Explosion show that has made appearances at Corporate Events, Music Videos and other venues.The basement is littered with show pieces in various stages of disrepair.
Moonrockers was a last ditch effort by Creative Engineering to market the Rock Afire Explosion after it was officially pulled from Showbiz Pizza. There is only one example remaining of this show varient. It is currently for sale by Creative Engineeri
Moonrockers was a last ditch effort by Creative Engineering to market the Rock Afire Explosion after it was officially pulled from Showbiz Pizza. There is only one example remaining of this show varient. It is currently for sale by Creative Engineeri
Mitzi and Beach Bear as the Moonrockers. The Moonrockers was a last ditch effort by Creative Engineering to market the Rock Afire Explosion after it was officially pulled from Showbiz Pizza. There is only one example remaining of this show varient. I
Mitzi and Beach Bear as the Moonrockers. The Moonrockers was a last ditch effort by Creative Engineering to market the Rock Afire Explosion after it was officially pulled from Showbiz Pizza. There is only one example remaining of this show varient. I
Fatz and Dook as Aliens
Fatz and Dook as Aliens
Aaron's oldest animatronics. Sadly Latex deteriorates after about 20 years.
Aaron's oldest animatronics. Sadly Latex deteriorates after about 20 years.
The Mijjians from the New Rock Afire Explosion.
The Mijjians from the New Rock Afire Explosion.
The last two unsold Rock Afire Explosion shows.
The last two unsold Rock Afire Explosion shows.
The Mask Rack. All masks are for sale.
The Mask Rack. All masks are for sale.
The 'mobile' Rock Afire Explosion show that has made appearances at Corporate Events, Music Videos and other venues.
The 'mobile' Rock Afire Explosion show that has made appearances at Corporate Events, Music Videos and other venues.
The basement is littered with show pieces in various stages of disrepair.
The basement is littered with show pieces in various stages of disrepair.

Creative Engineering's Programing Station

A look at the original programming station that was100% custom built and programed in 1980. It is made from two Apple 2E computers and a custom operating system designed specifically for programming the Rock Afire Explosion.

Original Creative Engineering Promotions

Some of the surviving CEI propaganda from the 1980s used to promote the Rock Afire concept to cilents.

Aaron Fechter - Founder of Creative Engineering Inc.

Sketch Artist visits Creative Engineering Inc.

Thomas Thorspecken, an Orlando sketch artist, visits Creative Engineering Inc. Click on the picture to read his storybook article on the experience!

Smitty's Super Service Station

One of Rock Afire's most dedicated fans runs his very own Smitty's Super Service Station. Equipped with a full, three stage Rock Afire Explosion show, the gas station is available for custom programing, private partys and Rock Afire fans.

The Rock Afire Explosion VS. Aquabats

The Aquabats group infiltrate Creative Engineering to face off with a band that has stood the test of time!

The Rock Afire Explosion Entertains at an EA Sports Party

Watch as the Rock Afire Explosion MC's the EA Madden Sports Party

The Rock Afire in Ireland - A portable show!

A completely unexpected surprise to the guy recording the video, he and his friends stumbled onto a Rock Afire show set up at an Irish fair. The condition of this show is sadly worn. Small defects have appeared including Beach Bear's guitar playing hand now hangs by threads, Fatz has a hard time blinking his right eye, Birthday Bird seems to have melted on Billy Bob's Guitar, Mitzi's face has started to droop on one side and she even looses one of her pom-poms during the video! Still, its always exciting to see these guys back in action.

Rock Afire damaged by fire.

Snap's Blast from the Past Museum catch fire in October 2010, destroying much of what was inside. Ironically, the Rock Afire survived the actual fire! The robotic endoskeletons, ruggedly built from steel, aluminum and brass easily survived. The cosmetics, however were another story.

Rock Afire sings the Macarena (Poorly) - Billy Bob's Pizza Wonderland

One of the few still functioning restaurant shows remaining, the Billy Bob's Pizza Wonderland's show is a shell of its former glory. As evident in the video, the show has fallen into severe disrepair, much to the disgust of Rock Afire fans. Every character has major mechanical problems; popped airlines, blown cylinders, bend or jammed limbs.

Noticeable Problems:

--Dook's arms are jammed and no longer function.

--Fatz' head and left arm are jammed.

--Beach Bear doesn't function at all.

--Mitzi no longer functions, except for her right arm.

--Billy Bob's right arm is jammed.

--Looney Bird doesn't move, only his mouth.

The New Rock Afire Explosion at Tinley Park

Another of the few remaining New Rock Afire Explosions. This show is in a little better shape than the one at Odyssey Fun center. At least Mitzi has her ears in this one. Aside from still singing the Macarena, 15 years after the song disappeared from the American Lexicon, its great to see this show still in operation.

The New Rock Afire Explosion at Odyssey Fun World

This the one of only a handful of New Rock Afire Explosions still in operation today. The show's faulty design is apparent. Mitzi is missing her ears and all the servo motors that controlled the characters' eyes and eyelids have burnt out. To top it off, the curtains do not work and neither does the neon Rock Afire sign.

Mayer Hawthorne Music Video featuring the Rock Afire Explosion

Published in December 2011 by Universal Records. This was filmed at Creative Engineering Inc.

Rock Afire in my Brother's Backyard - Resurrection by Amateur

Now here's a dedicated fan. This gentleman converted his back porch and toolshed to house a used Rock Afire Explosion. It's a Rock Afire with character that's for sure. The show is missing tons of parts, many props and costumes are improvised and all members appear to be under the influence of the bottle. But it is a gallant effort for someone who has pieced the show together one character at a time.

All New Original Rock Afire Music! - The latest songs written for and performed by the Rock Afire Explosion

The Rock Afire at CheeseVention 3

The Rock Afire is always featured at CheeseVention. The show at CheeseVention 3 was like any other. Except for Beach Bear. He earned the title of Most Creepy that year with the featured Bear showing major mechanical and cosmetic problems. Watch the video and see what I mean!

Rock Afire Shows and Parts

From 2007 to 2011, an entire Rock Afire show was being sold on eBay part by part. Prices for these items have ranged between $20-$1500.

Click for the interview!
Click for the interview!

An interview with Aaron Fechter, Rock Afire Creator

In December 2011, pop culture website Soap in the Bathroom, caught up with Aaron Fechter for an interview. He talks about the latest Rock Afire news and where the show is heading in the future!

Click here for the interview.

Masters of Puppets: The Rock-afire Explosion Story

A News Article written by SPIN eMagazine journalist Andy Beta.

Read the article here!

Click here to read it.
Click here to read it.

Rock Afire Explosion ColeHouse Article

Here's another fantastic article regarding the Rock Afire by Blog and Magazine ColeHouse

Rock Afire as Munch's Make-Believe Band

Here is an example of a converted Rock Afire show when Showbiz Pizza merged with Chuck E. Cheese in the mid 90s.

The following robot skeletons were recycled:

Rolf as Chuck E Cheese

Mitzi as Helen

Fatz as Munch

Beach Bear as Jasper

Dook as Pasqually

Recycled Props:

Moon

Fatz keyboard

Dook's drum set.

The show featured in the video has been neglected for some time. The author of the video is one of the technicians trying to bring the show back to life.

Not all Rock Afire shows were converted.

A Lesson in Installation

Aaron Fechter, the creator of the Rock Afire Explosion, gives the owners of a newly installed Rock Afire Explosion a lesson in Showtape Installation and Troubleshooting.

The Rock Afire Honors Davy Jones/Monkees

In honor of the untimely passing of Davy Jones, the Rock Afire salutes him with a tribute performance!

The Rock Afire at the FunZone. - Now Closed.

The Fun Zone located in New York finally closed its doors in September 2011. It marked the end of a long demise of the venue. It's Rock Afire Explosion had became the stuff of infamy amongst the Show Biz Pizza community for its lack of maintenance and repair over the decades. By the time the restaurant closed, not a single character was functioning, costumes were in rags, face masks ripped and torn, a sorry sight indeed.

The show itself was shut down in April 2011, sentencing the characters live out the remainder of their existence at Fun Zone as frozen statues. Shortly after the restaurant's closing, the show was auctioned off as a complete show.

The video is one of the last recordings of the FunZone Rock Afire before its decommissioning. The poor condition of the band is all to evident.

Its new owners are currently restoring the show to its former glory! Scroll down for details!!

Rock Afire Restoration Project

A fan describes his long term plans for a newly acquired Rock Afire Explosion band. Read the article here.

Rock Afire Restoration Project Update 01

The restoration project continues with exciting developments!

Click the photo to read the article! --------------->

Rock Afire Restoration Project Update 04

Billy Bob is fully functional. A full speed/power test is being performed in the video. The components of each robot are remarkably simple as you can see.

The Looney Bird video is a MIDI conversion test.

Rock Afire Explosion Project Update 02

Extensive testing on Dooke and Mitzi begins.

Chris Thrash sells his Rock Afire Show.

In a mutual decision between Aaron Fechter and Chris Thrash, Chris' brand new Rock Afire has been returned to Creative Engineering in exchange for a used Rock Afire. Chris Thrash and his brand new Rock Afire were prominent in the Rock Afire Documentary produced in 2008.

Here is the 30 minute video of the load in.

The Original Rock Afire Soundtrack

For those of you who collect music, why not add the original Rock Afire soundtrack to your collection. The original record is still available to purchase at most vintage music stores. Here is a link to it! Just click on the pic!

Rock Afire Fan Animations

One fan creates his own shows in flash!

Concept Unification

During the merger of Showbiz Pizza and Chuck E. Cheese, many of the Rock Afire shows were converted as well. All Rock Afire props, cosmetics and material were removed and replaced with the Pizza Time Players. Many of these Concept Unification stages still exist at older Chuck E Cheese locations. Please are some of these CU stages in operation

Rolf as Chuck E. Cheese

Dook as Pasqually

Fatz as Mr. Munch

Beach Bear as Jasper

Mitzi as Helen Henny

Looney Bird as PizzaCam

FandomPlanet's Audio Interview with Aaron Fechter

Follow Us Back to ShowBiz Pizza

The latest interview with the creative Engineering CEO

Click on the picture to listen ---->

Rock Afire Explosion MIDI Conversion

Some owners of Rock Afire shows and characters are exploring modernization technologies to replace the aging linear programing. These videos are examples of MIDI conversions.

Rock Afire Explosion Animated GIFs

A fan's recent trip to Creative Engineering has produced several GIFs!

Click on the GIF to see more---->

What do you remember about them?

Your Rock Afire Memories

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      Jack 3 years ago

      You might wanna update the segment about Billy Bob's Wonderland as of September of 2014, They're back up and running.

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