Concept Unification Stage

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The 3-Stage in Laurel, MD (removed in June 2022).


The Concept Unification Stage (Also known as the 3-Stage) is a stage originally created during Concept Unification by SPT Inc. as a retrofit of all Rock-afire Explosion shows that replaced all cosmetics with Chuck E. Cheese cosmetics.

History

Concept Unification

After the failed execution of the Concept Unification Prototype Stage, Showbiz Corporate decided that the design of the Stage should remain similar to the Rock-afire Layout. Cosmetics for the characters were provided by Diversified Designs, and props were produced by Corman & Associates[1].

The first 3-Stage was installed at Dallas, TX (13125 Montfort Dr) in November 1989. Five more test shows followed in mid 1990, at the Phoenix, AZ (8039 North 35th Ave), Arlington, TX (3200 Justiss Dr), Mesa (West), AZ (856 S Alma School Rd), Altamonte Springs, FL (541 W Hwy 436), and Orlando, FL (7419 International Dr) locations. A recorded demo of the stage in action was provided to stores at the end of SPP Christmas- '89 / Wave Bday[2]. Stores were given the Concept Unification Installation Manual and guidance tape to undergo the conversion process[3]. Generally, Concept Unification lasted from 1991-1993 with 152 Classic Stage shows being converted.

Post-Concept Unification

3-Stage shows have been prime targets for removal since the mid-1990s. In August 1996, the Awesome Adventure Machine was installed at the Dallas Montfort location to be installed directly on top of a 3-Stage[4]. Studio C was tested in 1997, and officially rolled out in 1998. Between 1998 and 2000, 27 3-Stages were removed and replaced with Studio C Alpha shows. The trend of replacing existing stages continued through the 2000s as 17 shows were replaced with Studio C Beta and Studio C Cappa. In the 2010s, Circles of Light replaced 3 of the shows and approximately 30 have succumbed to the Chuck E. Live Stage (Dance Floor) since 2017.

Although 3-Stages were seen as obsolete and considered lower priority after the mid 1990s, plastic cosmetics were made by Cowan Costumes to replace existing latex masks, hands, feet, and shoes[5][6]. Replacement cosmetics for prop characters were never manufactured, so characters such as Pizzacam and Munch Jr. were commonly removed from shows in the 2000s.


3-Stage shows still exist, although they are rapidly vanishing from stores due to the CEC 2.0 Remodel initiative. As of May 12th, 2024, 2 stores still have the 3-Stage show, and 1 has the Concept Unification 1-Stage. 2024 removed the 3-Stages in Tallahassee, FL (2810 Sharer Rd) & Altoona, PA (3415 Pleasant Valley Blvd), with plans on removing Billings, MT (100 24th St) in the works. The other 3-stage still in existence, Charlotte, NC (7701 Pineville-Matthews Rd), will be kept in-store following the 2.0 remodel as the company's official preservation of the CU 3-Stage[7].

Design

Stage Left

Stage Left features Pasqually on a raised pedestal with a drum set, the bass drum containing a flood light. The original plexiglass replacement for the drum front was orange, with a swirl pattern and stars. However, this was varied upon installations. Behind Pasqually is a brick-wall backdrop which reads "Pasqually's Amateur Hour" and has top and bottom molding with a center keystone. Depending on a location's configuration, if the control room was located on Stage Left, a partial wall was built to support the backdrop.

Next to Pasqually is Pizzacam, inside a speaker box. Early installations also contained a CU Flower (Animatronic) which were later removed. Pizzacam was removed from many stages in the 2000s. The last Pizzacam, at the Huntsville, AL (1220 Jordan Lane) store, was removed in March 2023.

Center Stage

Center Stage features Helen Henny, Mr. Munch, and Jasper T. Jowls in front of a city backdrop, lined with flower boxes. More than one CU Flower (Animatronic) were placed on early installations, but later removed. At the center of the stage is the "Munch's Make Believe Band" sign which lights up in various configurations. Behind the building backdrop is a fiber-optic curtain which simulates a starry sky.

Helen is on the left of the stage, with Building rising behind her. To her right is Munch Jr., who peeks out of a metal can. At the center of the stage is organ-playing Mr. Munch. Jasper is on the right of the stage and sits on a large metal can with his guitar. Moon rises behind Jasper.

The center stage valence features the Wink, and a helicopter light was added to the spotlight bar.

In 1994, the spotlight for Munch Jr. was reconfigured to become the "Gobo" light which reads "The Chuck E. Cheese Show."[8]

Prop characters have been subject to removal since the early 2000s; only two Building & Moon pairs remain. The last Munch Jr. was removed in October 2020, although the character was reinstalled at the Charlotte, NC (7701 Pineville-Matthews Rd) location in 2022[9] in the form of a fan-made project.

Stage Right

Stage Right features Chuck E. Cheese atop a black speckled triangular platform, in front of a star-shaped light and black rain curtain backdrop. To the right of the star, a red neon sign affixed to the backdrop flashes "Chuck E. Cheese" and is located above a 50" Pioneer monitor designed to look like a jukebox with a flashing top piece.

Many locations with the 3-Stage shows removed the triangular platform to be able to easily access the trap door underneath.

Stage Effects

The 3-Stage had a variety of show effects that would be added and removed over the years, with most stopping by the late 2000's.

Curtains

Curtains would continue to be used until September of 2005, where stores would disable their curtains, leaving all three open at all times. The last showtape to program new segments with curtain signals was the September 2005 Show, though reused segments and live shows with curtain signals would continue to appear up until the January 2014 Show.

Munch Jr. Spotlight / Gobo Light

During the 3-Stage's first few years, the original Antioch spotlight used for the Rock-afire would instead be pointed at Munch Jr. This changed with the September '94 show, where stores added a gobo to the spotlight reading "The Chuck E. Cheese Show", and pointed it at the center stage. This gobo light would then be used going forward for the introduction of showtape segments, no longer being used for Munch Jr. The last showtape to program new segments with gobo signals was the September 2005 Show, though reused segments and live shows with gobo signals would continue to appear up until the January 2014 Show.

House Lights

The house lights were a programmable signal for controlling the showroom lights, allowing the entire room to dim. Despite this being a newly installed effect for the 3-Stage, it wouldn't go used until some time between the Environment '92 show and the July 1993 Show. During its usage, the lights would only dim once a programmed segment would start, and were never programmed in any special way outside of this function. The lights would stop being programmed for new segments after the September 2006 Show.

Flower

The CU Flower (Animatronic) was a special effect only tested in a few Texas stores after the debut of the 3-Stage. Its only movement is its mouth, which used up the original bit number for Dook's left ear movement, going unused when Concept Unification converted him to Pasqually. Its earliest known appearance being programmed in a showtape is the CEC Rock It In Space show, and its last known is the Awesome Adventure Machine (Show). though reused segments and live shows with flower signals would continue to appear up until the January 2006 Show.

Character Conversions

Cosmetic Changes Made During Concept Unification
Rock-afire Explosion Character Chuck E. Cheese (MMBB) Character
Rolfe DeWolfe Chuck E. Cheese
Earl Schmerle Unused
Dook LaRue Pasqually
Fatz Mr. Munch
Beach Bear Jasper T. Jowls
Mitzi Mozzarella Helen Henny
Billy Bob Unused
Looney Bird Pizzacam
Sun Building
Moon Moon
Choo-Choo Munch Jr.
Antioch Mech Unused, Airlines Used for Wink

Gallery

Current 3-Stages

Store Installed/Converted Address Notes
Charlotte, North Carolina October 1982 as Rock-afire; converted in 1991 to CEC. 7701 Pineville-Matthews Rd Very good condition. Munch's organ reads "CEC" and has an uncovered Wink. Last 3-Stage in North Carolina the east coast. Will be the only 3-stage in the world once 2.0 is completed.
Billings, Montana August 1984 as Rock-afire; converted around 1991/1992 to CEC. 100 24th St Decent condition. Has an uncovered Wink. Chuck has his "Cool Chuck" outfit, the last one on a 3-Stage. Last 3-Stage to have the jukebox-style TV. Only Showbiz Pizza Place and Chuck E. Cheese ever in Montana.

References