Concept Unification

From Cheese-E-Pedia

Promotional image of Chuck E. Cheese in front of Irving, TX (3903 W Airport Fwy)

Concept Unification was the process Showbiz Pizza Time, Inc. underwent to replace the Rock-afire Explosion characters with Chuck E. Cheese's characters as a result of discourse between Creative Engineering and ShowBiz Pizza Place.


Early Modification Attempts

During the early stage of ShowBiz Pizza Place's beginning, Creative Engineering, Inc. proposed that SPP would be required to purchase a certain amount of Rock-afire Explosion shows to maintain an exclusive license to the characters. By 1984, ShowBiz Pizza and Aaron Fetcher, president of Creative Engineering, were no longer on good speaking terms.[1] Around the same time ShowBiz began laying off hundreds of employees as an effect of the Video game crash of 1983 and demanded CEI to cease production of shows immediately.

Without ShowBiz Pizza buying shows, Creative Engineering would also have to lay off a mass of employees.[2] These strains would eventually lead both companies creating an agreement to allow the purchase of Rock-afire Explosion shows to other customers. Most likely in an attempt to differentiate themselves from possible competitors, ShowBiz would attempt to rebrand one of The Rock-afire Explosion shows in November 1985 to "Magic", a retrofit of the Classic Stage that gave the show room a variety show feel. This "retrofit" was notable for its lack of mentioning "The Rock-afire Explosion," as well as every character being nameless (except in some reused songs) with the exception of Billy Bob.[1] It has been speculated the supporting characters have been left nameless so they would've been renamed at a later time.

Creative Presentations, Cry Wolf Music, & Sally Industries

The CEI 1986 Liberty Tape Party would only harm the relationship between Creative Engineering and ShowBiz even further. An intoxicated CEI employee allegedly erased the programming during a celebration, causing the distribution deadline to be missed. ShowBiz consequently suspended CEI from the entertainment division for a short amount of time, going as far to provide their own programming and soundtracks throughout 1987. Creative Presentations, a defunct animatronic manufacturer based in Schaumburg, Illinois, assisted in the production of these soundtracks with their own voice talents and songs.

Cry Wolf Music also produced soundtracks for this brief era of the Rock-afire in ShowBiz, with segments written by Stephen White (who also wrote segments for the Chuck E. Cheese characters simultaneously, and would later become the head writer for Barney & Friends). Cry Wolf retained the same voice cast that had been implemented by Showbiz Pizza Time and Creative Presentations.

The Rock-afire Explosion (1986-87) Voice Actors

  • Earl Schmerle - Unknown
  • Rolfe DeWolfe - Joe Conti (Animation Producer for SPT)
  • Dook LaRue - Unknown
  • Fatz Geronimo - Mark Brink (CPI Voice Actor)
  • Beach Bear - Unknown
  • Mitzi Mozzerella - Unknown
  • Billy Bob Brockali - Unknown
  • Looney Bird - Frank Gaughan (Character Designer and Voice Actor for CPI)

For the Movie Magic segment of the Rock-afire, as well as the Pizza Time Players, the original song selection pitch was provided by Sally Industries of Jacksonville, Florida. Although co-founder and chairman John Wood denied Sally's involvement with ShowBiz Pizza, an audio-cassette of song selections was recorded by Janet Sherman, Sally's head of soundtrack and script production. Interestingly, the song Let's Hear It For The Boy from the film Footloose was left unused in the final version, though was later used for the Introducing: Yogi Bear! Showtape. Beyond this song selection pitch, it is currently unknown the extent of Sally's involvement with the Rock-afire and Showbiz Pizza Time in general. Sally voice actress, Debra Rider, claimed she voiced "Mitzi Mouse for Chuck E. Cheese's," during a short period of time before Sally allegedly lost the soundtrack rights to a Texas-based company (presumably Cry Wolf Music), resulting in the production of only one show (possibly Movie Magic).

"Also, there was another show at Chuck E. Cheese's for a time, but then Sally lost the audio production to a Texas company, so we did only that one show. Most of the same voices, different characters and songs."

  • Debra Rider, Singer & Voice Actress for Sally Industries

Creative Engineering officially returned to provide new, exclusive soundtracks for ShowBiz locations (albeit, SPT retained control of programming duties) starting with Homely for Christmas in November 1987. This era, referred to as "Cyberstar," now featured the Rock-afire paired with newly-installed television monitors (broadcasting footage of various graphics, walkarounds, and even the animatronics themselves) that synchronized with the characters on stage. It was during this period of time when ShowBiz attempted to acquire all copyrights related to The Rock-afire Explosion, much to the dismay of Aaron Fechter. After being denied ownership of the rights, plans were then made to completely eliminate the Rock-afire from ShowBiz Pizza stores.

As early as September 1986, Creative Presentations proposed replacing the Rock-afire Explosion with four retrofit options to the management of Showbiz Pizza Time. Some of these options included characters that were previously used in CPI's Ape-Ologys and Sgt. Singer / Sgt. Striper shows. By this point, CPI provided SPT with replacement cosmetics for the Rock-afire, as well as new mechanisms and costumes for Chuck E. Cheese Cyberamics.[3]

"We would recommend that instead of just replacing articles of clothing, as you have outlined above is that we design entirely new costumes. For instance the Billy Bob Figure may have both jacket and pants, so it is a complete change."

  • Gene Bullard, President of Creative Presentations, Inc.

Chuck E. Cheese's

Due to the recent acquisition of Pizza Time Theatre, ShowBiz presented the possibility of retrofitting the Rock-afire Explosion to the Chuck E. Cheese characters. They allegedly requested Creative Engineering to build and maintain Cyberamic shows.

As Chuck E. Cheese has been making his appearances in SPP locations and has been proven to be more popular with guests, they'd also begin to rebrand the White Settlement, TX; Citrus Heights, CA; and Milwaukee, WI ShowBiz Pizza locations with Chuck E. Cheese characters, utilizing the Chuck E.'s House stage outside of the Arlington, TX store.

"Early signs of the test are quite positive," said Dick Frank, chairman, and chief executive officer. "if this proves to go well, we do see the day when the entire system will be Chuck E. Cheese. "We're analyzing the markets and we will continue to follow it, and if we have any indication that will have a problem, we will stop it immediately. But at this point the results are favorable." [4]

Around this period they would also begin to experiment with retrofitting the Rock-afire Explosion characters with Chuck E. Cheese characters. As a result, a prototype of this show would be designed by Jul Kamen in conjunction with Creative Presentations. However, this faced criticism from SPT executives. In 1989, the entertainment department reevaluated their plan and gave the CEC characters new personalities, most notably making the Helen Henny character much like Mitzi Mozzarella. This in combination with new set design, would create Munch's Make Believe Band.

Dave Thomas, former artist and character designer for Creative Engineering, was commissioned to provide new character cosmetics and props for the show. Thomas' company, Diversified Designs, would become involved with the Munch's Make Believe Band 3-Stage, as well as future Cyberamic setups that would reflect this new arrangement. At some point, Burt "Sal" Wilson (the original voice of Fatz Geronimo) was asked by SPT to audition as the voice of Mr. Munch with a "southern accent." Burt was initially unaware this voice was for a Chuck E. Cheese's character, immediately refusing to provide the same mannerisms as Fatz upon being informed. Despite offering a different voice for the character, SPT continuously pestered Burt to use his Fatz voice through means of compensation and even a visit to a basketball game. When SPT gave up on this plan, Munch's current voice actor at the time, Scott Wilson, altered his voice to reflect that of Fatz's.

By December 1989 the first Munch's Make Believe Band retrofit would debut at the Dallas, TX (13125 Montfort Dr) store.[5] The success of this pilot led to a mandated installation for every ShowBiz Pizza store between 1990 up to 1993 when all shows were converted.


As early as 1996 Showbiz Pizza Time announced the Awesome Adventure Machine, an attempt of updating the animatronic shows to the new millennium. As this concept failed, it became a blueprint for Studio C which ended up replacing a majority of 3-Stage animatronic shows.

As of current, the Chuck E. Cheese characters have been re-conceptualized several times after Concept Unification and are still being used plentifully by CEC Entertainment.