Fantasy Forest

From Cheese-E-Pedia

Fantasy Forest Road Show Logo (1975)

Fantasy Forest (Originally known as Fantasy Forest Road Shows[1] and Fantasy Forest Manufacturing) was a costume and attractions manufacturer that started in 1971, later to make the animatronics for the first Pizza Time Theatre location at San Jose, CA (370 S Winchester Blvd) in 1977 and to eventually be bought by Pizza Time Theatre at an unknown date.[2]

Pre-Pizza Time Theatre History

TODO: All bookings only found for California, still need to find all bookings across the US.

The ideas for the company would be started by Harold Goldbrandsen and Tom Frosting in late 1969 to early 1970 as a side project while they were working as promotion counselors and radio advertising executives. Harold already had experience with costumed characters working for a PR firm in 1966.[3] They would spend two years discussing and planning out their first attraction set to feature as a travelling show to various malls. They would pitch this initial idea to mall promotion executives, who gave them the confidence to start work on their first show. They would quit their jobs to begin full time work in the company, securing their manufacturing office in Victorville, CA.[2]

Alice Through the Looking Glass

The Cheshire Cat costume at the attraction preview event (March 1972)

Their first show would be developed in 1971 as Alice Through the Looking Glass. All of the costume and prop characters including the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, 3 Card People, the Caterpillar, Tweedle Dum, Tweedle Dee, the White Rabbit, and Alice were all handmade by Jean Goldbrandson, Harold's mother whom was the art director for the show. The characters of the Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat would be mechanically controlled- with the cat blinking, moving his tail, and speaking.[4]

The decorated area would consist of a gilded mirror frame as an entrance, a brick wall for the Cheshire Cat to sit upon, a velvet mushroom for the Caterpillar, various shrubbery, trees, and a white picket fence. Music created by Bill Dixon would run during the attraction.[2]

Fantasy Forest would begin to make press kits advertising the show to various malls, including advertising tips and items, such as a tape of the original music, to use in radio and newspaper ads. By the time the show was nearing its completion, it was already booked for 4 months to travel around Southern California, Seattle, and Northern California. They planned on the show being the first of six attractions to be on the road each for a three year period- going across the US and not returning back to Victorville until the tour was over. The shows would travel in a 30ft trailer, with one member of staff permanently set to manage each attraction, while local hires would come for assistance at each stop.[2]


The show would first preview on February 25, 1972 at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds. 300 people would turn up for the event. Notably Alice would be set at a balloon stand, which was in such demand by the visitors the company had to acquire a second machine to keep up.[5]

Known Bookings

  • February 28th to March 5th the show would be located at a mall in Oxnard.[6]
  • April 6th - 9th, the show would appear at the Montclair Plaza.[7]
  • April 13th - 16th at Huntington Center. Admission was 35 cents.[8]
  • In Seattle sometime in May.[6]
  • October 5th - 9th, 1972, at the Del Amo Fashion Square. Promoted as "Mad Hatter's Birthday Sale-A-Bration" for the 1 year anniversary of the plaza.[4]
  • April 4th - 13th, 1974, at Central City Mall[9]

The Old MacDonald's Farm

As early as March of 1972, Fantasy Forest second production would be in preparation, set to be ready be September of that year. This would be a similar walk-through attraction featuring costumed and animated characters. The characters would consist of various animals, black sheep, Bo-Peep, Diamond Nell the Talking Donkey, Flopsy-Mopsy, Peter Cottontail, and Farmer MacDonald.[10][11]

Known Bookings

  • December 4th through 22nd, 1972, the first booking at Northridge Fashion Center.[12][10]
  • February 7th - 11th, 1973, at Tyler Mall.[11]
  • December 7th - ???, 1973 at the Carson Mall. Double booked with the Wizard of Oz show.[13]
The Scarecrow, Dorothy, and Cowardly Lion at Tanforan Park Shopping Center (June 13, 1973)

The Wizard of Oz

Their third show premiering in early 1973 would be of the Wizard of Oz theming. Characters would include Dorothy, Tin Woodman, Good Witch of the North, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witch of the West, multiple winged monkeys, and two blue Munchkins. Multiple scenes from the story would be depicted. Similar to Alice's role in her show, Dorothy would man the free "magic balloon" station.[14]

Known Bookings

  • March 29th - March 31st, 1973, first booking at Sunland Ford.[14]
  • June 14th - 17th, Tanforan Park Shopping Center.[15]
  • July 12th - 15th, Central City Mall.[16]
  • December 7th - ???, 1973 at the Carson Mall. Double booked with the Old MacDonald's Farm show.[13]

Mother Goose Review

Their fourth show would debut in February of 1974, themed around various nursery rhymes. Characters would include Little Miss Muffet, Old King Cole, Humpty Dumpty, Puss n' Boots, and others.[17]

Known Bookings

  • February 15th - 18th, 1974, debut at the Merced Mall.[17]
  • October 3rd - 6th, at Tanforan Park.[18]
  • October 24th - 27th, at Florin Center.[19]
  • November 21st - 24th, at Topanga Plaza[20]
Tulsa University's Hurc the Golden Hurricane (1978)

Costume Characters & Debt

After the road show's run ended by 1975, Fantasy Forest would go into debt and would have to sell an unknown amount of show assets to a Sears.[21] By this time the company would shift entirely to contract costume work for the next year, changing its name to Fantasy Forest Manufacturing.[22] In late 1976 Harold Goldbrandson had to take a second mortgage on his house.[23]

Fantasy Forest sometime before October of 1976 would do their first known outsourced work for the Fresno District Fair for four mascot costumes. These would include Rocky Raccoon, King Cotton, Hoot Owl, and Chief Engineer. The fair would employ local high school band members and have the costumes entertain crowds of children at the fair.[24]

The same month the company would be contacted by Pizza Time Theatre to begin work on their first animatronic prototype. Their next job in 1977 would be to make a mascot of Hurc the Golden Hurricane for the Tulsa University football team.[25][26]

In early 1977 Fantasy Forest would meet with Walt Disney Studios to work for them, but was turned down due to Disney doing all of its production work in-house. This meeting however would allow them to receive many referrals from Disney for work, leading up to 50% of their work being from these referrals alone.[25]

One of these referrals would be for the University of Iowa's Herky the Hawkeye mascot, which had not been updated since 1961. Fantasy Forest would design the meaner look for the mascot that would continue to be used for decades, completing the look by mid-October of 1977. This work would accidentally be credited in publications as being made by Walt Disney themselves.[25][27]

History w/ Pizza Time Theatre

The Prototype Animatronic at CheeseVention 9 in 2012.

During Pizza Time Theatre's conception, Gene Landrum, manager of the Atari Restaurant Operating Division, would begin calling through the entire IAAPA directory looking for the manufacturer for their animated puppet show. The only company to respond would be Fantasy Forest. Despite the company having prior experience with mechanically animated figures, they had none with pneumatic animatronics or puppets, Harold Goldbrandsen figured he would learn as he built them.[28]

Prototype Animatronic

Their first prototype animatronic, being either of Rick Rat or Chuck E. Cheese, would begin development likely as soon as Fantasy Forest was signed on, being used as a proof of concept to show Nolan Bushnell their potential, and likely as a way to greenlight the funding for the creation of the entire cast.[28]

The animatronic would be incredibly simple, only having three movements of limited complexity. The entire shell of the head and body would also be glued to a wooden backboard, making his body completely static. This would carry onto the later Winchester Chuck E. Cheese V1 animatronic, but over time Fantasy Forest would become accustomed to the creation process and would become more bold with each bot's complexity.[25]

This prototype animatronic would be a successful unveiling to Nolan and his team, and Fantasy Forest would be signed on to make the first animatronic set for Pizza Time Theatre's first location at San Jose, CA (370 S Winchester Blvd).[28]



  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3
  4. 4.0 4.1
  6. 6.0 6.1
  10. 10.0 10.1
  11. 11.0 11.1
  13. 13.0 13.1
  14. 14.0 14.1
  17. 17.0 17.1
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2