Thursday, January 2, 2020

Rock-afire Find

This being a new year, and the habit of making resolutions upon the new year being what it is, I thought I'd make one.  I don't have many vices and the ones I have, I don't want to give up (coffee, I'm looking at you), so I thought I'd make one aimed at this blog.  I resolve to make more posts in the new year.  Of course, resolutions being what they are, I can't promise how long it will last.

But, let's burn that bridge when we come to it, to merge a couple old adages.

First up is this Mitzi Mozzarella I found at an estate sale this past Fall.  I say "I found", but let me tell you the story from a proud father perspective.  

My wife and 2 daughters typically accompany me on my Saturday morning ventures to garage and estate sales and they have picked up on what piques my interest.  Not knowing what it was, but knowing it was something I'd like, my oldest daughter grabbed this Mitzi and showed it to me.


I'll be honest; I knew it was a character from a pizza parlor, but didn't know which.  We didn't go out much when I was a kid, and when we did, it certainly wasn't to a place like Showbiz Pizza.  I had to be happy with Red Lobster (when we splurged) and Burger Chef.  I knew it was either Chuck E. Cheese or Showbiz and a little Googling confirmed it was in fact Mitzi Mozzarella, a member of the Rock-afire Explosion band of animatronics featured at Showbiz in the 1980's.


Mitzi was a cheerleader, as evidenced by her outfit.  She originally had green hair ribbons.



Mitzi was voiced by a few different actors, but found her voice with Shalisa Sloan, an 11-year-old girl who took Mitzi to new heights, bringing her from a stereotypical ditz to a strong role model for young girls.  Shalisa is still in the entertainment business today as a voiceover actress for commercials.

The Rock-afire Explosion characters were created by Creative Engineering Inc., headed up by inventor Aaron Fechter, creator of the game Whack-A-Mole.

Showbiz opened in 1980 in direct response to Atari huckster Nolan Bushnell's Chuck E. Cheese chain and in partnership with Creative Engineering. Chuck E. Cheese filed for bankruptcy in 1984, probably a casualty of Bushnell's Atari home entertainment collapse.  Showbiz bought out the chain, but continued to operate the restaurants as separate entities. In 1989, the company eliminated the animatronic entertainment, ending its partnership with Creative and Engineering, and consolidated all restaurants under the Chuck E. Cheese mantle.  Mitzi's voice was silenced forever...or was it?  

Apparently, Fechter and Creative Engineering still maintains a set of characters and still creates music for them including this Black-Eyed Peas hit.


If you're so inclined, there's also a documentary about The Rock-afire Explosion featuring an interview with Fechter and a tour of the Creative Engineering warehouse.  

6 comments:

  1. "Huckster"!? you take that back! Bushnell is a seminal computer game god, and i will not have you casting aspersions on him like that. shame on you!

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    Replies
    1. I meant "huckster" as a compliment like Stan Lee was a huckster. A self-promoter and marketing genius.

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    2. you mean "hustler" (in the contemporary, rap-based sense)? a huckster to me is a sham, a flim-flam man.

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    3. Actually, a huckster is someone that goes door to door selling things for a living. I think "hustler" has a more negative connotation as it implies you're being "hustled" or tricked.

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    4. i think we're *both* wrong, lol -- Webster's defines both words as basically the same thing: a person who is aggressively selling something, typically underhanded in some way. at least we both know what we are *intending* to convey!

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    5. Yes, as I said, it was meant as a compliment, perhaps not the best word.

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