Visit to '80s animatronic rock band warehouse


Casey Paquet says:

My buddy Allen and I had the opportunity last week to visit Creative Engineering, Inc. in Orlando -- better known as the birthplace of the Rock-afire Explosion, the animatronic band you may remember from Showbiz Pizza Place in the '80s. In an unassuming (and unmarked) warehouse smack in the middle of downtown sits a huge time capsule, once home to over 300 employees and now a relic of rotting robots and shattered dreams. The owner, Aaron Fechter, is the only remaining "employee" and a walk through the main floor and basement of the warehouse is like walking through a ghost town that was vacated in 1984, everything left just as it was the day the doors were closed.

Aaron was kind enough to give us a guided tour of the enormous warehouse, which was equal parts entertaining and depressing. The highlight of the visit was getting to see the Rock-afire Explosion (the very one that all of the original show tapes were programmed on) perform -- Aaron handed us a huge document containing all of the show tapes, letting us choose what we wanted to hear and playing us some of his favorites. I can't quite explain the surreal nature of the visit, seeing a robot band that I haven't seen in 20 years up close and personal is a bit unsettling, not to mention seeing parts of said band strewn about in various states of disrepair across thousands of square feet of dark warehouse.

For your viewing pleasure, I have provided links to a Flickr set of nearly 100 photos throughout both levels of the warehouse and a series of videos. I've done my best to let you know what you're looking at in the captions, so enjoy!

Visit to 80s animatronic rock band warehouse



  1. I live in Huntington WV home of Marshall University which happens to have the same “M” as Mitzy is wearing and the green and white color scheme. We also have a Rock-a-Fire robot band kin our local Billy Bobs Pizza Wonderland. Its been here at least twenty-five years. Is every Mitzy wearing this same outfit or is the robot in the video and pic from my hometown? Either way this was fun to watch! Rock-a-Fire foreva!!

  2. The Rock-afire Explosion movie is really good! A friend loaned it to me and I loved it. Definitely worth checking out if you like animatronics or are a fan of people-scale documentaries.

  3. I use the parking garage across from this warehouse and always look for an open window so I can sneak a peak as I go to and from my car. On the roof of the warehouse is an ever changing graffiti mural from local taggers. Ever-changing as in it gets painted over. Always interesting though. I would like to post an image of what is currently there, but because the warehouse is unassuming and unmarked, and because the Flickr set didn’t show the outside, I’ll refrain. But if you work in the DT Orlando area, chances are someone you work with can point it out to you. So while you might not get a peak inside, take a moment to check out the art on top.

  4. For old school mechanical music and good food, check out Luigi’s Pizza Parlor in Saccramento on Stockton Blvd.

  5. Aaron Fechter had been programming the band to do contemporary songs recently. His ‘request’ site hasn’t been updated since Oct 2010, though. He’d use the actual track and choreograph the band to the song. They’re all pretty well done.

    Here’s the YouTube page featuring lots of the songs with some behind the scenes-ish videos as well
    This song is: Electric Feel by MGMT –

  6. I used to love collecting the 45’s from Showbiz Pizza. Outside of Chicago, The Showbiz ultimately became a Chimpy’s Pizza Safari – and it still had a working Rock-A-Fire, only the songs had been updated. It was still working in the early 90s.


  7. What’s interesting to me is how many different versions there were of what is otherwise the same business. The varient we had here was Chuck E Cheese

  8. I worked at Showbiz Pizza Place right out of high school, one of the first ones built in 1980. Was there for four years, saw the peak of the American arcade and the following crash. Chuck E Cheese was a similar concept, though got a later launch. There was a lawsuit, I believe, that Chuck E Cheese filed against the folks at Showbiz but later lost. By the time the lawsuit ended, though, it was pretty much game over; our store was franchised to a Christian fundy company out of Tennessee that felt that if you had testicles you worked in the kitchen only and that X-chromosome bearers worked the floor and directly with the customers (I was the team leader in charge of the beverage bar and dining areas, so I was effectively screwed). I quit.
    The robotics were pneumatic. I used to love shutting off the power at closing time and then running a show just to watch them run down.
    Then there was the time Billy Bob’s arm mechanism broke and his hand slid a few inches lower. Had a group of visiting Greek sailors who barely understood English, but the language that hand was conveying hovering over that robotic bear’s crotch was universal. Good times, good times.

Comments are closed.