Remember this? ShowBiz Pizza tokens

Come for the pizza, stay for the fun! These ShowBiz Pizza Place 25 cents game tokens made going out for pizza an expanded experience.

A new concept in family entertainment evolved from the introduction of video games. After Atari introduced the first video game, Pong, the corporation was looking for ways to introduce video games to younger players. Offering games, pizza, and entertainment for the whole family as Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater, the first location opened in San Jose, Calif. in 1977.

A year later, Robert L. Brock, owner of a chain of Holiday Inns, bought into the franchise. At the same time, musician/creator Aaron Fletcher was developing an animatronic band he called The Wolfpack 5 that featured human-sized animals singing and playing instruments.

As Brock was preparing to open a Chuck E. Cheese location in Kansas City, he suddenly decided to try a different concept. The former Thriftway grocery at the Antioch Shopping Center was totally transformed and opened as ShowBiz Pizza Place on March 3, 1980. Brock owned 80% and Fletcher’s Creative Engineering, Inc. owned 20%.

Fletcher developed a new assortment of animal mascots, with Billy Bob Brockali, a brown bear with a Tennessee accent that wore red and yellow striped overalls, as the restaurant’s mascot. As the new band that would feature Billy Bob, The Rock-afire Explosion, was still in development when the Antioch location opened, Fletcher’s Wolfpack 5 took the stage instead.

With a new cast of characters, Rock-afire Explosion debuted at the Jackson, Miss., location a few months later. With a silverback gorilla named Fats Geronimo playing keyboards and singing the lead, he was joined by Billy Bob on bass guitar, Dook LaRue, a dog playing drums, Beach Bear, a guitar-playing polar bear, with Looney Bird and Mitzi Mozzarella, a cheerleader mouse, singing vocals. Fletcher provided the voices for most of the characters.

A spider was later introduced as Fats’ pet and named “Antioch” as a nod to the first location.

Despite the popularity of both Chuck E. Cheese and ShowBiz Pizza, by 1990 ShowBiz locations were being rebranded as Chuck E. Cheese and The Rock-afire Explosion characters were replaced.

Using the original animatronic band characters, an arcade bar named Rock-afire opened in Kansas City’s midtown area in 2018, but closed about a year later.

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