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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Release Date: March 26th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 2008

The Rock-afire Explosion

Overview -

Blu-ray Review By: Matthew Hartman
There once was a magical place where you could eat tons of pizza, burn hours of time playing games, and then watch incredible animatronic animals perform musical numbers. It was called ShowBiz Pizza and the incredible band was The Rock-Afire Explosion! Filmmakers Brett Whitcomb and Bradford Thomason deliver a lovely historical look a childhood pastime and celebrate the fans who keep the memories alive. AGFA and OCN Distribution deliver a nice Blu-ray release of this warmly nostalgic documentary. Recommended 

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Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Region Free Blu-ray
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
English SDH
Release Date:
March 26th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


If you were a kid growing up in the 1980s, chances are pretty good your parents treated you to pizza and a massive room of games and rides while a semi-creepy but incredibly fun animatronic animal band played music. But were you a ShowBiz Pizza kid? Or were you a Chuck E. Cheese kid? Filmmakers Brett Whitcomb and Bradford Thomason take a deep dive look at the cultural phenomena what was ShowBiz pizza and the iconic band The Rock-Afire Explosion

For a little background for those of you who weren’t there or even breathing yet, ShowBiz Pizza was the big treat location every kid could hope mom and dad would take them to. Sure, there was the mall, the video store, KB Toys, or the movie theater, but there was nothing like ShowBiz Pizza! Featuring the incredible Rack-Afire Explosion with creature performers Billy Bob Brockali, Looney Bird, Dook LaRue, Fatz Geronimo, Beach Bear, Mitzi Mozzarella, Rolfe DeWolfe and Earl Schmerle. In between games and smashing your face full of pizza, you could enjoy this crazy show developed by Aaron Fechter and his company Creative Engineering. At its peak, there were over 200 ShowBiz Pizza locations in the country… and then suddenly they were all gone.

The Rock-Afire Explosion is a lovely dive into the history of the titular band, the man who made the the machines, the pizza chain that housed them, and the fans that keep them alive. It’s like the old saying goes, the party doesn’t stop until the music stops - and it was cut short abruptly. The film takes us into the humble beginnings of Fechter’s Creative Engineering, his family-like workshop, and then showcases all of the fans who knew and loved those characters. At the same time as we meet these eccentric and lovely people, we watch the rise and fall of ShowBiz pizza and the eventual merger into Chuck E. Cheese. It’s a nostalgia bomb for sure, but for those around when YouTube was just getting going, you’ll now have a context for one of the first big viral videos! 

For this writer, watching The Rock-Afire Explosion was a blast from the past. When I was a wee tot, there used to be a ShowBiz Pizza in my area. We didn’t go often but when we did I loved it. It was the greatest place to be and then one day it was just gone. I still remember us driving up to a dark restaurant one evening and that crippling disappointment of seeing it was closed. It later re-opened as a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant and it was fun, but it just wasn’t the same. The flavor and vibe were a little “off” so we never went again. (Years later I would work as a game room attendant at that location. Wearing that stuffy rat suit wasn’t fun, but the joy it brought little kids was worth it.)

At roughly 72 minutes long, The Rock-Afire Explosion is a nostalgic ride through history and a peek at the people who keep the show going. You can witness all of the amazing technology that went into creating these characters and the love fans have for their favorite characters. If you’re not seeing videos on YouTube, fans out there have their own fully functional Rock-Afire Explosion exhibits and restaurants ready and waiting to entertain you! With a documentary like this, you don’t have to tell people “You had to have been there,” you can show them how cool ShowBiz Pizza really was. Gaming fans today can witness the inspiration for Five Nights at Freddy's in action! 

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
American Genre Film Archive and OCN Distribution bring Brett Whitcomb and Bradford Thomason’s The Rock-Afire Explosion to Blu-ray. Pressed on a Region Free BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard clear case with reversible insert artwork. If you order from Vinegar Syndrome, you can pick up an exclusive limited edition slipcover. The disc loads to an animated main menu with standard navigation options.

Video Review


Presented in 1.33:1 1080p, The Rock-Afire Explosion has the look and feel of a documentary shot on digital formats in the mid-late 2000s. It’s not bad, not great, it is what it is. Most of the time the newer footage for interviews with various individuals or the looks at all of the amazing Rock-Afire Explosion fan setups looks pretty great. Details are respectably sharp and clean, especially for close-ups. There’s a lot of archival video footage from a range of dated sources so those limitations are still on display, but they provide a necessary backdrop for the rest of the film. All around a nice presentation. Not beautiful, but it didn’t need to be.

Audio Review


On the audio front, the film comes with a nice DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track. Dialog for interviews is well prioritized. New music cues are right on point. Plenty of attention is reserved for those Rock-Afire performances and the film’s closing credits is a lovely treat with the famous band performing a new song just for this film. Not a complicated sound mix but it didn’t need to be either.

Special Features


This release of The Rock-Afire Explosion comes home with a nice selection of bonus features. Filmmakers Brett Whitcomb and Bradford Thomason deliver a decent audio commentary, it’s a pretty subdued affair, not very verbose, but they offer some nice insights into making the film and meeting the various people involved. What’s really fun are all of the vintage ShowBiz Pizza promos and skits. The outtakes feature a longer dive into Aaron Fechter’s tour of Creative Engineering that’s pretty wild to see more of this location and a couple of extra interviews with the fans. All are well worth checking out. 

  • Audio Commentary featuring Brett Whitcomb and Bradford Thomason
  • Outtakes (HD 39:00)
  • Vintage Creative Engineering Promo Video (SD 2:52)
  • Vintage Tune Machine Skit (SD 1:52)
  • Vintage Will Wabbit News Broadcast (SD 1:42)
  • Vintage Pizza Party Promo Video (SD 5:06)
  • Vintage Uncle Klunk Promo Video (SD 00:33)
  • Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery (HD 3:10)
  • Original Trailer

The Rock-Afire Explosion may be a bigger treat for some than others, but it is an informative, entertaining, and nostalgic dive for the middle-aged set out there who want to reexperience some faded memories of their childhoods. It’s a nice look at the rise and fall of this family entertainment staple while serving as a love letter to the fans who keep it alive in their own special ways. AGFA and OCN Distribution deliver a great Blu-ray release for fans to enjoy with plenty of fun bonus features when the show is over. Recommended.

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