The New Rock-afire Explosion

In the early 1990s the Rock-afire Explosion was given a drastic makeover. The show was brought up to date and down in size by utilizing the much smaller "Mijjin" style animatronic characters. New features such as revolving stages and dance choreography (Dancetronics) were introduced, making the New Rock-afire much more versatile than the Classic version. Adding to its versatility, the New Rock-afire could be purchased with extras like karaoke, or downsized versions to fit different customer budgets.

The Stages

The New Rock-afire Explosion went above and beyond the limitations of the Classic show, in regard to always presenting different stage appearances. The Classic show had 3 stages which could be used in various combinations. The New show also had 3 stages, but the side stages were each able to rotate, delivering two completely different views. That meant that when all 3 stages were open, 4 different stage combinations could be presented. Add that to the revolving characters on center stage (the platform able to rotate 400, and the individual characters could rotate 540 on their individual bases) and the stage was constantly on the move!

Center Stage - similar to the Classic Rock-afire, the center stage was the largest and most active of the 3 stages. It contained three of the main characters - Billy Bob, Fatz and Mitzi, who were all located on a circular plate, allowing them to rotate back and forth and continually change the appearance of the center stage. Behind them were large animated speakers, and some 90s style decorations on the walls (there were a few versions of the stage with various decor). The typical center stage had the band's name spelled out in red and green neon lights behind the characters.

Stage Left - this stage had two different sides, one that had Dook's Junk Yard, and the other had a big screen TV. The Junk Yard stage had Dook standing outside of what appears to be a pink dog house and in the distance large piles of "junk" can be seen. The television side of the stage houses a giant pink TV, with fuzzy animated rabbit ears for antennae. The wall paper behind it is also laced with bunny prints.

Stage Right - just like stage left, stage right had two different sides. One side featured Looney Bird sitting at the desk in his laboratory. Surrounding him are test tubes, radios and other electronic devices, and a computer that's completely covered in yellow feathers that was able to rotate. The other side of stage right had Beach Bear standing next to a building and beneath a palm tree. Within the building was a window that featured an additional Looney Bird head peeking out. An animated coconut also fell from the tree and hit Beach Bear in the head.

Design / Additional Development

The development of the New Rock-afire Explosion dates back to 1991. Creative Engineering contracted an engineer named Chris Lanusse, who had previously worked to develop miniature animation, to help bring the Rock-afire down to a more friendly and appealing size. Under the direction of Aaron Fechter, Lanusse was given the task of using his miniature designs to build larger animatronic characters. Several modifications were made to Lanusse's original miniature designs, as the larger scale proved to be troublesome when increased weights and stresses came into play.

Once the work was completed however, the Mijjin was born - Mijjin being a play on the word "midget". The initial prototype was quite incredible, both in its complexity and expense. In order to bring it down to an effective cost-point, certain animation cuts were made, and production began on the new figures. Their first usage was in the 1992 Mijjin's Show, which included Billy Bob, Fatz, the Mijjinator DJ, and a cast of several human characters. The New Rock-afire was completed in 1994/95.

Technical Info

The New Rock-afire Explosion ran very similar to the Classic show, however, due to the added element of video, data was contained on S-VHS tapes. The New Rock-afire contained over 200 movements - compared to the 189 movements of the Classic show. The Mijjin characters also differed slightly from their Classic counterparts. Whereas the classic show was entirely pneumatic, the Mijjin characters had a few movements that were controlled by servos (particularly the eyes and eyelids).

One of the most unique features of the New Rock-afire was the patented Danceatronics technology. Whereas characters rotating on a platform had been done in the past, this new feature allowed groups of rotating characters on a rotating stage appear to dance together when programmed in identical synchronization. Detailed information regarding the patent can be found here.

The Show-Selector package was also available with the New Rock-afire Explosion, as was an additional karaoke fixture. These were separate features that were not included with the base package.

Stage Lights

The lighting for the New Rock-afire was also similar to the Classic show, with each character having an individual spot (6 total), and an assortment of stage floods. The scripted "Rock-afire Explosion" neon sign behind the characters was also animated, programmed to blink on and off along with the music.

History / Legacy

Despite the advancements and new technology that was created for the New Rock-afire Explosion, the updated show was never given the exposure it probably deserved. Relatively few customers purchased it, and of those who did, very few are left in operation today. The animatronics scene has seen a decline since it's dominance in the 1980s, and the New Rock-afire was introduced around the time the audio animatronic trend was fading out.

Aspects of the Mijjin animatronic characters weren't entirely stable. A lot of work still needed to be done to prevent breakage that never got done. The New Rock-afire was not as reliable or structurally as sound as the Classic show and Creative Engineering didn't have the opportunity to fix that. Perhaps if the New show had sold more units, and a greater demand had been placed on upgrades, many of these structural deficiencies would have been corrected.