just another nice little hobby---everybody needs a hobby, right?
August 2, 2007 2:14 AM   Subscribe

It seems that this gentleman bought a set of musical robots from the defunct Showbiz Pizza restaurant chain. This gent has been reprogramming the robots to sing recent hit songs, rather than the '60s Motown hits they sang originally. He then takes video of these performances, and posts it on YouTube. I guarantee this version of Evanescence's "Lithium" will haunt your dreams (or, perhaps, make you hurl).
posted by metasonix (58 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Yeesh. That was disturbing.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:21 AM on August 2, 2007

Showbiz Pizza is also known as Chuck E. Cheese's (named after the lead character in the animatronic lineup). It was the brainchild of Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, created as a way to introduce kids to video games (which had previously been most available in bars).... I have many fond memories of playing video games (and skee-ball) at Showbiz Pizza as an adolescent, but those singing robots creeped me out! Cool post lol.
posted by amyms at 2:26 AM on August 2, 2007

Ahh, I should have clicked your second link before posting... Ignore my redundant history lesson.
posted by amyms at 2:27 AM on August 2, 2007


Now I finally have the answer for an old question of my childhood: how would the Muppets from Bizarro World be like?
posted by Iosephus at 2:29 AM on August 2, 2007

I thought that was awesome (although I wish he had picked different music).
posted by grouse at 2:34 AM on August 2, 2007

Woah. Now I have the all consuming desire to see a robot mouse band perform Lou Reed and Velvet's classics.

Metal Machine Music would be the obvious pun, but the Berlin album would fill the room with a phildickian dread.
posted by bunnytricks at 2:36 AM on August 2, 2007

can't sleep, animatronic bear will eat me
posted by Mick at 2:45 AM on August 2, 2007 [5 favorites]

Metal Machine Music would be the obvious pun

If not something by the Soft Machine. But, yeah, all in all it's a shame this guy chooses such, er, lousy music...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:46 AM on August 2, 2007

Or hey, how about Love Machine? Or Sex Machine?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:51 AM on August 2, 2007

Or Strict Machine?
posted by amyms at 2:54 AM on August 2, 2007

great self-effacing behind-the-scenes.
posted by progosk at 2:57 AM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

So I just watched a streaming video of a bear playing a weird version of a Beatles song that came out after Lennon was dead. I think I'm almost to the final boss of the Internet.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:17 AM on August 2, 2007 [12 favorites]

*robot bear, that's an essential point
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:18 AM on August 2, 2007

I'm creeped out, but giggling madly. How hilarious!

He actually does own these? Dude must have some kind of killer disposable income to have bought these and gotten access to a place big enough to show them off.
posted by angeline at 3:20 AM on August 2, 2007

THAT was crazy funny. Those songs, and the shin-high 'artists' who sincerely and profitably market them, are beyond shit, that's hilarious.
posted by toma at 3:53 AM on August 2, 2007

Thank you for allowing this to be the first thing I saw this morning. I can tell it's going to be a great day.

posted by hermitosis at 4:43 AM on August 2, 2007


I feel like I'm seven years old all over again because that Chucky Cheese mascot just touched me.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:49 AM on August 2, 2007

It was always creepy working at Chuck E. Cheese after closing when we'd have the stage curtains open to clean and everything and those pnuematic robots would silently stare into the horizon and if, perhaps, a bit of pressure finally gets released on one line and Helen the bird would turn so her hand would smack you in the butt, well I tried to avoid the stage as much as possible. I don't think I'd want these in my house.
posted by Phantomx at 5:11 AM on August 2, 2007 [3 favorites]

Thanks for that second link, that was fascinating.

...and nostalgic...
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:28 AM on August 2, 2007

I was pretty sure Ms. New Booty was the clear winner in all of this!
posted by themadjuggler at 5:36 AM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

So, Chuck-E-Cheese and the whole linked story about animatronic restaurants competing for popularity is just some big hoax to make us Europeans think Americans are both completely crazy and completely awesome, right?
posted by cillit bang at 5:45 AM on August 2, 2007

He's a good ol' boy with a heart 'o gold.

Seriously, it takes some real dedication and attention to detail to do animatronic programming of this quality. Awesome, simply awesome. I hope Disney makes him an offer.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:12 AM on August 2, 2007

It warms my heart that, all across the country, people are doing crazy ass shit like this all the time.
posted by absalom at 6:17 AM on August 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

I thought it'd be obvious that Americans are completely crazy and completely awesome by now, that's kind of our thing.

I realize that it's far from a perfect simulation, but I was still amazed how well you can apparently program the animatronics to do new songs. And how hilarious it is.
posted by mikeh at 6:19 AM on August 2, 2007

I used to manage a Chuck E. Cheese's. This link? Going to all of my old coworkers from back in the day.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:47 AM on August 2, 2007

I am just baffled by this, and I spent my 8th birthday at Showbiz Pizza. Where the hell does he keep these things? If they're on public display somewhere (say, his own restaurant), you'd think he'd mention that on YouTube.

Can you imagine being his wife and going down to the basement to do the laundry, only to see these creepy things?

Wait, what wife?
posted by desjardins at 6:50 AM on August 2, 2007

That is unspeakably magnificent. This is the first time that maudlin track has ever had any impact on me. Gorgeous.
posted by Jilder at 6:51 AM on August 2, 2007

I was a young boy, growing up in Baltimore in the 1980s. There was another animatronic pizza restaurant, not Showbiz or Chuck E. Cheese's. I don't know if it was local or part of a chain. The only recollection I have is that the name and the theme were somehow related to riverboats, steamboats or something of the sort. Does this ring a bell with anyone else?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:01 AM on August 2, 2007

This has made the whole Internet thing worth it. That version of Lithium was just... I don't even have the words.

And who'd have thought Nolan Bushnell and Chuck E. would be linked so closely? When I think of the video games at the few Chuck E. Cheeses I have been to, they were beat-up, out-of-date, second-tier machines, and I always assumed video games were a poorly thought out, late addition to the Chuck E Cheese formula. The fact that they were in fact the driving force behind that "genre" of restaurant is surprising.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:02 AM on August 2, 2007

Awesome. Dude's never getting laid though.
posted by forallmankind at 7:24 AM on August 2, 2007

I would have preferred Nirvana's Lithium.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:29 AM on August 2, 2007

Actually, Showbiz was founded to compete with Nolan Bushnell's Chuck E. Cheese chain, and when Chuck E. Cheese went into chapter 11 in 1984, Showbiz bought them out and formed one chain. Chuck E. Cheese had stronger brand recognition, however, so after years of infighting between the remnants of the two chains, they started converting showbiz locations to Chuck E. Cheese.

According to the Wikipedia Entry there are a few Showbiz locations outside the us that survived this apocalypse as independent businesses, and still feature the Rockafire Explosion.

This was an awesome post. I went to Showbiz extensively as a kid and hadn't seen that freaky-ass cheerleader mouse in probably 20 years. What a trip.
posted by ulotrichous at 7:49 AM on August 2, 2007

There used to be a chain called Bullwinkles with anamatronic characters from the cartoon of the same name. I wonder if these robots survived anywhere?
posted by eye of newt at 8:01 AM on August 2, 2007

FoB- was it Shakey's? I don't remember animatronic, but it seems to me it was very riverboat-y.

I went to Chuck E. Cheese once... once!
The Puff the Magic Dragon here reminds me of the quality of that work (love the Mountain Dew sign), but the rock songs are much better.
posted by MtDewd at 8:12 AM on August 2, 2007

I haven't been to a Chuck E Cheese's since my niece's 3rd birthday party (she's 21 now). And wow... I'm realizing that's a really good thing. Because hearing this in person would've turned me into a pizza-wielding homicidal maniac. Or perhaps I would've just drowned myself in the ball pit. Either way.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:21 AM on August 2, 2007

Agree that this qualifies as demonstration of America's capacity for being simultaneously crazy and awesome.

If the real Delilah didn't want a restraining order before, I feel confident she should now.

I wish the inevitable copyright issues wouldn't kill this project and then Chris Thrash could open up a Showbiz with a liquor license where we could watch these creatures in an altered state.

And then afterward eat pizza and play skee-ball, natch.
posted by pineapple at 8:27 AM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

All he needs is to mount that stage on a trailer and start pimping it out for children's parties. Or any party really. I'd pay to have that instead of some ipod at my next soiree.
posted by zap rowsdower at 8:39 AM on August 2, 2007

posted by jeffamaphone at 9:08 AM on August 2, 2007

No youtube allowed here at work, but that second link was really interesting. Brings back a lot of memories. Thanks!
posted by Big_B at 9:12 AM on August 2, 2007

forallmankind: Awesome. Dude's never getting laid though.

That's what I thought too. Then I watched a video by the guy who helped him with the programming interface. At 2:59 in, I saw the very last thing I was expecting.
posted by tfmm at 9:35 AM on August 2, 2007

What a delightful surprise. Moved by Chris Thrash's dedication to his hobby, like other enjoyers in the thread I find it heartening to know there are people doing unlikely, original and creative things just for fun. His humor is corny, cornographic really with a hillbilly twist, moonshine still on the porch and all. And I'm fond of vintage androids.

Watching his programming details clip made me see how much this means to him, how he's learning as he goes. Such a great idea, take old, discarded animatronic creatures and make them come alive in a new way. He pulled a rock n' roll Lazarus on these critters.

Cool find metasonix. Seems you have an interest in making unusual combinations in electronic music as well, so I can imagine some of your amusement in Chris Thrash's choices.

My one criticism of his work is that I wish he held the camera more steadily. My fave so far is Hey there Delila but Puff the Magic Dragon is a close second.
posted by nickyskye at 10:06 AM on August 2, 2007

Faint of Butt, are you thinking of Captain Andy's River Towne?
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:19 AM on August 2, 2007

Do they do requests ?
It would be cool if the guy could set up a website and people could (maybe for a fee) submit a song for them to do.
posted by Webbster at 11:03 AM on August 2, 2007

London Bridge has cinched it. This man has won the internet. Period. It's simply impossible to ever achieve even close to the level of awesomeness this is.

I am simply stunned.
posted by ruthsarian at 11:08 AM on August 2, 2007

Would love to see what he'd do with Disney's Hall of Presidents.
posted by rough at 11:23 AM on August 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

I agree with ruthsarian. I am sitting here quietly awaiting the end of the world. What more is there to do?
posted by maxwelton at 11:37 AM on August 2, 2007

That he did this at all is amazing, but that he did it so well is.... I have no words.

I really want to see this show in person.
posted by maryh at 11:50 AM on August 2, 2007

I remember these from my childhood. I also remember spending as much time as possible in the arcade, well away from the fucking gorilla in a tuxedo playing the keyboards.

Even as a child, I could see that this was wrong, foolish, and would end badly for anyone involved.

Gorillas are drummers. Everybody knows that.
posted by quin at 11:51 AM on August 2, 2007

Faint of Butt, are you thinking of Captain Andy's River Towne?

YES! Captain Andy's River Towne! Thank you, thank you, that's it exactly! Man, that's been stuck in the back of my brain bothering me for years. Here is one of the very few descriptive references to it on the Internet.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:05 PM on August 2, 2007

If I knew I could attract the sort of tail that's in tfmm's link, I would have never changed my electronics engineering major. Now where's my soldering iron?
posted by Tacodog at 3:26 PM on August 2, 2007

50 cent should have him do his next video
posted by Mick at 3:40 PM on August 2, 2007

I wonder if he would be legally able to film a professional music video with this. Because if he could, that would be awesome - I'm picturing Arcade Fire.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:13 PM on August 2, 2007

This is great. I guess you dont have to be a billionaire like Duke Phillips to have your own singing bears.
posted by DanielDManiel at 5:16 PM on August 2, 2007

Interesting, the guy in the video that tfmm posted is not Chris Thrash, but is Aaron Fechter, the original guy that founded Creative (see original linked article). Something about this smells a little viral to me, he keeps mentioning that it is a Chris Trash controller... A marketing experiment to a really select group needing an animatronic controller?
posted by Big_B at 5:51 PM on August 2, 2007

This is beyond awesome.
posted by Cyrano at 5:53 PM on August 2, 2007

This is one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen - but it rocks!!
posted by bdragon at 7:05 PM on August 2, 2007

That setup is definitely in his basement or something - in one of the comments christhrash mentions that the curtains are from Wal-Mart and his wife is opening/closing them while he films.
posted by mrbill at 10:18 PM on August 2, 2007

One day, robots will do this with us. If there are any of us left. "Check it out. I picked up a few humans and actually managed to make them do stuff. It's like they're almost intelligent. Weird. Look at this one running the [thing we can't even imagine] like he knows what it's for."
posted by pracowity at 11:23 AM on August 3, 2007

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