The Yogi Bear Stage

One of the most unique and least known projects undertaken by ShowBiz Pizza to enhance the appeal of the Rock-afire Explosion was the test marketing of licensed characters. This was done in 1987 as the newly merged company was regaining its financial foothold, and the character chosen to appear onstage was Yogi Bear.

The Stage

Yogi used Billy Bob's stage which was transformed into Jellystone Park. The center stage tree line was removed and placed on Billy Bob's stage giving it a forested appearance, and coincidentally may have been an inspiration for the ShowBiz Pizza Campground stage used during the final years of ShowBiz. Looney Bird's barrel was repainted green and occupied by Boo-Boo Bear, and a large "Jellystone Park" sign was hung behind the characters. The only other unique props added to the stage was a boulder with a picnic basket placed upon it, and a sign that hung on Boo-Boo's barrel that read "Keep Your Park Clean". Oddly enough, Billy Bob's valance was left in place.

Design / Concept Development

The goal of this experiment was to enhance the entertainment at ShowBiz to further appeal to entire families. When it came time to choose a licensed character, several options were researched and considered - including Garfield, Superman, and Spider-man. Ultimately Yogi Bear was chosen because of his universal appeal to children and adults.

The project took nearly two years to become a reality - even the license negotiations were complicated and took a total of five months to reach an agreement from Hanna-Barbera Inc. However, the final result was approval for an initial test phase, with the option of an entire system rollout. The three locations that tested the Yogi Bear stage were Omaha, NE, Colorado Springs, CO, and Augusta, GA. Special television and newspaper advertisements along with a special poster were all created to alert customers about Yogi's appearance.

The initial design of Yogi Bear was done by Jul Kamen (ShowBiz costume support manager), and Paul Linden (ShowBiz director of entertainment). Rolfe's character was used for the retrofit instead of Billy Bob's, and the prototype was completed by Creative Presentations Inc. in April, 1987. The Yogi showtape was written and produced by ShowBiz's entertainment dept, and the actual voices of Yogi and Boo-Boo were used for authenticity purposes (Daws Butler and Don Messick respectively).

The entire cost to ShowBiz to test the Yogi Bear concept in the three locations was $120,000. Additional yearly expenses of $6,000 per store and $2,500 annual licensing was projected if the concept were to be installed system-wide (both ShowBiz and Chuck E. Cheese stores).

History / Legacy

It's hard to measure the success of this program, mainly due to lack of proper documentation. Although it may be fair to say it was a failure based on the fact that the project never made it past the initial three test locations, nor was bringing a licensed character onstage ever attempted beyond this. Since the showtape has yet to surface, it's also hard to guess how it played out, or if any interaction with the Rock-afire Explosion actually occurred. Because Rolfe's mech was used to occupy Billy Bob's stage, it's certain that any interaction (or traditional Rock-afire shows) contained on the tape was segregated to center stage.

For additional reading, see the BHC Horizons Article on Yogi, and the Entertainment '87 Franchise Packet which includes Yogi information.

*Special thanks to Jul Kamen and PizzaCam for all the info and photos of this stage!