Contrary to what many people may be thinking, the animatronic band featured in this week’s episode (“Soos and the Real Girl”) is NOT a nod to the popular indie PC horror game, Five Nights at Freddy’s.
The episode would have already been written and at least recorded before season one of Gravity Falls even finished airing on television, and thus long before Five Nights at Freddy’s came onto the internet scene.
The theme of children’s restaurant animatronics gone bad has been a trope for quite a while (remember Chubby Cheese’s from Dexter’s Laboratory? Or Bloaty’s Pizza Hog? The Capicola Gang?), and was first inspired by the most notable animatronic animal band, The Rock-afire Explosion. It was the first to feature life-size characters, and was created by an inventor named Aaron Fechter.
Long before Chuck E. Cheese’s merged and took over, absorbed, and renamed all restaurants, the popular destination for kids having birthday parties was known as Showbiz Pizza. Fechter and his company, Creative Engineering Inc., created and operated in-house animatronic bands for various Showbiz Pizza outlets, beginning in 1980.
The Rock-afire Explosion was comprised of three stages:
The stage to the left is that of the character of Rolfe deWolfe, and his puppet, Earl Schemerle. They performed before, and between, each stage show. This was likely part of the inspiration for the badger character from tonight’s episode-
-which was then combined with the way Chuck E. Cheese’s redesigned their “Chucky” mascot to be more appealing to the target demographic of children in the mid 1990’s:
The hillbilly bear animatronic was based on Billy Bob Brockali, who took up the right side stage of the Rock-afire Explosion:
He is also the very obvious inspiration behind the unnerving “Bear-O” puppet that Mabel owns.
The female robot possessed by Giffany was inspired by Mitzi Mozzarella, who was the lone female animatronic in the center stage of the Rock-afire Explosion:
The large-clawed rats wearing stumps are not a nod to the surprise “Foxy” character in Five Nights at Freddy’s, but are instead inspired by Baby Choo Choo the bear, who was part of the center stage diorama:
Beginning in 1990, all Showbiz Pizza locations were converted into Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurants after the unification of both companies. This was due in smaller part to the North American Video Game Crash of 1983, but mostly because both venues were seeing a dramatic decrease in profits: Particularly on Showbiz Pizza’s behalf, as they opened far more restaurants than the company could afford to maintain.
After the unification, the Rock-afire Explosion characters were retired, and the animatronics were redressed as the Chuck E. Cheese mascots (which were greatly lacking in build quality, as well as overall character). With their larger, circular eyes, less-complicated construction/operation, and more lifeless expressions, it is far more likely that the Five Nights at Freddy’s characters were based on the newer Chuck E. Cheese band than the original Rock-afire Explosion.
So, to recap:
The animatronic band in “Soos and the Real Girl” was inspired by THESE guys:
NOT by THESE guys:
And the Five Nights at Freddy’s band was more than likely inspired by THESE guys: