West Seattle businesses: What’s up in the former Petco space

(Jason Rudolph with the inner workings of “Dook Larue,” the animatronic drummer of “Rock-afire Explosion“)
Story and photos by Katie Meyer
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

If you’ve noticed recent activity inside the former Petco space in the Junction – Doug did, and tipped us off – here’s what we have found out:

Local resident and West Seattle business owner Jason Rudolph is currently renting the space for an indefinite amount of time to add additional staff for his technology company, Sound Advertising Group. It also gives him the room to work on “a little project that we’re doing just for fun – and if the community enjoys them, that makes it so much better!”

The project is the restoration of a 1980s animatronic band called the Rock-afire Explosion, formerly installed in a Showbiz Pizza restaurant.

Jason became inspired after seeing a documentary online that explained the history of the band, their designers, and the technology; the characters were still in use when Showbiz Pizza restaurants became Chuck E. Cheese outlets, and Jason remembers seeing them during his childhood in Federal Way.

Intrigued, he searched eBay – and connected with someone who had an entire set of the Rock-afire Explosion characters and equipment (fewer than 300 “bands” were originally created). The gear arrived from Florida this month, and Jason and his co-workers have been cleaning, testing, and updating the controls and software: “It’s actually much more nerdy than it is art.”

Charmed with the vintage gear that powers the animatronic characters, Jason and his co-workers are tinkering in their spare time with old lines of software code, drying out the air hoses that run to the control boards, and making trips to the hardware store to replace and upgrade some parts. With a backroom storing the full set of characters, parts, stage set pieces and equipment, they’re having fun as they go step by step.

When asked how long he’ll be renting the space, Jason replied that he doesn’t know for sure, but “..as long as we need it,” and he hopes to open the space down the road to participate in the West Seattle Art Walk.

More about the history of Rock-afire Explosion can be seen online here and here.

(If you’re just catching up on why the Junction space is vacant in the first place – Petco moved to newer digs inside Capco Plaza at 41st and Alaska three months ago.)

30 Replies to "West Seattle businesses: What's up in the former Petco space"

  • islewrite February 10, 2012 (3:22 pm)

    Woot! Our own Country Bear Jamboree.

  • JanS February 10, 2012 (3:28 pm)

    how very cool !

  • westseattledood February 10, 2012 (3:37 pm)

    Oh, we definitely need that here. How did I not realize this before?

  • Kathy February 10, 2012 (3:40 pm)

    Watch out Disney!!!

  • raincity February 10, 2012 (3:59 pm)

    How cool is that! Thanks Sound Advertising!

  • The RB February 10, 2012 (4:05 pm)


  • Aman February 10, 2012 (4:09 pm)

    Any Potential For a Future Concert Date?

  • elvis1962 February 10, 2012 (4:24 pm)

    I always find something interesting on this blog. Thank you Doug for the tip and than you WSB for the pictures and more!

  • E February 10, 2012 (4:29 pm)

    This was our sons favorite thing to watch on YouTube when he was little!…before he really knew what they were talking about;-)


  • Cecelia February 10, 2012 (5:34 pm)

    That is so great.I had one of my birthday parties as a kid at showbiz.I think my parents still have the record I got with their birthday song sitting around somewhere.

  • Sidewalk Sam February 10, 2012 (6:05 pm)

    People are saying this place is going to be a HUGE pizza place via 1986…

    And I am looking forward to it….

  • hooray February 10, 2012 (7:50 pm)

    This, people, is why West Seattle is awesomer.

  • WS guy February 10, 2012 (9:30 pm)

    Not to knock what they are doing there now, I feel this location would be great for a venue live music.

  • ttt February 10, 2012 (9:57 pm)

    We will enjoy spying on your progress!

  • LyndaB February 10, 2012 (11:01 pm)

    I remember the Chuck E. Cheese days and the Chuck E. Cheese coins!

    The eyeballs kind of creep me out though. :)

  • Sound Ad Group February 10, 2012 (11:28 pm)

    Thanks everyone for all the positive comments! We’re looking forward to getting the band (put) back together and hosting some free events and perhaps some fundraisers for local orgs as a thank you for accepting our madness right square in the middle of the junction.

  • GD February 11, 2012 (6:17 am)

    Awesome stuff! Sure beats a vacant store front.

    There was a documentary made about the Rock-afire Band and their cult following.

    I recall watching it on Netfix Now.

  • sam-c February 11, 2012 (7:30 am)

    awesome! I haven’t thought about showbiz pizza in AGES. I remember those guys

  • Cindy Spears February 11, 2012 (7:56 am)

    Good luck to you guys…great project! Hi Tao!

  • LivesinWS February 11, 2012 (10:19 am)

    Amazing, isn’t it, how tacky and tasteless turns into charming and vintage after a few years?

  • doug exeter February 11, 2012 (10:37 am)

    …but will there be pizza?

  • Sound Ad Group February 11, 2012 (10:59 am)

    @doug: Unfortunately no, though pizza is delicious – if you come on by we can make you a Totinos!

  • Jerry February 11, 2012 (2:41 pm)

    I think you should have a duel with the Skeleton Theater guys…a good resource at the least.

  • Sunny February 11, 2012 (6:28 pm)

    Holy flashback, Batman. My childhood neighbor’s bringing back my childhood birthday party?!

  • nancy rusden February 11, 2012 (7:18 pm)

    Way to go Jason. nancy rusden, nancy lind, and marilyn

  • franklin February 12, 2012 (8:51 am)

    How about a retro arcade with beer? Portland has one called Ground Kontrol. Anything portland can do, west seattle can do better. Can also be used as a music venue.

  • Jamie February 13, 2012 (5:23 pm)

    This is so cool! My boyfriend and I walked by on Sunday, and I didn’t notice them but he stopped and said “what the…”. We stared, and then he said excitedly “I know what those are! That’s the band from Chuck E Cheese!”. We both wondered why in the world the Chuck E Cheese band would be hanging out in the former Petco space, so now we know! If you have a concert we’ll be there! Very cool.

  • bob February 13, 2012 (9:38 pm)

    I am so glad I am moving away, if this is what west seattle is reduced to?? I am as glad to be gone as I am sure you are glad I am going. Why are Seattleites so into the past, life moves forward..chuck E. Cheese..more like UPChuck E Cheese.

  • Sound Ad Group February 14, 2012 (8:57 am)

    Aw bob, I’m not glad you’re leaving. Seems like you could use a little love from our animatroic super friends, feel free to drop by on your way out of town and we’ll introduce you!

  • Chesty Vulva February 16, 2012 (8:40 pm)

    Does anyone know if there is any way to know what set originally went to what Showbiz???

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