I rewatched this documentary prior to my tour at the Creative Engineering factory that built the Rock-afire / Chuck-E-Cheese animatronics. I still really like the movie — it’s very Errol Morris-esque in its simultaneous mockery and begrudging appreciation for the characters involved. I especially love how, as the movie goes, you come to feel more affection towards the initially-pathetic Chris Thrash and maybe less for the charismatic inventor Aaron Fechter.
The tour itself was fascinating and memorable. The factory/warehouse/workshop has been mostly in stasis for about 3 decades. Sometimes it results in a ghostly stillness — notebooks still open on tables from the mid-80s. Elsewhere, the decay is more palpable, as the plastic of the animatronics has melted into something grotesque.
The two main attractions of the tour are, 1) a well-preserved Rock-afire Explosion set-up with every song and show available for performance on request, and 2) Aaron Fechter himself, ever the salesman and storyteller and carnival barker. Fechter was talking nonstop, and his right-wing political viewpoints definitely colored much of his perspective, but there’s no doubt he’s a true renaissance man with a kingdom of robotic oddities to prove it.
Overall, I’m glad to have dipped my toe into this weird niche of pop culture, even though I’m confident I don’t want to dive in deeper.
Very Good (6/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.