Gadgets (partially found showtape recordings of animatronics; 1980s)
The standard stage layout for The Looney Tunes Revue, featured in the restaurant chain Gadgets.
Status: Partially Found
Gadgets, also known as Gizmos, was a small restaurant chain located in the United States. The restaurants featured animatronics from the popular multimedia franchise Looney Tunes, known as The Looney Tunes Revue. There was also an animatronic named Sammy Sands, located at the lounge. Due to high production costs, the Gadgets restaurants were not making enough profit, and thusly went out of business. Animatronics during this time period were accompanied with showtapes, which contain programming information and audio such as music and dialogue. There were allegedly 55 showtapes made for The Looney Tunes Revue, and at least 6 made for Sammy Sands. Some audio has surfaced of these showtapes, and there’s credence to the theory that some are in the hands of private collectors. However, with the vast majority of them being undocumented, it’s unsure how many still survive.
The first Gadgets location, known as Gizmos, opened in 1981 in Ocean Township, NJ. This version of the show did not have any animatronics; however, the location would eventually be renamed to Gadgets. In 1982, another Gadgets location opened in Reading, PA Berkshire Mall. Two more locations would soon open, with one in Niles, OH, and another in Towson, MD. The Niles, OH location opened in December of 1982, and the Towson, MD location opened in January of 1983. Westbury, NY would be the first free-standing Gadgets location, as the other three stores were located in malls across America. Following this, five more locations would open in Springfield, OH, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Rochester, NY, Aurora, CO, and Houston, TX. There was also a traveling show for carnivals, with the animatronics located inside of a trailer. There were plans for as many as 150 Gadgets restaurants to be launched around the country, but this idea was short lived. Financial problems started to show up as early as July of 1984. During this time, a new concept was launched, titled Gadgets Café. These restaurants were much smaller, and did not have The Looney Tunes Revue. This was done to save on the costs of maintaining animatronics, and because of target demographic issues. Many of the patrons who went into Gadgets were not families with small children, but instead young adults wishing to enjoy the lounge. Needless to say, they were not the target audience for The Looney Tunes Revue. Sammy Sands was the only animatronic that was kept at the Gadgets Café. The remaining Gadgets locations did not remain open for long, and by the early 1990s they were all defunct.
The Reading, PA location would feature a prototype version of The Looney Tunes Revue. Included with this prototype version were Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, exploded Daffy Duck, and a separate stage for other characters. This separate stage functioned as a turn table, with one side featuring Yosemite Sam, and some speculating the other side contained Sylvester the Cat. Daffy Duck was also on a turn table. When a dynamite prop fell during one of the shows, strobe lights and a smoke machine would go off. Bomb shelter doors would cover the Daffy animatronic, and once the display was finished, the exploded Daffy animatronic would be revealed. The location also featured a Sammy Sands animatronic. The Niles, OH and Towson, MD locations had by-far the most complex Gadgets animatronic stage show. There were 12 animatronic characters in total. These animatronic characters included Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, exploded Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Pepe Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, (there were two Speedy Gonzales animatronics: one on the ceiling, and one on the ground) Foghorn Leghorn, Henery Hawk, Tasmanian Devil, Yosemite Sam, Sylvester and Sylvester Jr, and Tweety Bird. At the time of writing this article, two photos of Foghorn Leghorn and one low quality photo of Tasmanian Devil have surfaced online. These two were only featured in the Niles and Towson locations, and are considered even rarer than the other animatronics in The Looney Tunes Revue. According to sources, Foghorn Leghorn played the drums, and Tasmanian Devil played the upright bass. This version, as well as all other versions that would be introduced afterwards, introduced a revolving center stage backdrop, and a tarp backdrop that would lower occasionally. As mentioned previously, all of The Looney Tunes Revue Shows after this would remove Foghorn Leghorn and Tasmanian Devil, leaving the roster at 10.
The animatronics were built by Advanced Animations in Danbury, CT, who were later bought out by Warner Bros and renamed to Warner Technologies. Sammy Sands had at least six different showtapes, each running at about twelve minutes long. As a lounge singer, he would entertain the audience by singing different songs and joking about different topics. Sources claim that over 55 showtapes were made for The Looney Tunes Revue. In an interview with Mel Blanc, he states that:
"Every restaurant will have 50 different entertainment programs, so there won't be a lot of repetition… Bugs and Porky and Sylvester and the rest are involved in little story lines, sketches and songfests. We're doing special programs for all the holidays, Christmas, the Fourth of July, Mother's Day and all the rest as special attractions at the restaurants."
There were plans for an updated version of The Looney Tunes Revue, but it was cancelled midway into production. All that survives of this version is concept art and maquettes, as the finished sculpts were damaged and never finished.
Although many of The Looney Tunes Revue animatronics were allegedly destroyed, the only show that has been found is the portable show, where the animatronics have been sold off to private collectors. One of The Looney Tunes Revue showtapes has surfaced online, albeit only partially found. Part of the "Salute To The Movies" showtape has partly surfaced, with a short clip of Porky singing "Burn Free" coming from a news report on the restaurant. Another showtape, titled "The Fabulous 50’s Show", only has the last segment online. As of the time of writing, none of the showtapes for Sammy Sands have surfaced.
A digital recording of the first three showtapes in a lossy, but direct capture, can be found here on archive.org. They were uploaded by Pasnotrook on Youtube and Instagram.
- An article about the history of Gizmos. Retrieved 19 Aug '20
- A Facebook post by user Pasq Notrook, who currently owns two of the animatronics from The Looney Tunes Revue. Retrieved 19 Aug '20
- A news article from December of 1983 about Gadgets. Retrieved 18 Aug '20
- Archived Business Publications article about the financial problems of Gadgets. Retrieved 18 Aug '20
- A New York Times article about Sammy Sands and the Gadgets Café.Retrieved 18 Aug '20
- A Facebook post by Larry Nikolai about Gadgets, and plans that were made for a new animatronic show. Retrieved 19 Aug '20