DZ: Discovery Zone
Sorry for no article last week, I was busy playing Original Silent Hill for the first time ever. And please no spoilers on the sequals, remake or prequel while posting please or it will be deleted. I don’t want to brag to all of you how I heard spoilers on Final Fantasy 7 before actually playing it. Anyways now for the article. If you remenber going to this as a kid under the age of 12 then you are between the Ages of 18-34. If you were born after the late 90s, then it wouldn’t of been possible for you to know about the exsistence of this amazing place. For those who know what I’m talking about, be prepared for an article about commercials and ads on a place that was worth visiting multiple times as a kid in the 90s. For those who haven’t a clue what the heck DZ is, don’t worry you’ll be getting a history lesson on something that hasn’t been seen since 12 years ago. For I was one of the million passionate fans of this place when it was still running and active.
The history of DZ is a rare subject after some research I came across a few resources to confirm the place’s official estiblishment. The origin of the DZ industry began in 1989 when four individuals named Ronald Matsch, Jim Jorgensen, Mike Geselbracht and Dr. David Schoenstadt came up with the idea of a chain of entertainment facilties for kids to enjoy. The first official DZ opened in Lenexa, Kansas around January 1990. The town was known for being one of the 26 best small towns in America, back when DZ first opened the population of Lenexa was only 34,034. To start off business, DZ was first sponsored and supported by famous female tennis player Billie Jean King. Within fiver years, the population of DZ buildings already increased to 500 locations throughout the U.S.
By 1994, DZ merged it’s operations with Blockbuster Video to promote various offers involving renting videos. Among the other collabarations I recalled from DZ, I recalled a few from memory and from what I found on Youtube. The earliest one was in 1993 when they pass out a Nick theme activity with five of their Nicktoons(back when they only had a handfull of their own cartoons). It not only had Doug, Rugrats, & Ren & Stimpy in the activity books, but two cartoons that were both new cartoons at the time. Which were Rocko’s Modern Life & Real Monsters. I recognized Doug, Rugrats, & Ren & Stimpy, but those two shows were the only ones I didn’t recognized in the actitivity book. But it wasn’t long until I saw both of the shows on Nick and both became new favorites. I can still remenber when I obtain this book, I would make up the names of the three main characters of Real Monsters. Since this was before I saw the cartoon, I didn’t know their names unless their names were labeled in the book. If so it was before I knew how to read. Before I knew it was Ickis, Krum, & Oblina I called them Toads, Boss, & Nakey. Yeah, I know but back then it was before I learn to never make up a name for a character unless it already had one.
The average DZ facilties would all have the similar or the same arcitexture. The play areas would usually have ball pits, roller slides, foam climbing mountain, foam block climbing, and moon bounce. After the many previous times I went there as a kid, I always loved the roller slide and the foam climbing blocks the most. I remenber playing around on those two courses the most until I was sweating bullets. Also for a reminder to those who don’t know this is back when ball pits weren’t considered a liability to family facilties and play areas. Ever since a new discovery was made in the early 2000’s that keeping the ball pits sanitized and preventing kids from stealing the balls was too costly so every family facilty elminated their ball pits. Even Toontown in Disneyland took their’s out which I remenber going to that ball pit once. I wish I was able to interview someone who use to work there to get further info on what the interiors of the place was like, but unfortunately I don’t know anyone who use to work there so all I could provide is memory and archive photos for references.
Other than Nick, I once remenber DZ giving away Flintstone Stickers along with a Flintstone theme commercial on TV(which I’m having trouble finding online). Though I remenber I got those stickers and use them to make a story out of them by merging my drawings with the stickers(A common thing I did before I got more professional in cartooning). During DZ’s final years I remenber they had a laser tag room with MIB the Animated Series and the Godzilla Animated Series(Not to be confused with Hanna Barbara’s 70s cartoon). I don’t remenber if they were both laser tag themed or both seperate advertisings for DZ. I’ll need some comfirmation on that. I recalled the lounge area has mini TV hanging off of the ceilings showing FOX Kids(for those who didn’t know FOX used to have daytime as well as Saturday Morning lineups). I only recalled seeing parts of Carmen San Diego once at DZ though which was a cool cartoon from the now bankrupted company DiC Entertainment.
The only mascot this place had was a robot that was used for parties. I don’t think my only DZ birthday party had that robot, unless it cost more. Funny thing is I rarely saw the robot at my local DZ besides all of the commercials I saw him in. I only recalled seeing him once at one of the DZ I went to. I’m not sure if he had a name so let’s just call hi mthe DZ robot. Who is the only known mascot for DZ(that I know of). How this guy operates is a mystery to me unless I could interview someone who knew. Either it was remote control or had a small person inside it. But I doubt it was easy to find that many people that short enough to portray every robot in all 500 locations of DZ. So the likely answer is it was remote controlled. Not to mention this was before A.I. robot toys became more affordable.
This was such a great place and you might ask why did this place gone bankrupt. Well there were a couple of reasons, for starters the franchise was going thin with all of the expansions in locations and tried new managements. However these managements didn’t save the company as their debt was 366 million dollars by March 26, 1996. By 1999, all 500 locations were shut down and all remodeled as Chuck E. Cheese facilities. After that the place cease to exsist, my favorite place to be was forever gone. After 12 years I still hold a place in my heart for DZ, cause it meant a lot to me. Ask anyone who’s my age and they’ll likely to say that it was their favorite place for them to play or have parties at. As of today I feel sorry for kids who are growing up without a DZ. In this day and age you’d think a place like DZ would exsist cause with all the hype about parents and teachers complaining about kids’ lack of health and exercise. Cause with all the running around and stamina it takes to enjoy DZ, kids were getting their exercise without realizing it. That’s one of the positive things to say about and what to compare what it had that Chuck E. Cheese didn’t. Though within time there might be a revival of the place or a family facility that’s similar to it. When that day comes I’m sure it’ll be more success, course the only thing they could exclude is the ball pit. DZ will still be fun even without a ball pit.
Posted on August 28, 2011, in Advertise of the Week and tagged birthday, dead company, discovery zone, dz, family entertainment center, godzilla, laser tag, men in black, robot. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.