This article is a continuation of the history of Kitchen Kabaret. READ PART I
Freshening Up The Land
A decade after the opening of EPCOT Center, Kraft was up for renewal with Disney. The company’s original 10-year sponsorship of The Land Pavilion was expiring. On the 10th anniversary of EPCOT, that’s exactly what happened—Kraft did not renew its sponsorship, and Disney was looking for a new backer.
Shortly after in November 1992, Nestlé U.S.A. agreed to sponsor The Land Pavilion, effective Jan. 1, 1993. Nestlé’s involvement meant the pavilion would receive extensive renovations over a two-year period. The Land renewal—as the refurb was called—was stated to last through the end of 1994.
“We consider it a corporate image enhancement,” said Laurie MacDonald, Nestlé spokesperson. She stated that Nestlé’s sponsorship of The Land was part of a, “Strategic alliance with Disney.”
Tenured corporate sponsors at EPCOT commented how the attractions become dated and need to be changed after time. Nestlé was eager to revive The Land, aiming to turn it into a leading-edge pavilion. One Disney publicist even mentioned how The Land needed up-to-date colors. The pavilion’s earth tones were considered too outdated. To emphasize, the earth tones in The Land were going away for something more 1990s.
As a part of the remodel, Kitchen Kabaret got some small, immediate changes; the condiment animatronics were redressed to no longer imply the branding of the former sponsor, Kraft. Kitchen Kabaret remained open for the time being as work began freshening up the pavilion.
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Retiring Kitchen Kabaret
Meanwhile, the United States around this time retired the Basic Four food groups guidelines. The USDA introduced The Food Guide Pyramid—updated recommendations for daily nutrition.
Since the format of Kitchen Kabaret was based on the Basic Four food groups, the show’s content had become spoiled. The nutritional information of Kitchen Kabaret was now outdated.
Disney and Nestlé decided to officially retire Kitchen Kabaret on Jan. 3, 1994.
With Nestlé’s strong appetite for renovating the pavilion, Disney had been working on a new animatronic show for the theater. The upcoming attraction at its core was similar to Kitchen Kabaret with a cast of animatronic food singing about nutrition—but the new version had a spicier take with fresh faces.
“We thought it would be neat to have the different fruits become caricatures of popular musicians and play their songs…Since we were using rock songs, we thought Food Rocks would be a great name for the show.”
– Rolly Crump, Disney Imagineer
The new animatronic concert was written by Imagineer Jim Steinmeyer. The show was themed to an all-star benefit concert promoting good nutrition. The acts were all parodies of popular songs with punny versions of pop stars. The music—headed by George Wilkins—was a playlist of precisely recreated pop songs. Some planned acts were going to be Tina Tuna and Elvis Parsley. The rock band Kiss at one point was considered to play the role of the bad guys.
Significant changes were being made to the show beyond just the script. For example, the set was structurally similar to that of Kitchen Kabaret, but aesthetically redesigned for a more abstract MTV look with large lighting fixtures.
Only one Audio-Animatronic from Kitchen Kabaret—the milk carton—made it into the new show. The rest of the animatronics were new but had limited animations after mostly being installed in the same framework as the previous show.
The Food Rocks Experience
Only two months after the closure of Kitchen Kabaret, Food Rocks opened in The Land Pavilion on March 26, 1994.
The fully redesigned show welcomed guests in with a colorful lobby decorated with obscure food facts and small interactive displays. Classic rock music played over the speakers to set the tone. The holding area just outside the theater had billboard art displaying the show’s different acts. The walls had been darkened with oversized stars scattered around.
Guests entered the theater under its illuminated marquee. Once the show was underway, vibrant lights swarmed the stage. According to the show’s creators, the excessive lighting effects in the show were a result of a lighting mishap while programming; the creators of the show ended up liking the accidental glitzy effect and decided to replicate it.
As the curtains opened, an announcer introduced the first act: the U-Tensils. The energy kicked in right away as the band of utensils played a parody of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, driving home the lyrics, “We’ll make it count in the kitchen.” Fake cheering pumped through the sound system for the high-energy number, as it would throughout the show.
The U-Tensils lowered into the steaming stove. The announcer introduced the host of Food Rocks: Fūd Wrapper, voiced by actual rapper Tone Lok. This was around the time the FDA started to regulate nutritional labels on food packaging. The sunglasses-wearing wrapper set up the next act: The Peach Boys.
The Peach Boys were a clear spoof of The Beach Boys, singing their food-themed hit, Good Nutrition. Standing center stage, a band of fruits belted out vintage surf tones with a healthful message. As Fūd Wrapper put it, they were the pick of the crop.
Just as Fūd Wrapper was ready to introduce the next number, the show was interrupted by a nasty metal band, Excess. The grungy group were the bad guys of the show, promoting junk food. Fūd Wrapper shooed them off just in time for the next hit.
Every Bite You Take
Coming from the fridge, a band called The Refrigerator Police performed their cool ballad, Every Bite You Take, mimicking Sting and his band. Their message was to make wise decisions with food, particularly dairy. They closed out their number singing, “We’ll be part of you.”
Fūd Wrapper with his raspy voice transitioned into the next song, High Fiber by Pita Gabriel, set to the melody of Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel. With a sledgehammer in hand, Pita Gabriel sang his ‘80s bop from the cupboard.
Always Read the Wrapper
The junk food band, Excess, wasted no time after the final chord of High Fiber. They intruded once again, but Fūd Wrapper handled them. It was his time to shine.
Fūd Wrapper broke into a rap, parodying the actual voice actor’s song, Funky Cold Medina. His verse stressed the importance of reading the label before eating.
Just Keep It Lean
Fūd Wrapper got a break from the action while the announcer introduced the next musician: The Sole of Rock n’ Roll. A fishy caricature of Cher came down from the ceiling to sing a protein-themed version of The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss).
After an intro from Fūd Wrapper, a piano-playing pineapple named Richard played Tutti Frutti with new nutritional lyrics. Little Richard himself sang on the track, accentuating the lyrics, “A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-I’m-good-for-you.”
Vegetables are Good for You
Another piano-playing piece of fruit started up a new song, Vegetables are Good for You, to the tune of Breaking Up is Hard to Do. The eggplant named Neil Moussaka was voiced by the original songwriter and doo-wop star, Neil Sedaka.
Fūd Wrapper briefly introduced the next star, Chubby Cheddar. The dancing silhouette of cheese was projected on the window and voiced by the real-life singer he parodied: Chubby Checker. He bellowed his song, Let’s Exercise, taking the melody of The Twist.
We Love Junk
The greasy band Excess returned—this time, to play a song. They chugged their way through a metal song, We Love Junk. This was the only fully original song in the show, as the group shouted how much they love junk food. “We love junk. Give us sugar and fat...You got a problem with that?”
Fūd Wrapper cut their act short by pulling the power cord.
Just a Little Bit
Next up for a sweet treat were The Get-the-Point Sisters. This trio of candy bars were played by The Pointer Sisters, singing a parody of Aretha Franklin’s cover of Respect. They sang about eating in moderation when it comes to treats, punctuating the, “Just a little bit,” lyrics.
Before You Chew (Finale)
Fūd Wrapper preached one more time about eating well as most the animatronic cast came back for one final song: Choose Before You Chew, a take on Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
The anthemic finale ended with power, and the curtains closed on Food Rocks.
Food Rocks had a mixed bag of reviews.
To start with the positive, Food Rocks was certainly enjoyed by many. It was an Audio-Animatronic show in a Disney park; for that reason, a lot of kids naturally loved it and connected with it. The parodies of pop songs and oldies added an extra layer for parents and adults to enjoy, especially with a healthy serving of puns. The show was energetic and fast-faced, making it a sweet experience for countless guests.
At the same time, the show could easily have come off as cheap and tacky. The animatronics clearly were not the highest quality, especially for Disney. Food Rocks had its redeemable moments, but the show was definitely more about the talent than the plot. It wasn’t always the most subtle with its low-hanging jokes—granted, it probably wasn’t trying to be—but it also had genuinely witty gags.
Perhaps the biggest flaw of Food Rocks was its obvious attempt at being trendy and relevant. The slew of pop music and a concert environment may have been fresh upon opening, but the act got stale over time. Stylistically, Food Rocks had a relatively short shelf life.
Food Rocks Vs. Kitchen Kabaret
Food Rocks was a harsh contrast to its predecessor, Kitchen Kabaret. Kitchen Kabaret seemed more refined than its replacement. Its music and script were tonally more palatable. Kitchen Kabaret let the essence of its message marinate just perfectly.
Food Rocks with its in-your-face, forcibly energetic style in comparison felt like a shoddy overlay like The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management). Going from pleasant to brash was tough to swallow for some.
But just because Kitchen Kabaret was delectable doesn’t mean Food Rocks was regrettable.
In defense of Food Rocks, not everyone got to see Kitchen Kabaret, so not everyone had something to compare it to. All they knew was the zesty show playing in front of them; it was still an entertaining one, despite criticism.
It was a good show on it’s own. The vocal performances were top-notch from talented musicians. Food Rocks was catchy and cute. It brought joy to many families, but it wouldn’t sail forever.
Soarin’ into the Future
Into the 2000s, Nestlé and Disney were planning a major refurb for The Land Pavilion. Nestlé extended its sponsorship of the pavilion, and The Land was being evaluated for future improvements.
EPCOT had shifted in the years leading up to this time. The park received a new thrill ride, Test Track, in 1999—reaching speeds of 65 mph. A few years later in 2003, Disney added Mission: Space to EPCOT’s growing lineup of thrill rides. Disney was seriously investing to update EPCOT, and they weren’t done yet.
In October 2003, Disney announced the next addition to EPCOT: Soarin’. The innovative simulator was popular over at Disney California Adventure, and executives were keen on introducing it to the East Coast.
“[Soarin’] is highly, highly successful in California. What we want to do is bring that highly successful show here to our guests who come from all over the world, so we think it’s the right concept for now.”
– Al Weiss, president of Walt Disney World Resort, 2003
This major announcement meant The Land would see its biggest update since opening: a new ride. Soarin’ would be added to The Land, but, to make room, Disney needed the theater space of Food Rocks.
Construction for Soarin’ began in September 2003. Food Rocks gave its final performances a few months later on Jan. 3, 2004—coincidentally, it closed exactly 10 years to the day when Kitchen Kabaret did.
Soarin’ opened at EPCOT in The Land Pavilion on May 5, 2005. That’s not where the story of Food Rocks ends, though.
Remnants and Memories
Some of the Food Rocks Audio-Animatronics were auctioned off on eBay in the 2000s. The stage itself lasted a bit longer in the park.
Only part of the Food Rocks theater was demolished to make room for Soarin’. The lobbies and theater seating were lost—those were located roughly where the entrance of Soarin’ is today.
The actual stage, however, was a bit off to the side; that space apparently wasn’t needed for the new attraction. The Food Rocks stage was walled off and left somewhat intact, minus the Audio-Animatronics. The battered set was left abandoned off to the side of one of EPCOT’s marquee attractions.
Now, the stage is no more. Years went by, and Disney eventually utilized that space for the women’s restrooms in the 2010s.
With the final in-park remnant now gone, the memories of Kitchen Kabaret and Food Rocks can still be found here and there. Small mementos and nods to the two defunct shows come up every now and then.
In the queue of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Star Lord, played by Chris Pratt, nostalgically references Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit. A small Food Rocks reference is also in Magic Kingdom’s Carousel of Progress.
Disney occasionally sells throwback merchandise to commemorate the shows, and some references have popped up at EPCOT’s festivals.
Kitchen Kabaret and Food Rocks may be no more, but the legacy of those two shows made an impression on so many Disney fans. They were silly Audio-Animatronic shows with singing fruit and catchy music—what’s not to love? The lingering memories have left a great taste, and the melodic Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit still today will leave a smile on anyone’s face.
veggie veggie fruit fruit 🥦🥕🍒🍍 pic.twitter.com/GO87pkX5Ud— Sarah 🎻 (@sprightlysound) September 23, 2021