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WelcometoSunnydale

"Welcome to Sunnydale"

"Sunnydale: come for the food, stay for the dismemberment."
―Xander Harris[src]

Sunnydale was a small Californian town, inhabited by the slayer Buffy Anne Summers, until shortly after the empowering of all of the Potential Slayers and the town's destruction.

A college town, it housed the University of California at Sunnydale. The area of Sunnydale was a concentration of demonic energy, which had its focal point under the old Sunnydale High School, and was caused by this being the site of the Hellmouth, a gateway between the Earthly and Demonic dimensions. Sunnydale was destroyed and sank into the earth when a massive fissure opened beneath it. Fortunately for the inhabitants, the preceding sense of unrest on the streets and psychic disturbance in the town had already spurred most of the population to leave.

Foundation

Sunnydale was founded in 1899 on an area Spanish settlers had called "Boca del Infierno" - Hellmouth - where they had also built a Catholic mission for the conversion of the local Chumash tribe. The town's founder, Richard Wilkins, intended the town to be a feeding ground for demons, as part of his pact to achieve Ascension. After considering the names Happydale and Sunny Acres, Wilkins came up with the name Sunnydale.

Environs

Sunnydale itself

Sunnydale

Sunnydale's size and surroundings are implausible, it is designed largely for comic effect and narrative convenience. During the first three seasons, Sunnydale's population is revealed to be 38,500,[1] very few high schools,[2] forty-three churches,[3] a small private college[4], a zoo,[5] a museum,[6] and one modest main street (Maple Court). Even so, it has twelve gothic cemeteries.[7] These cemeteries are so heavily used that services are sometimes held at night.[8]

In later seasons it is revealed that Sunnydale contains a campus of the University of California system, as well as a profitable magic supply shop. The town, or a surrounding area, is also seen to include a large park containing a creek and a lake,[9] and one of its cemeteries is shown to be adjacent to a lake.[10]
P1010526

Sunnydale at night

Sunnydale has a train station,[11] a bus station,[12] a small airport,[13] and a small military base.[14]

Amends517

Downtown Sunnydale

Directly beneath Sunnydale High School is a Hellmouth, a location in which mystical energy converges and in which the walls that separate this world from hell dimensions is particularly thin, attracting demonic creatures and affecting the surrounding areas. This functions as a major plot device in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as it explains why vampires and other demons are so prevalent in Sunnydale.

SunnydaleDestroyed

The crater following Sunnydale's destruction in 2003.

Sunnydale possesses many common horror-movie characteristics, such as an abundance of dark alleyways, abandoned mansions and factories, and an adult population that is either clueless or perpetually in denial, in stark contrast to the demon-fighting, supernaturally aware teens.

By the show's seventh season, set in 2002-03, the city's population has fallen to 32,900.[15] In the spring, the town is almost completely evacuated before its destruction.

Sunnydale's surroundings

Sunnydale has a somewhat isolated location.[16]

The town is situated near several acres of woods and forest, including Miller's Woods.[17] Breaker's Woods is 45-minute drive from town.[18]

Sunnydale is located on or near the Pacific Ocean. An ocean port with several docked ships is nearby[19]. Nearby, Kingman's Bluff stands on a tall cliff overlooking the sea.[20] There is a nearby beach.[21]

Near, or in Sunnydale is an old quarry house built beside a deep lake, located a few feet from a cliff edge.[22] In addition, there is a hydroelectric dam in the vicinity of Sunnydale.[23]

Within a day's drive of Sunnydale is a desert.[24]

In the final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ("Chosen"), and also in the first issue of the Buffy: Season Eight comic book, Sunnydale is depicted being surrounded by desert terrain.[25] However, this appears to contradict information established earlier in the series about Sunnydale's surroundings.

Maps of Sunnydale

Maps of Sunnydale have appeared at various times during the show:

  • A large map of "Sunnydale County" hangs on the wall of Principal Snyder's office and also on the wall of Mayor Wilkins' office.[26] This is actually a map of Santa Barbara County, California with the words "Sunnydale County" superimposed on it. According to this map, Sunnydale is located at a bend on the California coast. To the south and west of Sunnydale is the Pacific Ocean.
  • Giles uses a street map of Santa Barbara as a map of Sunnydale when he is plotting sightings of the Initiative commandos in the series's fourth season.[27]
  • A street map of central Sunnydale is used by the Scooby Gang twice in the seventh season.[28]
  • In the seventh season, Andrew draws a map of Sunnydale to track the First's activities.[29] The general shape of the coastline matches the map used in season three. According to Andrew's map, there are woods between Sunnydale and the ocean to the west and to the south, and directly southeast of the town, at the location where the coast bends, there is a dark forest. There are also woods to the east of Sunnydale, as well as railroad tracks.

Location

Evidence for a location in the Santa Barbara region

Sunnydale is located on the California coast, about a two-hour drive northwest of Los Angeles. This is indicated by the following:

  • In the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy has just moved from Los Angeles to a house in Sunnydale, and she complains that she is now "two hours from a Neiman Marcus". This is evidently in reference to the Neiman Marcus store in Beverly Hills.
  • The characters visit other towns on the central and southern coast of California, including Monterey[30] and Oxnard[31].
  • The characters often drive to Los Angeles[32], but rarely refer to the San Francisco Bay Area, suggesting that they are much closer to the former than to the latter. Indeed, when the characters visit the Bay Area, it seems to be a more substantial trip. When Giles visits Oakland, he flies by plane,[33] and Gilroy is a significant ride "up north" on a motorcycle.[34]
  • In the third season, Sunnydale is shown on a TV weather map in approximately the same position as Santa Barbara.[35]
  • In the fourth season, the characters are attacked by the spirits of Native Americans described as Chumash, a tribe local to Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.[36]
  • In an episode of Angel, Lilah refers to Sunnydale as being "up the coast" from Los Angeles.[37]
  • In the comic book Reunion, written by Jane Espenson, Anya states that the Denny's in Oxnard is exactly half-way between Buffy's and Angel's residences.[38] From the Hyperion Hotel to Oxnard is 59 miles; assuming that Anya was being precise, this would put Sunnydale on the northwest outskirts of Santa Barbara.

Thus, this evidence would place Sunnydale very close to Santa Barbara, California. Since Santa Barbara is never itself been mentioned in the show, it could be surmised that Sunnydale simply is the Santa Barbara of the Buffy universe. Many of the establishing shots of the town are in fact shots of Santa Barbara.

On the other hand, it also is possible that Santa Barbara exists in the Buffy universe, and that Sunnydale is merely located close to it. Joss Whedon stated in November 1998 that "Sunnydale is in fact near Santa Barbara."[39]

Evidence for other locations

There are also a few indications that associate Sunnydale with other California locations:

  • UC Sunnydale also has a connection to the University of California, Santa Cruz. In several episodes of the fourth season, UC Sunnydale dormitories named Kresge and Stevenson are mentioned. Kresge and Stevenson are names of colleges on the campus of UC Santa Cruz.[40] Note, however, that in Angel, Eve refers to UC Santa Cruz as her alma mater, so UC Santa Cruz is a distinct school in the Buffy universe.[41]
  • Buffy's home is in the 95037 ZIP Code, according to the text on a letter shown in the show.[42] This is the real life ZIP Code for the city of Morgan Hill, which is situated southwest of San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale. However, Giles once mentioned he was taking a flight from Sunnydale to Oakland, which would eliminate that possibility.
  • Joss Whedon has remarked that originally he loosely based Sunnydale on Monterey, California, but that it was never intended to be an exact parallel.

Connection to Sunnyvale

Sunnydale's name is very close to that of Sunnyvale, a city in California's Silicon Valley. There is some evidence of a Sunnydale-Sunnyvale connection:

  • Sunnyvale borders the city of Santa Clara, California whose name bears a resemblance to Santa Carla, another fictional vampire-infested California coastal town and the setting of the film The Lost Boys, from whence the term vamp out, used often in Buffy and Angel, originates.

However, the geography of Sunnyvale makes it a poor candidate for Sunnydale, since it is located more than 300 miles (480 km) north of Los Angeles.

Filming locations

Various southern California locations are used as stand-ins for Sunnydale:

  • The exterior shots, and some interior shots, of Buffy's home are of an actual home located in Torrance.

History

Prior to Buffy's arrival

Long before humans settled the area, an entrance to the Hellmouth existed at the site of the future town of Sunnydale.

In ancient times, a magic scythe was used at the site of the Hellmouth "to kill the last pure demon that walked upon the Earth." After this, the scythe was hidden, and its last guardian remained, waiting in a pagan temple that would somehow remain unnoticed for centuries.[44]

Centuries later, Navajo and Chumash peoples lived in this area. One or more groups of monks or friars also settled in this area.[45] As in general California history, it can safely supposed those friars to be Spanish Franciscans, who arrived in California in the late 18th century.[46] In 1812, there was an earthquake in the Sunnydale region that caused a cave-in in which an entire mission was lost; the very existence of the mission was soon forgotten.[47].

Richard Wilkins arrived in California in the late 1800s, looking for gold. He founded Sunnydale (after considering the alternate names "Happydale" and "Sunny Acres") in a demon infested valley after a Navajo Slayer died there.[48] He made a pact with the demons to found a town atop the Hellmouth for them "to feed on", in return for the promise of immortality by becoming a pure demon himself. Wilkins became Mayor of Sunnydale.[49]

In the 1930s, there was at least one more major earthquake in Sunnydale. This caused a cave-in that swallowed up The Master and his lair, as well as the temple on Kingman's Bluff. (The date of this earthquake is given as either 1932 or 1937, although it is possible these were two distinct quakes.)[50]

Sometime in the 1980s or 1990s, Richard Wilkins was again elected mayor, now under the name of "Richard Wilkins III", and served more than one term.[51]

By the 1990s, Sunnydale appeared to have become a typical on the California coast, with a popular mayor, a police force, and a local newspaper (the Sunnydale Press[52]). However, Mayor Wilkins had instructed the police to cover up any supernatural or mysterious violence occurring in the city, and had instructed Principal Snyder to cover up supernatural violence occurring at Sunnydale High.[53]

During the series

P1010563

A view of the town from Sunnydale Hospital

The series begins in the winter of 1997, when Buffy Summers, the current vampire slayer, moves to 1630 Revello Drive, and Buffy begin attending Sunnydale High. There she meets new friends, including Willow Rosenberg, Xander Harris, Cordelia Chase, and Oz, as well as the vampire Angel and her new watcher, Rupert Giles. This "Scooby Gang" often hangs out at the Bronze, the Espresso Pump (a local coffee house with a retro gas station motif) and the Sun Cinema. Buffy's mother, Joyce, works in an art gallery in Sunnydale.

During their time in high school, Buffy and her friends fight a number of vampires, most notably the Master, Spike, Drusilla, and (when he had lost his soul) Angel. Another slayer, Faith, arrives in their senior year of high school (Season 3) and lives at the Downtowner Motel[54] until she joins forces with Mayor Wilkins.

At the end of the third season (June 1999), Sunnydale High is destroyed in a great conflict that kills Mayor Wilkins and Principal Snyder. After this point, there is no mention in the television show of the political leaders of the city. The police occasionally appear, but the police chief does not. There is no further discussion of the police covering up supernatural evidence, although one newspaper headline suggests this may have continued.[55]

As the fourth season begins (fall 1999), Buffy and Willow begin attending the University of California, Sunnydale. There they discover that the United States government was operating a secret military complex, the Initiative, in a cavern beneath the UC Sunnydale campus. The Initiative is closed down at the end of the season (spring 2000) after a climactic battle with the cyborg Adam. By this time, Tara Maclay and Anya have been added to the Scooby Gang. The town also has a gothic Clock Tower. Later this same year, Giles purchases a magic shop named the Magic Box.[56]

Sometime between the fourth and fifth seasons (during the summer of 2000), the mysterious "Key" is transformed into Buffy's younger "sister", Dawn Summers. The next year brings deaths of Joyce Summers and also of Buffy herself, although Buffy manages to return from the grave. After this point, Buffy and Dawn become co-owners of the family house.[57]

At the end of the sixth season (spring 2002), the Magic Box is destroyed in a battle between Willow and Buffy. At the beginning of the next season (fall 2002), Sunnydale High is rebuilt, on exactly the same location as before - directly over the Hellmouth.

By this time, knowledge of supernatural phenomena seems to be slowly growing in the town.[58] Sunnydale's population is also revealed to have dropped to 32,900.[59]

In the second half of the seventh season (early 2003), supernatural manifestations at Sunnydale High reach unprecedented levels. Within less than a month, virtually the entire population of the town flees in a mass evacuation.[60] Soon thereafter, the cataclysmic showdown between the Scooby Gang and The First Evil results in the complete obliteration of the town, which collapses into a giant pit, closing the entrance to the Hellmouth.[61]

It was revealed in Last Gleaming Part one that the Scooby Gang and the Slayer army would be heading back to Sunnydale, in the hope of recovering the Seed of Wonder, to end all the chaos unleashed upon the world by Buffy and Angel. It was also revealed that the Master would become another Big Bad for season eight.

SunnydaleDestruction

Sunnydale is sucked into the Hellmouth during the battle against the First Evil.

Behind the Scenes

Sunnydale, California is the fictional suburban setting for the popular television drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Series creator Joss Whedon conceived the town as a representation of the typical, anonymous, generic suburban city, as well as a narrative parody of the all-too-serene towns typical in traditional horror movies.

Sunnydale's size and surroundings are implausible and the size of the town changed as the series progressed. 

Sunnydale possesses many common horror-movie characteristics, such as an abundance of dark alleyways, abandoned mansions and factories, and an inexplicable divide between its demon-fighting, supernaturally aware teens and the sinister or clueless, perpetually in-denial adults.

Sunnydale is "located" on the California coast, two hours northwest of Los Angeles. If Sunnydale is to be identified with an actual college town in this region, Santa Barbara (or perhaps San Luis Obispo) would be the logical choice. In Season Three, the mayor's office is shown with a giant map of "Sunnydale County"; this map is an actual map of Santa Barbara County with a new name pasted over it. Many of the long-range outside shots of the town are actually shots of Santa Barbara. These are especially clear in the widescreen versions of seasons four to seven; some of the Spanish-style buildings are obviously in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara to anyone familiar with the city.

In fiction fandom, Sunnydale Syndrome is a name given to the semi-common tendency of mundane characters to fail to notice, or to reject as unreal or impossible, the unusual activities taking place under their noses, even when blindingly obvious.

References

  1. The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign says 38,500 in two early episodes: School Hard (2.03) and Lovers Walk (3.08).
  2. In Some Assembly Required (2.02), the three dead cheerleaders attended Fondren High, which is "across town" from Sunnydale High. In Reptile Boy (2.05), Kent Preparatory School is mentioned. In Dead Man's Party (3.02) Joyce mentions a local all-girls' school named Miss Porter's. Yet in most episodes "the high school" refers specifically to Sunnydale High.
  3. Giles is surprised at this figure in What's My Line, Part Two (2.10).
  4. Crestwood College is featured in Reptile Boy (2.05) but never mentioned again.
  5. there are three visits to the zoo in The Pack (1.06), including a class trip and one trip by Buffy on foot.
  6. The museum director who receives the box containing the demon Acathla in Becoming, Part One (2.21) refers to Giles as being "right here in Sunnydale".
  7. According to Giles in Revelations (3.07).
  8. Once More With Feeling (6.07).
  9. Once More, With Feeling (6.07).
  10. Help (7.04).
  11. Buffy finds dead bodies in the train in Crush (5.14).
  12. The bus station is shown in Inca Mummy Girl (2.04), What's My Line, Part One (2.09), and Showtime (7.11).
  13. Kendra arrives by plane in What's My Line, Part One (2.09), and the airport itself is shown in Choices (3.19) and Who Are You (4.16) as well as Bargaining I (6.01). The airport shown in this episode is actually Burbank Airport with "Sunnydale" photoshopped over the word Burbank. In Tabula Rasa (6.08), Giles's ticket shows an itinerary from Sunnydale Airport to Los Angeles International Airport and then to London Heathrow Airport, which is the same route announced on the public address system as Giles awaits his flight in Bargaining, Part I (6.01).
  14. In "Innocence" (2.14), Xander and Cordelia break into the base to steal a rocket launcher as part of his plan to destroy the Judge.
  15. The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign says 32,900 in Conversations with Dead People (7.07).
  16. When Sunnydale is stricken by a town-wide epidemic -- such as the silence spell in Hush (4.10) -- no other towns seem to be nearby.
  17. The woods in Homecoming (3.05) are named "Miller's Woods". In Bargaining, Part Two (6.02) and Villains (6.20) the woods are large enough to get lost in.
  18. Giles visited there during Lovers Walk (3.08).
  19. The port is seen in Surprise (2.13) and Consequences (3.15). In Consequences, Giles refers to Buffy and Faith's return from the docks as "coming back to town", indicating that the docks are not part of Sunnydale itself.
  20. Kingman's Bluff is the location of Willow's terrible spell (Grave, 6.22).
  21. It is not specified how close this beach is to Sunnydale. It is seen in Go Fish (2.20) and Buffy vs. Dracula (5.01).
  22. Although the quarry house never appears in any episodes, it does make an appearance in the comic book series The Blood of Carthage, which explains the house's Pre-Columbian origins. The house and its also appear in the Chaos Bleeds video game.
  23. In As You Were (6.15), Buffy, Riley and Riley's wife, Sam, fight a Suvolte demon on a dam. Presumably the dam is either in or near Sunnydale, as Riley and Buffy drive a short distance to reach it.
  24. Giles drives Buffy to the desert in Intervention (5.18), and drives with the Potentials to the desert in The Killer in Me (7.13).
  25. At the end of Chosen (7.22) the town has sunk into a large pit, and the pit is completely surrounded by desert. It is shown this way in the comic book Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight # 1, The Long Way Home, pages 14-15.
  26. It was in the principal's office in Dead Man's Party (3.02), and in the mayor's office in various third-season episodes. The best view of the map is in Choices (3.19). Compare this with the map of Santa Barbara County at http://www.countyofsb.org/stats.asp.
  27. Doomed (4.11)
  28. Once early in the season, and again in Touched (7.20).
  29. Shown in Get it Done (7.15).
  30. Doppelgängland" (3.16).
  31. The Freshman (4.01).
  32. Visits to Angel in Los Angeles are made in I Will Remember You (Angel episode 1.08), Sanctuary (Angel episode 1.19), and Orpheus (Angel episode 4.15).
  33. Giles mentions Oakland twice in Anne, saying that he flew there looking for Buffy (3.01).
  34. Empty Places (7.19). Note, however, that it is impossible for Spike and Andrew to visit a "mission" in Gilroy, because there is no California mission in that city.
  35. Amends (3.10).
  36. Pangs (4.08).
  37. Home (Angel episode 4.22).
  38. Reunion.
  39. Joss Whedon post on The Bronze posting board, November 22, 1998, archived here.
  40. The horror of it all: Alumna tells tales of vampires, film classes, and a career in television By Barbara McKenna, March 6, 2000, accessed 21-Oct-2012
  41. Life of the Party and Destiny (Angel episodes 5.05 and 5.08).
  42. Letter shown in "As You Were" (6.15).
  43. Help (7.04).
  44. End of Days (7.21).
  45. Navajo (Diné) people are mentioned in "The Glittering World" in Tales of the Slayers. Chumash are mentioned in Pangs (4.08). One group of monks were mentioned by the ancient guardian in End of Days (7.21); a possibly different group in Pangs (4.08).
  46. Spike and Andrew journey to a different mission in Empty Places (7.19).
  47. Pangs (4.08).
  48. "The Glittering World", in Tales of the Slayers.
  49. Enemies (3.17).
  50. In The Harvest (1.02), Willow refers to an earthquake in 1937 which "swallowed half the town", including the Master's lair. In Grave (6.22), Anya says that the temple on Kingman's Bluff was "swallowed up in the big earthquake of '32". It is possible they are referring to two different earthquakes, but it is also possible that one of them is simply misstating the date.
  51. Enemies (3.17). A sign saying "Reelect Mayor Wilkins" is visible; since no election is currently being held, this indicates a past re-election bid.
  52. It can be seen in Never Kill a Boy on the First Date, Reptile Boy, Becoming, Part One, Bad Girls, Consequences, Graduation Day, Part One, Hush, and Once More, With Feeling.
  53. In Lovers Walk (3.08), Wilkins refers to having covered up Spike and Drusilla's rampages during season two. Snyder and the police chief discuss these coverups in I Only Have Eyes For You (2.19). Wilkins and Snyder discuss it in Graduation Day, Part 1 (3.21).
  54. The sign reads "Downtowner Motel/Apt." in The Zeppo (3.12) and others.
  55. In Once More With Feeling (6.07), the headline of the Sunnydale Press states, "MAYHEM CAUSED. MONSTERS CERTAINLY NOT INVOLVED, OFFICIALS SAY."
  56. The Real Me (5.02), which has been seen multiple times previously -- for example, in Lovers Walk (3.08), at which time it is called Uncle Bob's Magic Cabinet.
  57. Joyce's will would have either left the house to Buffy or to Buffy and Dawn. In Empty Places (7.19), Dawn tells Buffy "this is my house, too."
  58. For example, the Sunnydale Press mentions "monsters" in its headline in Once More With Feeling (6.07).
  59. The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign lists a population 38,500 in several early episodes, including School Hard (2.03) and Lovers Walk (3.08). In Conversations with Dead People, meanwhile, it gives a population of 32,900 (7.07). The sign is visible for a moment at the end of Chosen (7.22) but the population figure is not legible.
  60. The evacuation is seen at the beginning of Empty Places (7.19), although the Bronze is still crowded. By the next episode, Touched (7.20), the town is virtually empty.
  61. Chosen (7.22).

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