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Sunnydale: come for the food, stay for the dismemberment.
Alexander Harris[src]

Sunnydale was a small town[2] in southern California,[3] inhabited by the Slayer Buffy Summers and the Scooby Gang.[2]

The area of Sunnydale was a concentration of demonic energy,[4] which had its focal point under the Sunnydale High School; this was caused by its being the site of the Hellmouth, a gateway between the Earth and demonic dimensions.[5] A college town, it housed the University of California at Sunnydale.[6]

The preceding sense of unrest on the streets and psychic disturbance in town eventually spurred its population to leave.[7] In 2003, Sunnydale was destroyed and sank into the earth when a massive fissure opened beneath it.[8]

History

Prior to Buffy's arrival

In ancient times, the mystical weapon was used at the site of the Hellmouth "to kill the last pure demon that walked upon the Earth." After this, the Guardians hid the Scythe, and the last of its members remained, waiting in a pagan temple for centuries.[9]

The settlement where would become Sunnydale.

Centuries later, Navajo[10] and Chumash[11] peoples lived in this area. One or more groups of monks or friars also settled in this area.[11] In 1812, an earthquake in the Sunnydale region caused a cave-in that buried the Sunnydale Mission.[11] In the late 19th century, vampires took over the settlement, killing its inhabitants and wrecking its buildings; a Navajo Slayer arrived searching for a vampire to avenge her Watcher and slew the vampires in the process, burning it to the ground.[10]

Richard Wilkins founded Sunnydale in May 1899,[12] considering the alternate names "Happydale" and "Sunny Acres."[10] 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.[13]

In the 1930s, there was at least one more major earthquake in Sunnydale; it caused a cave-in that swallowed up the Master and the church he was in,[14] as well as the Temple of Proserpexa on Kingman's Bluff.[15]

Sometime in the late 1900s, Richard Wilkins was again elected mayor, then under the name of "Richard Wilkins III," and served more than one term.[13]

By the 1990s, Sunnydale appeared to have become a typical town on the California coast, with a popular mayor, a police force, and a local newspaper (the Sunnydale Press). However, Mayor Wilkins had instructed both the police to cover up any supernatural or mysterious violence occurring in the city and Principal Snyder to cover up supernatural violence occurring at Sunnydale High.[16][17][18][19] The newspaper also reported supernatural events as if they were common human crimes, with headlines such as: "Mayhem Caused — Monsters Certainly Not Involved, Officials Say."[20]

After Buffy's arrival

A view of the town from Sunnydale Hospital.

In the winter of 1997, Buffy Summers, the active Slayer, moved to 1630 Revello Drive, where she began attending Sunnydale High. There, she met her new friends Willow, Xander, Cordelia,[2] and Oz,[21] as well as her new Watcher, Giles.[2] They formed the Scooby Gang and often hung out at the Bronze[2] and the Espresso Pump coffee house.[22] Buffy's mother, Joyce, worked in an art gallery in Sunnydale.[2]

During their time in high school, Buffy and her friends fought several vampires, most notably the Master,[5] Spike, Drusilla, and Angel.[23] Another slayer, Faith, arrived during their senior year of high school and lived at the Sunnydale Motor Inn[24] until she joined forces with Mayor Wilkins.[25] In June 1999, Sunnydale High was destroyed in a great conflict that killed Mayor Wilkins and Principal Snyder on graduation day.[12]

In the fall of 1999, Buffy, Willow, and Oz began attending UC Sunnydale.[26] There, they first came into contact with the United States Government secret military organization, the Initiative, with its facilities located beneath the campus.[27] The Initiative was closed down in spring 2000 after a climactic battle with the bio-mechanical demonoid Adam.[28] By this time, Tara and Anya had joined the Scooby Gang.[29] Later this same year, Giles purchased a profitable magic shop named the Magic Box.[30]

During the summer of 2000, the Key, an ancient mystical energy, was transformed into Buffy's younger sister, Dawn Summers.[31] The next year brought the deaths of Joyce[32] and Buffy herself,[33] although Buffy was brought back from the grave months later.[34] After this point, Buffy and Dawn became co-owners of the family house.[7]

In spring 2002, the Magic Box was destroyed in a battle between Willow and Giles.[15] In the fall of 2002, Sunnydale High was rebuilt, on the same location as before — directly over the Hellmouth.[35] By this time, Sunnydale's population had dropped from 38,500[36][37] to 32,900.[38]

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

In early 2003, supernatural manifestations at Sunnydale High reached unprecedented levels. Within less than a month, virtually the entire population fled in a mass evacuation.[7][39] Soon after, the cataclysmic showdown between the Scooby Gang and the First Evil resulted in the town's collapse, closing the entrance to the Hellmouth.[8]

Years later, the Scooby Gang and the Slayer Organization headed back to Sunnydale, in the hope of recovering the Seed of Wonder, to end all the chaos unleashed upon the world with the Twilight.[40] In the underground ruins of the town, the Master had been guarding the Seed.[41] Following the destruction of the artifact, Sunnydale received several of creatures in search of its shards, including Morgan, Pearl, and Nash.[42]

After the supernatural became public knowledge,[43] it became a tradition for revelers to party at Sunnydale on Halloween, a "celebration of the occult at the town that proved its existence." Around that same time, Andrew stole the Slayer Handbook and returned to Sunnydale, planning to use the book and the new rules of magic to his advantage to resurrect the late Jonathan and Tara to atone for his past sins. However, his efforts attracted the Soul Glutton, who killed many partiers.[44] Buffy and Spike's fight against the Soul Glutton made the ruins of Sunnydale collapse once more.[45]

Environs

Sunnydale itself

Sunnydale at night.

In the late 1990s, Sunnydale's population was around 38,500,[16][17] with forty-three churches,[46] a small private college (Crestwood College), the Sunnydale Zoo, the Sunnydale Natural History Museum, and one modest main street (Maple Court). Even so, it had twelve cemeteries,[47] among them Restfield, Shady Hill, and Sunnydale Cemetery; these cemeteries were so heavily used that services were sometimes held at night.[20]

Sunnydale had the high schools Sunnydale High, Fondren High, St. Michael's, Grant, Kent Preparatory School, and Miss Porter's. The town also contained a campus of the University of California system.[6]

Among its woods and parks, Sunnydale included the Weatherly Park, where many homeless people slept; Wilken's Grove, which contained many caves and trees;[48] and the Hammersmith Park.[49] The town was situated near several acres of woods and forest, including Miller's Woods,[50] while Breaker's Woods was a 45-minute drive from town.[17] The popular Lovers' Lane was on a cliff overlooking the town, surrounded by trees.[51] In 1997, the Whisper Lake began to boil as a family was swimming in it as a portent to the Master's upcoming freedom.[5] Sunnydale also had a large park containing a creek and a lake,[20] and one of its cemeteries was adjacent to a lake.[52]

View of the town.

Sunnydale had a train station (Sunnydale Station),[53] a bus station (Overland Charters),[54] an airport (Sunnydale Airport),[55] and a military base.[56]

Directly beneath Sunnydale High School was a Hellmouth,[5] a location in which the walls that separated the world from hell dimensions was particularly thin, converging mystical energy that attracted demonic creatures and affected the surrounding areas. This explained why vampires and other demons were so prevalent in the city.[4]

By the year 2002, the city's population had fallen to 32,900.[57] In the spring, the town was almost completely evacuated,[7] before its complete destruction.[8]

Surroundings

The crater following Sunnydale's destruction in 2003.

Sunnydale was located on or near the Pacific Ocean. It had an ocean port with several docked ships.[21][58] Kingman's Bluff stood on a tall cliff overlooking the sea.[15] There was a nearby beach.[59] and a hydroelectric dam in the vicinity of Sunnydale.[60]

Sunnydale was a somewhat isolated location. Whenever the city was stricken by a town-wide epidemic — such as the silence spell —, no other towns seemed to be nearby.[61] The surrounding roads were also arid and empty,[37] including the abandoned gas station Four Aces.[62] Within a day's drive of Sunnydale was a desert.[63][64] After its destruction, the crater was surrounded by desert terrain.[8][65][45]

Maps

A large map of "Sunnydale County" hanged on the wall of Principal Snyder's office,[22] as well as on the wall of Mayor Wilkins' office.[6] According to this map, Sunnydale was located at a bend on the California coast, and the Pacific Ocean was to the south and west of the town.

Giles used a different street map of Sunnydale when he was plotting sightings of the Initiative commandos, identifying an them mostly around the UC Sunnydale campus.[3]

Willow used another map to perform a demon locator spell twice in 2002, showcasing the streets near Sunnydale High and Wilken's Grove.[48][66]

Andrew drew a map of Sunnydale to track the First's activities. The general shape of the coastline matched previously used maps. According to Andrew's map, there were woods between Sunnydale and the ocean to the west and to the south, and a dark forest directly southeast of the town, where the coast bent. There were also woods to the east of Sunnydale, as well as railroad tracks.[67]

Behind the scenes

  • A map of Sunnydale is featured in the reference books The Making of a Slayer and Slayer Stats.
  • Sunnydale was "located" on the California coast, two hours northwest of Los Angeles. If Sunnydale was 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 was shown with a giant map of "Sunnydale County"; this map was an actual map of Santa Barbara County with a new name pasted over it. Many of the long-range outside shots of the town were actually shots of Santa Barbara. These were especially clear in the widescreen versions of seasons four to seven; some of the Spanish-style buildings were 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.[68]

Filming locations

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

  • The exterior shots of Sunnydale High were of Torrance High School in Torrance, California.
  • The exterior shots and some interior shots of Buffy's home were of an actual home located in Torrance.
  • The exterior shots of the Mayor's office in season three were filmed in Torrance, California.
  • Most of the University of California, Sunnydale scenes were filmed at the University of California, Los Angeles, and in a closed sound stage designed to match the UCLA architecture. Some of the later scenes were filmed at a private business park.
  • The exterior shots of New Sunnydale High were filmed at California State University, Northridge in Northridge, California.

Evidence for the Santa Barbara region

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

  • Buffy had just moved from Los Angeles to a house in Sunnydale, and she complains that she was then "two hours from a Neiman Marcus." This was evidently in reference to the Neiman Marcus store in Beverly Hills.
  • The characters visited other towns on the central and southern coast of California, including Monterey in "Doppelgängland" and Oxnard in "The Freshman."
  • The characters often drove to and from Los Angeles ("In the Dark," "I Will Remember You," "Sanctuary," "Dirty Girls") but rarely referred to the San Francisco Bay Area, suggesting that they were much closer to the former than to the latter. Indeed, when the characters visited the Bay Area, it seemed to be a more substantial trip. When Giles visited Oakland, he flew by plane ("Anne"), and Gilroy was a significant ride "up north" on a motorcycle ("Empty Places").
  • In "Amends," Sunnydale was shown on a TV weather map in approximately the same position as Santa Barbara.
  • In "Pangs," the Scooby Gang was attacked by the spirits of Native Americans described as Chumash, a tribe local to Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
  • Lilah Morgan refereed to Sunnydale as being "up the coast" from Los Angeles ("Home").

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

On the other hand, it also was possible that Santa Barbara exists in the Buffy universe, and that Sunnydale was merely located close to it. Joss Whedon stated in November 1998 that "Sunnydale was in fact near Santa Barbara."[69]

Evidence for other locations

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

  • UC Sunnydale also had a connection to the University of California, Santa Cruz. In several episodes of the fourth season, UC Sunnydale dormitories named Kresge and Stevenson were mentioned. Kresge and Stevenson were names of colleges on the campus of UC Santa Cruz.[70] However, Eve refereed to UC Santa Cruz as her alma mater ("Life of the Party" and "Destiny"), so UC Santa Cruz was a distinct school in the Buffyverse.
  • Buffy's home was in the 95037 ZIP Code, according to the text shown in a letter in the episode "As You Were." This was the real life ZIP Code for the city of Morgan Hill, which was 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.

Connection to Sunnyvale

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

  • In the episode "Help," the character Cassie Newton have created a personal website, Cassie's Poetry and Paintings. The screenwriter Rebecca Rand Kirshner created an actual website for it and registered it to "Cassie Newton" at a fake address. The ZIP Code she used was 94086, which was an actual ZIP Code in Sunnyvale.
  • 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. However, the geography of Sunnyvale makes it a poor candidate for Sunnydale, since it was located more than 300 miles (480 km) north of Los Angeles.

Appearances

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Angel

References

  1. "The Harsh Light of Day"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "Welcome to the Hellmouth"
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Doomed"
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Teacher's Pet"
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "Prophecy Girl"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Choices"
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Empty Places"
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "Chosen"
  9. "End of Days"
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "The Glittering World"
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 "Pangs"
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Graduation Day, Part Two"
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Enemies"
  14. "The Harvest"
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 "Grave"
  16. 16.0 16.1 "School Hard"
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "Lovers Walk"
  18. "I Only Have Eyes for You"
  19. "Graduation Day, Part One"
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 "Once More, with Feeling"
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Surprise"
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Dead Man's Party"
  23. "Becoming, Part Two"
  24. "Faith, Hope & Trick"
  25. "Doppelgängland"
  26. "The Freshman"
  27. "The Initiative"
  28. "Primeval"
  29. "The I in Team"
  30. "Real Me"
  31. "No Place Like Home"
  32. "The Body"
  33. "The Gift"
  34. "Bargaining, Part One"
  35. "Lessons"
  36. "School Hard"
  37. 37.0 37.1 "Lovers Walk"
  38. "Conversations with Dead People"
  39. "Touched"
  40. Last Gleaming, Part One
  41. Last Gleaming, Part Two
  42. A Dark Place, Part Two
  43. Harmonic Divergence
  44. Return to Sunnydale, Part One
  45. 45.0 45.1 Return to Sunnydale, Part Two
  46. "What's My Line? Part Two"
  47. "Revelations"
  48. 48.0 48.1 "Same Time, Same Place"
  49. "Anne"
  50. "Homecoming"
  51. "Phases"
  52. "Help"
  53. "Crush"
  54. "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date"
  55. "What's My Line? Part One"
  56. "Innocence"
  57. "Conversations with Dead People"
  58. "Consequences"
  59. "Buffy vs. Dracula"
  60. "As You Were"
  61. "Hush"
  62. "Spiral"
  63. "Intervention"
  64. "The Killer in Me"
  65. The Long Way Home, Part One
  66. "Bring on the Night"
  67. "Get It Done"
  68. "Sunnydale Syndrome." TV Tropes. Retrieved on December 23, 2017.
  69. joss, "Bronze VIP Archive for November 22, 1998." Bronze VIP Posting Board Archives. Archived on April 13, 2016.
  70. Barbara McKenna, "The horror of it all: Alumna tells tales of vampires, film classes, and a career in television." Currents Online, March 6, 2000. Archived from the original on February 25, 2021.
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