Sunnydale is the fictional setting for the U.S. television drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003). Series creator Joss Whedon conceived the town as a representation of a generic Californian city, as well as a narrative parody of the all-too-serene towns typical in traditional horror films.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer location
The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign
Created byJoss Whedon
In-universe information
TypeFictional city
LocationsSunnydale High School
The Bronze
The Magic Box
UC Sunnydale
CharactersBuffy Summers
Rupert Giles
Xander Harris
Willow Rosenberg
Cordelia Chase
Daniel "Oz" Osbourne
Riley Finn
Anya Jenkins
Dawn Summers
Tara Maclay

Sunnydale is located on a "Hellmouth"; a portal "between this reality and the next", and convergence point of mystical energies.[1]

Environment edit

Sunnydale itself edit

Sunnydale's size and surroundings are implausible but justified given its origins — to sustain a human population for supernatural evils to prey upon. The town's founder spared no expense to attract a populace, and Sunnydale thus contains many elements of a large city — which the show's writers utilized fully for comic effect and narrative convenience. During the first three seasons, Sunnydale is shown to have 38,500 inhabitants,[2] very few high schools,[3] forty-three churches,[4] a small private college,[5] a zoo,[6] a museum,[7] and one modest main street. Even so, it has twelve gothic cemeteries.[8] These cemeteries are so heavily used that services are sometimes held at night.[9] Sunnydale is divided into five neighborhoods. The first is the entertainment district which contains the Bronze, Sunnydale's nightclub, which attracts some well-known artists despite a clientele consisting mainly of high-school kids. The second consists of the alleys directly behind Bronze, housing the town's surplus supply of pallets and cardboard. The high school makes up the third neighborhood. The fourth neighborhood is entirely occupied by a large graveyard, and finally, the suburban residential sprawl forms the last neighborhood. The prevalence of very nice homes is made possible by low property values resulting from frequent murders.[10]

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 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.[11] Sunnydale has a number of parks: Weatherly Park, Glebe Park, Radcliff Park and Nelson Park are just some of the examples.

Sunnydale has a train station,[12] a bus station,[13] a small airport,[14] and a small military base.[15] There is also a seaport with a harbor deep enough to allow the docking of coastal freighters.[16]

Directly beneath Sunnydale High School is a Hellmouth, a subterranean, mystical portal that attracts evil forces. 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. Also beneath the school is a small pool of sea water with an outlet to the Pacific Ocean.[17]

Sunnydale exhibits many common horror-movie characteristics, including an abundance of dark alleyways, abandoned mansions, and factories. The adult population 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 had fallen to 32,900.[18] In the spring, the town was almost completely evacuated.

Sunnydale's surroundings edit

Sunnydale is somewhat isolated.[19]

The town is situated near several acres of woods and forest, including Miller's Woods.[20] Breaker's Woods is a 45-minute drive from town.[21]

Sunnydale is located on or near the Pacific Ocean. An ocean port with several docked ships is nearby.[22] Kingman's Bluff stands on a tall cliff overlooking the sea.[23] There is a beach not too far away.[24]

Close to or in Sunnydale is an old quarry house built beside a deep lake, located a few feet from a cliff edge.[25] In addition, there is a hydroelectric dam in the vicinity of Sunnydale.[26]

Within a day's drive of Sunnydale is a desert.[27] It is stated several times that Sunnydale is approximately two hours' drive north of Los Angeles.[28]

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.[29]

The episode "Pangs" reveals that Sunnydale is in the former homeland of the Chumash people, which is the area northwest of Los Angeles, centered on Santa Barbara County. The episode references a lost Spanish mission, which might be a reference to a historical mission originally located near Point Conception which was destroyed by an earthquake and relocated inland.

The episode "Shadow" (5.08) contains a telephone directory ad for the Magic Box, which uses an 805 area code. This would indicate that Sunnydale is located in Santa Barbara County, or possibly Ventura County or San Luis Obispo County (all are along the coast north of Los Angeles but south of Monterey).

Maps of Sunnydale edit

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.[30] 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. Joss Whedon stated in November 1998 that "Sunnydale is in fact near Santa Barbara."[31]
  • 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' fourth season.[32]
  • A street map of central Sunnydale is used by the Scooby Gang twice in the seventh season.[33]
  • In the seventh season, Andrew draws a map of Sunnydale to track the First's activities.[34] 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.

Filming locations edit

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

History edit

Prior to Buffy's arrival edit

Long before humans settled the area, a 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.[35]

Centuries later, the Navajo and Chumash peoples lived in this area along with one or more groups of monks and friars who also settled there.[36] As in general Californian history, these friars are assumed to have been Spanish Franciscans, who arrived in California in the late 18th century.[37] In 1812, there was an earthquake in the Sunnydale region that caused a cave-in during which an entire mission was lost; the very existence of the mission was soon forgotten. (The Mission La Purísima Concepción, originally sited near Point Conception and relocated to Lompoc would fit this description.)[38]

Richard Wilkins arrived in California in the late 19th century, 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 [39] in 1899. 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.[40]

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 Satanist temple on Kingman's Bluff.[41] (The date of this earthquake is given as either 1932 or 1937, although it is possible these were two distinct quakes.)[42]

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.[43]

By the 1990s, Sunnydale appeared to have become a typical town on the California coast, with a popular mayor, a police force that Principal Snyder describes as "deeply stupid,"[44] and a local newspaper (the Sunnydale Press[45]). However, Mayor Wilkins had instructed the police to cover up any supernatural or mysterious violence occurring in the city and had directed Principal Snyder to conceal supernatural violence occurring at Sunnydale High.[46]

Mystic artifacts edit

At some point in Sunnydale's history, the following mystic artifacts were hidden throughout the town's cemeteries and perhaps elsewhere:

During the series edit

The series begins when Buffy Summers, the current vampire slayer, moves to 1630 Revello Drive, and begins attending Sunnydale High School. There she meets new friends, including Willow Rosenberg, Xander Harris, and her new watcher, Rupert Giles. This "Scooby Gang", eventually including popular cheerleader Cordelia Chase and Willow's boyfriend Oz, 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. (It is not clear whether or not she owns the gallery.)

During their time in high school, Buffy and her friends fight a number of vampires, most notably the Master, Angel, a vampire with a soul, who fell in love with Buffy; Spike, Drusilla, and Angelus (when Angel had lost his soul). Another slayer, Faith, arrives in their senior year of high school (Season 3) and lives at the Downtowner Motel[47] until she joins forces with Mayor Wilkins.

In the third season episode "The Wish", Cordelia angrily wishes that Buffy Summers had never arrived in Sunnydale, and her wish is granted by vengeance demon Anyanka. Cordelia finds herself in an alternate universe where The Master has risen to the surface and completely taken over the town, with the surviving human population living in terror of the vampires. The school is sparsely populated; curfews are strict; humans wear crosses and drab colors to avoid attracting vampires; and almost all of the people she knew are either dead or have been turned into vampires.

At the end of the third season (June 1999), Sunnydale High School 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.[48]

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 "black" (secret) military unit, The Initiative, and has a laboratory and demon confinement complex 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. Later this same year, Giles purchases a magic shop named The Magic Box.[49]

Sometime between the fourth and fifth seasons (during the summer of 2000), the mysterious "Key" is transformed into Buffy's younger "sister", Dawn Summers and the evil goddess Glory arrives in the town, leading to an increase in the number of mentally ill patients due to her ability to suck the sanity from their brains to maintain her own. The next year brings the deaths of Joyce Summers and Buffy herself (although Buffy is returned from the grave by a magic spell cast by Willow). After this point, Buffy and Dawn become co-owners of the family house.[50]

Before Season 5's end, a scene in the city would be shown at least once in the second season of Buffy's spinoff, Angel. In the episode "Disharmony", Cordelia Chase calls Willow from Los Angeles when her high school friend Harmony Kendall turns up. We see Willow's side of this call in a rare Sunnydale scene for this series. Angel himself returns to Sunnydale at least four times in Buffy seasons 4, 5 and 7.

At the end of the sixth season (spring 2002), the Magic Box is demolished in a battle between Willow and Buffy. At the beginning of the seventh season (fall 2002), Sunnydale High School was rebuilt on the same location as before — directly over the Hellmouth.

By this time, knowledge of supernatural phenomena seems to be slowly growing in the town.[48] Sunnydale's population is also revealed to have dropped to 32,900.[51]

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.[52] Soon thereafter, the cataclysmic showdown between the Scooby Gang, the Potential Slayers Buffy has gathered together, and the First Evil results in the complete obliteration of the town. Sunnydale collapses into a giant pit, closing the entrance to the Hellmouth.[53]

During the weeks between the series finale of Buffy and the Season 5 premiere of Angel, Lindsey McDonald makes an off-screen trip to the crater and digs up the amulet worn by Spike in the final battle. He sends it to Angel at Wolfram & Hart where it releases an incorporeal Spike. The destruction of the city is mentioned several times during Angel's final season, mainly tying into Spike's brief ghostly status. It is seen one more time when a military general oversees the crater in Season 8. The destruction of the town has also led the U.S. government to brand the Scooby Gang and their Slayers an international terrorist group.

In the final arc of Season 8, the Scooby Gang return to the ruins of Sunnydale to secure the Seed of Wonder, an artifact that is the source of all magic on Earth, and serves as a battleground between themselves and a massive legion of extra-dimensional demons.

References edit

  1. ^ "Welcome to the Hellmouth" (1.01) introduces the Hellmouth, which is referred to numerous times throughout the series. The entrance to the Hellmouth is seen under the school in "The Zeppo", "Doomed", "Conversations with Dead People", and throughout the second half of season seven.
  2. ^ The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign says 38,500 in two early episodes: "School Hard" (2.03) and "Lovers Walk" (3.08).
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Giles is surprised at this figure in "What's My Line, Part Two" (2.10).
  5. ^ Crestwood College is featured in "Reptile Boy" (2.05) but never mentioned again.
  6. ^ there are three visits to the zoo in "The Pack" (1.06), including a class trip and one trip by Buffy on foot.
  7. ^ 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".
  8. ^ According to Giles in "Revelations" (3.07).
  9. ^ a b "Once More, with Feeling" (6.07).
  10. ^ "Villains" (6.20)
  11. ^ "Help" (7.04).
  12. ^ Buffy finds dead bodies in the train in "Crush" (5.14).
  13. ^ The bus station is shown in "Inca Mummy Girl" (2.04), "What's My Line, Part One" (2.09), and "Showtime" (7.11), and mentioned in "Innocence" (2.14).
  14. ^ 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).
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ In Episode 3/14, "Bad Girls," Faith disposes of the body of the Deputy Mayor by weighting it down and sinking it in the harbor. In Episode 3/19, "Choices," a box containing the mystic spiders Mayor Wilkins has to consume as part of the Ascension process comes in by water and the docks are shown.
  17. ^ In "Go Fish," the gill monsters gather under a grate to receive victims from their creator, Coach Marin (as in "marine"). At the end of the episode, the monsters swim away to the sea.
  18. ^ The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign says 32,900 in "Conversations with Dead People" (7.07).
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ 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. In season 2's "Phases," they are shown to be between Oz's house and the school.
  21. ^ Giles visited there during "Lovers Walk" (3.08).
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Kingman's Bluff is the location of Willow's terrible spell ("Grave", 6.22).
  24. ^ 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).
  25. ^ 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 grounds also appear in the Chaos Bleeds video game.
  26. ^ In "As You Were" (6.15), Buffy, Riley and Riley's wife, Sam, fight a Suvolte demon on a dam they only drove a short distance to reach.
  27. ^ 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).
  28. ^ In "Sanctuary" (Angel 1.19), cops refer to Sunnydale as being "up north".
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ 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
  31. ^ Joss Whedon post on The Bronze posting board, November 22, 1998, archived here "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2007-04-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link).
  32. ^ "Doomed" (4.11)
  33. ^ Once early in the season, and again in "Touched" (7.20).
  34. ^ Shown in "Get it Done" (7.15).
  35. ^ "End of Days" (7.21).
  36. ^ 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).
  37. ^ Spike and Andrew journey to a different mission in "Empty Places" (7.19).
  38. ^ "Pangs" (4.08).
  39. ^ "The Glittering World", in Tales of the Slayers
  40. ^ "Enemies" (3.17).
  41. ^ Episode 6/22, "Grave." Giles explains to Anya how Willow proposes to destroy the world and specifically refers to the temple as Satanist. There is a Satanist symbol on the top of the temple's steeple.
  42. ^ 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.
  43. ^ "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.
  44. ^ Episode 2/22, "Becoming, Part 2."
  45. ^ 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".
  46. ^ 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).
  47. ^ The sign reads "Downtowner Motel/Apt." in "The Zeppo" (3.12) and others.
  48. ^ a b In "Once More, with Feeling" (6.07), the headline of the Sunnydale Press states, "MAYHEM CAUSED. MONSTERS CERTAINLY NOT INVOLVED, OFFICIALS SAY."
  49. ^ "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.
  50. ^ 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."
  51. ^ 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.
  52. ^ 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.
  53. ^ "Chosen" (7.22).