The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign
|Buffy the Vampire Slayer location|
|Notable locations||Sunnydale High School
The Magic Box
|Notable characters||Buffy Summers
Daniel "Oz" Osbourne
Sunnydale is the fictional setting for the U.S. television drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Series creator Joss Whedon conceived the town as a representation of a generic California 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 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, very few high schools, forty-three churches, a small private college, a zoo, a museum, and one modest main street. Even so, it has twelve gothic cemeteries. These cemeteries are so heavily used that services are sometimes held at night.
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, and one of its cemeteries is shown to be adjacent to a lake. Sunnydale has a number of parks: Weatherly Park, Glebe Park, Radcliff Park and Nelson Park are just some of the examples.
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.
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 had fallen to 32,900. In the spring, the town is almost completely evacuated before its destruction.
Sunnydale has a somewhat isolated location.
Sunnydale is located on or near the Pacific Ocean. An ocean port with several docked ships is nearby. Kingman's Bluff stands on a tall cliff overlooking the sea. There is a beach not too far away.
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).
The Sunnydale Effect
Despite the number of calamities, mass murder sprees, incidents of unexplained behavior and property damage that occur throughout the town, people do not leave or adopt significantly different lifestyle choices (including continuing to go out at night as normal despite a staggering number of vampire induced deaths). It has been speculated[by whom?] that the Hellmouth or some individual (most likely Mayor Wilkins) have caused a passive memory easement field to exist over the town, wherein most individuals, if not continually prompted, forget or explain away unpleasant events, causing them to view Sunnydale as, at worst, having a slightly high crime rate. Younger people or persons without the ability to leave seem to be affected less strongly (such as the students of Sunnydale High seeming to be somewhat aware of how dangerous their lives are), but this does not extend to personal safety in general, as basic protective actions such as staying inside after dark do not seem to occur to the majority of people.
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. 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."
- 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.
- A street map of central Sunnydale is used by the Scooby Gang twice in the seventh season.
- In the seventh season, Andrew draws a map of Sunnydale to track the First's activities. 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.
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.
- The exterior shots of Sunnydale High School (seasons 1–3) are of Torrance High School in Torrance, California.
- The exterior shots of The Mansion (seasons 2–3) are of Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House in Los Feliz near Griffith Park.
- Most of the University of California, Sunnydale scenes (season 4) 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 Sunnydale City Hall is the Iowa Courthouse Building, an office building in Torrance.
- The exterior shots of New Sunnydale High School (season 7) were filmed at California State University, Northridge in Northridge, California.
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.
Centuries later, Navajo and Chumash peoples lived in this area. One or more groups of monks or friars also settled in this area. As in general California history, these friars can safely be assumed to have been Spanish Franciscans, who arrived in California in the late 18th century. 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 Purisima Concepción, originally sited near Point Conception and relocated to Lompoc would fit this description.)
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  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.
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.)
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.
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 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.
At some point in Sunnydale's history, the following mystic artifacts were hidden throughout the town's cemeteries and perhaps elsewhere:
- the du Lac Cross (found in "What's My Line, Part One")
- some, but not all, of the scattered remnants of the Judge (found and reassembled in "Surprise"); other pieces were found elsewhere and shipped to Sunnydale
- the Glove of Myhneghon (found in "Revelations")
- the Amulet of Balthazar (found in "Bad Girls")
- the Gem of Amarra (found in "The Harsh Light of Day")
During the series
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.
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 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 sport crosses and drab colors to avoid attracting vampires; and almost all of the people she knew are either dead or 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.
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. Later this same year, Giles purchases a magic shop named The Magic Box.
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 of their brains to maintain her own sanity. The next year brings the deaths of Joyce Summers and also Buffy herself, although Buffy manages to return from the grave. After this point, Buffy and Dawn become co-owners of the family house.
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 destroyed in a battle between Willow and Buffy. At the beginning of the next season (fall 2002), Sunnydale High School is rebuilt, on exactly the same location as before — directly over the Hellmouth.
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. 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.
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.
- 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.
- The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign says 38,500 in two early episodes: School Hard (2.03) and Lovers Walk (3.08).
- 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.
- Giles is surprised at this figure in What's My Line, Part Two (2.10).
- Crestwood College is featured in Reptile Boy (2.05) but never mentioned again.
- there are three visits to the zoo in The Pack (1.06), including a class trip and one trip by Buffy on foot.
- 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".
- According to Giles in Revelations (3.07).
- Once More, with Feeling (6.07).
- Help (7.04).
- Buffy finds dead bodies in the train in Crush (5.14).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- The "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign says 32,900 in Conversations with Dead People (7.07).
- 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.
- 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.
- Giles visited there during Lovers Walk (3.08).
- 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.
- Kingman's Bluff is the location of Willow's terrible spell (Grave, 6.22).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- In Sanctuary (Angel 1.19), cops refer to Sunnydale as being "up north"
- 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.
- 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.
- Joss Whedon post on The Bronze posting board, November 22, 1998, archived here .
- Doomed (4.11)
- Once early in the season, and again in Touched (7.20).
- Shown in Get it Done (7.15).
- End of Days (7.21).
- 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).
- Spike and Andrew journey to a different mission in Empty Places (7.19).
- Pangs (4.08).
- "The Glittering World", in Tales of the Slayers
- Enemies (3.17).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- The sign reads "Downtowner Motel/Apt." in The Zeppo (3.12) and others.
- In Once More, with Feeling (6.07), the headline of the Sunnydale Press states, "MAYHEM CAUSED. MONSTERS CERTAINLY NOT INVOLVED, OFFICIALS SAY."
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- Chosen (7.22).