Munch’s Make-Believe Band was a mainstay in Chuck E. Cheese restaurants for decades, but the song is largely over for the furry, animatronic musicians.
Mr. Munch, Jasper T. Jowls, Helen Henny and Pasqually will no longer be found in the chain’s restaurants, with the exception of a single location in Northridge, Calif. The company announced the residency in a press release earlier this month.
Other locations are being updated, part of an ongoing modernization of the chain by management. The former band space will be replaced with dance floors, screens, arcade games and, in some locations, trampoline zones—because who doesn’t want to fill their child up with pizza and soft drinks, then have them hop up and down vigorously?
Chuck E. Cheese is fast approaching its 50th anniversary in 2027. The company says it has more nostalgic plans in store during the walkup, meant to lure back old fans as well as new ones.
The company was founded by Atari creator Nolan Bushnell, who has long since severed his involvement with the chain. It barely made it to 10 years, but was saved by merging with its arch rival Showtime Pizza.
Before the mouse, there was a coyote
Chuck E. Cheese, though, wasn’t always meant to be a mouse. When Bushnell first came up with the concept of the restaurant, there were no plans to use a rodent as the mascot.
“The project started as Coyote Pizza,” says Bushnell. “We thought that a Coyote would be a great mascot. I purchased what I thought was a Coyote costume from an amusement park walk around costume vendor and had it shipped to the company. When it got here it was obvious to everyone but me that it was a rat costume.
“Rather than get another costume we decided that we would use a big rat as the mascot. Marketing didn’t like Rick Rats Pizza and came up with Chuck E. Cheese – as they called it a three smile name.”
A rat – particularly one that made rude comments and interrupted his guests – is an odd mascot. As the restaurant evolved, officials quickly morphed Chuck E. into a mouse, which is a bit more cuddly, and improved his manners.
And the tokens the chain uses for the arcade games that permeate the restaurant? Those are bait, meant to distract people from the fact that they’re spending real money, and even make them think they’re getting a bargain. It’s an old arcade trick. (Put another way; Back in the 1980s, arcade goers would be thrilled to get 10 tokens for a dollar, failing to realize they were still giving cash to the owners. Instead, they felt like they were getting the better end of the deal.)
“I guess that I have never been surprised that the chain has lasted this long,” Bushnell has said. “There will always be a place for kids and I am proud that it has given so much joy to so many young kids—though not always to their parents.”
“As an important part of the legacy of the brand, we know that the animatronic band holds a special place for many fans in their childhood memories,” , president of CEC Entertainment, the chain’s parent company. “We want our fans to know that the decision to keep the band here is meant as a gesture of love and gratitude as our legacy continues to evolve in new ways.”
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