Iconic animatronic Chuck E. Cheese band is breaking up nationwide

The first Chuck E. Cheese location
opened on May 17, 1977, in San Jose, California, offering screaming children and their patient parents pizza, arcade games, ball pits, and animatronic entertainment. There are now 400 locations in the United States and hundreds more across 17 other nations, including Egypt and Australia.

One of the chain’s distinguishing features is its resident band,
Munch’s Make Believe Band, comprising Chuck E. Cheese, an anthropomorphic chicken named Helen Henny, a purple monster named Mr. Munch, a dog named Jasper T. Jowls, a mustachioed chef named Pasqually, and, in more recent years, a rabbit named Bella Bunny.

This motley crew first took the stage in 1989. Curtains would rise and the animatronic animals would jitter in time with pre-recorded music.

Atari co-founder and Chuck E. Cheese founder Nolan Bushnell
indicated in a 2017 interview that he was inspired in part by the Tiki Room at Disneyland, stating, “Aha. There’s no theater organist here. … They’ve got the flowers singing. Yeah, we can do that. We’ve got the Tiki gods chanting away. Yeah, we can do that.”

After spending 35 years unnerving children, the band is set to break up.

The New York Times
reported that by year’s end, the band will stop performing in all but two locations: one in Los Angeles and the other in Nanuet, New York.

The rodent-led band’s eradication is part of a broader facelift — what Chuck E. Cheese CEO David McKillips has described as the “most aggressive transformation.”

According to the Times, this upheaval was hastened by the pandemic, which prompted the temporary closure of numerous locations as well as the company’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2020. Keen to stay afloat, the company is now appealing to a more screen-oriented generation, swapping out the bands for virtual entertainment, digital dance floors, and
trampoline zones.

“Kids are consuming entertainment differently than they were 10, 20 years ago,” said McKillips. “Kids, really of all ages, are consuming their entertainment on a screen.”

In a mock November press conference, the titular rodent announced, “We are going to be performing here on a regular basis here in North Ridge, California.”

Munch interjected, saying, “It’s called a residency.”

“We thought we should let you know officially,” Cheese said. “Especially all you super fans out there that want to know where to find us.”

Bushnell said in a
corresponding release, “It’s great that the original animatronic band will remain in residency at the Northridge location while the other locations offer experiences and create memories with the new vision.”

In response to the Times report, the chain tweeted, “We hear you guys, truly [heart emoji.] We believe in the power of play and the joy of being a kid, and will always stay true to being a place Where a Kid Can Be A Kid!”

Chuck E. Cheese then invited fans to share their memories of the shifty-eyed band.

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