Why am I at Chuck E. Cheese’s?

Earlier tonight, I had to attend a birthday party for a five-year-old on the woman’s side of the family. Usually, I’d come up with some form of faux flu to get out of going to such a thing, but tonight was special: His birthday party was being held at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

This Chuck E. Cheese’s has stood tall in my city for over a decade, but I’d never gone into it until tonight. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been to Chuck E. Cheese’s before tonight. The closest I came was this place called “Razzmatazz” over in Jersey, which had the same kind of audio-animatronic stageshow, but with a far larger arcade and an all-around surreal floorplan. (Picture a well-lit Lazer Tag arena filled with pizza and video games — that was Razzmatazz.) So, while I wasn’t unwise to the ways of such places, I admit to being pretty excited to see Chuck in action for the very first time. Despite this probably being one of the smaller establishments in the chain, the rat did not disappoint.

The stageshow was creepy and hilarious, and just about completely ignored by every kid in the place. I spent an hour or so reading various Chuck E. Cheese’s fansites (they exist!) when I got home, and from what I’m gathering, the animatronic bands are being phased out of many of the restaurants, because they are CREEPY, and because kids are just 100% more interested in playing various games of chance than watching electronic nightmares sing showtune spoofs.

Tonight, Chuck and friends were all singing Christmas songs, complete with corresponding videos playing on old, grainy televisions mounted on nearby walls. Regardless of the kids’ apathy, I couldn’t help but appreciate the sights I was seeing, because if nothing else, these were not sights a person gets to see everyday. I was particularly interested in the purple dude in the middle, at least in part because his “instrument” looked like a spaceship. I took him as nothing more than a McDonald’s Grimace ripoff at first, but now that I’ve done my homework, I know that he’s in fact “Mr. Munch,” a storied showman who’s gone through seventeen names, roles and voice levels before settling in as the band’s resident jive soul bro.

Pizza is the standard at all Chuck E. Cheese’s, but it’s not the kind of pizza you’d order on a Friday night from Uncle Tom’s down the street. Hell, it’s not even like the pizza you’d get from a Domino’s or Pizza Hut. I’m hesitant to call it “bad,” but calling it “good” is contingent on liking Chef Boyardee-esque tomato sauce mixed with cheese that seems to serve a purpose more along the lines of Thompson’s Water Seal than a flavorful additive. This isn’t to say that it’s not edible pizza, because it is. In fact, because the pie slices are cut so small, you can eat about twenty of them before feeling like you’ve done anything wrong at all. There was also a salad bar, but for me, salad bars and rooms swelling with sneezing children rarely mix. I stuck with the pizza, and now the pizza is stuck in me.

This place was pretty small for a Chuck E. Cheese’s, so there weren’t a lot of great arcade games or anything. Since the chain caters more towards young kids than older ones, what’s left is a bunch of ticket-bearing “casino” games that depend more on luck than skill. The tickets, worth a point each, can be redeemed for a bunch of really rotten prizes — and some not-so-rotten prizes, assuming you can amass thousands of them.

We started playing a few games just for the hell of it, but stopped once we were informed that you can actually buy points for a penny a pop. It didn’t take long for me to do the math: We spent ten bucks on tokens to play games, and we got around a hundred tickets for our efforts. I realize that a 90% loss is par for the course in casino arcades, but I really hated having the plain facts right there in front of me. Especially when the best prize in the damn place was a plush doll in the shape of a Tootsie Roll.

More positively, I was extremely fond of the mirrored pizza slice wall art seen in the picture above. If someone had cast Donatello instead of Tom Hanks in Big, that so would’ve been on the loft wall.

Getting back to the stageshow, we spent most of the night in awe of Pasquale, one of the animatronic band members who looked like a cross between Super Mario and Cap’n Lou Albano, which was even more incredible when you realize that he looked nothing at all like Lou Albano as Super Mario. The reason? His mustache had come unglued and was completely sideways. Pasquale lacked the chutzpah to fix it himself, so later in the evening, one of the workers had the unfortunate task of hopping onstage to try to right a wrong mustache. I’m not kidding when I tell you that it took the poor woman a solid five minutes to do this, and even at that, she couldn’t get it completely straight. I hope this doesn’t mean that Pasquale’s gonna get axed from the show, because the only thing better than a band starring a rat, duck and purple monster is a band starring a rat, duck, purple monster and a dude who looks like Cap’n Lou Albano. I’m pulling for you, Pasquale.

In the surprise of the night if not the entire century, a costumed character version of Chuck E. Cheese burst forth from the backstage area to sing, dance and take pictures with all of the kids. Some cried, but most went wild. Me? I was a little confused. Didn’t the children care that there was already a “real” Chuck E. Cheese onstage? Did they believe that there were two Chuck E. Cheeses? Did they comprehend the concept of breaking the fourth wall?

I thought I was going to give the woman a lot of shit for making me go to this, but since I’m a two-year-old, I left smiling. I can’t help believing that what I saw tonight is a dying fad, and that like-styled establishments that pop up in the future will probably do away with the dated stageshow entirely. I’m not saying that I don’t understand why that would happen, but I’m not sure I like it. Everyone needs to be creeped out by ginormous dolls that occasionally come alive to sing and crash cymbals once in their life.

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177 Responses to Why am I at Chuck E. Cheese’s?

  1. kingklash says:

    Somewhere, in the deep, dank recesses of X-E, there is a secret project. Animatronic Lego people are being constructed as we speak. The Knacks and Kuse Rock’n’Roll Gold Ribbon Thunderhammer Stunt Spectacular and Bar-B-Q Sammich Armageddon is comming to a strip mall near you!

  2. J-Dog says:

    This article definitely brings back memories! I remember one time when my brother (was about 10 at the time) ripped Chuck’s tail off as he was passing by. LOL!!!

  3. Trish says:

    Oooooh, I like it!!! And just think – the little kiddies could get their pictures taken with Waiterbot. Talk about traumatizing childhood memories….

  4. JLAJRC says:

    Stone: That’s the one I think about. Haven’t been there in years. I’m rarely in that area except to go to the 1/2 Price Bookstore.

    Brian: Sci-Fi showed that episode not too long ago. Christian Slater played the grandson, Brent (Data) Spiner played the doctor. Don’t remember the title, but his nose comes off because his grandson puts pepper in his napkin.

  5. Mikey from Denver says:

    I remember my CEC until about 10 years ago when an ex employee shot the place up and killed 7 or 9 people there. Thank god he waited until they had closed.

    It happened in Aurora, a suburb of Denver CO.

    Did I just shit in everybodies memory?

  6. cheeky says:

    that episode where his nose falls off is actually the only one i remember!

  7. X says:

    A search on Google has informed me that there is a Bullwinkle’s still, and it is in North Carolina. I think you can click on my name to see it. If not- http://www.bullwinkles.com/

  8. Cid says:

    Ah, CEC. Just got back from working there earlier today. Yeah, the pizza sucks (unless you drench it in Red Pepper), and…well, I can’t justify it. I can tell you this much, though. RESPECT those guys in the Chuck E. costume. Take it from personal experience, kids beat the ever living piss out of you when you wear that thing.

  9. Jerry Horror says:

    I grew up on Long Island. Now here in Suffolk, we had a huge Chucky Cheese (This was the way it was spelled originally on the sign) in Commack. The place was huge. They had a big door and a small door just for kids. In 1983 the place to me, was like a temple of worship. I remember playing the Tron and Star Wars games. I always got my ass handed to me at Dragons Lair. In the early days there was a gigantic play area, kinda of like a big hamster cage for kids. They had seperate dining area’s and bathrooms. If you were lucky, you had a private champagne room with the animatronic charcters. Which had the stage you could crawl under. Eventually Chucky’s fell into disrepair. Everything went to shit. They took out the playland, the kids door and shut down the tunnel under the stage. Around the early 90’s Chuck sold his store to some crooks. In all reality from what I heard, was that parents got sue-happy and took closed the place down. It sucks to have your childhood closed down due to drooling mongloid retards whose parents don’t watch them. (So I guess not only is Chuck responsible for entertaining your children, but, he and Munch have to supervise them as well) The place became “The Emporium”. The Emporium was more of a generic arcade with lousy food. The place was a bootleg Chucky’s. Complete with generic moving charcters. (So generic in fact, I cannot remember any of them, alas, they were falling apart and barely moved. Many of them had exposed moving parts. This was creepy and yet cool in a “Child’s Play 2” kind of way)
    Okay, I’m almost done here kiddies.
    Nathan’s bought the place, cleaned it up eventually and it becamee tolerable. However, nobody at “Nathan’s” learned from history and it too closed in the late 90’s.
    Now in present day, the building is an all you can eat japanese buffet entitled: “Sushi Park”. The place looks like the perfect place to have a ninja showdown. The food isn’t bad either, I enjoyed it. However with the abundence of dead fish, nothing sings at you while you eat.

  10. Steve Waller says:

    I still have ‘Gee, Our 1st Album!’ by the Rock-A-Fire Explosion that I got when I had a birthday at Showbiz Pizza Place. It was my favourite place as a kid…

    I went to Chuck E. Cheese once, and it felt completely wrong… I was gutted when I found out it had been taken over. That YouTube video posted earlier on of the changeover was heartbreaking to watch.

    Actually, I really should convert that Rock-A-Fire album to MP3… I’ve also got a 7″ Vinyl too, with ‘Happy Birthday’ on it…

    Awwwww…. Memories. :)

  11. Paul W. says:

    Hmm…there’s another Paul here, so I’m going to have to resort to using an initial. Bah!

    When I was a little kid, I used to be terrified of those robots. Looking at the pictures and the videos, I can see why…those things are outright creepy. I’m surprised, though, that it was Chuck that gave me nightmares and not Pasqually, the Forgotten Mario Brother.

    When I was younger, I remember having some kind of bizarre dream where, at some giant football game, Chuck would plummet out of a plane, on fire, and smash into the field. I remember seeing a horrifically battered and scarred mouse costume in the next part of the dream. Not sure what that says about me, if anything other than that I had lousy dreams as a kid.

    We used to have Major Magic’s restaurants here in Metro Detroit. As far as I know, though, the two I went to are both shut down and boarded up now. Since all of the old fixtures and games seem to be in place (judging from my glance through the window), I wonder if the old robots are still in there?

  12. starwenn says:

    I’ve never been in a Chuck-E-Cheese’s. The closest one to me until recently had only opened in 2004. Most of the arcades on the various New Jersey Shore boardwalks were fine with the live-action floorshow going on daily on the ‘boards.

  13. Will says:

    I worked at CEC for 3 months when I was in high school. I was Mr. Cheese.

  14. Cricket says:

    Not to get off topic but I have ask why they still call it MTV or even came up with MTV2? When was the last time you actually saw a MUSIC VIDEO on that station!??! Why not just call it RTV (Reality TV) and be done with it?

    There, it has been said and now you can hate me for it. The road to recovery is paved with a clear conscience and now I have one! WHEW!

  15. Jerry Horror says:

    Not for nothing Cricket, MTV has been like this since the early 90’s.

  16. Byrd man says:

    First it was CEC then it was Showbiz, then it converted back to CEC and everything has gone down hill since then.

    At the one here in Boise, prior to the costumed Chucke coming out they close the curtains on the animatronic one so there isn’t two of them throwing kids off.

  17. Dani says:

    oh god oh god
    My boyfriend works at Chuck E. Cheese’s…dresses up and everything.
    Also, I totally had a crush on Jasper Jowls when I was about 7-10. I honestly don’t know why. But then again I also had the hots for Roger Rabbit and Optimus Prime, so who knows.
    Anyways, Rainbowfeet, I know Snap and he did indeed install a complete Rock-Afire show in his home. A few others have done the same thing. You’d be surprised how often some of this stuff turns up on eBay. Surprisingly, it’s alot easier to get the RAE robots than it is the CEC ones, because I swear to god, CEC will do pretty much anything to keep that stuff out of ‘Joe Chuck E. Cheese fan’s’ hands. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t leak out every now and then…I know of a few people who actually own the character costumes.

  18. spooky says:

    I had my 26th birthday party at Chuck E Cheeze. I absolutely loved Showbiz Pizza. I hated chucky cheese and vowed never to go there out of loyalty to showbiz. Now that I know showbiz still exists but thinks chucks better, I’m extra pissed.
    But i digress.
    The girlfriend set it up because I regailed her with stories of how much I loved Showbiz and was curious about how similar Chucks is.
    Let me tell you. For whatever reason, whenever the change, there nearly nothing alike to me. Same type of shows. (anyone remember the animatronic gorrila, I loved that guy). Same type of food. Same feel…kinda. What pissed me off to no end (but I kept kinda quiet so as not to make her think it was her fault) is SHowbiz was an ARCADE that had PIZZA. The stage show was kinda bizare but I loved that but they used to lower the lights and it was all for us. But what was at chucks? ALl those damn ticket games I hate. They had one ONE video game. It was a pretty cool one you climbed inside and it had mechwarrior (or whatever they called it there) but still. Here I am with my damn beloved bucket of birthday tokens and all I got is one game to play? Damn.
    On a related subject, I realize with the kinda games they have now days and the expense of the systems I don’t know how the arcades could exist nowdays but damn do I miss them. There’s one in my city. one. Most the pizza huts and ect. dont even have the toke one or two games anymore. The bars have a pinball machine sometimes but geeze.
    Someone needs to open a “Console Arcade” where you have loads of all the hip (in adition to old) game platforms with a big complement of games per machine. You could pay per minute or something. I don’t know, but I really miss arcades.
    Besides, You could sell pizza there.

  19. Razzmatazz was the greatest. We should all chip in, buy that land back, and build a new one. Then go over to Amboy Multiplex and see Karate Kid 2.

  20. Lou says:

    Unfortunately it looks like Amboy Cinema is destined for the wreckingball as well.

  21. Heather says:

    A- I always thought Chuck was a mouse and that his name was “Chuckie” instead of “Chuck E.” The latter of thesse was cleared up when I bothered to read the sign, but wouldn’t have thought he was a rat until this bit.

    B- We didn’t have a “CEC” in our town in Southern California, so trips to the Cheese were saved for when we went to larger towns on mall expeditions (we didn’t have a mall either), but we did go pretty often. I credit the Cheese for my fear of animatronics and my love of ski ball, which leads me to…

    3- SKI BALL!! When I was in middle school a locally owned pizza joint put in their own arcade including about half a dozen ski ball lanes! OH HELL YES… that place got most of my middle and high school homework time, not to mention the better part of my babysitting money. But I had a bedroom full of crap made in China!

  22. Paul says:

    For those speaking of Major Magic’s, there are actually 2 still around, the one in Sylvania outside Toledo, and one in Madison Heights in Metro Detroit. I used to work at the latter, but it as gone to hell with the past few owners. The stage show has been sold to someone in New Jersey, so all that’s in the party room now is a big screen TV that is usually playing Sponge Bob. I really am surprised that it is still in business. The Ohio store still has the stage show though, and it’s much more enjoyable.

    On a couple of other notes, I believe at one time there was a total of 9 Major Magic’s; at least 4 in Michigan, 1 in Ohio, 1 in Pennsylvania, and 3 in New York. It was these 3 in New York that caused the chain to dismantle, as it was too much of a financial burden on the owner at the time (who actually had invested some money into Major Magic’s race cars of all things). That combined with the fact that people didn’t want to pump money into what they saw as a Chuck E. Cheese rip-off caused the closing of almost all the stores (had he just opened 1 in New York it may have thrived). Up until 2002 there were 3, with 2 in Metro Detroit. There were talks recently of reopening one and opening a new location, but those plans have fallen through. So if you can, take a visit while Major Magic’s is still around.

  23. Brett says:

    I’ve only been to Chuck E. Cheese’s once in my life. It was for a birthday for a friend when I was in second or third grade. All I can remember is that I had a nightmare that night that Pasquale came to life and killed me. I hated that freaking animatronic show.

  24. Alyssa says:

    Paul- Yea there was a Major Magic’s in Wonderland Mall for about a year, maybe 2 at very most. It looked busy when I happened to see it, but the mall was dying and in 2004 the whole mall closed.

    Sarge – For $5 Little Caesar’s is really good. But if I am going to spend money on pizza, Jets or Hungry Howies is SO good.

  25. Eric Diesel says:

    My sister once got “lost” in “The Cheese Factory” pipe maze at a Chuck E. Cheese. I have tons of other memories, too. One of a lion Elvis impersonator. And of course the odor of cheese and sweaty feet. Mmmmmm!

    There was this place called “Bonkers” close by us. No animatronics, but it had a train and a ferris wheel, plus games and whatnot. Decent pizza, too. I remember shelling out ptobably $40 in tokens beating the Simpsons arcade game with three other kids. That was awesome.

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