Chuck E. Cheese’s Testing Restaurants With No Animatronics

Image courtesy of Chuck E. Cheese's

Children today: They still love video games, pizza, and music, but they aren’t as into animatronic animal bands as generations past. That’s why some locations of pizza and entertainment chain Chuck E. Cheese’s will experiment with taking the robots out and replacing them with humans in animal costumes. Not everything will change, though: Drunken brawls among adult guests are sure to continue.

Dancing with the Mouse

Chuck E. Cheese’s is introducing revamped restaurants that have TV screens, open kitchens, large-format video games, and dance floors, but no stage that features animatronic animals performing music. That’s been a fixture of the restaurant since the beginning, but they just don’t hold kids’ attention like they used to.

“The kids stopped looking at the animatronics years and years ago, and they would wait for the live Chuck E. to come out,” the company’s chief executive, Tom Leverton, told CBS.

Yes, someone dresses up in a mouse costume and dances with children, and kids raised on hyper-realistic animation and video games find that more appealing than the jerky movements of the aging animatronic figures.

The company plans to renovate four restaurants in the San Antonio, TX, area to the more modern look and format, then convert three others in the Kansas City, MO, area as well. Depending on how this test goes, other restaurants will be converted, too.

Leverton, the company’s Big Cheese, predicted in his interview with CBS that the new format will go over well with young children, and they’ll be removing the robo-critters from restaurants in the future. There are 500 restaurants nationwide.

Atari and Rick the Rat

Technically, this brings the chain and the Chuck E. Cheese character back to its roots. The Chuck character began as a costumed mascot for Atari. Yep, the video game company. Co-founder Nolan Bushnell claims that he ordered a coyote costume and received a mouse/rat costume instead, but went along with it.

The brand began as part of Atari, with the goal of making video games more mainstream and acceptable for families to play. Bushnell bought the pizza restaurant and its intellectual property from Warner, the company that purchased Atari, and developed it as a standalone company.

The animatronic shows were meant to entertain adults when the chain first started. They would watch the 8-minute show while waiting for pizza, and banter between characters edged into PG territory. Instead, the characters became entertainment for the whole family.

(via A.V. Club)

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