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Chuck E. Cheese's

Chuck E. Cheese's is a chain of family entertainment centers. The concept centers around a basic sit-down pizza restaurant, complemented by arcade games, small rides, animatronic characters, and other popular diversions for young children such as climbing equipment, tubes, and giant slides. Its logo and mascot, Chuck E. Cheese, is an anthropomorphic mouse (before a 1995 "facelift", the Chuck E. Cheese character was identified as a rat). The "E" in Chuck E. Cheese stands for entertainment.

The parent company, CEC Entertainment, Inc. is headquartered in Irving, Texas, and as of November 2006, they operate 524 restaurants in the United States, Canada, Chile, Guatemala, and other countries. Chuck E. Cheese initially franchised their restaurants, but are currently not offering any new franchise opportunities, instead concentrating on adding new company-owned stores, as well as acquiring existing franchises.

Company origin

Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre, designed to introduce video games to a younger audience within a public family setting rather than in a bowling alley or a bar, was launched by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. Bushnell’s experience in the amusement park industry was influential in the conceptualization, as was his fondness for Disney. It was the first family restaurant to integrate food, animated entertainment, and an indoor arcade. The first location opened in 1977 in San Jose, California. The name "Chuck E. Cheese" was allegedly intended to make a person’s mouth bend into a smile when spoken.

Corporate history

In November 1978 Nolan Bushnell left Atari and purchased Pizza Time Theater from them. As it became increasingly successful, he started to franchise. In 1979 Robert Brock of Topeka Inn Management signed a co-development agreement with Bushnell, receiving exclusive franchising rights to open Pizza Time Theaters in sixteen states across the southern and midwestern United States. Topeka Inn Management also created a company subdivision; “Pizza Show Biz”, to develop the Pizza Time Theaters.

In November 1979 Brock met Aaron Fechter of Creative Engineering, Inc. Concerned that Fechter’s animatronics work would be too strong a competition for Bushnell’s work, Brock requested that Bushnell release him from the co-development agreement, citing misrepresentation. In December 1979, Brock severed his business relationship with Bushnell. Brock then created “Showbiz Pizza Place Inc”, a joint company with Fechter. It was conceptually identical to Pizza Time Theater, but would utilize Creative Engineering Inc animatronics. Showbiz Pizza Place opened its first location on March 3, 1980, in Kansas City, MO.

Upon the Showbiz Pizza Place opening, Bushnell sued Brock and Topeka Inn Management over breach of contract. Brock immediately issued a counter-suit against Bushnell for misrepresentation. The court case began in March 1980 and was eventually settled out of court, with Showbiz Pizza Place agreeing to pay Pizza Time Theater a portion of its profits over the following decade. Topeka Inn Management also changed its name to Brock Hotel Corporation during this period. Both Pizza Time Theater and Showbiz Pizza Place experienced increased success as the video game industry became more robust. Their lead characters, Chuck E. Cheese and Billy Bob respectively, were promoted heavily. To maintain competition, both franchises continually modified and diversified their animatronics shows.

Pizza Time Theater went public in 1981. However, the evolving video game industry resulted in significant losses for Pizza Time Theater; it lost $15 million in 1983. By 1984, Bushnell’s debts were insurmountable, and Pizza Time Theater Inc. filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11. Showbiz Pizza Place then bought the floundering company, recreating itself as Showbiz Pizza Time Inc. After the merger, both restaurants continued operating under the different titles. In 1985, Richard M. Frank joined the company as president and began major financial restructuring. During this period, Creative Engineering began discontinuing its work with Showbiz Pizza Time (it officially left Showbiz Pizza Time in September 1990). Frank currently remains a chairman and CEO of the company. Showbiz Pizza Time became publicly traded in 1988, and sales increased 8.3%. It began unifying its mixed characters, and in 1992 all restaurants assumed the name of Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza. In 1995, renamed itself CEC Entertainment, Inc., and in 1999, bought out its competitor Discovery Zone.

Entertainment

Voice Cast
The following voice actors performed as animatronic characters from the Chuck E. Cheese show over the years.
  • Chuck E. Cheese
    • John Widlock (1977-1983)
    • Scott Wilson (1983-1993)
    • Duncan Brannan (1993-current)
  • Helen Henny
    • Georgia Denney (1978-1980, 1984-1990)
    • Karisa McKenny (1990-1992 (vocals & voice), 1992-1999 (voice)
    • Annagrey Labasse (1992-2000 (vocals), 2000-current (vocals & voice)
  • Mr. Munch
    • Fritz (1978-1982)
    • Scott Wilson (1982-1990)
    • Duncan Brannan (1994-1998)
    • John Bowen (1999-current)
  • Jasper T. Jowls
    • Scott Paulin (1977-1982)
    • Bob West (1988-1992, 1996-1998)
    • Jeremy Blaido (1992-1996, 1998-current)
  • Pasqually
    • Joe Spano (1977-1983)
    • Steven Lange (1983-1988)
    • Bob West (1988-1994, 1996-1998)
    • Earl Fisher(1998-current)

Animatronic figures

From the time of the company's formation through the mid-1990s, the company's animated characters were a main draw for the stores. More recently, less attention has been placed on animatronics. There are several different styles of animatronic shows in use within the company, depending on when the store opened, whether it was renovated, and other factors.

The company's current three shows that are installed into all new stores, "Studio C" consists of a single animated Chuck E. Cheese character alongside large television monitors, lighting effects, and interactive elements. In some markets, the company has also tried a new store concept that omits the animated show.

The first version of the animatronic show as found in the San Jose location was referred to as the "Pizza Time Players", and featured Crusty the Cat, Jasper T. Jowls, Pasqually, and the Warblettes performing with Chuck E. Cheese himself in a "theater" where customers could eat their pizza with the characters in picture frames overhead. Later restaurants also added "Cabaret" shows in separate rooms of each restaurant. Cabaret performers began with Dolli Dimples, a blues singing hippo; others included Artie Antlers, The King (Elvis tunes), The Beagles (Beatles), and The Beach Bowsers (Beach Boys).

In its early years, the company frequently changed out the sole female character in the main animatronic show. This involved a cosmetic change to the existing robot as well as change of stage backdrop to match the performer, for example, Harmony Howlette, a country singer received western stage decor. The early recordings were written and produced by Robert "Bob" Black. Mike Hatcher was the original cyberamic robotics animator with James Barnes functioning as second cyberamic robotics animator and audio engineer.

Characters

The current iteration of the company's characters is called Munch's Make Believe Band, and includes:

The characters were also featured in the movie, Chuck E. Cheese in the Galaxy 5000

Road show

A Road Show is a performance by the costumed Chuck E. Cheese character, and is performed outside the normal showroom. Children are gathered via the public announcement system and can dance to win free tickets. This is distinct from the Live! show that is performed in the showroom.

LIVE! show

The LIVE! Show is performed in front of stage in the showroom. The costumed Chuck E. Cheese dances with the guests and "sings", while being accompanied by a few castmembers. A Live show consists of singing Happy Birthday CEC Style to the "Birthday Star".

Currency

The brass tokens issued by the company for use in their video game arcades exist in numerous varieties and are eagerly collected by exonumia enthusiasts. Chuck E. Cheese's is currently testing a card access method for use with their arcade/skill games. Stores will no longer use tokens, instead using a refillable card to access credits (tokens) and points (tickets). This concept is currently in the testing phase in Irving, Texas, where the company is currently headquartered. Nine other locations in the United States are also testing the token cards, including North Canton, Ohio.

Kid check

Chuck E. Cheese's employs security measures to prevent child abduction, known as Kid Check. The Kid Check booth is the first thing guests see upon entering the restaurant. Whole families are stamped with a unique identification number (182 for instance), while Reserved Birthday Parties are giving an id number (like M2) in invisible ink that reacts only to the blacklight directly over the kid check booth. The kid check booth is monitored at all times by an employee and is never left unattended. Guests stamps are checked on the way out to ensure children belong to the adults with whom they are leaving. Chuck E. Cheese classifies this with the following phrase: "Everyone that comes together, leaves together."

Mobile character

A person dons the full body costume of Chuck E. Cheese and is generally seen walking around the gameroom and showroom. Chuck E is not allowed to speak and can only imply his intentions with hand gestures. In stores that hire or promote a full time walk-around character, this employee has several extra duties that include getting the Chuck E. Cheese costume professionally dry-cleaned and washed, cleaning the Chuck E. room before the end of every shift, and fixing broken parts of the costume.

Slogans

Over the years, the company has had several slogans. Their most successful slogan and jingle is "Where a Kid Can Be a Kid." The slogan and jingle were originally created for Showbiz Pizza but were changed during the concept unification of the two properties. The similarly paced syllables of "Show-biz-Pizza" and "Chuck-E-Cheese's" allowed for easy interchangeability for commercials and is currently used by all current CEC Entertainment promotions.

At Chuck E. Cheese you can act like a kid
You can have more fun then you ever did
You can wiggle, you can giggle, you can flip your lid
Chuck E. Cheese's, where a kid can be a kid.

  • In Pizza We Trust (1977–1991)
  • The Great All American Pizza Show (1978)
  • You Can Smile America (1979-1986)
  • A Star is Born, and America Loves Him (early 1980s)
  • When You're Hungry For Fun (1984)
  • Where a Kid Can Be a Kid (1986–2006, 2007-present)
  • Cool Chuck's (1998-2000, 2006)
  • The Real Cool Place To Be a Kid (2003-2006)
  • It's Cool, For Real (2006–2007)
  • Uh-Huh! (2007)
  • You Got One [token], You Got Fun (2007)
  • Where a Kid Can Be a Star! (2008)
  • Any Kid, Any Age (2008)
  • Mom's Like It Like That (2008)

Alcohol

Some stores also have liquor licenses, which allow them to sell beer and wine on tap to adults, which has caused some problems for police. In the town of Brookfield, Wisconsin, an outlet was asked to voluntarily give up their liquor license due to a higher-than-usual amount of domestic disturbances from parents in and outside of the store, and lax security . In June 2008, the corporate-owned restaurant gave up their license at the behest of the town's government and police departments.

See also

References

External links

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