The Chuck E. Cheese Animatronic Band Is Breaking Up


Chuck E. Cheese is pulling the plug on Munch’s Make Believe Band, the animatronic robots that terrified children and their begrudging parents with musical performances for decades. The New York Times reports that the arcade-pizzeria franchise will soon power down the bands at all but two of the chain’s more than 400 locations in the United States. Two tribute bands in Los Angeles and Nanuet, N.Y. will outlive the rest.

You have until the end of 2024 to hear the sweet melodies of Chuck E. Cheese and Helen Henny on vocals, the bouncy keys of Mr. Munch, Jasper T. Jowls’ epic guitar riffs, and the rhythmic beats of Pasqually on drums. After that, the band will be replaced by more screens, digital dance floors, and trampoline gyms. It’s part of what chief executive officer David McKillips describes as the chain’s “most aggressive transformation” ever.

In an interview with NYT, McKillips details how the pandemic wreaked havoc on Chuck E. Cheese, forcing many locations to temporarily shutter. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the summer of 2020, and now its leaders are trying to bring the arcade chain into the modern era. Apparently, that means fewer shifty-eyed robots and more screens.

Anyone who experienced childhood past the 1980s remembers sitting at a Chuck E. Cheese booth racing between arcade games, bites of pizza, and sitting for an animatronic jam sesh. It feels like a fever dream I had only yesterday. However, the stage that held so many great performances at Chuck E. Cheese locations will soon be replaced with a jumbotron screen, a dance floor, and more seating.

Chuck E. Cheese did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

Some Chuck E. Cheese locations have already done away with Munch’s Make Believe Band. Employees at a Paramus, NJ location told the Times that not much has changed. They say children today gravitate toward modern screen-based activities, such as a Paw Patrol video game.

Modern children will surely miss out on the cultural touchstone of Chuck E. Cheese’s animatronic band. These furry robots that barely moved were delightful in some ways, and nightmare-inducing in others. They didn’t know many songs, but that just made each one even more special. As other robots are starting to get better, the Chuck E. Cheese robots will now only live on in the memories of countless adults who were traumatized by them as children.