More of Chuck E. Cheese’s animatronics bands are here to stay at five locations as the pizza-and-arcade chain tries to lean into fans’ nostalgia while endearing Chuck to today’s children.

The brand announced last year that it would retire its Munch’s Make-Believe Bands except one “permanent residency” in Northridge, Calif., which the company says has become a destination for wistful parents.

Perks At A Price

An employee dressed as Chuck E. Cheese holds a flyer advertising new memberships at a location on Wednesday, March 13, in San Diego. More of Chuck E. Cheese’s animatronics bands are here to stay at five locations as the pizza-and-arcade chain tries to lean into fans’ nostalgia while endearing Chuck to today’s children. Gregory Bull/Associated Press file

“As a gesture of love to our fans who have shown us all how strong the love for Chuck E. Cheese continues to be, including across generations, we’ve made the decision to keep Munch’s Make-Believe Band,” Alejandra Brady, a Chuck E. Cheese spokesperson, said Saturday in an email.

In addition to the full-stage band in Northridge – and a previously announced solo Chuck set at a “100% retro store” in Nanuet, N.Y. – bands will remain in Springfield, Ill., Hicksville, N.Y., and Charlotte, N.C. Everywhere else, though, will shed the once-ubiquitous American icons in a matter of months.

The goal, Brady said, is to give longtime fans the chance to see one of their favorite musical talents in almost every region. But they are also trying to appeal to today’s youngsters who are less enchanted with stiff animatronic musicians playing regimented set lists, instead favoring an interactive dance floor and video hubs.

The humanlike animal musicians – Chuck E. fronting, Mr. Munch on the keyboard, Jasper T. Jowls on guitar, Helen Henny singing and Pasqually drumming – began performing together more than four decades ago and have been a mainstay as the company grew to more than 400 locations across the country.

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CEC Entertainment announced in November that it would phase out the bands by the end of this year.

That was met by an “unexpected rallying cry” to keep the bands at some stores, Brady said, persuading decision-makers to delay the full crew’s retirement at more locations. She added that the company had surveyed fans across the country and found “notable disappointment” in the Midwest and East Coast. That was why they decided to maintain bands in Illinois, New York and North Carolina.

As of November, about 60 U.S. locations featured the band, CEC Entertainment CEO David McKillips told The Washington Post at the time. About 30 stores still do, Brady said.

The band’s residency in California, McKillips said in November, would be sprinkled with digitally focused renovations.

“You have the ability to see this timeless brand and the future of the brand all in one location,” he said.

He added in a news release that the band nowadays plays for the parents bringing their children.

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The three additional locations will try to strike a similar balance. The North Carolina location, which opened in 1993, will also feature an exclusive collection of memorabilia, including artifacts, paintings and old decorative pieces, as it undergoes renovations. Brady said they wanted more pieces for that collection, and he encouraged fans to donate to the exhibit. The oldest location to keep their animatronic band is the Springfield one, which opened 42 years ago.

In November, the company released video footage of a “news conference” with the band members. They were ecstatic to keep playing music in front of their Northridge fans.

“We love performing so much,” Cheese said. “It’s practically hard-wired into us.”

And that was before the animatronic mouse knew he’d get to keep playing at three more.


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