For most current or former kids, Chuck E. Cheese is regarded as a magical place filled with pizza, games, and good times. Add in an animatronic band playing the hits, and you have the recipe for a perfect birthday party for anyone between the ages of five and maybe 13.
But, as the internet recently discovered, Charles Entertainment Cheese, the chain’s mascot, seems to have a pretty weird and unnecessarily depressing backstory.
Some sleuthing by Buzzfeed confirmed that, yes, this is officially canon within the Chuck E. Cheese expanded universe as of a 2012 children’s book delving into the character’s origin. From the sound of it, Chuck E. Cheese has always lived a hardscrabble life, experiencing bouts of quasi-homelessness after being forced to leave St. Marinara’s Orphanage, where he mainly seemed to host birthday parties.
But while Charles was secretly living above a pizza restaurant, a star was born. Just before Pasqually, the joint’s owner, could kick the anthropomorphized rodent out, Chuck carried a tune so beautifully that Pasqually had no choice but to make the singing mouse the main attraction at his pizza place.
That wasn’t the happy ending to Chuck E. Cheese’s story, though. The book says he was booed at his first performance for an adult audience. But when he sang happy birthday to a random kid on the street, that family came in, and a formula for success emerged. From that point on, Chuck E. Cheese decided that he could only successfully play music in front of children and their families, which may explain why rolling up to a Chuck E. Cheese without a child in tow is incredibly suspicious. At some point after that, Chuck convinced Pasqually to add games to the restaurant, Chuck recruited other animals to form an animatronic band, and the rest is pretty much history.
I have so many questions. Why did other kids at the orphanage seemingly know their date of birth, but Mr. Cheese did not? Will there be a Behind the Music about the Chuck E. Cheese band detailing their creative conflicts and personal demons? Most importantly, why does a pizza place/arcade’s brand mascot have such a depressing origin story? We may never know.
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