Jeff Vrabel: Chuck E. Cheese may look different, but I still fear his restaurant
I was in a Chuck E. Cheese one time for a birthday party for the son of a friend we no longer talk to because he held his kid's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This was years ago, before I knew precisely what the phrase "having kids" truly meant, before I realized you could wiggle your way out of birthday parties at the last minute (if I ever tell you "the baby has an ear infection," I am lying to your face), before I fully appreciated that "being a parent" meant "benefiting from astronomical, near-miraculous odds to be born at this age, in this time, and then burning the impossibly precious gift of life in a windowless hellscape filled with shrieking and pepperoni and aging robot mice who sing Beach Boys songs."
In those few hours, I learned a lot of things about both Chuck E. Cheese and pain, mostly pain. But joking about that is silly, because that is the POINT of Chuck E. Cheese, that it makes you want to invent a way to beat yourself into unconsciousness with breadsticks and everyone knows it, but ugh "the kids like it" or whatever so you do it, because who needs $400 anyway?
Well, I've got news: Things are about to change. Get ready to forget everything you knew about Chuck E. Cheese. Well, except that part about the loudness, and the shrieking. And the wanting to kill yourself with breadsticks. And the dead-eyed robots singing iconic 1960s surf songs you know what, whatever, just remember everything but the mascot.
Chuck E. Cheese announced last week that it's replacing its signature mouse, rebooting Chuck, re-mousening its brand, feeling that the current rodent is too outdated. According to the AP, Chuck E. Cheese's parent company, which goes by the decidedly less funtacular name of CEC Entertainment Inc., is launching a new campaign featuring, and I'll just quote this because there's really no way to improve upon its awesomeness, "a revamped image of Chuck E. Cheese as a hip, electric-guitar-playing rock star." I will now pause to let the violently marketed horror of that sentence sink in for a minute, while I play some skeeball. …
OK, I'm back. 29 tickets! Not bad. Totally getting that balsa wood glider and probably a Chinese finger trap. Anyway, it's actually not such a big deal: Chuck E. Cheese (the mascot) has been around for 35 years and, like everyone who has been around for 35 years, has gone through a series of comprehensive physical makeovers. For instance, according to the AP, Mr. Cheese actually started life as a New Jersey rat who sometimes carried a cigar, which, of course, led to the astronomical rate of youth cigar usage in New Jersey in the mid-1970s, which I'm pretty sure is actually the reason Springsteen wanted to get the hell out of there so badly. Oh, there was also this: HE WAS A RAT, AND THE WORST POSSIBLE MASCOT FOR A RESTAURANT IS A RAT. God, I'm glad I was only 4 years old in the '70s; they just sound like a nightmare.
Moreover, CEC Entertainment, whose offices I bet are not NEARLY as fun in real life as they are in my head right now, cites the usual reasons for needing to upgrade their mascot: flagging pizza sales, higher rents nationwide and — this is true — the rising cost of cheddar cheese. And I think I speak for everyone when I say: WAIT you guys are really using cheddar cheese? I'll be damned.
Yet the replacement does not seem to have unfolded without controversy. According to a Chuck E Cheese fan site, which is run by someone who you will probably never come across in the weight room, the guy who has voiced Chuck E. since 1993 didn't know he was being replaced as the voice of Chuck E. Cheese until he found "Chuck's" new song online and discovered it was sung by someone else, which I am pretty sure has also happened to Ashlee Simpson.
HARSH, right? And I bet this "new song" was DUBSTEP or EMOCORE or ONE DIRECTION or some such nonsense, with a hip-hop interlude and guest vocals by Wiz Khalifa. Oh, wait, it actually says here that the new voice of Chuck E. Cheese is the lead singer of pop-punk band Bowling For Soup, which is a sentence that I am guessing makes sense to some people? Maybe the people running fan sites for Chuck E. Cheese and/or Bowling For Soup? I'd look this up a little more, but the baby has an ear infection.