Chuck E. Cheese: where a kid can be a kid

August 14, 2021

Chuck E. Cheese is an American family entertainment centre and pizza restaurant.

What kid doesn’t love pizza and video games? That’s the question that Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of Atari, asked himself. Well, the answer was clear and that’s why, in 1977, he founded Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre in San Jose, California.

While there were lots of opportunities for adults to enjoy video games in pool halls and other adult-oriented establishments, Nolan wanted to create a family-friendly location where kids could have a ball playing video games, a place where “kids could be kids.”

Chuck E. Cheese’s 490 U.S. locations


Nolan was influenced by Disneyland’s Country Bear Jamboree and its Audio-Animatronics (robots that move and make noise and are generally accompanied by recorded speech or songs), as well as by his experience in the amusement park industry. He chose pizza because the wait time and build time were shorter.

Surprise, I’m not a coyote!
When Nolan’s first animatronics show was being assembled, he learned the coyote costume he had bought for his main character was actually a rat. Surprise! His suggestion to change the name of the restaurant from Coyote Pizza to Rick Rat’s Pizza was met with little enthusiasm by his marketing team who suggested calling it Chuck E. Cheese. That said, the rat stayed on as their mascot.

Chuck E. Cheese’s full name is
Charles Entertainment Cheese.

In 1978, Nolan purchased the rights to the concept and characters from Warner Communications for $500,000.

Dr. Gene Landrum, marketing whiz behind Atari’s Home Consumer Division and the Atari 2600VC, developed the concept and character so well-known today as Chuck E. Cheese. He resigned from Atari and became the company’s first president and chief operating officer. 

What’s the backstory of Chuck E. Cheese?
As the story goes, Chuck E. Cheese was a little mouse who grew up in St. Marinara’s orphanage. He was a sweet little mouse who liked to play games and sing songs. He especially loved singing Happy Birthday.

Poor little Chuck E. Cheese never had a birthday party because no one knew when he was born. So, one day Chuck E. Cheese decided that he would start celebrating other kids’ birthdays, and he began inviting himself to neighbourhood birthday parties and that’s where he fell in love with pizza and video games. He got to be very good at video games and soon won a Pong tournament. He took his $50 prize money and hopped on a bus to New York City.

He found a place to sleep above the kitchen in a pizzeria that was run by a jolly Italian chef named Pasqually. Chuck E. Cheese loved the smell of the baking pizza and thoroughly enjoyed listening to Pasqually sing along to the music on the radio.

It was all just too good to be true because, eventually, Pasqually found Charles in his restaurant and began screaming. Suddenly, Chuck E. Cheese started to sing. Pasqually was amazed, of course, and thrilled at his good fortune to have a singing mouse. “I’m a-gonna make-a you a star,” shouted Pasqually.

Since that day, Chuck E. Cheese has been singing and dancing with children in Chuck E. Cheese’s all over the United States and other countries, too.

In 2017 Chuck E. Cheese Entertainment, Inc. began a rebranding initiative known as “2.0”. These new 2.0 restaurants which were called Chuck E. Cheese Pizzaria & Games, eliminated the animatronics in favour of an electronic lighted dance floor in place on which the costumed character would perform. Today, the restaurants and game centres are known simply as Chuck E. Cheese.

Gloria Sauvé
Communications and Marketing

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