Many musicians, young and old, are saddened by this news. Chuck E. Cheese’s animatronic band has retired after a long and successful career.
Chuck E. Cheese & ShowBiz
For those of you who were born in the late 70s or early 80s, ShowBiz Pizza Place will be familiar to you.
After being once partners, Showbiz and Chuck E. Cheese became rivals. ShowBiz won and purchased a bankrupt Chuck E. Cheese and transformed itself into more Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, theaters, and other businesses.
ShowBiz was the one that put so much emphasis on robotics and theatrics. Chuck E. Cheese bet on arcade games’ rising popularity and won, but they also kept the idea of “live” stage performances alive, honoring the old partnership with Pizza Time Theatre, Inc.
Chuck E. Cheese, despite winning the technology wars, overextended with too many locations to keep up with the 1983 video game crash and filed for bankruptcy in 1984. ShowBiz purchased them and then decided to unify the entire brand under the Chuck E. Cheese banner.
The Rock-afire Explosion
The original ShowBiz band was The Rockafire Explosion.
They were made up of many animals, all of which were proficient in different musical instruments and shared the responsibility of singing. They were:
- Billy Bob Brockali The banjo-playing brown bear who takes on the role of bass player.
- Dook – Mixed-breed dog who wore a spaceman suit, played the drums and wore a spaceman suit.
- Looney bird – A singing bird that sings in an oil drum and would answer fans’ mail.
- Fatz Geonimo A keyboard that plays silverback gorillas based on Fats Domino & Ray Charles.
- Mitzi Mzzarella This mouse singer is well-known for her cheerleading outfit and obsession with Michael Jackson.
- Beach Bear — The guitarist of the group was a sarcastic, polar bear who loved the sun.
If Looney Bird was not reading fan mail, and the other characters weren’t arguing, then we would see Rolfe DeWolfe and Earl Schemerle performing their comedy and ventriloquist routines. Rolfe was a wolf that controlled his sentient puppet Earl.
This is the video I remember seeing growing up in mid-80’s. It was a bit scary, reminiscent of a Jim Henson’s Labyrinth or Sesame Street-infused surrealist bad experience.
Munch’s Make Believe Band
ShowBiz purchased all the locations and transformed them into Chuck E. Cheese. They also gave the robot band a complete overhaul. First, the robot band was renamed Munch’s Make Believe Band. Then, Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre characters were added.
They saved money by reusing all the pneumatic air lines and robots, and giving them new furs and skins. Although it was not immediately obvious what they were doing, everyone eventually realized which character was being replaced.
The new band was made up of:
- Chuck E. Cheese The mouse with vocals.
- Helen Henny The chicken on vocals and bass.
- Jasper T. Jowls The hound dog singing and playing guitar.
- Mr. Munch – The purple-yellow monster on vocals, keyboard and keys.
- Pasqually E. Pieplate The human pizza chef using vocals and percussion.
The band already had Crusty the Cat on the keys before the final line-up was set. The band had stopped giving children nightmares by this time. Both the original puppets from Rock-afire, Munch’s and Munch were horrifying.
Although the robot creators were skilled engineers, they needed assistance in the “make it look scary and creepy” area.
Above is a video [removed] taken from the less-creepy, “Chuck’s Adventure Machine”. There were so many time periods and details, there is even a Wikipedia.
Breaking Up The Band
According to the rumours, they are replacing the band with an animatronic DJ and some dancers in order to appeal more to children’s tastes. Although I joke, that is part of the reason they have finally disbanded the band.
He said that children’s entertainment tastes are more sophisticated than ever since the establishment of the chain in 1977. This is because they are familiar with special effects and animations. Chief executive Tom Leverton said that while animatronics may be a symbol for grandparents and parents, children nowadays prefer to dance with Chuck E., a worker dressed as the chain’s icon, or large-form video games. He said that animatronics was a “sideshow”.
Tom stated that the pizza chain plans to renovate its restaurants with open kitchens, less bright colors, interior decorating and a new menu featuring gluten-free pizzas. They seem to be keeping the arcade games, but removing the robot-like guitarists.
What I didn’t tell you is that these two bands weren’t the only ones they had at the pizza theatre.
Get a piece of history
Chuck E. Cheese started selling off their robot collections to help recoup some cash from their previous investments. These listings quickly began appearing on Craigslist. You could buy a circa-1985 Beach Bowzers Band for as low as $5,000 at the Cabaret Rooms.
You don’t want four fuzzy, surfing robot dogs in your basement man-cave. Problem with these purchases is that they don’t include the software and hardware needed to program or animate robots. They’ll just sit there collecting dust. You should also be an electrical and coder if you want to form a band .
If you are a tech-savvy person, you can make YouTube gold by investing a small amount. You’ll have a million videos of your favorite songs being played on Munch’s Make Believe Band.