For kids of the 1980s and ’90s, two words (and one letter) represented a paradise beyond imagination:

Chuck E. Cheese.

Launched in the late 1970s by one of the founders of Atari, the chain was known for its arcade games, small rides, mediocre pizza, and especially its musical stage show featuring human-sized animatronics. But that is all about to change as the chain, which currently runs roughly 550 outlets worldwide, is doing away with the animatronic characters — officially known as “Munch’s Make Believe Band” — in favor of “more screens, digital dance floors and trampoline gyms.”

That’s according to the New York Times, who reports that all but two of the chain’s animatronic bands will be retired by the end of 2024: One in Northridge, California and one in Nanuet, New York.

Chuck E. Cheese was actually one of two similar pizza arcade chains of the 1970s and 1980s, which both launched around the same time during the early video game boom. The other, ShowBiz Pizza Place, had its own animatronic band called the Rock-a-Fire Explosion. After Chuck E. Cheese and ShowBiz merged, the Rock-a-Fire band was gradually phased out, and replaced by Munch’s Make Believe Band. (The Rock-a-Fire Explosion, and the band’s oddly obsessive fanbase, were the subject of a documentary back in 2008.)

Munch’s band has carried on since then — longer than many actual rock bands! — with Chuck E. Cheese and Helen Henny on vocals, Mr. Munch on keyboards, Jasper T. Jowls playing guitar, and Pasqually (the only human member of the band, and just imagine what his life must be like) on drums. All but one of the robotic troupes will have played their final performances by the end of the year.

If you, like me, have very nostalgic memories of Chuck E. Cheese from way back when, and are curious what they look like now ... uh ... be careful what you wish for.

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Okay so perhaps it is time to modernize these restaurants.

Still, Chuck E. Cheese was like a magical oasis in its heyday. This vintage ad from the 1980s will probably capture a little bit of what they were like back then (or at least what they felt like to a six-year-old; the reality was probably always closer to the video above):

Chuck E. Cheese was a popular spot for birthday parties; although I never had any of mine there, I always wanted to. I probably only went a handful of times in my entire life ... but you put a Chuck E. Cheese token in my hand, I would probably take the deepest of wistful sighs.

If you want to see Munch’s Make Believe Band before retirement you might want to make plans sooner rather than later. According to the Times, the chain “declined to say” what’s going to happen to all of the retired animatronics. Maybe the makers of the Five Guys at Freddy’s can buy them on discount and install them at movie theaters for viral marketing when the sequel comes out next year.

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