After Outcry, Chuck E. Cheese Says It Will Keep More Animatronic Bands

A girl plays with the Munch’s Make Believe Band at a Chuck E. Cheese in Hicksville, N.Y., on April 10, 2024. (Jackie Molloy/The New York Times)
A girl plays with the Munch’s Make Believe Band at a Chuck E. Cheese in Hicksville, N.Y., on April 10, 2024. (Jackie Molloy/The New York Times)

After Chuck E. Cheese’s plans to retire most of its animatronic bands sparked an outcry from wistful fans, the pizzeria-arcade chain said it would keep a few more of the bands.

The company will increase to five the number of animatronic bands that will stay, a company spokesperson said to The New York Times in a statement Thursday.

The move comes after the Times detailed the chain’s plan to phase out animatronic performers at all but two of the more than 400 Chuck E. Cheese locations in the United States by the end of the year. The company said it had wanted to update the Chuck E. Cheese experience for a new generation of digitally inclined children.

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The backlash was swift. A few distraught fans even managed to get a hold of the chain’s CEO, David McKillips, on his personal phone to appeal for the survival of at least a few more of the animatronic performers, known as Munch’s Make Believe Band.

The company announced in November that a band would remain at a location in Los Angeles and that a Chuck E. Cheese in Nanuet, New York, would retain a version of the band called Studio C, with just Chuck E. Cheese performing solo.

Three locations have now joined that list: Pineville, North Carolina; Hicksville, New York; and Springfield, Illinois.

Those locations will undergo previously planned renovations but will keep the beloved robotic anthropomorphic musicians, said Alejandra Brady, a spokesperson for Chuck E. Cheese.

The outcry from Chuck E. Cheese die-hards and nostalgic patrons intensified over the past week as they swarmed phone lines and inboxes and caused a stir at locations across the country, Brady said.

Mark Kupferman, the chain’s chief marketing officer, said that the decision to keep three more of the aging bands around was less about business and more about paying tribute to the children who have sustained the company through its 47-year history.

“It’s a duty to our legacy,” he said.

“I don’t think there is anybody at Chuck E. Cheese who begrudges doing this,” he added.

After the coronavirus pandemic closed many locations and drove the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the summer of 2020, Chuck E. Cheese’s leadership has focused on modernizing and is swapping the animatronic characters for digital screens and dance floors.

Having heard from enthusiasts of the animatronic bands, Chuck E. Cheese tried to ensure that they would represent a range of configurations that has come and gone over the years, Kupferman said.

The five surviving bands are from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

“We will do everything we can to keep those characters maintained and in perfect operating order,” Kupferman said.

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