The Surprisingly Dark Origin Story of Chuck E. Cheese
Chuck E. Cheese, the iconic mascot of the world's most famous kid's birthday party destination, is getting a makeover. In an effort to boost lagging sales, the famous pizza chain/corporate baby sitter is ditching Chuck's current look, which could best be described as "Who the hell knows? A mouse in a hat or some shit?" in favor of a more modern getup. In this case, "modern" of course means "The video game version of Kurt Cobain."
Obligatory Courtney Love lawsuit to follow.
Apparently, early '90s nostalgia is huge with the grade school set. Either that, or some dipshit "marketing professional" graduated from college in 1992, settled into an entry level job at Chuck E. Cheese's, promptly stopped giving a shit about what people care about (even though it's an essential function of a marketing job) and has been climbing the corporate ladder through sheer corporate politics and seniority ever since. In turn, Chuck E. Cheese's has been coasting by on this person's blatant lack of talent for all these years and as a result now finds itself pulling this desperate bullshit to get kids interested in its pizza rat again.
The saddest part of it all is that this mysterious marketing slacker who we've invented for the purpose of this argument is about to fuck Chuck all over again. Why, you ask? Because this sad attempt at a return to relevance is aimed squarely at the wrong target.
The Chuck E. Cheese problem isn't one of not resonating with children. They'll take any singing rodent you put in front of their indiscriminate faces. But the kids who first fell in love with Chuck E. Cheese are adults with kids of their own now. If you want to give sales a shot in the arm, you get those people interested again. And there's no more surefire way to do that than with a gritty reboot. Hollywood figured that out a long time ago. If you want to get adults in the mood to revisit something from their childhood, make that shit look dangerous. With that in mind, have a look at this ...
That picture was taken at the very first Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant in San Jose, California, back in 1979, but it could just as easily be a shot of a couple of tired rockers backstage in that sad moment between when people stop cheering and when the groupies and drugs finally show up. Specifically, it would be a Lynyrd Skynyrd show, considering the abundance of Confederate flags proudly displayed on the walls.
The sleazy vibe of that picture is no accident, either. Chuck E. Cheese wasn't always the smiling, pandering buffoon that he is now. This is what Chuck looked like when he was first introduced to the world ...
Back then, he was a cigar-smoking smartass who looked more like a pool hustler than a pizza salesman. And that was just in comic books. In the store, he was infinitely more terrifying, while at the same time being not at all terrifying compared to the maniacs he dragged around with him.
Every single one of those things looks like what would happen if the Quiznos Spongmonkeys got Lady Elaine Fairchilde from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood pregnant, and that's awesome.
With a vault full of nightmarish puppets at their disposal just waiting to be used in ironically terrifying viral ads, they have all the material they need to remake Chuck E. Cheese into some kind of sleazy back-alley pizza slinger who also promises a bit of fun for parents on the side. From there, it's just a matter of adding a little more adult fare to the menu and hiring a team of writers to infuse Chuck's in-store banter with little bits of innuendo that will fly over children's heads but will make the adults who are forced to be there at least chuckle a little bit. Just like that, Chuck E. Cheese is back on top.
Going dark worked for Batman, there's no reason it can't work for a rat who sells pizza, too.