America’s second-most-famous mouse, Chuck E. Cheese, is getting a makeover. The possessively named restaurant and play place known for PG-rated games, plentiful pizza, and animatronic shows revamped a few locations this summer: New storefronts look vaguely like blocks of Swiss cheese, colorful dance floors light up a la Saturday Night Fever, open kitchens give kids a peek at pizzas going into the oven, digital kiosks streamline ticket and food orders — and those iconic animatronics are going away.
“Kids stopped watching the animatronic shows,” Chuck E. Cheese’s CEO Tom Leverton says of the robot versions of Chuck E. Cheese and his pals, which periodically dance and sing to musical recordings each afternoon. “What we’ve seen over time with improvements in tech, with screens, and the expectations of kids today, the animatronics aren’t the main draw.”
Most of the company’s 524 U.S. locations still sport the animatronics, which, depending on kids’ ages, sometimes came off as silly or terrifying. But three locations in the San Antonio, Texas area have been completely remodeled without the robots, and the new look is headed to Kansas City area locations this fall.
Leverton knows that there’s some nostalgia for those shows but Leverton and the brand are betting that the live Chuck E. Cheese shows, where a costumed employee poses for photos and dances around, is “what generates the most excitement. Kids love the live Chuck E.” And as the brand works to sunset old animatronic technology, Chuck E. Cheese’s is investing in new tech to draw in today’s generation of parents.