The concept is a sit-down pizza restaurant with arcade games, amusement rides, an animatronic show, and indoor playground equipment called Sky Tubes that are all directed primarily at children. The brand is represented by Chuck E. Cheese, an anthropomorphic mouse.
Chuck E. Cheese's, originally referred to as Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre, was founded in 1977 by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. It was officially labeled as the first family restaurant to integrate food, animated entertainment, and an indoor arcade. Pizza Time Theatre, Inc., began to suffer financially in the mid-eighties due in part to The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 before its purchase by rival ShowBiz Pizza Place, Inc. (known for its own animatronic band, The Rock-afire Explosion). Under the name ShowBiz Pizza Time, Inc. (currently CEC Entertainment,) both concepts were run side-by-side for several years. Eventually the decision was made to convert all locations into Chuck E. Cheese's restaurants,note which meant replacing the cosmetics on the Rock-afire Explosion animatronics in order to turn the characters into Chuck E. Cheese and his friends note . A good handful of these are still around; Any time you walk into a Chuck E. Cheese's with an animatronic show split up onto three stages, that store was likely a Showbiz Pizza.
In 2012, Chuck E. Cheese's announced that their mascot would receive a major makeover to make the rodent look thinner and more like a rock star. Chuck E.'s longtime voice actor Duncan Brannan was replacednote by Jaret Reddick, lead singer of the musical group Bowling for Soup.
Speaking of ShowBiz Pizza, compare Chuck and his friends with The Rockafire Explosion.
- Anthropomorphic Shift: Chuck originally more resembled a mouse but became more anthropomorphic.
- Art Evolution:
- In the 1970s, Chuck E. had looked more like a rat than a mouse. Then in the mid-1990s he looked more like a mouse.
- Originally, Helen Henny looked more like a goose, and was more of a parody of Helen Reddy; even her name was designed as a pun. In the 1980s, she looked older and more like a saloon showgirl, before gaining her familiar, Mitzi Mozzarella-inspired look her animatronics continue to wear today (in spite of the Rockstar redesign).
- Art Shift: For most of the commercials he was 2-D animated. In 2012, then switched to CGI which gave him a re-design and shortened to the size of a normal rodent (which is rather awkward considering most places still have the robot shows.)
- Bar Brawl: It happens more often than one would expect from a children's pizzeria. Alcohol, heightened emotions, and sources of stress - both within and outside the restaurant - are all contributing factors.
- Dolled-Up Installment: Every location you come across with a 3-Stage was most likely a ShowBiz Pizza before the buyout. Every animatronic, sans The Moon, were given different cosmetics because of this (as well as a few changes in position so no one notices). The only animatronic to not be part of the Concept Unification was Billy Bob, who was removed entirely from the stage (locations were asked to keep the animatronic in storage for spare parts). A few locations still have a few Mythology Gags to what the show originally was, such as Jasper wielding Beach Bear's guitar, and the logo still being slightly visible on Pasqually's drums.
- Fully Dressed Cartoon Animal: The mascot.
- Funny Animal: The mascot in his early days.
- Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: The mascot originally.
- Mysterious Middle Initial: Uh, the E. Word of God is that it stands for "Entertainment." Yes, his full name is Charles Entertainment Cheese.
- Nice Hat: Chuck E.'s former red derby hat and later baseball cap. It was removed in 2012, and it wasn't until a year later when locations were required to remove it from the animatronic itself.
- Nice Mice: Currently.
- Punny Name: As mentioned above, Helen Henny's name is a pun on Helen Reddy.
- Rodents of Unusual Size: The mascot was bigger than Mickey Mouse before 2012. He is a mouse the size of a rat (and smaller than Mickey) these days.
- Totally Radical: Between the mid '90s and 2012.
- Two Decades Behind: The mascot, as well as the restaurant itself (save the arcade machines), seemed to be stuck in this Totally Radical time capsule of the late '80s/early '90s until 2012. Think if Burger King had never done away with or updated the Burger King Kids Club mascots.
- You Dirty Rat!: Averted or at least subverted with the early incarnation of the mascot, although the comic books (yes, there were comic books) did have a rat antagonist.
Tropes from the animatronic shows include:
- Actor Allusion / Leaning on the Fourth Wall: A 2013 showtape has the band perform Bowling for Soup's hit song "1985," and among finishing the song, Jasper T. Jowls comments on how Chuck E.'s voice sounds a lot like the lead singer for Bowling For Soup (as Chuck E. was indeed voice by Jaret Reddick, lead singer of the band.)
- Amateur Film-Making Plot: This 1997 animatronic show tape involved Chuck E. and his friends making their own low-budget secret agent movie, set appropriately to the song "Secret Agent Man"...
- The Artifact: Starting with CU they introduced a winking head of Chuck E on the center stage valance. It orginally had its own music but by 1994 the music has all but been dropped (despite briefly coming back in 2011). The wink is still programmed in however making it more random than a cue into intermission.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Jasper T. Jowls once handled an actual banjo... which damaged his arm as well as the banjo itself.
- Big Eater: Chuck E.'s friend, Mr. Munch. He seems to love just about anything edible, but pizza is of course his favorite.
- Call-Back: The Studio C Beta stage setup includes a clock in the background that says "Pizza Time," a clear reference to Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre.
- Cool Old Lady: Broadway Helen Henny, all the way. The fact she actually has waddles, a comb, and clucks makes it even better.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Justified, as the restaurant chain is restricted in how much space and money they can dedicate to their animatronic characters.
- Crusty, one of the original characters, was eventually replaced by Mr. Munch.
- Numerous side characters - including guest stars and side attractions - went as quickly as they came.
- Pizzacam. He's an anthropomorphic camera in Pasqually's speaker box, who replaced Looney Bird during Concept Unification. Because he's rarely used in shows, most locations have removed him entirely. If you're lucky enough to find a location that still has their Pizzacam installed, he still pops up every once in a while, but for the most part he's never used. And since he's just a prop character, his appearances in shows are trivial anyway.
- At newer locations, ALL of the animatronics. Chuck E. Cheese's business philosophy has been changing from animatronic performers, to having the characters performing on televisions in the form of puppets, since the animatronics are becoming more and more expensive to maintain and, due to lax security, vandalism by unsupervised children, rowdy teens, sneaky collectors, or (at locations with the 3-Stage) disgruntled Rock-afire Explosion fans bitter over Concept Unification.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Anyone who looks into the restaurant's history will be surprised to know how different things were when it was still Pizza Time Theater: there were a wider variety of characters, different character designs and personalities, and stage designs that would seem unorthodox to any kid born after The '80s (the original restaurant didn't even have a stage, but a portrait show). Many of the early shows also contain content that would get the entire chain in hot water with Moral Guardians if they were made today.
- Easter Egg: The "Circle of Light" stage has one. When a show currently isn't playing, there's a light that still stays on. Pushing one of these lights causes a short strobe light to happen.
- Faux Furby: Chuck E. Cheese's Holiday Party had a sketch called "The Durby", which is about a Furby-esque toy.
- Off-Model: Chuck E. Cheese himself, when depicted through a Cyberamic robot, along with the early masks used for the 3-stage version◊. Averted with the Studio C animatronic and later, featuring a much better likeness. The later plastic masks for the 3-stage animatronic◊ also look more on-model.
- The Sixth Ranger: Around 2018, a new character named Bella was introduced to the shows. Bella is a brown rabbit who speaks Spanish as well as English. This is slightly downplayed in that she only appears as a puppet due to Chuck E. Cheese's having commenced the removal of all animatronic shows for dance floors in 2017.
- Smelly Skunk: Sally Sashay, the singer with a beautiful voice and an awful smell. Scent-related jokes were frequently made at her expense.
- Shout-Out: This video is basically one to Five Nights at Freddy's.
- The Smurfette Principle: Helen Henny. The now-discontinued guest stars (which Helen was originally a part of) also served this role.
- Straight Man: Crusty played one to Chuck E. during his tenure.
- Chuck E himself would become this in later years.
- Take That!: The Fall 2013 show introduced a new character, a beaver antagonist. His name? Justin.
- Team Chef: Pasqually. Justified because the characters are in a pizzeria.