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It's the end of an era at one of America's most well-known, kid-friendly pizza restaurants.
Many people of a certain age — ahem, we're looking at you millennials — probably had or attended a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s at some point during their childhood. During said party, a band of singing robots dressed as giant furry animals likely broke out into song as you wrestled with your best friend in the ball pit, then scarfed down pizza slices.
To some, that band was terrifying. To others, it was a beloved attraction. But now, like so many other great musicians of yesteryear, that band will soon be retiring. Chuck E. Cheese's recently announced a major restaurant remodel, which will include, among other changes, an updated interior design and the permanent dissolution of the animatronics band featuring the likes of Mr. Munch, Jasper T. Jowels and main mouse himself, Chuck E. Cheese.
So why axe what is arguably the chain's most recognizable attraction?
"The kids stopped looking at the animatronics years and years ago," Chuck E. Cheese's chief executive officer Tom Leverton told CBS News. "They would wait for the live Chuck E. to come out."
Going forward, however, Leverton told TODAY Food via email that that characters will "continue to be an essential part" of the brand — just not in animatronic form.
Fans across social media have had mixed reactions to news of the robotic animal band's imminent retirement.
Musician Father John Misty even penned a heartfelt tribute to the robotic band, citing Chuck E. and friends as one of his greatest musical inspirations. While some lamented the loss of a childhood icon, others admitted the band gave them nightmares.
The pizza chain has already selected four locations in San Antonio, Texas to be remodeled first and will then renovate three restaurants in the Kansas City, Missouri-area. As part of the new "modern experience," instead of the animatronic band, the locations will include a dance floor area where a live Chuck — i.e. a real human in a costume — will come out and dance with kids.
"As we move forward, we believe our live Chuck E. experience provides the best entertainment value for kids, who have higher expectations of realism and special effects," Leverton told TODAY Food. "This hourly interactive experience, in which Chuck E. dances and poses for photos with the children, has become the iconic experience for kids today, now strengthened with a new light-up dance floor and contemporary music."
Chuck E. Cheese's has yet to announce a nationwide rollout for the renovations after the first seven locations are remodeled, but if you're a fan of animatronic singing rodents, you should probably head to a Chuck E. Cheese's sooner rather than later.