Only 2 Mass. Chuck E. Cheeses still have animatronics – but that’s about to change

With a handful of game chips, a bite of cheese pizza, and packed arcade sounds, people across the United States remember going to Chuck E. Cheese’s and being mesmerized by the animatronic show that Chuck E. and his friends put on.

You’d get a stamp on your hand at the door, tire yourself out trying to beat the high score at Skee-Ball, and take a break to watch the happy puppets perform a song amid techno-colored lights.

Today, Chuck E. Cheese’s animatronic band called Munch’s Make Believe Band has completely disappeared from all Chuck E. Cheese locations in Massachusetts.

And it’s only a matter of time before the state’s last two singular animatronics disappear for good.

“Animatronics is moving away, (but) we’re getting bigger and better things,” Dana O’Hare, CEC Entertainment district technical manager, told MassLive at the Chuck E. Cheese in Methuen on Thursday.

Chuck E. Cheese has six locations in Massachusetts in Lowell, Everett, Worcester, Methuen, Attleboro and North Dartmouth. The only two that still have Chuck E. animatronics are Everett and Methuen. Neither store ever had a full band, but they always had the one animatronic, O’Hare told MassLive. The Chuck E. Cheese in Warwick, Rhode Island also has an animatronic, so there are only three left in New England.

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The Methuen spot will have animatronics until July 8, when the space will be renovated, according to O’Hare.

The animatronic and accompanying stage will be replaced with a full-size video wall, which has been a common upgrade at Chuck E. Cheese locations nationwide.

Meanwhile, staff at the Everett location told MassLive they had no knowledge of the animatronics being removed. The store was renovated to include trampolines in the spring.

“Chuck E. is the foundation of our company and the reason we are what we are, but as we move forward, the company is always growing and bringing new and positive things to the table,” O said. ‘Hare.

The animatronics are operational to a certain extent, with limited movements such as moving from side to side, opening their eyes and moving their mouth to the music but not speaking.

As a result, the animatronics no longer speak or sing like before. Those features were eliminated because it became too expensive to keep them, according to O’Hare, who has been with the company for 15 years.

However, children still have interactions with Chuck E. In recent years, the company has decided to have a staff member dressed as a mouse dance with children on a dance floor rather than putting on animatronic shows. This is something that O’Hare believes is more appropriate.

“This new generation sees animatronics as a little scary. Even back then it was pretty scary. But they are more game-oriented, they are more interactive,” the manager said. “Interests have changed, but animatronic parts are also harder to find, and it’s just not what people want to see.”

Chuck E. Cheese plans to phase out animatronic performances at the chain’s more than 400 U.S. locations by the end of 2024, The New York Times reported.

This happened after the COVID-19 pandemic closed many locations and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the summer of 2020, according to the outlet.

Once this happened, Chuck E. Cheese’s management focused on modernizing its premises by replacing the animatronics with digital walls and dance floors in the area where the used tables occupy the space in front of the stage.

After receiving negative feedback from nostalgic fans, Chuck E. Cheese decided to keep more animatronic bands, but not in Massachusetts. The first two places the groups would stay were one in Los Angeles, California, and another in Nanuet, New York. The company then decided to keep the groups in three other locations in Pineville, North Carolina, Hicksville, New York, and Springfield, Illinois.

The decision to keep the bands was to honor the children who remember the feeling when the multi-colored lights started flashing and the Chuck E. Cheese animatronic band members came to life.

“It’s part of our culture,” O’Hare said. “It’s great and wonderful.”

Despite efforts to preserve these animatronic groups, the only remaining Chuck E. Cheese animatronics in Massachusetts are disappearing. But that doesn’t mean nostalgic parents aren’t bringing their kids to Chuck E. Cheese, according to O’Hare, who said business in Methuen increased after trampolines were added to the space.

“We get more value from customers who come back with the positive things we bring,” she said.

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