Chuck E. Cheese Retires Its Animatronic House Band, The Pizza Time Players The CEO of the company that runs Chuck E. Cheese pizza parlors says its animatronic house band simply can't live up to the expectations that kids today have for entertainment.
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Say Goodbye To The Pizza Time Players: Chuck E. Cheese Retires Its Band

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Say Goodbye To The Pizza Time Players: Chuck E. Cheese Retires Its Band

Say Goodbye To The Pizza Time Players: Chuck E. Cheese Retires Its Band

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

First it was The Supremes and then the Beatles, then The Police. Well, now there's news that another enduring band is breaking up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (As Chuck E. Cheese) And now presenting the Pizza Time show, starring me, Chucky E. Cheese.

GREENE: That's right, Chuck E. Cheese and the Pizza Time Players are being disbanded. Chuck E. Cheese is a disturbingly large robotic rat puppet with a New York accent. He's equal parts cuddly and creepy. Chuck E. and his animatronic pals sing cover tunes in about 500 pizza restaurants nationwide.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PIZZA TIME PLAYERS: (Singing) Joy from the fishes in the deep, blue seas. Happy birthday from Chuck E. Cheese.

TOM LEVERTON: The animatronics have been in the restaurant since 1977. And back then, kids' expectations of technologies were much, much lower.

GREENE: That is Tom Leverton. He is the CEO of the company that runs Chuck E. Cheese and also Peter Piper Pizza.

LEVERTON: A child today has just such high expectations for entertainment that the animatronics, even at their absolute best, can't live up to those expectations.

GREENE: Now, if you are not a child, you should know that Chuck E. Cheese restaurants are destination locations for kids. Full disclosure, I had birthday parties there in the 1980s. First you fill up on pizza, French fries, soft drinks and then after about an hour in these cathedrals to carbohydrates, you burn off all that pent up energy playing video games and dancing to the Pizza Time Players.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PIZZA TIME PLAYERS: (Singing) I used to think maybe you loved me, now I know that it's true.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: We love you, Chuck E.

LEVERTON: The animatronics have a nostalgic value for parents. But what we need to focus on is creating that magic for the new generation of kids that are coming in for the very first time.

GREENE: But not so fast. Chuck E. is not finished quite yet. You did not miss a farewell performance. The mechanical bands are going to be gradually phased out over several years. And the Pizza Time Players concert might actually be closer than you think.

LEVERTON: There are different kinds of fans that have actually found a lot of our old animatronics and built the full band in their garage and they program the animatronics to play with their music. It's exciting to see that, as somebody who grew up with the concept.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PIZZA TIME PLAYERS: (Singing) Pizza time hoedown. Honky-tonky (ph) USA.

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