As one of America's oldest and final bastions of the pizza, arcade, and animatronic-variety-show trifecta, Chuck E. Cheese upholds an important entertainment legacy. Though their core philosophy and slogan, "Where a Kid Can Be a Kid," sounds like a simple-enough mantra to maintain, many years have passed since Atari inventor Nolan Bushnell opened the first location in San Jose.
Despite the ever-changing nature of entertainment consumption, Chuck E. Cheese has done nothing but flourish. Intrinsic to this continuing knack for capturing kids' imaginations is its incorporation of modern entertainment and adherence to the robotic act that got it started in the first place. Chuck, Jasper T. Jowls, and Helen Henny are all still there, suspending a new generation's disbelief in gargantuan singing animals. Their charms, though, have been bolstered for the appetites of modern kids with more immersive games, wilder rides, and sweeter prizes.
Skytubes traverse the ceilings as an oversize human Habitrail, offering fantastical escape for energetic kids above the lights and sounds of the arcade. Staples such as skee ball and hoops now stand alongside sense-saturating simulator rides and the latest video games. At many locations, even the variety show has been modernized for the digital era. In its place is an interactive experience dubbed Studio C, where, thanks to bluescreens and video cameras, kids get to jam with Mr. Cheese himself.