NEW YORK – Chuck E. Cheese has been given the pink slip.
The company that operates the chain of children’s pizza restaurants is retiring the giant rodent’s outdated image – and the man who voiced its character for nearly two decades. CEC Entertainment Inc. says it plans to launch a national ad campaign Thursday with a revamped image of Chuck E. Cheese as a hip, electric-guitar-playing rock star.
It’s just the latest makeover for the 35-year-old mascot, which once was a New Jersey rat who sometimes carried a cigar.
CEC Entertainment, based in Irving, Texas, is struggling to revive sales at its more than 500 pizza restaurants, which offer games, prizes and a musical variety show. In May, CEC said revenue at its locations open at least a year fell 4.2 percent in the first quarter and lowered its outlook for the year.
According to ShowBizPizza.com, a Chuck E. Cheese fan site, the man who voiced the mascot in restaurants and commercials since 1993 learned of his replacement only after coming across “Chuck’s Hot New Single” online and realizing it was sung by someone else. The fan site late last week published a Facebook post by Duncan Brannan, the mascot’s former voice.
Brannan could not be reached for comment. But in the post, he writes that part of his assignment when he first took on the role was to transform Chuck E. Cheese from “a joke-telling, sometime off-color New Jersey rat” to a lovable, mainstream mouse.
CEC Entertainment says Brannan wasn’t fired but that it simply “chose to utilize new voice talent” for its campaign. The company said Brannan, a freelancer, is still under contract to provide entertainment in its restaurants.
The new Chuck E. Cheese that launches this week will be voiced by Jaret Reddick, the lead singer for the pop-punk band Bowling for Soup. The Chuck E. Cheese Facebook page now shows a silhouette of a cartoon mouse playing a guitar.