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Pizza chain revamps image

  • chuck-e-cheese-gets-makeover

    Chuck E. Cheese, which has more than 500 locations nationwide, has been entertaining children for 35 years. The company hopes that a new ad campaign will boost sagging sales.

    dallas morning news

  • Check-E-Cheese-Makeover

    Chuck E. Cheese, now a hip, guitar-playing rodent, started out as a New jersey rat who sometimes carried a cigar.

    Associated Press

chuck-e-cheese-gets-makeover

Chuck E. Cheese, which has more than 500 locations nationwide, has been entertaining children for 35 years. The company hopes that a new ad campaign will boost sagging sales.

dallas morning news Enlarge

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The company that operates the chain of children's pizza restaurants is retiring the giant rodent's outdated image -- and the man who voiced its character for nearly two decades.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. said it plans to launch a national ad campaign today 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 started life as 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.

Check-E-Cheese-Makeover

Chuck E. Cheese, now a hip, guitar-playing rodent, started out as a New jersey rat who sometimes carried a cigar.

Associated Press Enlarge

According to ShowBizPizza.com, a Chuck E. Cheese fan site, the man who voiced the mascot in commercials since 1993 learned of his replacement 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.

Mr. Brannan could not be reached for comment. But in the post, he writes that part of his task was to transform Chuck E. Cheese from "a joke-telling, sometimes off-color New Jersey rat" to a lovable mouse. CEC Entertainment says that Mr. Brannan wasn't fired but that it "chose to utilize new voice talent."

The new Chuck E. Cheese that makes its debut this week will be voiced by Jaret Reddick, the lead singer for the pop-punk bank Bowling for Soup. The Chuck E. Cheese Facebook page shows a silhouette of a cartoon mouse playing a guitar.

The first Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre location opened in 1977 in San Jose, Calif. According to ShowBizPizza.com, the idea for Chuck E. came from a generic mascot costume that was acquired by the founder, Nolan Bushnell, who also co-founded Atari and Pong. Executives considered calling the eatery "Rick Rat's Pizza" but a PR agency figured a rat would be a bad mascot for a pizza chain. The name Chuck E. Cheese downplayed the mascot's species and forced people to smile when they said it, the site said.

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