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The First Chuck E. Cheese’s opened in San Jose, CA in 1977. Back then it was known as Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. The Founder, Nolan Bushnell was also the engineer and entrepreneur who founded Atari, Inc. He also is responsible for the design of the original mascot. The original name of the franchise was to be called Rick Rats Pizza but the company’s PR Firm didn’t think a rat would make a comforting mascot in a Pizza restaurant. The name Chuck E. Cheese was the final choice because it downplayed the mascot’s species and forced people to smile when they said the name.

- Source: ShowBizPizza.com

The company is slowly pulling out a new branding effort aimed at today’s younger market in a new campaign called Chuck E. Rocks. So far, all that has been revealed are CGI renderings of the new character that looks younger, is slimmer and plays guitar. Here’s a look at the company’s rebrands over the years:

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Source

2012, Current

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The new design is organized by The Richard’s Group and the new voice of the mouse is Jaret Reddick, most well known as the lead singer and songwriter for Pop Punk band Bowling for Soup.

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According to comments by CEC Entertainment CMO Scott McDaniel to Screen, the goal of the mascot refresh is to:

“Contemporize Chuck E. Cheese in a very respectful and engaging fashion. Chuck E. is the hero at the heart of our restaurants. For the first time in years, we’re changing the way we communicate with our key patrons – kids.”

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“The “Chuck E. Rocks” campaign comprises television, digital and in-store components. Four TV spots, “Belonging,” “Fun,” “Power” and “Birthdays,” each named for something a child experiences at Chuck E. Cheese’s, showcase kids doing what they do best at Chuck E. Cheese’s – having fun.”

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“In this new campaign, we’ve taken the iconic Chuck E. Cheese mouse and turned him into a rock star,” added Rhonda Zahnen, principal at (CEC agency) The Richards Group, to Screen. “It’s the perfect evolution of the brand and one that will speak directly to kids.”

- Brand Channel

The problem with this transformation doesn’t lie only in the design, but how the upgrade is being rolled out. The whole thing feels incomplete as if they are still hitting the drawing board. I’ll tell you my reasons why:

1. Poor Planning. Ok, the new character is not that bad. Sure the previous logo has the happy, smiling appearance in cartoon form:

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…but let’s not forget his creepy real life counterpart.

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I can only hope the new real life Chuck E. is an improvement, but as I said, the problem doesn’t lie mainly in the design it’s in the planning.

For a prime example the Chuck E. Cheese song is presented on the following site:

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What’s wrong with this picture? Why is the old graphical Chuck E. (seen at top left) presenting us the banner for the silhouette of the new icon?

2. Where’s the Typography? It may not be revealed yet, but it looks like they missed the boat on introducing a new typographic Chuck E. Cheese logo.

3. RIP Old Chuck. I get the need of a more hip CGI Chuck E. to cater to today’s younger audience. The look and feel of the new character is sharp and could walk into any Dreamworks movie and fit in with the crowd, but why throw away the old Chuck? They claim that they turned him into a Rock Star, but there’s clearly no relationship between the 2 characters. They are distinctly very different. Couldn’t they have just made a CGI version of the old character, or made them related in some way? I would feel more comfortable if they said this was his cousin or something instead of throwing the old one away completely.

4. MIA. The current Chuck E. Cheese’s website features no Chuck E. Cheese’s characters at all, resulting in a very boring, awkward, in between stage for the company. Why not leave the current character there while you’re updating behind the scenes? Maybe he hasn’t been there for a while? Either way it’s bad brand practice.

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5. Bad Press. To make matters worse former voice of Chuck E. Cheese’s released an overly dramatic public statement reacting to his replacement. Apparently, he was not aware of the replacement and found out by hearing the new song. Here’s a snippet from his statement, where apparently he hopes people have found god through Chuck E.:

“…Here’s what I know, I am a Christian, and that is all that matters, I am one who believes that salvation (from sin, God’s judgment, and hell) is found in no other name under heaven but the risen Lord and Savior and returning King, Jesus Christ. And, if being the voice of Chuck E. Cheese for any length of time has meant anything to me… What it was about, what my sincere hope is that you…experienced Jesus Christ in and through my life in some way.”

CEC Entertainment Inc. replied saying that it has not dropped the voice actor but it did replace him in a new single. The company said Reddick would provide “the singing and speaking voice for Chuck E. Cheese.” “There is still plenty of opportunity for Duncan to provide more of his voice talent and services for Chuck E. Cheese’s in the future [mostly in the restaurants] if he chooses to do so,” the company said.

In closing, there’s been a lot of problems for the franchise including sales dropping and recent headlines accusing them of promoting gambling with kids. During these tough times I think they need to be more sensitive to the way they approach their brand application. I do hope they pull this redesign into something that feels complete much sooner than later.

What do you think about the new Chuck E. transformation?